'Squid Game' Is Causing a Massive Spike in People Wanting to Learn Korean

Asia's Tech News Daily

Squid Game has officially become the most-streamed show in Netflix history.

Squid Game, had hit, was up, employee walkouts

ADEK BERRY | Getty Images

Netflix confirmed last week that the Korean drama series had hit 111 million households viewing the show, beating out the previous record holder Bridgerton, which saw 82 million household views.

Of course the vast popularity of the gruesome series has had an effect on pop culture, especially internationally as Americans and other countries alike have become increasingly interested in Korean culture and traditions by watching the show.

One way this has played out in real life has been the massive increase in viewers wanting to learn to speak Korean, something popular language-learning company Duolingo has observed since the show has grown in popularity.

“This is one of the largest spikes we’ve ever seen, but it’s not the first time we’ve observed that pop culture has an impact on language learning trends,” Duolingo Global Head of Communications Sam Dalsimer told Entrepreneur of the increase in users signing up to learn Korean. “Language and culture are intrinsically connected and what happens in pop culture and media often influences trends in language and language learning. The rising global popularity of Korean music, film and television is increasing demand for learning Korean.”

For example, when popular K-pop band BTS performed on Saturday Night Live, the language site saw a 22.6% increase in users signing up to learn Korean. And when Italy won the Eurovision Song Contest back in May, Duolingo saw a 56% increase in those wanting to learn Italian.

But one complaint among Squid Game viewers has been the misalignment between the dubbed over language translation and the subtitles not matching up, something that can feel inauthentic and confusing to users.

“As non-English content becomes more popular in the US, there is an ongoing debate about whether it’s better to watch with subtitles, or dubbed in English. Popular opinion seems to be that  ‘subbed’ is the superior way to consume this content, and I think this relates to a desire to understand the original meaning in Korean,” Dalsimer tells us. “Squid Game does an amazing job at character development, and portraying complex characters that viewers connect with and care about. This connection drives a desire to understand them better, and understanding their language in its original form, as opposed to through translated subtitles, can create a deeper understanding of what each character is actually saying.”

According to Briannica, there are about 75 million people worldwide who speak Korean. An estimated 48 million of these live in South Korea and 24 million in North Korea. Only 1 million of these live in the United States.

But the rise and popularity of Squid Game is sure to change this.

Squid Game is more of a mainstream, united cultural experience, compared to something like K-pop that remains relatively niche, even though it’s clearly growing in popularity,” Dalsimer says. “The release of a 10-episode show on Netflix is something millions of people experience almost simultaneously and that united experience is why it’s having a sharper impact on Korean learning on Duolingo.”

Squid Game is the first-ever Korean original series to reach Number One on the Netflix U.S. Top 10 list.

Netflix was up 147.23% year over year as of Thursday morning, despite Wednesday’s employee walkouts over protests towards the airing of Dave Chapelle’s special, which featured transphobic comments.

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