PROBLEMS WITH ENGLISH LEARNING IN SOUTH KOREAProblems South koreans
have trying to learn English is a topic I could discuss for hours. I have been working in public middles schools in South korea
for about two years now, so I have a lot of insight into the problems, as well as strong opinions about the issues.
For the purpose of this paper, I am going to touch upon a few problematic areas for koreans
trying to learn English. Among the areas I am going to discuss are pronunciation problems, cultural issues and how English is taught in korea
As Unit 13 mentioned, pronunciation/stress/intonation are often the most neglected aspects of English language teaching. This holds true in korea
. Of all the korean
co-teachers I have worked with in korea
(~14), only one has bothered to spend any time in class discussing pronunciation and stress/intonation in the English language.
This lack of emphasis on pronunciation has proved to be problematic for me, personally, numerous times. I have had students
(and co-teachers) try to say something to me, and I have had no idea what they were saying, because the pronunciation was so bad. In these situations, I often had to resort to asking the people to spell out what they were trying to say to me, because I simply couldn?t understand otherwise.
The lack of understanding many of the koreans
I have encountered have in understanding how stress and intonation works in English has led to many long discussions about why the same sentences or phrase can mean five different things, depending on where the stress is in the sentence and how the sentence is spoken. Often times after such a discussion, there is still confusion because korean
does not have a similar system of stress and intonation.
and English also have radically different sound systems. As a result, korean students
can have severe problems with pronunciation. Four of the most common problems korean
speakers have are differentiating p vs. f, b vs. v, l vs. r, and correctly pronouncing words that end with affricates. If you ask most korean students
to say the word English, they will pronounce it as English-[iy]. Since little emphasis is put on practicing pronunciation, many students
will go their entire English speaking lives making the same errors.
This leads me to how English is taught in korea
. Though The Grammar-Translation Method (aka The Classical Method) is generally not the approach many language teachers use anymore, in korea
, it is still alive and well in the school system here. English classes in korean
schools are still VERY teacher-centered, and conducted almost entirely in korean
. I read an article that mentioned a study someone conducted on the textbooks used in English classes in korea
. The study found that in most of the Ministry approved textbooks being used today in classrooms, there is no material designed for small group activities and very few activities that encourage student
interaction. I have walked by many classrooms during English lessons, and 99% of the time, I see the teacher standing in the front of the classroom, looking down at the textbook, reading and reading and reading. The students
in these classrooms are sitting in rows, half of them are asleep, some of them are doing nothing or talking to their friends, and a few are making note of what their teacher says.
This leads me to my final topic of discussion: cultural issues in korea
that affect English language learning. korean
is a very homogenous culture, with a very strong sense of nationalism, national identity and what it means to be a good korean
. Much of these ideals are rooted in the korean
language, and the belief many koreans
have that ?korean
is the best language in the world.? Many times in my English class, as I am trying to encourage the students
to use English, I have my students
say to me: ?Teacher, korea
.? Essentially what this means is my students
believe that even though they are in English class, they are still in korea
and are korean
, so using korean
in English class is the way things should be.
is also a Confucian based, hierarchal driven society, where age and status/position trumps all else. This social order effects how EVERYTHING is done in korea
, from who sits down first at the table to how English is taught in schools.
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