When it comes to third and fourth-generation K-Pop idols, it seems like almost every star can speak at least a few English words comfortably, and many can even hold whole conversations. But while you may think idols learn English so they can conquer the U.S. market, the CEO of a popular idol English school revealed that’s not quite the case in a new interview.
This week, JIGOOUH Edutainment language school CEO, Heo Woo Seong, and one of the company’s English teachers, Da Som, sat down with AYO on YouTube to talk about all things idol language training. Over the years, JIGOOUH has taught some of the biggest idols, including members of SISTAR, After School, Girl’s Day, Apink, and VICTON, as well as rookie groups like LUNARSOLAR.
So, who better than JIGOOUH’s staff to reveal the truth about why idols learn English in the first place? When AYO asked what the most popular languages idols want to learn are, Heo Woo Seong explained that Chinese and Japanese used to be two of the top choices. This makes sense given that China and Japan were once the two most highly-sought markets for K-Pop fame after South Korea itself.
Of course, as you may have already guessed, Heo says that English has now become the most popular language among idols—but why?
While it may sound surprising, CEO Heo Woo Seong says that most idols don’t typically learn English so they can take on the North American or European markets. Instead, he revealed, “They mainly study it for the South American and Southeast Asian markets.”
Indeed, K-Pop fans in South American and Southeast Asian territories are growing exponentially in number these days. Data shows that fans in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brazil actually spend more consuming K-Pop content than any other country in the world.
In some of the countries in these regions, such as the Philippines and Singapore, English is an official national language. Even in countries where it’s not, English is still often one of the most widely spoken languages. Thailand, for example, has 17 million English speakers, while Brazil has 10 million.
Heo Woo Seong went on to explain that idols study American or British English to get successful marketing results overseas in these countries. While they don’t always aim to become conversational or fluent in English, Heo says that even being able to introduce oneself in a foreign language is a common and useful goal.