Biz Downturn Ignites English-Learning Fever
By Kim Hyun-cheol
Kim Min-soo, a 29-year-old office worker, has recently started to take English conversation lessons.
"Any bad things can happen in a time like this. I think I need to do something for preparation when I can," Kim said, explaining why he suddenly started to study English again. He is one of many who are trying to learn more skills in the hope of making them useful when they have to find a new job. English is one of the favorite subjects in this renewed learning fever. Sales of English primers show the trend.
English study books are leading this year's stagnant book market, according to Kyobo Book Center. Sales grew by 15 to 17 percent this year, well above the market average of 10 percent.
"Books on self-development topped other genres for the past couple of years, but their sales this year are below average," said Nam Sung-ho, a Kyobo's spokesman, adding that English primers are strong sellers.
Last year, self-development books took up most of the annual bestsellers' list.
Private English institutes are doing better business. Instead of conventional courses in common English tests and conversation, these institutes provide new classes more closely related to the job market with enrollments growing in leaps and bounds.
"Internally we call those `job preparation classes,'" said Noh Ji-sun, a marketing official of Pagoda Academy, one of the biggest language institute franchises here.
Several new English classes have been added to the institute's curriculum and they include job interview practice, presentations and OPIC, a new English-speaking test, which is being adopted in recruiting by several conglomerates like Samsung.
Interestingly enough, students taking courses for TOEFL and GRE, mainly for studying abroad, fell 20 percent.