These days, more and more K-Pop groups are debuting with members who speak conversational or even fluent English—but is it essential? In a new interview, two K-Pop language teachers revealed whether English-speaking trainees really get preferential treatment when it comes to selecting a debut team.
This week, JIGOOUH Edutainment language school CEO Heo Woo Seong and one of the company’s English teachers, Da Som, sat down with AYO on YouTube to talk about all things idol language training. Over the years, JIGOOUH has taught some of the biggest idols, including members of SISTAR, After School, Girl’s Day, Apink, and VICTON, as well as rookie groups like LUNARSOLAR.
So, who better than the JIGOOUH staff to reveal the truth about whether companies are more likely to debut English-speaking trainees? With rookie groups like aespa and ENHYPEN debuting with solid English skills, it almost seems like being able to speak the language is a prerequisite to making it into a lineup.
One AYO commenter wanted to know whether they had a chance at being an idol trainee at all given their elementary English skills, and Da Som had the answer.
I want to be an idol trainee but my English is not good because I just started. Can I still be an idol with my bad English?
— AYO commenter
Da Som explained that not being able to speak English doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be an idol at all. However, she did confirm that the chance of being able to debut “gets enormously bigger” for trainees who can speak English well.
The language teacher went on to explain that when they teach idol trainees, they communicate with their agency about who’s doing the best in class. Da Som says that trainees’ English skills are evaluated and relayed to the agency, with JIGOOUH letting company higher-ups know which trainees have the possibility to become the member in charge of English.
Ultimately, while trainees won’t fail auditions just because they can’t speak English, Da Som says that picking up the language fast makes companies more likely to put them in a debut team.
While it may seem unfair that language skills are considered at all when singing, dancing and rapping skills are the most essential qualities of being an idol, CEO Heo Woo Seong elaborated on why companies make such decisions. “Growing idols is eventually for making a profit,” says Heo, “from getting them through the global market.”
As such, he says agencies want to choose trainees who can speak English better than the rest to increase their chances of overseas success.