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  • Aristocrat
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1839

    • November 10, 2014, 01:04:27 pm
(Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« on: April 14, 2015, 02:14:12 pm »
I have a CT, she's a lovely person and bless her that she tries to help however she can.
Her English is ok and she's very humble about it.
She's expressed enthusiasm at really trying to improve the student's English level (I'm
down with that).

The problems:
The students are BABIED. Without trying to sound rude, I've always tried to gently remind her before, after and sometimes during class (very discretely), to stop blurting out whatever I say, in Korean. The students are very weak, in English, and most will not make any attempt to work out a problem or even attempt to sound out a word, unless I or she does it first. Listen and repeat back is just about the only thing they understand. I've identified this problem and I try to teach them to construct simple sentences, themselves, and generally I give them activities to encourage them to teach themselves and think for themselves.

I've explained my teaching strategy numerous times, to her, and she's well aware of the problem. Basically, it goes in one ear and out the other. I can't seem to make her get it. I swear after my greeting I usually ask 'How was your weekend?', after a second of silence she says nothing. After another second, I can see her face starting to twitch. After the third second, she blurts out the translation... 90% of the time the students speak to me, in Korean, and she translates. They never make an effort to speak in English, partly because they know she'll translate everything and when a student musters up the courage to piece together a sentence, she'll jump in and to finish or correct it. During games or worksheets, when the students are working out a problem, she just HAS TO jump in to save the day.

She's also hinted that I'm sometimes too hard on the students. Why? I asked a boy to sit up straight and look at me when I'm speaking to him (he was staring at the ceiling, and lying on across his desk). She wasn't happy that I refused to give a student a stamp after I told him to do his own work, he went straight back to copying.

What scares me is the thought that one day these kids will be expected to contribute to society.


  • orangeman
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1769

    • September 01, 2011, 09:56:35 am
    • Seoul-East Side
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2015, 02:24:36 pm »
Unfortunately, that's a very common problem here (and in many second/foreign language classrooms).  Right now I have a CT who's English is very very good, and still she will just explain in Korean, and then again in English when she's talking (and translate what I say when I talk).  I talked to her about, and she just told me the old line that many of the students don't understand and it would make them feel bad if they didn't hear it in Korean.  She said that the higher level kids will just listen to the English (like it's not natural to just listen to your native language and turn off the other). 

Also, kids being coddled and babied is the norm here.  Well up into their 30s, even.  What we see as molding a functioning human being many Koreans see as fascist abuse.  Things like asking them to bring a pencil to class, giving a failing grade if deserved, asking them not to scream and start fires, etc.  All signs that you don't love the children enough, you monster.   Just stuff their mouths with candy until the diabetes kicks in and let them run around with scissors.  That's true love! 
« Last Edit: April 14, 2015, 02:26:48 pm by orangeman »


  • ashe1590
  • Super Waygook

    • 428

    • August 27, 2013, 01:07:13 pm
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2015, 02:26:28 pm »
What age group are you teaching? While it can be frustrating, I let my kids copy each other because for some of them, it is the only way they will be able to get any of their work done. To me, copied work is better than no work at all. I think, especially if the kids are low level, English is intimidating and a teacher that speaks only in English is more intimidating and can be quite off putting. Perhaps she is trying to baby them to lessen the language anxiety she perceives them to be feeling in an attempt to get them to enjoy English.

Another thing to note is that a lot of the left field/ out of the box ideas that require them to be more creative are simply too hard for some Korean students, especially the lower level ones. The textbooks they use are a lot of fill in the blank, and especially in elementary school don't require them to write any full sentences themselves. They're not used to it - you yourself said that they have trouble constructing sentences. Perhaps your co-teacher jumping in and helping is her way of trying to help them do the activities you are setting and encouraging them when they need it.

If the kids are goofing around, it is fine to pull them back in line, but I think it is important to know that for some kids it's not that they're lazy, but that they literally just can't do the work they're being given and they're so far behind the standard.



  • ashe1590
  • Super Waygook

    • 428

    • August 27, 2013, 01:07:13 pm
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2015, 02:29:02 pm »
To clarify: I am not saying that you shouldn't attempt to get them to do more creative activities, and your efforts and goals are admirable. I'm just saying that it takes time to get them to that stage and maybe they're not ready, so that is her way of helping them.


  • twinsaurus
  • Veteran

    • 84

    • February 22, 2014, 12:22:03 am
    • Seoul, South Korea
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2015, 02:40:16 pm »
I have seen his issue often even in the international school I work in. At the kindergarten level, the students are so babied that it's a giant and seemingly insurmountable leap to first grade where speaking Korean in class is absolutely forbidden. A couple of weeks ago the director came into my kinder classroom while the kids were playing and started yelling at them to speak English while playing. They all CAN speak English, but they just stared at her blankly. Almost all the Korean CTs here have created a culture of using Korean whenever they didn't feel like explaining something in English and now it's coming back to bite them.

Well, I'm not complaining. It's better now that I have a real authority-backed excuse to completely ignore the kids when they babble at me in Korean, so they actually make an effort.


  • Cakemix
  • Adventurer

    • 47

    • January 27, 2015, 11:35:27 am
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2015, 02:47:13 pm »
What age group are you teaching? While it can be frustrating, I let my kids copy each other because for some of them, it is the only way they will be able to get any of their work done. To me, copied work is better than no work at all. I think, especially if the kids are low level, English is intimidating and a teacher that speaks only in English is more intimidating and can be quite off putting. Perhaps she is trying to baby them to lessen the language anxiety she perceives them to be feeling in an attempt to get them to enjoy English.

Another thing to note is that a lot of the left field/ out of the box ideas that require them to be more creative are simply too hard for some Korean students, especially the lower level ones. The textbooks they use are a lot of fill in the blank, and especially in elementary school don't require them to write any full sentences themselves. They're not used to it - you yourself said that they have trouble constructing sentences. Perhaps your co-teacher jumping in and helping is her way of trying to help them do the activities you are setting and encouraging them when they need it.

If the kids are goofing around, it is fine to pull them back in line, but I think it is important to know that for some kids it's not that they're lazy, but that they literally just can't do the work they're being given and they're so far behind the standard.

This is how it is in many of my classes, unfortunately. Sometimes the students have to take baby steps to get some practice and exposure before they start taking it upon themselves to learn and adopt the new language.


Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2015, 03:02:55 pm »
This is something I have heard from nearly everyone who coteaches.

Regarding the constant translation, this is probably a security blanket for your CT rather than the kids, even though their level is lower. I have one coteacher who is very nice, but does this constantly. She always rebuffed my requests to not do it with "They cannot understand you," even though sometimes she won't do it until we are already playing the game. She also tends to half-say, half-mutter a translation of key phrases when either I am saying them or the students are speaking- it's very confusing.

The only time she ever stopped doing this was when she was put in charge of teaching 6th grade summer camp with me. My summer camp students in that grade were five boys who are almost fluent. After a few days, one of them stood up and asked her, "Teacher, would you PLEASE stop speaking Korean?!" and she was so embarrassed she wouldn't come back to class after that!  :wink:

Anyways. Children here are impossibly babied and any attempts to put even the gentlest bit of control into action is seem as your being monstrously cruel. I once, after warning three times, took a single point away from a team who would not stop hitting each other and my coteacher's immediate response was to blurt out, "Meepmoop, I think you will be a very mean mommy!" F*ckin' right I will, if that means my kid won't make someone else feel as fed up as I do right now!


  • Mister Tim
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1547

    • September 08, 2013, 10:33:54 am
    • SK
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2015, 03:16:30 pm »
I had a similar problem, but rather than blurting out the Korean translation when I'm trying to coax an answer out of a student, one of my CoTs flat out tells me to move on to another student. I understand that class time is limited so I can't spend too much time waiting for tongue-tied students to speak up, but I also know that if the teacher just moves on every time they don't say anything, they're never going to say anything.

If they know don't have to answer, they won't. If they know the Korean is coming, they won't pay attention to the English. I'm still thinking of a way to correct this behavior... erm... diplomatically. Don't want to rock the boat too much, since I'm still new at my current schools, but something sure should be done.


  • Morfee
  • Super Waygook

    • 477

    • August 23, 2014, 03:51:54 pm
    • Gangwon-Do
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2015, 03:22:21 pm »
It may be a confidence thing on the part of your CT. She feels more in control and more knowledgeable if she's translating the words she knows all the time.

No idea how you solve it if that's the case, but best of luck with your situation.


  • Aristocrat
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1839

    • November 10, 2014, 01:04:27 pm
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2015, 04:21:35 pm »
I teach at five schools and this school has, by a country mile, the weakest students. I'm aware of the coddling and babying culture, but relative to the other schools I teach at (mixture of rural and bigger schools), they're much weaker. The sentences are very simple, for 6th grade elementary,
and after I've taught the same key expressions for 3 weeks, I expect most of them to, at the very least, make an attempt.

It seems that they've resigned themselves as unable to do anything, without the teacher doing it for them.



  • pkjh
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1547

    • May 02, 2012, 02:59:44 pm
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #10 on: April 14, 2015, 07:05:49 pm »
I'd say elementary school students are babied. And in english they tend to be more 'babied' than other subjects. Once these kids get into high school, in subjects like math, and science, it's kind of like a military drill camp. And if you don't get an answer right, it's a whack to the palms.


  • cjszk
  • Expert Waygook

    • 894

    • August 23, 2013, 10:29:05 am
    • Seoul
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2015, 08:03:07 am »
Sometimes the CT does it not just for the students, but for themselves. I have a CT that's new to teaching English, and she seems to get really nervous if she doesn't have control of the class, and the silence that happens after English is blurted out often makes her impatient and nervous, she has to translate to get the reaction from the students she feels comfortable with. And yes, I've tried to make activities that incorporate students thinking and creating their own English sentences using key expressions, but she feels the need to continue using sentences straight out of the textbook and say anything else is difficult for the students if they aren't prepared for it. I explained that language learning is comprehensive and I never try to use vocabulary I know the students don't know, but she still likes to use sentences exactly as they are from the book even during "production" time :lipsrsealed:.


Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2015, 01:16:18 pm »
Sometimes the CT does it not just for the students, but for themselves. I have a CT that's new to teaching English, and she seems to get really nervous if she doesn't have control of the class, and the silence that happens after English is blurted out often makes her impatient and nervous, she has to translate to get the reaction from the students she feels comfortable with.

And those moments of silence are a crucial part of the learning process for the students. Your coworker is interfereing with that process and deepening the problem (over reliance on Korean). The old dog i work with also does this too, just like you described. Yet in the open class for the parents she only spoke English. I wish she was like that everyday. So she knows what she's doing wrong, she's just probably too lazy to care or doesnt truely realize the importance of NOT SPEAKING KOREAN in english class. How could she know i suppose....she's never lived in another couuntry.

SMOE should send a letter to all K teachers and remind them to teach English in ENGLISH !


Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2015, 01:19:31 pm »
My co-teachers are like this too, and it is so stupid. In Canada, I was in a French Immersion program where we could speak French and only French in class. We were relatively fluent within three years. Here, by the time students finish middle school they have been studying English for at least NINE YEARS, and they can barely say anything.


  • funkseoulbrother
  • Veteran

    • 112

    • August 23, 2013, 08:10:43 am
    • Seoul, South Korea
    more
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2015, 01:29:37 pm »
When I first arrived in Korea, one of my co-teachers was like this.  The entire class was in Korean (6th grade), which made my job very difficult.  The students simply wouldn't listen to me and just wait for the translation.  I would tell her on a very regular basis that this is hurtful to their long-term ability in English, but she never changed.  Thankfully, that teacher left at the start of the net academic year. 

I've made it an absolute necessity to my co-teachers that we must only teach in English (except Grade 3, which is almost all in English but has a little bit of Korean if it's absolutely necessary).  My favorite classes at the moment are my Grade 6.  Last year, in Grade 5, every single class I taught was entirely in English and included a bi-weekly conversation class with me.  Their level of English is now orders of magnitude better than the Grade 6 when I first arrived at my school. 


  • bakerboy
  • Adventurer

    • 34

    • April 14, 2014, 02:00:05 pm
    • Ganghwa-do
    more
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2015, 01:54:17 pm »
Of all the co-teaching issues which I've dealt with, this is the only one up with which I shall not put.

I've had coteachers who will encourage the kids to talk over and through me, I've had coteachers who just sit in the back on their phone, I've had coteachers leave mid class or just not turn up, and I've had coteachers who are really helpful and engaged. I can adapt to any and all of the above, but a running translation of everything I say? Nope. Not happening.

The thing is, I think it's pretty obvious when I say something that they CAN'T understand versus when it's something that they are choosing not to understand, or need help to understand. Re-phrasing and pictures/examples/dramatic flourishes gets most of the latter. A few times, if I have a particularly complicated game or overestimate their vocab, I will explicitly ask for a translation, but usually only a key word.

I teach at a middle school, and we get students from many different elementary schools. It's pretty obvious who has never had an English class run in English before, and I'm extra patient with them, but the kids are amazing. They adapt very quickly, and their little brains (fried by overwork and deadening confucianism though they may be) really absorb a lot.


  • Hot6^
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1759

    • March 14, 2014, 02:46:01 pm
    • Bucheon
Re: (Rant) 'Translation Tourettes', a new disorder.
« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2015, 02:55:13 pm »
Unfortunately, this is a battle you can't not win.

What most of the replies speak the truth. Welcome to teaching in Korea.

Honestly, after teaching in Korea, I don't think half the home room teachers are competent enough to teach. I would be worried if my kid was going to public school here, and personally interview the home-room teacher to put him in a decent class.

I lost track... I started talking about Koi to someone in the office....
What you put into Korea, is what you will get out of Korea; it will not spoon feed you.