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[My Hangeul Story] Korean has given me great opportunities: K-pop fan-turned-Korean teacher

At 18, Nura Ezzatie decided to learn Korean to understand her stars. Now she's a TikTok influencer and public school teacher

Feb. 12, 2023 - 13:44 By Choi Jae-hee

Nura Ezzatie, a social media influencer with more than 180,000 followers on TikTok who teaches Korean at a secondary school in her native country of Malaysia (Nura Ezzatie)

Nura Ezzatie is a social media influencer with at least 182,400 followers on TikTok. Outside the social media world, she is a secondary school teacher in her native country of Malaysia.

Neither of the two would have been possible, had she not embarked on a journey to teach herself Korean more than a decade ago.

In 2010, then at age 18, Ezzatie discovered the world of K-pop through Super Junior. Watching all kinds of Korean TV shows starring the idol group almost every day, she decided to learn the Korean language so that she could understand what her stars are saying without subtitles.

“Since I had just graduated from high school, I didn’t have enough money to attend private Korean language institutes at that time. So I studied Korean by myself through free materials online and free lessons on YouTube,” Ezzatie said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“I tried to improve my intonation and pronunciation by hanging out with Korean friends.”

In 2016, after five years of self-study, she passed level 4 on the Test of Proficiency in Korean, an exam for non-native Korean speakers. TOPIK has six levels from 1 to 6, with 6 being the highest. She is now level 5.

From May 2021, Ezzatie started to share her knowledge and study tips through social media.

On TikTok and Instagram, her posts are mostly about Korean expressions for daily conversation and learning tips for beginners and intermediate learners in Korea, such as useful mobile applications for Korean studies.

“Malaysians are also affected by the rising popularity of Korean wave worldwide. A lot of people here are learning the Korean language by themselves through K-pop songs and Korean dramas,” she said.

“Since I learned Korean by myself, I know the struggle of self-learners. So, I decided to make videos educating (people about) Korea through social media. I just want to create content that could be beneficial for Korean-language learners.”

Her tutorials are not just about the language itself. She approaches Korean words and phrases as a lens to understanding various aspects of Korean culture, such as the polite forms of speech, age-counting systems and drinking games played by university students.

Since November, she started teaching at a public secondary school in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia.

Nura Ezzatie teaches students in a Korean language class at a secondary school in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia. (Nura Ezzatie)

Thanks to her learning Korean, she got exciting opportunities to work with Korean people and companies.

"I could make great video content and share my interest with my followers. The most important thing is that I became a teacher, a job that I have always dreamed of,” she said.

In 2015, the Malaysian government included Korean as a part of the elective curriculum at middle and high schools. A total of 12 public secondary schools across the country are offering Korean language courses, Ezzatie explained.

“One of my students once wrote a letter to me saying how much her Korean has improved. Seeing my students make progress in learning is one of the most unforgettable moments I’ve had while teaching Korean,” she said.