Los Angeles native Nathan Thornton has had an interest in learning other languages since he was a young boy. Now based in Warsaw, Poland, Thorton has created the first Black-owned online Korean language school.

At the age of 14, he learned there was a Korean school in his neighborhood. While the school was more so meant for children of Korean immigrants to continue their Korean learning, Thornton begged his parents to enroll him.

“Learning Korean and going to Korean school became an escape for me from my abusive household,” Thornton told Travel Noire. “I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams that it would lead me to do my bachelor’s degree abroad and going to one of the top universities in South Korea.”

Courtesy of Nathan Thorton

Fast forward to the present, Thornton not only speaks Korean, he also added French and is now studying Russian.

Smarter Korean, the online Korean language school started by Thornton, was created to help learners of color learn how to speak Korean confidently. It serves as both an online Korean school as well as a safe space for Korean language learners of color to come together and know that they are not alone. As someone who has lived in and navigated South Korea as a Black person, Thornton knows how difficult it can be at times especially, without knowing the language and culture.

“I decided to create SmarterKorean not only because the Korean language is close to my heart but also because I wanted to be the representation I never had as a kid. Being not only the only non-Korean but also the only Black student in a Korean school as a young teenager was very isolating and not easy. 12 years ago when I first started learning Korean there wasn’t really anyone that looked like me that I could look up to or relate to.”

Thornton wants travelers of color to understand the importance of being multilingual and how it can open up a multitude of doors and opportunities around the world. Being multilingual allows you to understand other cultures on a much deeper level. It can allow you to get job opportunities, scale your business, and meet people you otherwise would never have been able to.

Courtesy of Nathan Thorton

“For me personally being multilingual has allowed me to get international internships, job opportunities, and continue to travel the world,” Thornton said.

In addition to the online courses, he is now working on a Korean language book for beginners.

To learn more about SmarterKorean, visit the website smarterkorean.com. You can also see weekly Korean updates and upcoming Korean videos on the Smarterkorean Facebook page: @smarterkoreanonline or Instagram:@ smarterkoreanonline.

Related: Traveler Story: ‘I Flew To South Korea To Help My Sister, Now I’m Stuck Here’