Problems for learners in South KoreaPeople all over the world feel South Korean students are one of the smartest students in the world. Asian countries in general are looked at as having very intelligent people. Then why is it that Korean students have a hard time with learning english?
Over the last 5 years there has been a huge boom in the number of Hagwons (english Academies) that have started up in South Korea. South Korea realized that for them to complete with other countries they must be able to speak the “world” language. South Koreans, especially South Korean parents want their children
to be the best and when it comes to learning english, they feel money buys the “english Language”. The more money they spend, they feel their children are getting the best education possible. They might be learning the structure of the english language, however most Korean students are very shy and lack the ability to express themselves.
At a very young age they are taught to study, memorize, and repeat. I knew a student who was able to memorize a whole essay, which he then repeated word for word during his in-class essay final test. Of course he got an “A” and to be honest the ability to memorize over 300 words is actually pretty amazing. This might be great for tests and exams, but they will never reuse what they learned. They will retain nothing. South Korean students are well known for their memorizing skills. I know students who do well on tests because they are able to memorize all the vocabulary words. Again, when I try to have a conversation with them, it is very difficult. So why do South Korean students lack the willingness to showcase their english abilities?
Some might say they have a whole new course to memorize therefore there is just not enough time to practice english. Or it could be something deeper, something that involves the South Korean culture itself. I experienced a level of shyness in South Korea that I have never seen in all my years in America. However when I walk the halls of my school I see less shyness when they are using their native language. It seemed very clear that they lacked confidence in speaking english. For South Koreans who want to be the best, they feel they should never showcase their skills unless it is 100% accurate.
The average Korean Student studies over 12 hours per day. They are taught english at school as well as at their Academies. They know the grammar, the vocabulary, and the structure, but their lack of english experience is what is keeping them back. They are just too busy studying that they are not able to practice what they have learned. Korean students realize that getting into a good university is the most important thing to their parents. They need to have the passion to learn english for themselves. In order to do this, schools
need to focus less on the grammar and focus more on the speaking. But how do you get a Korean student learner to speak?
The Korean culture is honestly a very quiet culture. It is considered rude to speak up or be too loud. How can this be broken? With drama! Acting is the best way for Korean students to get out of their shell and speak english without fear. Playing characters in plays or movies will not only get the students excited but also let them be someone else for a few minutes. There would be less fear of mistakes because the students will be hiding behind a character. Most High Schools in Korea doesn’t have drama programs, therefore it is up to the native teacher to include some drama in their lessons. We need to provide an atmosphere where students are free to make mistakes and experiment with the english Language, but most of all a place to have fun with english. With all the studying these students do, some “fun” will be the right medicine.