Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The main issue...

Korea, despite spending more money than any other country in the world on private English education, and studying it in public schools for 8 or 10 years, has an extremely low proficiency in actually speaking English. By the time students get to my class, at a middle-of-the-pack university, some of them don't know their numbers to 100, a few can't read, some can't tell me their name when I ask, they don't know colors very well and get confused with very basic grammar concepts such as is/are and past/present verbs.

How does this happen? My theory is that Koreans love to do the hard stuff without ever mastering the basics. For example, despite not knowing the basic things that I've listed above, I'll see people studying these crazy advanced grammar concepts, for a TOEIC test, with questions that I'd even have a hard time answering. Or, because they've studied English for so many years, most students will call themselves "advanced" and register for hard classes when in reality they are basically false beginners and going back to level one would sometimes be appropriate. When setting up programs, I keep hearing that the students are "high-level" so I do things appropriate for that kind of setting and then discover that what they really need is a basic textbook to get a grasp of the easy stuff before moving on to the stuff I had planned. Frustrating!

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