It's been a momentous year for learners of Japanese and Korean: these languages are among the fastest-growing languages to study in the world, and their popularity continues to increase with each new pop culture phenomenon.

Are you considering learning a new language next year? Learn more about the growing interest in Asian languages, and how Duolingo makes it easier to learn the world’s most popular languages!

Japanese and Korean, by the numbers

According to the 2021 Duolingo Language Report and our latest course numbers:

  • Japanese is now the 5th most popular language to study in the world, and is the fastest-growing language in the U.S. and U.K.
  • Duolingo currently offers Japanese courses for English speakers and Chinese speakers
  • There are over 15 million active learners in our Japanese courses
  • Korean ranks in 7th place among most popular languages to study worldwide
  • Korean is the fastest-growing language in Brazil, France, Germany, India, and Mexico
  • Duolingo currently offers Korean courses for English speakers, Chinese speakers, and Japanese speakers
  • There are over 11 million active learners in all of our Korean courses

Pop culture has young people excited about Japanese and Korean

So who are these millions of learners? A lot of them are under 30 and especially interested in entertainment and pop culture, according to our report on trends among Asian language learners. In fact, over 40% of the people studying Japanese, Korean, and Chinese are teens! In 2021, 18% of new Japanese learners worldwide were studying because of their interest in Japanese culture, and Squid Game is a great example of the power of Korean media in driving language-learning trends, too.

Image of Duolingo characters enjoying different pop culture inspired by Asian language, including a Manga comic, a Korean song, and Lucy is holding a Squid Game card.

Learning to read Japanese and Korean on Duolingo

Our new reading tools help you learn to the sounds and shapes of the new writing systems you'll need for Korean and Japanese.

Image of the home screen for learning Japanese characters. At the top are two tabs for the two Japanese writing systems taught in the feature, hiragana and katakana. The hiragana tab is active, and underneath it is text that says "Let's Learn Hiragana! Get to know the main writing system in Japanese." Below the text is a large blue button that says "Learn the Characters." Below the button is a reference chart with five squares across and many rows down, with a Japanese hiragana character in each square. Most of the squares are white with a gray progress bar at the bottom, but four have a partially gold bar to indicate progress, and ten squares are completely gold. At the very bottom of the screen is the set of tab icons for navigating around Duolingo. From left to right, there is a set of three circles for the home tab, a Japanese hiragana character which is currently highlighted in blue for the characters tab, a face for the profile tab, a shield for the leagues tab, and a treasure chest for the shop tab. Image of a pre-lesson tip. The text says "Let's Learn Hiragana! Japanese has three writing systems: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. In hiragana, each character represents a syllable. For example, ushi (written in hiragana and highlighted in blue) is pronounced ushi. It means cow. Can you figure out what sushi (written in hiragana and highlighted in blue) means? Below the text is a table with two columns and three rows. The left column header says "Character" and the right column header says "Pronunciation." Each row has a hiragana character in the left column highlighted in blue. Each row has a pronunciation description in the right column. The characters and descriptions are as follows: su like in "super" (in parentheses, sometimes sounds like just "s" at the end of a word), shi like in "she," u like in "too."At the bottom of the tip is a large green button that says "Start Lesson."

In the reading tab, you'll find exercises to help you match the character in your new language with the sound or syllable that it represents, tracing exercises to help you commit the characters to memory, and lots of practice using the writing system to form basic words and phrases. The tab includes different features to teach the unique properties of each language!

Screenshot of the Korean course reading tab. The text at the top says "Let's learn Hangeul! Get to know the main writing system in Korean." Below the text is a blue button that reads "Learn the letters" and below that a 4 by 4 chart of white tiles for the different Korean syllable characters. Each tile has the Korean character, and below it the English letter or letters representing the sound. Screenshot of a lesson from the the Korean course reading tab. At the top it says "Build the character" and below it is a blue microphone icon and H-A-N (English letters). In the center of the screen is a large square with a dotted blue outline and below it are three tiles of different Korean characters. Two of the tiles have been dragged to the top left and top right of the large square, and the bottom half of the square is gray with the dotted blue outline.

Dive into Japanese Stories

In 2021, we also introduced Japanese Stories! These bite-sized narratives get you reading and listening to Japanese through fun dialogues that are as big on the melodrama as they are on learning value. Stories allow you to integrate reading and listening practice in one fun activity -- and you can repeat stories to get extra speaking practice!

Screenshot of a Japanese Story showing a dialogue between Junior and Lucy. Below their lines is the prompt "Lucy says she is a good writer because..." followed by three answer choices: "she writes love letters every day," "she has a very popular blog," and "she always got good grades in school." Screenshot of a Japanese Story titled "You're Not Mary" that starts with a thumbnail picture of Junior looking at a woman in confusion. Several lines of narration and dialogue follow, and then appears the question "Did you catch that? Penelope is..."

And there's more to come!

This year brought a ton of love -- and some exciting new features -- to Korean and Japanese on Duolingo, but we're not finished yet! We've got big plans for making our courses even more fun and even more effective in 2022. What features are on your wishlist?