Monday, May 25, 2009


I was eating dinner with some girls in Cheonan last night who work at public schools. A newbie to teaching and to Korea was expressing her frustration at her middle school classes that were apathetic, didn't flow and were very low level. As she talked more, it was revealed that she has a co-teacher (CT) at all times, and so she speaks English and then the Korean CT will just translate what she said. I think this was very revealing at to why her classes don't interact with/respond to her. I don't like translation in a class for the following reasons:

1. I've never taught with a translater, either for kids/adults, beginners or upper levels, so it's just not what I'm comfortable with. This is the complete opposite of my public school friends, who are completely dependant on the translator so they obviously would not feel comfortable going at it alone with a group of kids.

2. Why would you put any effort into understanding another language, if someone who speaks you language is just going to translate anything of importance? In essence, the native speaker has no value within the classroom. Of course the kids have no motivation.

3. It hinders actual communication. In order to speak English fluently, a student must leave Korean behind, at least for a little bit so they can try to think in English, instead of just translating from Korean. Students who just translate from Korean will always remain at the very beginner level and never move to actual communication. If this is the model they have in class, then why would the students ever be inspired to actually learn English?

4. It breaks up the flow of the class, always having to stop to translate.

5. I'm somewhat dubious of the translation abilities of the teachers in public school here in Korea. While some of them are excellent, I've met more than a few who can't even have a simple conversation with me. Like I actually switch into Korean when talking to them, which doesn't say much at all since my Korean is somewhat pathetic.

6. There are ways to make yourself understood, in English even with someone who doesn't know a word of English. I've done it. It just takes a bit more effort and planning. Pictures/body language/speaking extremely simply with no superfluous words.
What are your thoughts? This could be quite the controversial topic I think.

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