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Author Topic: Not Speaking English As A Point of Pride  (Read 11955 times)

Offline wrinklebump

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #20 on: July 18, 2012, 09:50:10 PM »
the political angle just doesnt pass the laugh test. the majority of NETs in korea are teachers; we are not an inevitability in the way second and third-generation hispanics are in the states. we are here because these very same parents demand our presence and abilities – however limited they often are – in exchange for not insignificant sums of currency. if a majority or even plurality of parents, be them on the right or left, were opposed to our influence for whatever inscrutable political reasons, our numbers would be scarcely worthy of note.

i can kinda see where youre going with regards to the generation gap, i guess. some older koreans may show respect to white folks, depending on what their experience was during the war and/or its aftermath. at least compared to those in their 30s/40s/50s, whose experiences with foreigners during their formative years were likely limited to watching reports detailing grim rape cases in pyeongtaek and seoul.

your argument smacks of conspiracy theory, but like all conspiracy theories it assumes hyper-competence on the part of the conspirators. most koreans, like most people, aren't particularly radicalized, as evidenced by a voter turnout that usually hovers around 50 percent, right in line with most OECD nations. and just in my personal experience, koreans have seemed rather detached and cynical when it comes to politics and powerful people in general. they don't like rich people, despite all wanting to become rich, and they especially hate rich people with power, that is, politicians.

more likely than an underground political movement is a genuine apathy on the part of students and korean teachers to deal with a language neither party really knows how to teach or learn.
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Offline peasgoodnonsuch

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #21 on: July 18, 2012, 11:15:26 PM »
Umm....yeah. I think you largely misunderstood me.

I wasn't really implying that older people in Korea are more open to foreigners or nicer to them. Rather, that older Koreans usually belong to the Saenuri party, which is more pro-NET and FTA than the DUP. I would wager that most of our students' parents (at least middle school and elementary) are more on the DUP side, as most younger people in Korea are. The current president Lee Myung Bak is a member of the Saenuri party, and from what I can tell he's sort of like a Korean George W. Bush.

I don't really think I was arguing anything, mostly just trying to add a perspective to the issue that hadn't been covered thus far. I love me a good conspiracy theory, but commenting sarcastically on somewhat zany Korean nationalists doth not a solid conspiracy theory make. I was not saying that our students' resistance to English was solely based on political motives, merely that there is such sentiment in the air and in contributes to the issue. This is especially true for co-teachers, as they are adults. With political platforms, it's sometimes like the chicken and the egg issue. Do people quote nationalism as their reason to hate English and NETs as a way to make their apathy seem less like laziness? Or have politicians picked up on the general public's annoyance at having to learn English and blown it into an issue of nationalism and language purity? Chicken? Egg? Oyako donburi (both)? Who knows!

Anyway, it sounds like something I said bothered you, and I honestly just meant to make an innocuous comment on a yet uncovered side of the OP's original issue. I hope my reply has cleared things up a bit. And for what it's worth, you're totally right about most Koreans being cynical about politics and people in power. You're also dead on when it comes to the love-hate thing over being rich. In fact, its these very qualities that have Ahn Chool-soo as the leading opposition to Saenuri for the presidential election. And he's an independent and an academic!

Offline flasyb

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #22 on: July 18, 2012, 11:36:55 PM »
Personally, I see a number of factors involved.

Kids don't like languages because they don't see the point. I never saw the point of learning French in school. Of course now, I wish I spoke French.

The Korean system is structured so that English is just another exam - mainly based around memorising answers to question. My students learn 50-60 exam questions and the answers and then 10-20 of these are selected. If they remember them all, or happen to have memorised the correct answers, they will do well. If they don't they, won't. So it's not a test of language ability so much as it is a test of memory.

Then, you have Korean teachers who are utterly unable to teach English. A test of a real English teacher would be to send them to another country that doesn't speak the same native language and have them conduct a lesson. None of the KETs that I've worked with would be able to teach in Spain, for example. They simply can't teach English. They just teach exams. That's it. There are exceptions to every rule but without the ability to translate everything, the vast majority of KETs would die on their arses.

Of course, KETs are a slave to the system. They don't have to be. They could choose to teach English. But then you hear about KETs being fired for "speaking too much English in [English] class" and you lose hope. Best for them just to maintain the status quo.

For the above reasons, English is taught so badly in Korea, it makes me want to smack some politicians around the head with an iron bar.

Then, you have the poor kids who can't afford to get ahead in hagwons (and they're not that much help either). By high school, you end up with a bunch of teenagers, some of whom are further ahead in English (some light years ahead) and others who just haven't bothered. Those who haven't bothered end up frustrated by their inability compared to those who have bothered (or whose parents could afford hagwon). Add that to nationalistic foreigner suspicious parents and you end up with comments like "this is Korea, speak Korean".
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Offline SpaceRook

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #23 on: July 19, 2012, 06:06:17 AM »
Don't worry about what some teenager said.  I've worked in a Korean middle school....and now I'm working in a big Korean company with thousands of Korean adults.  There comes a hard moment in every professional Korean's life where the lack of English ability will abruptly shut a door of opportunity.  This is usually the point where most think to themselves, "Hmm, maybe it is a good idea to take a year off in Australia and study English?" 

Don't teach them English because they'll go live in America.  They probably won't.  Teach them English because that's how they are going to talk to international Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Indians.  Teach them English because the English internet is exponentially bigger than the Korean internet.   Teach them English because one day their boss might need someone on a tele-conference with England and it might be a good thing if they could fill that role. 


Offline MIGHTYMERICAN

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #24 on: July 19, 2012, 10:03:59 AM »
I read the OPs post yesterday and obviously thought it was an unfortunate situation and was thankful that none of my students, or any one I know, has said something like that to me (although I can speak conversational Korean at a fair level). However, I had a meeting yesterday at the end of school for a joint summer camp and the head cordinator of the ENGLISH camp, who cannot speak any English, had another KET translate everything he said to us.  His opening statement was addressed to all of the NETs and he said that we all need to learn Korean because this is Korea. He also said that he does not need to know English because he works in Korea and therefore we should learn Korean because we work here.

This made me so angry because how could some one tell a group of NETs, who were hired here to speak English, that it is imperative to learn Korea? It's things like this that make students not care about English in the classroom because if adults don't think it is important to learn then why should they? I literally couldn't believe what I was hearing when this was translated and I was looking around at all of the other NETs who were also in complete shock.

Furthermore, I cannot even fathom the thought process that must happen when some one appoints a teacher that has no affilitiation with English learning, or instruction, to a position that is in charge of setting up an English camp. How can this be justified????

Offline peastma

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #25 on: July 19, 2012, 10:50:35 AM »
I can relate to the other Canadians who have experienced the lack of interest and/or complete resistance towards learning French as a second language, on the part of English speaking Canadians [not all - but quite a few]. I am an English speaking Canadian from Ontario who actually loved the fact that I could learn a second language.  I've been able to use French througout my life for business and as I've travelled.  However, back then, most of my friends hated taking the classes and did barely enough to get  by in class.  When I listen to any of these negative comments by the Korean students who don't really want to learn English - I just think of my childhood friends - these are just kids who can't see past a few days to even comprehend the future benefits of learning English.  I don't really believe it's as much of a Korean issue as it is a maturity issue.  Like my friends watching me do Fremch immersion and thinking that I was crazy .... they just dont get it. 

Offline Superchick3

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #26 on: July 19, 2012, 10:53:19 AM »
Well, I ran into the problem when I was practically hysterical with my pet, having gone to the 5th vet who  turned me away because I was a waygook and other reasons. This guy sat me down and said he didn't speak English. I said ok, you don't speak it, no problem. I looked at his shelves of books IN English and asked him if he could just look at my pet and just find the advice in English and copy or even just point to the advice in his book. He refused saying you are in Korea, speak Korean. I snapped back at him " I didn't have Korean even offered as an option to learn when I was younger and I am learning the best I can, where as you have English BOOKS behind you and HAD to know English for university.... we aren't even remotely a fair comparison!"

Has anyone else gotten screamed at by old people for speaking English on a bus or train? One time it lasted for 20 minutes!

Offline justanotherwaygook

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #27 on: July 19, 2012, 11:06:23 AM »
Well, I ran into the problem when I was practically hysterical with my pet, having gone to the 5th vet who  turned me away because I was a waygook and other reasons. This guy sat me down and said he didn't speak English. I said ok, you don't speak it, no problem. I looked at his shelves of books IN English and asked him if he could just look at my pet and just find the advice in English and copy or even just point to the advice in his book. He refused saying you are in Korea, speak Korean. I snapped back at him " I didn't have Korean even offered as an option to learn when I was younger and I am learning the best I can, where as you have English BOOKS behind you and HAD to know English for university.... we aren't even remotely a fair comparison!"

Has anyone else gotten screamed at by old people for speaking English on a bus or train? One time it lasted for 20 minutes!

Many instances of waygoogins getting an earful is because they are actually being too noisy.  Other times, it's just a cranky nationalist.  I've been on the bus with foreign friends and they did get yelled at by the bus driver, but they were being annoyingly loud on a crowded evening express bus (the kind where everyone else just wants quiet).
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Offline flasyb

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #28 on: July 19, 2012, 11:54:02 AM »
Well, I ran into the problem when I was practically hysterical with my pet, having gone to the 5th vet who  turned me away because I was a waygook and other reasons. This guy sat me down and said he didn't speak English. I said ok, you don't speak it, no problem. I looked at his shelves of books IN English and asked him if he could just look at my pet and just find the advice in English and copy or even just point to the advice in his book. He refused saying you are in Korea, speak Korean. I snapped back at him " I didn't have Korean even offered as an option to learn when I was younger and I am learning the best I can, where as you have English BOOKS behind you and HAD to know English for university.... we aren't even remotely a fair comparison!"

Has anyone else gotten screamed at by old people for speaking English on a bus or train? One time it lasted for 20 minutes!

Many instances of waygoogins getting an earful is because they are actually being too noisy.  Other times, it's just a cranky nationalist.  I've been on the bus with foreign friends and they did get yelled at by the bus driver, but they were being annoyingly loud on a crowded evening express bus (the kind where everyone else just wants quiet).

Yeah, my fiancée's friend came to visit and we were getting the bus back to Seoul from my town. They decided to have a moderately loud giggly conversation on an otherwise silent bus. Then they were insulted when they were told to shut the hell up. I saw it coming a mile away and just sat there in the seats opposite with my headphones on shaking my head.

Only drunk ajossis are allowed to talk on public transport loudly (being both male and old has its distinct advantages in Korea). If you're going to have a conversation on public transport, especially on an inter-city bus, expect to be told to shut up. Just don't do it. If you absolutely must, try to keep it to a barely audible whisper or mumble. Frankly, I'm with the Koreans on this one. I love the silence on buses and am angry at anyone who selfishly breaks it. It usually has nothing to do with speaking English. Have a bit of self-awareness, look around, and you'll probably notice a silence descend 10 minutes into your journey. That's your cue to shut up.
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Offline syd wegoda

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #29 on: July 19, 2012, 01:10:52 PM »
I've noticed that some Americans do talk louder than others on public transport. Nothing wrong with that, just an observation. My girlfriend says that you shouldn't talk on the phone or make too much noise on public transport which seems to be the case most of the time. I never hear any noisy music playing from people's ipods like I did back home. I think passengers do find drunk ajossis annoying but won't say anything about it.

Offline Chadwickhhs

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #30 on: July 19, 2012, 01:24:28 PM »
I recognize your frustration Hilarity_Ensues.

I was the same as these kids in school with learning a second language. I refused to learn Spanish seeing it as a second class language and begrudgingly took French. I never paid attention in class and resisted doing any work at all for some stupid "I'm too cool for this" mentality. I was an idiot and now regret fighting language skills. Especially because French is so easy compared to Japanese and Korean and it took more effort to not learn it than to let it in. I wish I had mastered one other language than making bologna out of three.

Some of these kids fight it because they have trouble with it or are, let's face it, stupid. They make excuses why having the knowledge is bad. Others may be smart but refuse to apply themselves out of misplaced rebelliousness.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2012, 01:28:50 PM by Chadwickhhs »

Offline Freeto

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #31 on: July 19, 2012, 01:25:50 PM »
I'd like to see this phrase said to a soldier stationed here.  ;)
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Offline SoyLaBonBon

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #32 on: July 19, 2012, 03:02:53 PM »
I could understand being told, "This is Korea.  Speak Korean" if I were on a street, in a Hof, or somewhere which is not a classroom or school.  The fact of the matter is that the Korean Ministry of Education has placed an inordinate amount of importance on the English language.  I can't recall where I read it, but this phrase is the perfect encapsulation of the state of English language learning in Korea:  "Koreans don't acquire English, they study it."  My personal view is that this emphasis on English, while understandably important and undoubtedly vital to Korea's ability to stay economically afloat as a manufacturing nation with no resources, the methods by which English language instruction takes place are, as we all know, hopelessly flawed. 

I "teach" Grades 1 and 2 at a public middle school.  I have over 800 different students in a week.  I teach with four different KETs, two of them are about as useless as boobs on a bull.  One is magnificent, but she is also new to this school, so at times the students make quick work of her and do nothing to heed her calls for silence or attention.  Also, her English is decent.  She spent three years in Chicago, and it shows.  Of the 800 students I have, I'd say maybe four can hold a conversation with me which doesn't include robotic "I am fine, thank you" type spewing.  The students who are somewhat better at English rarely, if ever, approach me for conversation, and appear to be a bit more popular than their peers, so I can't imagine anyone going up to them and saying, "This is Korea.  Speak Korean."  But then again, the fairly proficient students don't speak to me, so I wouldn't know.   

I agree with some of the previous posters who have mentioned that this type of attitude is not uncommon in other countries (I am from Texas, so I hear a lot of the xenophobic tirades against "those" people who need to learn English.)  But I am also half Latina and half Black, so I actually grew up with two languages and am quite pleased to have them in my repertoire.  I actually miss speaking Spanish quite a bit.  These students are not interested in learning English, and they are sure as heck aren't thinking about their professional prospects.  They're 13-16 for Pete's sake.  Careers, responsibilities, debts, children, spouses--all of that is not even on their horizon.  Nor should it be.  Youth is to be savored.  And I have asked my students if they have any interest in travel, almost unanimously the answer is, "No."  Why would they ever want to leave Korea?  (Oh, I don't know, because I showed you a picture of MLK, Jr. and you thought it was Will Smith?)  It's difficult to pretend to be a teacher when your students aren't in the least bit concerned with your exertions.  You are a mascot to them.  And English is a nuisance, something their parents pound into them, something whose beauty is killed with torturous grammatical instruction.  It's terribly depressing.   

Offline tails

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #33 on: July 19, 2012, 08:32:18 PM »
It's strange how some people on here think Koreans are quiet on public transport, where as the Koreans themselves over on koreabang think they are loud and embarrassing.
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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #34 on: July 19, 2012, 10:51:32 PM »
Personally, I see a number of factors involved.

Kids don't like languages because they don't see the point. I never saw the point of learning French in school. Of course now, I wish I spoke French.

The Korean system is structured so that English is just another exam - mainly based around memorising answers to question. My students learn 50-60 exam questions and the answers and then 10-20 of these are selected. If they remember them all, or happen to have memorised the correct answers, they will do well. If they don't they, won't. So it's not a test of language ability so much as it is a test of memory.

Then, you have Korean teachers who are utterly unable to teach English. A test of a real English teacher would be to send them to another country that doesn't speak the same native language and have them conduct a lesson. None of the KETs that I've worked with would be able to teach in Spain, for example. They simply can't teach English. They just teach exams. That's it. There are exceptions to every rule but without the ability to translate everything, the vast majority of KETs would die on their arses.

Of course, KETs are a slave to the system. They don't have to be. They could choose to teach English. But then you hear about KETs being fired for "speaking too much English in [English] class" and you lose hope. Best for them just to maintain the status quo.

For the above reasons, English is taught so badly in Korea, it makes me want to smack some politicians around the head with an iron bar.

Then, you have the poor kids who can't afford to get ahead in hagwons (and they're not that much help either). By high school, you end up with a bunch of teenagers, some of whom are further ahead in English (some light years ahead) and others who just haven't bothered. Those who haven't bothered end up frustrated by their inability compared to those who have bothered (or whose parents could afford hagwon). Add that to nationalistic foreigner suspicious parents and you end up with comments like "this is Korea, speak Korean".

Yes, yes, and yes.   This is the best post of the thread

Offline flasyb

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #35 on: July 20, 2012, 12:10:02 AM »
It's strange how some people on here think Koreans are quiet on public transport, where as the Koreans themselves over on koreabang think they are loud and embarrassing.

Haha! Actually, the ones who garner attention on Koreabang (or the Naver/Daum forums from which Koreabang articles come) who draw attention are the drunks and the hikers (frequently drunk ajossis). That is to say, those who break from the norm of silence or near silence. They draw attention precisely because being loud/obnoxious on public transport is not considered normal behaviour.
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Offline gtrain83

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #36 on: July 20, 2012, 10:09:29 AM »
as a small aside, this is how valued English education is: 6-2 class cancelled today so they can go outside and play with water guns. 

(note I am not bitching as I don't care I have a free period just a little perspective)


"I love the silence on buses and am angry at anyone who selfishly breaks it. It usually has nothing to do with speaking English. Have a bit of self-awareness, look around, and you'll probably notice a silence descend 10 minutes into your journey. That's your cue to shut up."

So it's not selfish to sit there and expect others to be silent and do what you want? I don't really talk on the bus...just curious how one act is selfish but not the other.

Offline flasyb

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #37 on: July 20, 2012, 05:45:13 PM »
as a small aside, this is how valued English education is: 6-2 class cancelled today so they can go outside and play with water guns. 

(note I am not bitching as I don't care I have a free period just a little perspective)


"I love the silence on buses and am angry at anyone who selfishly breaks it. It usually has nothing to do with speaking English. Have a bit of self-awareness, look around, and you'll probably notice a silence descend 10 minutes into your journey. That's your cue to shut up."

So it's not selfish to sit there and expect others to be silent and do what you want? I don't really talk on the bus...just curious how one act is selfish but not the other.

One person breaking a silence annoys many. One person sitting in silence annoys nobody. The one who sits in silence is less selfish than the one who breaks it.
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Offline Jrong

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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #38 on: July 20, 2012, 06:20:53 PM »
peasnogoodsomuch, that was insightful. thanks. I don't have much knowledge about this but from what I've observed seems true to me.

Related gtrain's comment, I probably should but I don't have any patience for arbitrary values when it comes to "manners", what's rude and what's not. So it's OK for Mr. Kim to make horrible groaning noises at the gym, not "share" the equipment but sit on it for 15 minutes while he shouts on his cellphone and drinks his little tea bottle thingy even though you've asked him to "switch up" using obvious body language, it's OK to smoke in your house even though your waygookin neighbor above you repeatedly asks you to step outside and do it bc it filters into his apartment....yeah....so when Ajumma tells me to be quiet on the bus, I have absolutely no patience for that. Maybe I should, but all I can do is laugh and continue... SSTP: Smile and laugh, Shake head, Tell her to shutup, and Proceed.





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Re: "This is Korea. Speak Korean."
« Reply #39 on: September 15, 2012, 12:20:18 AM »
Do you love Korea?

I love Korean people and their warmth for foreigners!

Well, have fun with that, Patrick.