[Journal 5] Personal Thoughts on English Education in Korean Public schools

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[Journal 5] Personal Thoughts on English Education in Korean Public schools

Post  Jongwoo on Thu Jun 05 2008, 14:43

As I look back, it is obvious that my English learning experience is far from being successful. I spent 15 years, yet I still feel uncomfortable expressing myself in English. The main reason for my failure has been lack of confidence, and I believe that this is true to most Koreans who have been forced into ill-structured English curriculums of public education system.

According to an article from the Korean newspaper, Chosun Daily, an average Korean is reported to spend 15,548 hours in studying English during the 10 years of their schooling ― 3 years at the middle school, another 3 at the high school, and 4 years at the university. This means that Koreans spend 50% more time than the people from any member nation of Organization of Economic Coopeartion and Development. Moreover, Koreans spend 15 trillion Korean won every year just to learn English outside the public education system. Despite all these efforts, however, Koreans' English proficiency happens to be below the average. In 2006, International Institute for Management Development, Switzerland conducted a survey, showing that Koreans' general English abilities ranked the 35th among 61 advanced and developing countries. This article also poses structural problems with the Korean education system. The statistics show that as little as 15% of the class hours are being spent to develop productive skills of the English language while the rest is dedicated to grammar and translation.

In addition to the defective education system, the wide gap between the two languages makes it even more difficult for Koreans to learn English. Among many differences, pronunciation seems to be the biggest challenge. To begin with, many of English consonants and vowels do not have their counterparts in Korean. Moreover, spelling and pronunciation of the majority of the English words are inconsistent, as is the case of 'ph[]sychology and ph[f]ysical', while the opposite is true with the Korean language. Besides, a number of phonetic rules in English, such as degemination of two overlapping consonants and flap T sound, confuse Korean students. Along with the differences in sound, structure is another obstacle by no means easier to overcome. The way that sentences are structured in each language differs greatly. For instance, sentence constituents are determined by adding different suffixes in Korean while word sequence is the deciding factor in English. In English, 'Tom loves Jane.' and 'Jane loves Tom.' are two opposite sentences, while in Korean 탐[Tom]은 제인[Jane]을 사랑한다[loves].' and '제인을 탐은 사랑한다. show no difference in meaning. Furthermore, the grammatical and idiomatic use of function words such as articles and prepositions for which no counterparts exist in Korean frequently perplexes Korean students. Even I, who have studied English for one and a half decades, do not fully understand why 'in' and an indefinite article is used for 'morning', while 'at' comes before 'night' without an article.

With all these differences, English is indeed one of the most difficult languages for Koreans to learn. But right approaches can ease the rather intimidating process of learning English. It is undeniable that proper syntactical knowledge is essential to succeed in learning English or any other foreign language, but total inclination to grammar can only hamper the learning process as it was my case. When I begin my career as an English teacher in one of Korean public schools, I will do my best to help my future students develop practical abilities of the English language.


Last edited by Jongwoo on Sun Jun 08 2008, 18:58; edited 1 time in total
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Re: [Journal 5] Personal Thoughts on English Education in Korean Public schools

Post  Young on Sat Jun 07 2008, 03:39

Jongwoo!! I am surprised (+angry) to read that you also have some difficulties in expressing in English. Never!! Sad
Actually, from my experience, I haven't had benefit from 10-year-long public English education. I wasn't motivated at all. I started studying English again when I was 21 years old. I'm still eager to study English more and more. However, the reality is that studying only inside Korea has limitation. Whenever I face this limitation, I am easily frustrated. Nevertheless, I know 'Practice makes perfect.' Right? There is way?
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Re: [Journal 5] Personal Thoughts on English Education in Korean Public schools

Post  Sera Jung on Sat Jun 07 2008, 11:51

The figure which you use to express how much money and time Korean spent for English learning makes me feel rather depressed. As still, we can not say Koreans' English abilities are good compared with our effort. You illustrated why it is difficult to learn Englihs suggesting some support ideas. Though those ideas were what I have heard and thought before, your clear explanation helps me understand better.
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Re: [Journal 5] Personal Thoughts on English Education in Korean Public schools

Post  Jung namsook on Sun Jun 08 2008, 06:56

Many Korean students have been struggling improving English proficiency. Compared to the time and huge money we spent, the achievement of language ability is mostly disappointing. There are many causes to fail English education, however, most of all the heavy focus of analytic skills rather than productive skills would be the fundemental one. Therefore, we need to actively adapt English class to real English usage.
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