ABSTRACT

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of U.S. universities transitioned from face-to-face classes to remote classes after March 2020. Despite this sudden transition, the number of students taking Korean language courses online increased. Many attribute this surge in Korean language learners to the spread of Korean popular culture and the influence of Hallyu (Korean Wave). This article examines the experiences and motivations of 14 non-Korean heritage language (non-KHL) learners who took online Korean language courses at a U.S. university after March 2020, using participants’ written responses and interviews. This study’s findings suggest that a desire to connect with Korean people and culture influenced non-KHL learners to initiate Korean language learning. Results also showed that learners’ orientations and motivations were complex, as they overlapped and emerged simultaneously. Additionally, participants reported the benefits and challenges of learning Korean online, pointing out the importance of the teacher, learner autonomy, and Korean popular culture as factors that influenced their learning journeys and helped sustain their motivation of language learning. These findings suggest a need to further explore the diversity of Korean language learners, learner motivations, and how various aspects of Korean culture interplay in the process of Korean language learning.

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