Greetings! My name is Eun Hee Choi. As a KF visiting professor, I teach Korean language at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Lisbon (Faculdade de Letras da Universidad de Lisboa, FLUL) in Portugal. Portuguese interest in Korea began to grow in the wake of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, and Korean language education began thereafter. However, only very recently has the language become a regular subject at a Portuguese university. FLUL students majoring in Asian Studies were able to study two Asian languages, but although there was student demand for Korean language courses, they were not included in the school’s curriculum until September 2017, when Korean classes were formally introduced thanks to the KF’s support.
The first class was Korean Language I, primarily intended for first-year students, yet it drew a large number of second- and third-year students who had long yearned to study the language. The students’ ardor was so intense that the classroom with a capacity for 50 students was overflowing. Students from other schools and even their parents also came to attend the class as observers. Launched in such a passionate atmosphere, the Korean language class still enjoys steady popularity, accommodating students beyond the quota every semester.
FLUL holds an annual Asia Week, but at the moment, most school events are cancelled due to COVID-19. Most of the program is carried out by the students’ union, and it offers the opportunity to learn about and experience Korean culture. In addition, every fall, the Korean Embassy in Portugal hosts the Korean Culture Week, in which many FLUL students participate.
Many students want to visit Korea or study there on exchange programs, and those majoring in Korean Language are particularly enthusiastic about their studies. The number of students and classes at the King Sejong Institute in Portugal keeps growing, and the number of applicants for the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) is increasing, too. The only regret is that Korean language proficiency seldom serves as a competitive edge in the job market. If students who major in Korean at FLUL can pursue a career using their Korean proficiency after graduation, we will see even more students being motivated to cherish and study Korean passionately.
Like other schools, FLUL had to suddenly switch to online classes this semester due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Despite faltering internet and limited infrastructure, students have continued to attend their classes quite sincerely. I am proud of my students who have never given up studying the Korean language, despite often frustrating and inconvenient circumstances. As long as there are students who love Korean, I will gratefully keep on teaching the language to them.