Saturday, October 2, 2010

Japan vs. Korea vs. How to actually teach English

Chris in South Korea's look at an article from the Japanese Times.

The best quote from the article in the Times:

"The point is, JET (the government run program that recruits foreigners for public schools) cannot fix — in fact, was never entrusted with fixing — Japan's fundamental mindset toward language study: the dysfunctional dynamic that forces people to hate learning a language, then exonerates them by saying nobody can learn it anyway."

My thoughts?  Sure sounds a lot like Korea.  There is most definitely a dysfunctional dynamic here towards learning English.  It's all about grammar and textbooks and vocabulary with no thought or care taken to make sure students can use  grammar and vocab to actually communicate with someone, or understand an English TV show, or read a newspaper, or search an English site on the internet.  And because there is no real communication happening, it's boring and irrelevant.  Students pick up on the irrelevancy and start to hate English.  And they get scared of it.  And have a million excuses as to why they don't need to learn it, when in a globalized world, there is really no excuse at all for someone who wants to be anything more than a store clerk, taxi driver or garbage man to not know English.

Like Japan, something needs to change in Korea.  And it needs to come with a nation-wide overhaul of the public school English education system.  Scapegoating the foreigners is getting kind of old.


ageekinkorea said...

IMHO, As long as the college entrance exam process dictates people's futures, teaching to the tests will be the rule of thumb. There is simply too much on the line to worry about practical use when getting in to college depends on memorizing some arcane grammar. It is entrenched, and the people having kids now will invest too much money along the way to want it to change if it means a slightly decreased chance that all their money was wasted.

If there was a simple way to "communicative effectiveness in practical situations" that couldn't be gamed to provide rich kids an advantage over those that can actually speak English (which is the goal) then something could change.

The amount of money spent on TOEIC here is astounding for the poor results. People just want to pass the next testing hurdle to get a job. If they were learning for any other reason, the current system would not survive.

Jackie Bolen said...

Yeah, the college entrance exam definitely has to go. In today's world, people that know how to learn and think critically are vital. Korea, with their emphasis on memorization and conformity for the test, breeds these little student robots, full of facts but weak on exactly what the globalizing world demands.