Modern language departments who were struggling with falling enrolment are being fuelled by applications from students who are keen to learn Korean and Japanese, following an increased interest in anime and K-Pop.
According to a report published by University Council of Modern Languages (UCML), Japanese enrolment places grew by 71% between 2012 and 2018, with Korean enrolment statistics tripling in the same time frame.
The report shows that more students now study Korean than Russian, and more take Japanese than Italian.
The rise in East Asian language course enrolments are generally credited to an increased popularity in Asian culture: K-Pop, J-Pop, and Japanese video games and anime, in particular.
This rising popularity in Korean culture is a phenomenon referred to as the Korean wave (or hallyu), and K-pop is at the heart of this wave, with the industry estimated to be worth nearly $5bn.
It is clear that there has been a shift away from more traditionally-taught European languages to non-European
–Emma Cayley, UCML Chief Executiven
Emma Cayley, the UCML Chief Executive said: “It is clear that there has been a shift away from more traditionally-taught European languages to non-European.”
She added that this shift away from traditionally-taught languages included Arabic and Chinese, which are driving the recovery of the study of languages in UK universities.
A UCML study suggested the proportion of universities offering Japanese rose from 19% to 39% between 2018 and 2021.
Lecturers have said that students will often join language modules as a hobby. Kazuki Morimoto, a Japanese lecturer at the University of Leeds added that: “They [students] started learning Japanese just casually, for fun, and then they thought ‘this is fun’, so they want to study more seriously either as a degree or as an optional subject.”
Morimoto also discussed how there was a noticeable shift away from students who opt to combine Japanese with business or economics towards students studying the language and culture by itself.