Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I'm a foreigner, therefore I can't teach grammar or anything of substance

Just a small rant.  At my university (and from plenty of other people too), I get the line (from Koreans), "Koreans teach grammar, foreigners can only teach conversation."   

It happened to me just yesterday at my school's Toeic camp.  I'm working at the camp, teaching Toiec Listening.  I'm not teaching conversation, or general listening, or writing, or movie English, or any kind of fluffy "easy" stuff.  I'm actually teaching Toiec listening.  From a Toeic preparation book.  To prepare students for an actual Toiec test.  And yet, one of the Korean teachers at the camp still gave me the line about how it's more fun for foreigners to teach because we get to teach "fun" stuff and Koreans have to teach grammar.  Except, at this camp, foreigners are teaching the same content as the Koreans, which makes this line all the more ridiculous.  The foreigners are just teaching it through English, and the Koreans are teaching it through Korean.  


Tiraj Adikari said...

According to my experience , learning grammar in school for a decade took me nowhere.
I was still unable to frame a sentence and utilise my “great grammar knowledge” to anything useful.
Learning to speak fixed everything. This I think this is a problem with all Asian students/schools.
Traditional approach Asians used in language learning doesn’t work well.
I was able to learn few more languages quite easily in a short time using the reverse method.
Learning alphabet and grammar at the very end….

Brian said...

Somewhere along the line it became accepted as common knowledge that Koreans (well, Asians) have a superior command of English grammar, but simply lack speaking ability. This is due, they say, to Koreans (and Asians) studying almost exclusively grammar for 15+ years in school, but never actually speaking or using the language. Personal experience never bore that out, because their grammatical knowledge---in general, with some exceptions---was limited. While they did have some detailed understanding of some points, it was, as you sort of mention, due to their learning it in Korean, not in English.

Unless I'm being way too optimistic and generous, I think you'd be hard pressed to find a native speaker English teacher with a Master's and / or CELTA in a university who had a practical knowledge of English grammar inferior to that of a Korean counterpart. The weakness is that they often aren't able to explain or illustrate in Korean, and that's usually what's required, or considered "good" or effective. But the strengths---being able to show those grammatical points in use, to show and teach subtlety of meaning, and to understand different usage---makes up for that limitation, if the NSET is given the chance.