Problems of learners in North KoreaA nation that has intrigued me many years now is North korea
. My wife, who is South korean
, and I, traveled to Seoul in 2009 to work with NK refugees. I was able to glean the following facts from the internet about the Hermit Kingdom?s English education process. (The wording is my own.)
It is not politically correct to learn English in North korea
. Any overt interest in that language or any of its speakers will immediately bring suspicion and worse.
But even for those students
who because of being chosen for a specific governmental task must learn this language, the way to mastery is very difficult. korea
has been broke for a long time, and the educational system is floundering except in Pyongyang (capital) and surroundings. And one would not call the Pyongyang learning institutions superb, as most of the day is spent in learning North korean
Once one is allowed to be on track to learn English, he must deal with the school facility itself. A school in North korea
is quite likely to have only intermittent electricity and even less frequency of running water. Often the winter temperature is the same inside a building as it is out. English textbooks can be a decade or many decades old, hanging together literally by a thread! Their content is said to be ?unauthentic? in terms of the English language.
And where does one find a native born English-speaking English teacher in this reclusive land where Americans and Westerners in general are feared like the plague? That means that one?s English class will be taught by a korean
who is perhaps pretty good but by no means perfect or even close. This person would probably double as a tour guide and not be fully dedicated to the teaching vocation.
There are exceptions to the above, especially as I say, in Pyongyang, where foreign nationals, in particular the British, under close scrutiny, have been coming in increasing numbers lately, but by and large English is still a forbidden fruit for most.
Methodology for learning English, based on You Tube videos, seems to revolve around choral recitation and repetition. students
must stand and recite individually also. All in all the lessons seem more like military drill than an engaging educational process.
The product of all this English learning is less than desirable. Public statements from North korea
in English are not at all satisfactory. They are stiff, formal, and usually a bit inaccurate, giving a humorous flavor over-all:
For example, other nations are told that they ?would be well advised to properly understand the will and mettle of the DPRK to wipe out the enemy and stop going reckless.? What?
The U.S. in particular is advised to ?drop its wrong military calculation and stop the adventurous war exercises.?
nationals using video and audio recordings as aides are the source of NK English, along with volumes of sayings by Kim Il-Sung that have been translated into English. They will never sound serious to the outside world until the source problem is fixed.
Not that they are not working on it. Reportedly a few of the best students
actually travel abroad or even watch movies like Jaws and Titanic.
Such are the problems a North korean
citizen would encounter trying to learn the English language in his home land. They are not insurmountable, but most persons steer clear of this particular tongue.