Monday, May 18, 2009

Koreans resistant to learning English

Here is an interesting article from John Huer in the Korea Times about how Korean Culture makes it hard for Koreans to learn English.

He points out the problem of Koreans thinking they can master English, without learning any of the cultural things that go along with it, which is obviously crazy. Korean is so nuanced with various forms of addresses, depending on who you're talking to, that I would never try to learn it apart from their culture. Or their greeting, "Have you eaten rice?" If you don't understand the culture, you'd have no idea that this means, "Are you well?" and that you shouldn't literally tell them if you've had rice for breakfast or not. Maybe this is partly reflected in how Koreans will often study English as a subject, learning technical grammar rules and obscure vocab but will have none of the tools required to actually speak to someone in English.

His second point is that Koreans are very Korean. They are proud to be Korean and don't have much curiosity or openness to other cultures. They have a designation in Korean, "foreigner" which you'll hear almost everyday and puts up a brick wall between "them" and "us." In Canada for example, we'd never call someone a "foreigner." If you're living in Canada and it's your home, you're Canadian. Naturally, if you don't care about the world outside Korea or people outside your social/familial circle, then why would you care about learning English? In my experience, it's really only Koreans who ACTUALLY LIKE AND WANT TO SPEND TIME WITH foreigners and in foreign countries that become fluent in English.

So, until there is a radical change in the Korean mindset, I think all the money throwing at English education may just be futile, as it largely has been in the past.

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