Thursday, May 28, 2009

Oh, how right you are, my Chinese Students...

Yesterday I took my advanced conversation class, that I've been meeting 4 days/week for the past 10 weeks out to dinner because it was their last class. The Koreans students sat on one side, and I sat on the other with the Chinese students and we were talking about life in Korea as foreigners and learning English.

They were telling me that they all started out taking my class as well as a TOEIC class (grammar for a test basically) but that they all quit the TOEIC thing after a week or so. They said that it was a waste of time, because the teachers either spoke in Korean, which they didn't understand so well at the time or that they spoke Konglish (Sounds like English but with a lot of words that only Koreans would use: skin-ship/eye shopping/ pension (referring to a condo), etc).

Now, I really can't believe that the teacher would speak in Korean, if 3 of the students in the class didn't understand it that well. If a teacher (even of TOIEC) can't conduct a class in English, they have no business teaching an English class.

And if the teacher did speak "English", they spoke in Konglish. It makes sense that it's the first I've heard of it, from the Chinese students because the Koreans probably wouldn't notice! They said it was too annoying too listen to. Now, I also can't really believe this, that the program that hired them wouldn't do an English interview, that had a native speaker present. Most jobs in Korea, that involve teaching English don't actually interview the person in English, they just look at the TOEIC score, or how long they studied in the USA or whatever. It's quite disturbing.

Anyway, all this to say: I think a competent, professional native speaker is better than a Korean English teacher. I have no exceptions to this. A newbie fresh off the boat from Canada will likely not be so competent, I know I sure wasn't my first year. But 4 years later, a lot of reading/blogging about teaching and actual time in the classroom, I think I am. I would say this for the following reasons:

1. We can conduct our classes entirely in English, very easily and usually have no other choice. It makes the students actually think. When I learn Korean from someone who speaks English, I get way too lazy.

2. Our accents and pronunciation are perfect, obviously :) Who wants to learn the wrong way to speak when you're learning a language? It seems like a waste of time.

3. Even for grammar, native speakers are better I think because we can teach it in a relevant, simple kind of way that makes sense. My students have studied English grammar since they were in elementary school. But they still don't know the basics, like: "he/she/it (verb)s" or "He (has) brown eyes, she (is) tall." When I teach it to them, I make it very simple, and they often say it's the first time they've actually understood this concept and how to use it in a sentence. Like I literally see lightbulbs going off in their heads, about stuff that they should have learned in their first year of learning English.

4. And finally: the style. Koreans lecture. Foreigners are usually more interactive. Everything I've read about language learning doesn't show that the lecture style works.

What do you think?

1 comment:

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