Problems for korean learnersThe Republic of korea, colloquially South korea, was proclaimed in August 1948 and has since grown into one of Asia?s most affluent countries. After the korean War halted with a tenuous cease fire in 1953, the learning of English as a second language became prominent in korean education. BBC.
The focus on English is not without its challenges and missteps, however. South koreans learn English for more than ten years at school, yet many still have a hard time communicating with foreigners. This difficulty is largely because English and korean are so different in pronunciation and syntax, and also because English classes in korea are heavily focused on grammar and reading comprehension with a lack of exposure to spoken English. Song.
I will provide an overview of some of the challenges unique to korea in the hopes that exposing them will prepare English teachers for their positions overseas.
Scholars point out that korea is essentially mono-cultural. It does not have significant multilingual communities like those present in the united states
and Western Europe. Also, like many Asian countries, Confucianism strongly influences the rules of communication. These rigid rules and various honorific formalities can create misunderstandings when koreans interact with non-Confucianism countries, and may result in unintentional insult.
Confucianism influence also spreads into body language. In addition to honorific endings, body language plays into the larger context of age, family, and position in social interaction. For example, bowing is appropriate in certain situations. Additionally, it is common for those of the same sex to touch each other more. This is not a sign of sexuality, but instead an indication that there is a bond of trust between friends. Kim.
Because there is a great deal of pressure and focus on the teaching of English, but limited funding and instructors, class size can reach about forty students. This can make meaningful one-on-one interaction between student and teacher difficult. Thus, the student misses out on one of the few opportunities that may be available to converse with a native english speaker.
Part of the Confucianism influence is the primacy of academics. This results in a great deal of pressure being exerted on students from parents and school officials. Pressure from home can frustrate students and lead to a loss of interest and motivation towards English. Pressure from school forces students to focus on test taking rather than conversation.
Further, korean students may be unaccustomed to discussion and debate and may come across as shy when called upon to answer. students may also be wary of volunteering information in fear of appearing arrogant or too bold. This modesty is present in the indirectness used by koreans as a means to avoid offending listeners. Finally, older students may become frustrated when they feel that their intellectual maturity is undermined by weaknesses in their English ability. Byung-Eun.
English teachers must learn about the culture and custom of the Republic of korea. When teachers better understand the challenges facing the students, they may better structure lessons to account for eccentricities that make korea an exciting, yet challenging, country in which to live and work.
BBC, South korea Country Profile, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/country_profiles/1123668.stm.
Byung-Eun Cho, Issues Concerning korean Learners of English: English Education in korea and Some Common Difficulties of korean students, http://www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/education/eal/eal-1-2/vol1-no2-koreanlearnersofenglish.pdf.
Kim, James P., korea- A Cross Cultural Communication Analyzed, http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/june_02_jk.php.
Song Jung-a, Push for intensive English teaching at school worries S korea's parents, http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/248f45c8-164e-11dd-880a-0000779fd2ac.html#axzz1AgZpOAEF.