There are many things about Korea and Koreans that I find amazing – both in good and bad ways. I often feel that no matter how long I live in this incredible country, there are something I will never, ever understand. Like my students’ complete inability to throw anything in the garbage can. Why, why, why is it so hard to remember that the floor of the English classroom is not the garbage can??
One amazingly good thing about Koreans is their incredible will to succeed. Koreans rarely do anything half-asked. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of society. Take for example, the way they study English.
Most parents are not content with the 2-3 hours of English a week offered at school. The majority of my students attend after-school English academies every day. A lot of them also have private English conversation tutors. I’m expecting a full class for my optional English Camp during winter vacation.
Ulsan City also does its part to promote English and English education. Last weekend I spent all day Saturday and Sunday at the English Tent at a festival held in a local park. Saturday I was paid to read English stories. Sunday I was paid to stand outside the tent and wave. Inexplicably, both days I had to wear a Princess dress.
Am I the English Princess? I had no idea. I considered myself lucky however – a co-worker had to dress like a Jack O’Lantern.
It was another cultural revelation: Where else but in Korea would parents send their children over to speak to and accept candy from a strange adult woman dressed as a princess? Admittedly, I made a very cheerful and friendly English Princess, but in any other country I would have been arrested.
It’s not only children who work hard to perfect their English. Yesterday I spent the afternoon at an English club. The club is called Naked English, and is made up of adults who want to practice and improve their English. They were warmly welcoming, and extremely well organized.
First we had a presentation by one of the members on one of the current presidential candidates (Korea will be having an election in December.) Another member gave a presentation on science in every day life. Both presentations were given entirely in English, and were at least 20 minutes long. Obviously a lot of time and effort had gone into their preparation!
There was also a listening segment, and a debate. The debate topic: Should children be held legally accountable if bullying leads to suicide? It was a topic native English speakers would struggle with, and yet these English students approached it without fear. The debate wasn’t particularly grammatically correct but it was lively and well-thought out. And really, isn’t fluency better than accuracy in conversation?
They were amazing, and I was incredibly impressed. I simply cannot imagine spending every Saturday afternoon practising another language. Perhaps that’s why their English is so good, and my Korean is so bad. 😀