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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

An English Pandemic?

I just finished reading this article from The Korea Times, the English-language newspaper here, and could scream at the ignorance.

The writer, a student at the University of Virginia, has written an opinion piece based solely on extrapolations and generalizations, not relying at all on facts. How did she even get published? While The Korea Times isn't exactly The New York Times, this poorly-written column wouldn't even have been allotted inches in The Diamondback.

Among her claims:
- Most English teachers "probably scored less than 500 out of 800 on their verbal portion of their SATs or don't even know what the SATs are."
- Native speakers teach in Korea because they "have no life goals."
- Successful English teachers are "white-looking people."
- English teachers are responsible for "many indirect social problems that we have in Korea right now."

The way this piece reads, I might recommend the author take an English refresher course. I don't know if she's a native speaker or not, but parts of the column are virtually unreadable due to grammatical errors and circuitous writing patterns.

Favorite sentence: "
Someone needs to set an alarm clock to wake up the parents who have overdosed on their English fever."

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't move to Korea for the love of teaching. It seemed like an adventure my first year out of college and a chance to see a new part of the world. But what makes that the wrong reason? For whatever reason teachers come here -- and tens of thousands of us have -- we teach English to people who want to learn.

Native English teachers the majority of the time are more beneficial to students than non-native English teachers. There are too many colloquialisms that can only be learned through constant use, and a natural rhythm of speaking that is hard to copy.

Most Koreans I know here have excellent English, and a few sound like they've lived abroad for years. But in terms of really knowing the language -- something books can't teach -- there's no replacement for a native teacher. Korean education relies so heavily on book learning and tests but with a language, you can throw away the textbook. Firsthand experience and daily use are the only requirements.