December 18, 2018, 07:22:30 PM


Author Topic: English... Not very important?  (Read 3025 times)

Online sh9wntm

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English... Not very important?
« on: May 17, 2018, 12:27:18 PM »
Two weeks ago, we had exams at my middle schools and the kids were generally very focused for the first two months. Since then, I've noticed much more talking, boys ignoring me on purpose, and refusal to participate in activities. The difference is pretty shocking. I asked my co-teacher when the next exams were and he said there are no more graded English exams until the end of the second semester! Therefore, it has little impact on their overall GPA.

I know S. Korea invests heavily in its English program, but it seems odd that they would invest heavily into it and not hold students to the standards they want. If it's as important as they make out to be, why not make it a core part of the curriculum all the way through high school?

Offline tadpole511

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2018, 12:43:27 PM »
Two weeks ago, we had exams at my middle schools and the kids were generally very focused for the first two months. Since then, I've noticed much more talking, boys ignoring me on purpose, and refusal to participate in activities. The difference is pretty shocking. I asked my co-teacher when the next exams were and he said there are no more graded English exams until the end of the second semester! Therefore, it has little impact on their overall GPA.

I know S. Korea invests heavily in its English program, but it seems odd that they would invest heavily into it and not hold students to the standards they want. If it's as important as they make out to be, why not make it a core part of the curriculum all the way through high school?

Nah. Korea invests heavily, but also English is a business. Very few people seem to actually take it seriously. I don't know how long you've been here, but this is one of the main reasons EFL teachers get burned out and leave. English really isn't taken seriously. It's about appearances here, not necessarily student progress and teacher ability. There's a reason the most popular EFL teachers are young, skinny, white, blond-haired, blue-eyed American women, fresh out of college, with a BA is underwater basketweaving.

Offline robin_teacher

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2018, 01:57:11 PM »
Unfortunately most of your students will only be extrinsically motivated to succeed in English, aka do the minimum work required to receive the minimally acceptable grade. You'll have a minority of students who are interested in English for their own reasons. Find them and concentrate on what they need.

Online sh9wntm

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2018, 02:43:46 PM »


Nah. Korea invests heavily, but also English is a business. Very few people seem to actually take it seriously. I don't know how long you've been here, but this is one of the main reasons EFL teachers get burned out and leave. English really isn't taken seriously. It's about appearances here, not necessarily student progress and teacher ability. There's a reason the most popular EFL teachers are young, skinny, white, blond-haired, blue-eyed American women, fresh out of college, with a BA is underwater basketweaving.

Yes, I've noticed. It's unfortunate. Because Korea is such a homogeneous society, many people see no use to it. I guess many people never leave Korea anyways. I suppose it's all about putting on a show for the parents and having a novelty in the school to keep things interesting. English itself is valued here in a very superficial manner.

Online eggieguffer

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2018, 09:02:21 AM »


Nah. Korea invests heavily, but also English is a business. Very few people seem to actually take it seriously. I don't know how long you've been here, but this is one of the main reasons EFL teachers get burned out and leave. English really isn't taken seriously. It's about appearances here, not necessarily student progress and teacher ability. There's a reason the most popular EFL teachers are young, skinny, white, blond-haired, blue-eyed American women, fresh out of college, with a BA is underwater basketweaving.

Yes, I've noticed. It's unfortunate. Because Korea is such a homogeneous society, many people see no use to it. I guess many people never leave Korea anyways. I suppose it's all about putting on a show for the parents and having a novelty in the school to keep things interesting. English itself is valued here in a very superficial manner.

Koreans see a use to English at school in terms of passing exams and then a lot of Koreans see a further use to it when they leave school, to work in international companies, emigrate, travel and study. Though this time they need communicative English so a lot of them have to start again from scratch. There are a lot of adult hagwans out there full of people who are only there because they need English. The BC in Seoul alone has over 5,000 students. There's also a massive need for it from the parents of well off kids who performed badly on the SATs who want their kids to study abroad. They in particular often have to learn English again from the beginning.

Offline tadpole511

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2018, 11:31:23 AM »


Nah. Korea invests heavily, but also English is a business. Very few people seem to actually take it seriously. I don't know how long you've been here, but this is one of the main reasons EFL teachers get burned out and leave. English really isn't taken seriously. It's about appearances here, not necessarily student progress and teacher ability. There's a reason the most popular EFL teachers are young, skinny, white, blond-haired, blue-eyed American women, fresh out of college, with a BA is underwater basketweaving.

Yes, I've noticed. It's unfortunate. Because Korea is such a homogeneous society, many people see no use to it. I guess many people never leave Korea anyways. I suppose it's all about putting on a show for the parents and having a novelty in the school to keep things interesting. English itself is valued here in a very superficial manner.

Koreans see a use to English at school in terms of passing exams and then a lot of Koreans see a further use to it when they leave school, to work in international companies, emigrate, travel and study. Though this time they need communicative English so a lot of them have to start again from scratch. There are a lot of adult hagwans out there full of people who are only there because they need English. The BC in Seoul alone has over 5,000 students. There's also a massive need for it from the parents of well off kids who performed badly on the SATs who want their kids to study abroad. They in particular often have to learn English again from the beginning.

*Disclaimer* I teach in a pretty poor area, and most of my students have never, and will most likely never travel abroad. I do however live very close to two large US military bases, so there definitely isn't a lack of English around here. So I'm in a weird situation here.

Many of the shop, bar, and restaurant owners speak very good, if not perfect, English. It makes sense, because they see a lot of military patrons. And people here with the military are kind of notorious for not learning Korean, or only learning the bare minimum "Hello", "Thank you", etc.

My students live around tons of English-speakers, but don't actually speak much English themselves. I haven't met many parents yet, so I can't really speak for the parents though. But the biggest issue I'm running into is that they simply can't speak well. They can read fine. They can write okay. But they can't speak, and their listening is very low as well. They are taught that "English" is a set of questions and answers, and if anything deviates even the slightest bit from the sentences they memorized, they're completely stumped. I'm trying to stop that with my 3rd graders, and it's working really well so far. But I also have a super supportive coteacher.

The whole thing I have is that if language learning and actual communicative skills were taken more seriously, and English was taught as an actual method of communication rather than as a thing for rote memorization, we wouldn't be seeing as many adults scrambling to relearn English because they want little Minsu to study abroad. So, since we (the NETs) are here to teach English conversation, and the school system is entirely geared towards studying for tests, our (the NETs) jobs and classes aren't taken seriously.

Online eggieguffer

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2018, 12:28:25 PM »
Yes that's the big problem. The kind of English taught for the tests is not the kind some of them will need later.

Online ESLTurtle

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2018, 06:56:01 PM »
A ripple effect that makes many hagwons a little shithole.
This is exactly why I've chosen to work at a university, as opposed to a hagwon.

Note: I do admit there are some genuine, wonderful hagwons out there, though.

Online MayorHaggar

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2018, 07:18:31 AM »
Spoiler alert: 99% of Koreans learning English only do so to pass tests, do well on the English section of the college entrance exam, and do well on job interviews in Korea. The other 1% of Koreans actually care about the outside world or want to travel without having to rely on giant ramen-slurping tour groups.

Also I've found that after exams (the finals are around November in all levels of school, even elementary), everyone at a public school will just give up on everything. Korean teachers, the janitors, students, everyone. They wrap up their textbooks and then spend most of November and all of December and February watching movies, playing games, etc. As a result it's hard for a NET to do anything because the kids are so used to BS-ing around and the Korean teachers are no help because they're having important coffee meetings, watching TV, or sleeping.

Never had this problem in elementary-level hagwons, kids were willing to do the same level of work year-round.

Online eggieguffer

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2018, 09:08:00 AM »
That 1% (I'd personally put it a little higher) will mostly be located in Seoul which can give you a skewed idea of English level in Korea as a whole. E.g. In a big international hotel in Seoul the staff will certainly speak English but in Jeju or Busan there's no guarantee.

Offline tadpole511

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2018, 10:27:23 AM »
Spoiler alert: 99% of Koreans learning English only do so to pass tests, do well on the English section of the college entrance exam, and do well on job interviews in Korea. The other 1% of Koreans actually care about the outside world or want to travel without having to rely on giant ramen-slurping tour groups.

Also I've found that after exams (the finals are around November in all levels of school, even elementary), everyone at a public school will just give up on everything. Korean teachers, the janitors, students, everyone. They wrap up their textbooks and then spend most of November and all of December and February watching movies, playing games, etc. As a result it's hard for a NET to do anything because the kids are so used to BS-ing around and the Korean teachers are no help because they're having important coffee meetings, watching TV, or sleeping.

Never had this problem in elementary-level hagwons, kids were willing to do the same level of work year-round.

I noticed from my first year that, after exams, I was the only teacher expected to continue teaching regular "educational" lessons. Even my coteachers, in their own classes, would show movies and youtube videos. It pissed me off a lot, because if I even suggested a review game class, I would get scolded for not teaching appropriate lessons. Anyone else feel like this?

Offline CypherSoul

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2018, 08:06:50 AM »
Just started teaching in Korea...! -_-
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Online Kayos

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #12 on: May 23, 2018, 01:23:08 PM »
Spoiler alert: 99% of Koreans learning English only do so to pass tests, do well on the English section of the college entrance exam, and do well on job interviews in Korea. The other 1% of Koreans actually care about the outside world or want to travel without having to rely on giant ramen-slurping tour groups.

Also I've found that after exams (the finals are around November in all levels of school, even elementary), everyone at a public school will just give up on everything. Korean teachers, the janitors, students, everyone. They wrap up their textbooks and then spend most of November and all of December and February watching movies, playing games, etc. As a result it's hard for a NET to do anything because the kids are so used to BS-ing around and the Korean teachers are no help because they're having important coffee meetings, watching TV, or sleeping.

Never had this problem in elementary-level hagwons, kids were willing to do the same level of work year-round.

I noticed from my first year that, after exams, I was the only teacher expected to continue teaching regular "educational" lessons. Even my coteachers, in their own classes, would show movies and youtube videos. It pissed me off a lot, because if I even suggested a review game class, I would get scolded for not teaching appropriate lessons. Anyone else feel like this?

In my first year, I was expected to do a game every lesson. And movies after exam times.
In my second, and current year, I have to do regular lessons up until exam time, then the week or 2 before exams, I will usually lose classes, and my co-T will take them, to review for the exams. After exams, I'm expected to watch movies with the students. Granted, the mid-term May exams are an exception, and I'm to continue as normal after those ones. My co-T does regular lessons then still though.

Offline didinicks

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2018, 06:29:44 AM »
I noticed that students do change their attitudes towards classes over a semester, too. S. Korea's educational system invests heavily in English education, but I'd say not all students agree with that or acknowledge the importance of it. Very few take their studies seriously, just like everywhere else around the world with different school subjects. I'm sure they kinda feel towards the same with other studies, too.

Online JVPrice

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #14 on: June 11, 2018, 08:34:52 AM »
Korea's only interested in making its students appear smarter by having English classes to begin with. When you really look at it, it's not practical how they're taught, especially if you wanted to apply the lessons to the real world. Even the pronunciation for English letters they're taught isn't accurate.

As for how the semester goes, I find my classes as well dipping after exams are over. My CT told me last semester after exams the students wouldn't feel like doing anything, and just told me to watch a movie instead of whatever lesson I had planned. Sure wish my teachers back in high school would've caved like that
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Online sh9wntm

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2018, 09:43:55 AM »
Korea's only interested in making its students appear smarter by having English classes to begin with. When you really look at it, it's not practical how they're taught, especially if you wanted to apply the lessons to the real world. Even the pronunciation for English letters they're taught isn't accurate.

As for how the semester goes, I find my classes as well dipping after exams are over. My CT told me last semester after exams the students wouldn't feel like doing anything, and just told me to watch a movie instead of whatever lesson I had planned. Sure wish my teachers back in high school would've caved like that

Yah I remember doing spanish in middle school/ high school. It wasn't as important as other subjects, but it was still treated with respect. If you decided that you didn't want to try in spanish, it would count against your GPA. Even colleges require foreign language credits. If Koreans couldn't pass to the next level without a passing grade in English, I think that would accelerate fluency rates more than anything.

Otherwise, maybe they should go all in on elementary, because my middle school classes feel like such a waste of time.

Offline tadpole511

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #16 on: June 11, 2018, 10:42:45 AM »
Korea's only interested in making its students appear smarter by having English classes to begin with. When you really look at it, it's not practical how they're taught, especially if you wanted to apply the lessons to the real world. Even the pronunciation for English letters they're taught isn't accurate.

As for how the semester goes, I find my classes as well dipping after exams are over. My CT told me last semester after exams the students wouldn't feel like doing anything, and just told me to watch a movie instead of whatever lesson I had planned. Sure wish my teachers back in high school would've caved like that

Yah I remember doing spanish in middle school/ high school. It wasn't as important as other subjects, but it was still treated with respect. If you decided that you didn't want to try in spanish, it would count against your GPA. Even colleges require foreign language credits. If Koreans couldn't pass to the next level without a passing grade in English, I think that would accelerate fluency rates more than anything.

Otherwise, maybe they should go all in on elementary, because my middle school classes feel like such a waste of time.

This is how you end up with 6th graders who can't say "Hello", but are somehow expected to understand comparatives and superlatives, giving advice, and everything else afterwards. Like, they can't even read. Passing them along with the rest of their classmates who can is doing more harm than good. Eventually, the lowest level students simply stop trying after a while (assuming they were trying to begin with) because they're too far behind to ever hope to catch up. But teachers continue to inflate grades and spoon-feed answers so students will pass. It's a pretty common thing. Failing is losing face for parents, student, and teacher, so it's impossible to fail.

Even in elementary school, leveled classes are a good idea. But it prohibits the "homeroom teacher teaches everything" method that is most commonly used through elementary schools worldwide. And then we open the "parents will complain if precious little Minsu isn't in the highest level" can of worms.

Offline Cyanea

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2018, 06:24:16 PM »
My CT told me last semester after exams the students wouldn't feel like doing anything, and just told me to watch a movie instead of whatever lesson I had planned. Sure wish my teachers back in high school would've caved like that
my middle school classes feel like such a waste of time.

 But teachers continue to inflate grades and spoon-feed answers so students will pass. It's a pretty common thing. Failing is losing face for parents, student, and teacher, so it's impossible to fail.

 And then we open the "parents will complain if precious little Minsu isn't in the highest level" can of worms.


Clearly education in Korea has been seriously corrupted and most teachers have given up.

It is surprising that such a developed society which can figure out sophisticated technology.. cannot fix the relatively simple and obvious problems in their own education system.
Catch my drift?

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #18 on: June 11, 2018, 06:43:31 PM »
My CT told me last semester after exams the students wouldn't feel like doing anything, and just told me to watch a movie instead of whatever lesson I had planned. Sure wish my teachers back in high school would've caved like that
my middle school classes feel like such a waste of time.

 But teachers continue to inflate grades and spoon-feed answers so students will pass. It's a pretty common thing. Failing is losing face for parents, student, and teacher, so it's impossible to fail.

 And then we open the "parents will complain if precious little Minsu isn't in the highest level" can of worms.


Clearly education in Korea has been seriously corrupted and most teachers have given up.

It is surprising that such a developed society which can figure out sophisticated technology.. cannot fix the relatively simple and obvious problems in their own education system.
it's pretty much universally accepted that the younger you learn languages, the easier they are to pick them up. except korea, that is, where 'experts' think if you learn a second language at an early age alongside korean, you will grow up not learning either language. it's quite amazing how students i used to teach in grade 1 and 2 become so good so quickly. at my wife's english kindergarten, they learn english even quicker

yet, public english education here starts at grade 3. the books teach 'phrases' rather than grammatical points, and often the phrases are unusual or strange. students don't learn how to formulate sentences, they learn the 'answer' to the phrase. there are never any production activities. the same topics are also repeated from grades 3-6, and many of the topics focus on korean culture.

it is doomed from the start.

it's either completely incompetence, or the govt doesn't really want its citizens to learn english properly. the tin-foil-hat-theorist in me thinks it's because if many people became fluent in english, they'd emigrate away from 'hell joseon'. but it's probably just incompetence and ignorance

Offline tadpole511

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Re: English... Not very important?
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2018, 07:15:13 AM »
it's pretty much universally accepted that the younger you learn languages, the easier they are to pick them up. except korea, that is, where 'experts' think if you learn a second language at an early age alongside korean, you will grow up not learning either language. it's quite amazing how students i used to teach in grade 1 and 2 become so good so quickly. at my wife's english kindergarten, they learn english even quicker

yet, public english education here starts at grade 3. the books teach 'phrases' rather than grammatical points, and often the phrases are unusual or strange. students don't learn how to formulate sentences, they learn the 'answer' to the phrase. there are never any production activities. the same topics are also repeated from grades 3-6, and many of the topics focus on korean culture.

it is doomed from the start.

it's either completely incompetence, or the govt doesn't really want its citizens to learn english properly. the tin-foil-hat-theorist in me thinks it's because if many people became fluent in english, they'd emigrate away from 'hell joseon'. but it's probably just incompetence and ignorance

I was actually talking about this with some friends (including Korean teachers) the other day.

One particular chapter I'm teaching right now focuses on food and "May I try some?" Great chance to learn English food, right? Nope. It's all foreigners asking their Korean friends if they can try some ddeokbokki or kimchi or ddeok or whatever standard Korean food, and then raving about how amazing it is. That doesn't actually teach them any useful English. It was this chapter that really nailed home the idea that English education here isn't so that Koreans can go use English outside of Korea--it's so Koreans can expound the wonderfulness of Korea to all the English-speaking foreigners who come visit.

And don't even get me started on the "learning two languages will impede their language development" thing. But, to be fair, most of the Korean teachers I know also think it's a bunch of bullcr@p.