The Korea Herald


Readers’ VOICE

By John.Power

Published : July 20, 2011 - 19:49

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On English lectures ...

Korean students have studied English very hard at school, educational institutes and even gone abroad to study the language. We have invested enormous time and money in English.

Though the situation is such, when a foreigner asks us something, why are we embarrassed?

When we are faced with English, why do we feel repulsion about it first?

There are many reasons for this but I think one is that we are not familiar with it.

We think that English is one subject for entering university or getting a good job.

English is not one subject but only one language.

When we meet foreigner, when we see a movie, these are things which require the language.

For this, Korean teachers must teach our students using English. At least only in English class. When teachers teach and student learns in English, we can become familiar with it. Certainly there are objections such as increasing private expenditure on education or the shortage of teachers to teach in English. But our teaching method must be changed for us to communicate with foreigners, get information from English websites and do other things.

― So Kyung-suu, Seoul

As the world is changing rapidly, schools feel the need to teach a second language. Some Korean colleges, however, take this to a chaotic level where most of the classes are held in English. Even though it is crucial to know more than one language in the modern world, students should not be taught through English.

First of all, it is a waste of money. To teach students well in English, we need great teachers with the capability of speaking fluent English. But, currently, most teachers cannot speak fluent English but mumble a few words with thick Korean accent. Those who can educate in English will require a higher wage, leading to more fees students have to burden. Furthermore, to train professors, Korea would need to hire experts from the U.S. or other English-speaking nations. This means the employment rate of Korean educators could fall.

Teaching through English creates classism among students. To college students, receiving the best education is essential in finding jobs out in the real world. English usage in college, however, draws a clear line among students. Those who have studied English will have various advantages over those who have not. For example, considering the professional languages that college courses contain, students who are not fluent in English will not be able to catch up with rest of the class. This system only creates classes between students depending on the time and money they have spent on education.

The system only depicts hegemony and classes of not only students, but also nations. Admiring the U.S., a powerful, dominant, hegemonic nation, by using their language in colleges kills Korean pride and culture. Language is the beginning of the culture and culture itself. If English is utilized over Korean in Korean colleges, the future of Korea would only mean Americanized culture with no hints of Korea. Furthermore, the action of admiring other nations’ power, which substantially led to the idea of using English in colleges, only labels us as a weak, minor, subordinate nation living under the power of the U.S. The barrier between the “weak” nation and the “strong” nation will only get clearer. The “labeling” only creates a modern caste system, only world wide.

To lessen the possibility of economic crisis, keep Korean pride, and weaken classism, Korean colleges should not teach their students in English but rather with beautiful Korean.

― Yuh Yun-sung, Daegu

Dear Editor,

When I picked up The Herald the other day I was pleasantly surprised by the full page you gave to the education debate. Prof. Suh and student Moon had some good points.

But as a foreign professor for the past 10 years I would argue that both missed the problem. Dr. Suh argued that English lectures in Korea were necessary in a country whose goal is to become globalized. Though this is true, the question must be asked why professors, who are trained in the West, cannot function in English. I personally know many Koreans who have post-graduate degrees in literature who cannot write a reasonably correct paragraph.

The argument from Moon is exactly this. In my opinion I think that Moon suggests the reason for not having English lectures to lack of understanding of the issues, etc. I think that most university students in any country are not fully prepared or understand the theories and processes in their first year of education. To not have lectures because you don’t understand fully is a moot argument. It just means you are normal.

To teach freshman lectures in English just adds to the stress of coming from a very structured system in high school, to one of choices in social life and schedule. This first year is a major change and makes English lectures ineffective. Secondly, thinking that professors with a Western higher education can do it in English has proven to be a false hope. Many professors are ineffective because they are not effective as teachers. I consider that I, as a professor, must communicate my ideas to my students so they understand. Though this is a challenge I have to boil the ideas down to their level. The challenge is mine.

The idea that if I work hard I should get an A is not true. If you achieve the level to function higher you should get an A, hard work or not. The idea that globalization needs English, though true, is not a reality in the job market today. Third, if students study for 10 years and cannot read, write or speak somewhat fluently this requires a rethinking of the effectiveness of Korea’s English curriculum.

My students, for the most part, cannot read at the speed required for English lectures in university. This is also a problem in American schools. In order to be global, both students and schools need to think more globally. To mix a Korean linear thinking with a wider global mindset, is going to bring a clash of ideals. The world is changing faster than education culture, which is the greatest inequality, resulting in English lectures being blamed. Korea has potential, but they always look for a crutch to lean on, instead of pushing through.

Professor P.R. Friesen is a lecturer at Namseoul University and previously lectured at Pyeoungtaek University and Osan University. ― Ed.