Korean Student Draws ESL Learners Via Social Media

Hyeonji Noh

Hyeonji Noh, an international student from Seoul, South Korea, came to Northern Michigan University to study English and multimedia production, with the eventual goal of returning to her home country to teach English as a foreign language. Jumpstarting her career with online content, Noh uses her social media presence to create a community of English as a Second Language learners whose native tongue is Korean. She has amassed more than 30,000 Instagram followers with her videos and educational language content.

“I'm trying to make some videos about English expressions, idioms and keywords that can be helpful to people who are studying English as a Second Language,” reported Noh. “I also want to share confidence to people who are trying to study English as a Second Language because most Koreans are really afraid of speaking English; I wanted to create a community to encourage each other to study our second language together.”

Speaking on her rise to niche internet fame, Noh noted the utilization of a unique, identifiable brand image to create a cohesive community. Electing not to align her image with that of a traditional social media influencer, she curates her content for her specific intended audience, rather than attempting ephemeral internet virality. These tactics have contributed to Noh's creation of a tight-knit, active community, rather than a shroud of uninvolved, unidentified content consumers.

Despite abundant access to English language education in Seoul, Noh noticed an aversion to studying the language among students, perhaps stemming from the pressures of academic perfection that pervade Korean culture.

“We don't have to see English as a subject of study; I want people to use English as a way to communicate with people from other countries because it is a global language,” said Noh, musing about the possibilities of her educational career. "I want to see English as a tool to communicate with other people."

Bridging two cultures, Noh has plans to integrate the skills garnered and experiences undertaken here at Northern into her future career as a Korean educator. She's taking inspiration from Northern's professors to define what kind of teacher she wants to be.

Already noting the methods of Northern professors and creating a curriculum to bring back home, Noh strives to redefine the function of the educator in Korea.

“It's really hard for Koreans to get opportunities to improve their weaknesses; it's hard to get a chance to improve them to a strength. I think that's the role of teachers and professors.”

During her first of five months at Northern, Noh has enjoyed Marquette's idyllic countryside, contrasting starkly with the bustling cityscape of her hometown.

“Northern is a very peaceful place to study. ... I feel more comfort and I have much time to reflect on myself. So far people are very kind and warm even though I'm kind of shy because English is my second language. I really love their attitude toward their country; they are really positive.”

Reflecting on her experience as an international student, and drawing from second-hand experiences of other international students currently attending Northern, Noh said she wishes “there were more opportunities for international students who are very shy to get into this culture more,” because some international students struggle to maintain friendships with students native to the United States.

In addition to posting translation videos and teaching her followers English expressions, Noh has done pop-up events and sells cards that she makes. Her Instagram posts can be viewed here

Prepared By

Ashley Kluting
Student Writer