Geolocative Linguistic Landscape Project

Executive Summary

Led by Dr. Hakyoon Lee, a professor at Georgia State University, this location-based language learning project offers opportunities for students to explore how Korean language is used outside of a language classroom setting. As a project focusing on the less commonly taught language of Korean, the participating students will form a group of roughly 3-4 and choose one of the cultural themes for their project. After these variables are established, each group visits their target site(s) where Korean is used for different purposes and investigates the use of language within that context. The students collect data (picture, video, sound, etc.) and then make a video using a digital storytelling format (less than 5 minutes). Last, the students upload their project on google maps as a means of disseminating the findings and sharing ideas with other people. After presenting the project in their learning environment, the students reflect on their investigation on linguistic landscapes with comparative perspectives.

Project Description

This classroom project explored the usage of Korean in the urban areas of Georgia. Students taking Korean as a foreign language class at Georgia State University participated in this project to investigate how Korean is used across multilingual contexts and to find a connection between the linguistic environments outside of the classroom and the language lessons within the classroom.

Linguistic Landscape (LL) is the main concept used in this project, and it is defined as “the language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings combines to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region, or urban agglomeration” (Landry and Bourhis, 1997, p.25). The students’ LL projects promoted each to discover and understand the advertisements, building names, instructions, newspapers, and graffiti in both the city of Atlanta and through the World Wide Web.

Korean is the fastest growing community in Georgia, making it the 3rd largest Korean community in the US, which means the most prominent commonly used spoken home language other than English and Spanish in Georgia is Korean. Areas in the Korean community are populated with retail services that have many signs in the Korean language and those signs become great resource for students to explore for their LL project. Thus, Atlanta serves as an ideal location to further investigate the linguistic choices related to the use of Korean.

From 2000-2010, 13 states in the U.S. experienced an increase of 50% or greater in their Korean American populations.

From 2000-2010, 13 states in the U.S. experienced an increase of 50% or greater in their Korean American populations.

If we remove English and Spanish from the mix, we start to see some truly surprising trends about spoken languages in the home.

Removing English and Spanish from the mix, the other top spoken languages in the home reveal surprising trends across the United States.


Students selected their points of location which included restaurants and shops, and cultural events. Students visited the place and investigated how the target language was used and how the cultures were integrated into the community. When investigating the geolocative places, students interacted with local people in the community to learn about their target languages and cultures in addition to taking photos and videos. After collecting information, students analyzed their data and shared the findings as a form of digital storytelling. Their projects were then uploaded to a shared digital map.

An example of a shared digital map

An example of a shared digital map


Student Project Examples

Example 1
HL Produce“It is interesting! Dan Kokonut (meaning sweet coconut) is translated as “Peeled Coconut” in English. It might emphasize different aspects of the fruits depending on different customers from different cultures and languages?”

“I can also see the combined use of Chinese and English in Korean. Dan 단 has the same pronunciation as Tang 糖 in Chinese. Its Chinese meaning is sugar. In Korean, it means sweet. Kokonut 코코넛 is directly from the English word coconut. In Korean, Dan Kokonut 단 코코넛 means sweet coconut.”

Example 2

“These are Korean same Korean bakery with two different locations. They chose different languages (one for Korean, and the other for English, right) to appeal different language users.”

HL Sign HL Windmill


Example 3


Example 4


Examples of Student Reflections

“I found that my knowledge of Korean culture and language has increased, and I was also able to learn from other groups in class about the various ways Korean language influences and is influenced by other cultures and language.”

“The best part of this project is we needed to collect data from Korean, so it pushed us to get into Korean community, and a deeper level of Korean culture.”

“It is amazing that such a concentrated existence of Korean food, culture and people has taken root right outside of the Southern mecca of Atlanta.”

Findings and Implications

The purpose of the Linguistic Landscape Project served to offer Korean learners an opportunity to look into their language surroundings and to help the students realize how Korean is used across multilingual contexts to how it is locally relevant (Kasanga, 2012). This original project promoted learner awareness of the use of Korean in various social frameworks and offered opportunities to observe and analyze the linguistic and cultural resources around them. By observing what is happening in a local context, this project implemented alternative learning opportunities for the language students. As a community-based and location-based project, this research project facilitated students to utilize their target language for the tasks of comparison, culture, community and communication (the 5C’s in ACTFL standards). The students, as “language detectives” (Sayer, 2010, p.144) or ethnographers, built their regional competence and multimodal literacy through this student-led project. Learning happened not only when they collected/analyzed the data, but also while they were watching their peers’ conclusions.

Relevance to NFLRC Mission

This project will contribute to the development and implementation of new teaching methods and teaching materials for under resourced local students. The Geolocative Linguistic Landscape Project is related to the mission of the NFLRC because the innovative aspects of this study will highlight a relatively unexplored language and language learning considering placed based research methods. By focusing on Korean, a less commonly taught language, this project will provide Korean teachers and students the opportunity to learn the language in their local community, utilize that language outside of the classroom, and communicate with others in through various means and settings. From the student perspective, this project also empowers an enjoyable and fulfilling learning environment with peers. As such, research and dissemination of this project’s results offers meaningful insights to other language educators.

Relevance to the Research Areas of CULTR

This project also has crucial impact on the LRC at GSU as it offers an opportunity for the students to explore their own local environment and language use, and they bring what they experience into their language class at GSU to create a space for learning and sharing. Building on CULTR’s mission, the involved students serve as ethnographers by investigating and observing their own learning outside of language classroom. In turn, these originally under resourced students will be better prepared to each advance their abilities and move forward with additional resources in the classroom.

Post-Project Evaluation Plan and Criteria

As a post project, dissemination of the results can be distributed through campus-wide events and various GSU departments. As a way of circulating the project to a wider community, presentations of the Geolocative Linguistic Landscape Project to other Korean teachers at the American Association of Teachers’ of Korean and other conferences will be accomplished.