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High school students shun German, French, Spanish
« on: May 09, 2011, 09:34:36 am »
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By Lee Hyo-sik

Most high schools in Seoul teach Chinese or Japanese, or both, as a second foreign language, shying away from other more exotic languages, as fluency in either of the two Asian languages could be more helpful to students in finding a job.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said Sunday that 196 Seoul high schools out of 222, or 88.3 percent, currently offer a Chinese language course for 11th graders in the ongoing spring semester.

In 176 schools, or 79.3 percent, students can learn Japanese, while those studying at 169 schools are able to choose either Chinese or Japanese.

In contrast, only 41 high schools, or 18.5 percent, teach French as a second foreign language. German and Spanish are taught in 27 and six schools, respectively, with no schools offering Russian or Arabic language courses.

Teachers say that schools opt to teach students Chinese or Japanese because they are easier since all three use similar Chinese characters.

They also say Korean companies prefer to hire those fluent in Chinese or Japanese due to the nation’s growing business ties with the world’s second and third largest economies.

An official at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education echoed teachers’ views, saying students these days are eager to learn Chinese, with more domestic firms making inroads into the world’s fastest growing economy.

“If you are able to speak Chinese, it will definitely help you find a job. In the past, many students used to learn French or German. But these days, that is not the case,” the official said.

He also expressed concerns that the country’s foreign language education system leans too much toward English, Chinese and Japanese, stressing the government should encourage schools to teach other widely-spoken tongues, such as Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Hindi, as Korea establishes closer political and economic relations with countries speaking these languages.

Meanwhile, the number of high school students choosing to study a foreign language fell sharply in 2010, compared to a year ago, when it no longer became mandatory.

According to data released by the state-run Korean Educational Development Institute, students learning a second foreign language totaled 596,044 as of April 2010, down 120,939, or 16.8 percent, from a year earlier. The number of second foreign language classes at high schools nationwide also fell 11.2 percent to 18,554.

The dive in popularity for a second foreign language came after the government adjusted high school curricula in 2009 to put more emphasis on the study of English, Korean language and math. Learning a second foreign language was compulsory until 2009.

By language, the number of students who chose German as a second foreign language marked the steepest fall at 26.9 percent, from 29,881 to 21,841, the data showed. Students of Spanish fell 25.4 percent, followed by French (18.6 percent), Japanese (17.5 percent), Chinese (13.3 percent) and Russian (5.6 percent).

It's amazing to see that MONEY is the source of English in Korea.  But then so are Japanese, Chinese, and languages that Korean people feel will make this economy better.

Language is a communication, yet when money gets involved, Koreans get blinded.


Re: High school students shun German, French, Spanish
« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2011, 11:45:23 am »
Let's follow the logic train shall we? To make yourself more marketable in the business world you learn another foreign language other than English (cool). You then decide to study Japanese or Chinese, as the majority of people learning another language do, in order to get hired in a company such as Kia or Hyundai. So you are one of many people with the same qualifications and choose not to learn German as... there are no German car companies? Sorry... that logic train just went off the tracks...


  • Brian
  • Featured Contributor

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    • September 19, 2006, 01:07:56 pm
    • Pittsburgh / Jeollanam-do
Re: High school students shun German, French, Spanish
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2011, 12:00:10 pm »
Good that students are looking at practicality when choosing a foreign language.  Arabic remains the most popular choice on the college entrance exam, though, because it's weighted more heavily, though as this article states there are (and haven't been for a while) any schools that offer it.

But, studying an additional foreign language in high school is a luxury, and students who try, say, German or Spanish over Japanese are ones who are likeliy wealthy enough to afford it (in that they already had the opportunity to master it before their busy high school years).  There is an advantage Korean students have when learning Chinese or Japanese because of the (very limited) use of Chinese characters in Korean, but let's not put too much stock in that.  There are pretty significant differences in the writing systems, and the same limitations Korean English teachers have also apply to Japanese and Chinese teachers as well.  I took a Japanese class at a university in Gwangju and it amused my wife because I was learning words with a Korean accent (since Koreans usually can't pronounce "z"). 
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