Brian left an excellent comment in response to my latest post on foreigners teaching non-fluffy stuff.
Here is his comment:
"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."
And, yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I've found that Korean students are generally EXTREMELY weak at grammar. Like not having the conjugations of the "be" verb down, or knowing how to ask a question in the simple past, or not knowing the rules for comparatives/superlatives. I think a lot of it has to do with grammar being taught in Korean, in a way that is disconnected from real-life communication. On the Celta course, I learned that teaching grammar is all about context and that without context, the lesson is complete waste of time. Why even bother teaching grammar (or vocab too) if students don't know how and when and in what situation they can use it? This is where Native Speakers can be far, far better than most Korean teachers.
And I've found that while teaching TOIEC listening, I encounter situations every class where I'm able to explain the subtleties of how and when and in what situation to use this one specific vocab item over another one. An example from today: "Checking-out." No student in my very high-level class knew a meaning for it besides borrowing a book from a library. I was able to give an example situation of walking down the street and seeing a handsome guy or a sexy girl and checking them out. Would a Korean teacher be able to do this? Maybe. Maybe not.