“In Korea, being competitive in the job market requires learning foreign languages”, Emmanuel Lainé, Director of the language center at the French Embassy of Korea

In a very competitive environment, the language center at the French Embassy in Korea has established a reputation for high-quality face-to-face and distance learning courses.

We met with Emmanuel Lainé, the center’s Director, to learn more about the language-teaching market in Seoul, as well as its learners’ requirements.

Hi Emmanuel! Could you tell us more about the language center?

After working as a Director of the Alliance Française in Seoul, the cultural department within the French Embassy of Korea asked me to create a new center for teaching French to adults, which opened in July 2020. Our activities now include French courses for children and adults, as well as delivering certifications. 

In Korea, the language learning environment is unique. Competitiveness in the job market requires learning and mastering several foreign languages. Students enrolled in local universities are very ambitious, and generally strive to go beyond their school curriculum. They choose to start more specific training in order to accelerate their learning. From their perspective, they must get the best results possible in their exams, the best grades during their school years and overall, the best possible teaching.

Apart from students, we also work with people who want to learn French for fun, for future trips abroad or simply because they love the language. As a rule, Koreans much prefer face-to-face teaching. They enjoy proximity with the teachers and like the traditional aspect of such courses.

You’ve had to adapt your offer due to the current situation, however?

Indeed, we have always aimed to offer a rich catalog of courses both in terms of content and format. Our center offers high-quality teaching at affordable prices; the pandemic forced us to adapt very quickly, and e-learning became the norm. Historically, e-learning is a course format we had always found difficult to sell, as it did not fit into our business model. The e-learning market in Seoul is highly competitive, and many specialized structures are already well established on the market. Nevertheless, the pandemic gave us an opportunity to develop our skills and to think about a new economic model, especially for young people for whom we were the first to offer real-time online courses.

Your partnership with Gymglish started in 2019, before the COVID crisis? 

Yes, we launched the Frantastique French course at a time when we didn’t offer any online courses for adults. We had already started thinking about diversifying our catalog. Your product immediately appealed to us as it was easy to set up and manage on a daily basis. Also, launching the Frantastique course enabled us to reach a new audience. I believe your online lessons meet a demand among Koreans, who are very Internet-oriented. Almost immediately, we noticed large numbers of people signing up for the free trial. We were also able to share this experience with our colleagues within the Alliance Française network who did not yet offer e-learning courses. 

Today, our main challenge lies in re-motivating our students who are beginning to experience frustration, after  a year of distance learning. We hope that Gymglish’s short and fun lessons, adapted to their respective levels, will boost language learning. In any case, I look forward to seeing how it goes!

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