Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Paper Proposal

I have decided to do my paper on the long-term effects of English education on Korean society. Since arriving in Korea, I have had many random people approach me wanting me to teach their children (some of whom do not even speak Korean yet) or themselves English. During my time in Japan, I was approached with similar requests but I believe the drive to learn English here may edge out Japan. It is this drive that interests me. All too often I find myself wondering why one would be required to pass a test in a language that they won't be using in order to gain employment. It seems that the time wasted trying to master something that will be of no use when it comes to doing the actual job could be used to learn more about the job itself.

Another thing that I have noticed is that there are a plethora of places that have signs or placards in English where it would be more sensible to write them in Korean or in both. I suppose I should be grateful that Korea abounds with English and I am but I often ponder what it does to the psyche of the Korean people. I know that this is not the United States but I cannot help but to compare the two countries. I could not imagine having to study Spanish or German, for example, to read the signs on a building, etc. I am aware that there are certain ethnic enclaves where it would behoove one to know a foreign language but they do not compare to studying English in Korea. And yes, I know that English is THE international language but I still believe that too much English can lead to the destruction of a country's national character. Maybe I am being too critical.

In my paper I want to take a close look at the reasons why a country would want to learn English with such zeal and examine what the outcome of such ardor would be. Will English become a second official language of Korea in the future? Will English become THE official language of Korea in the future? Additionally, I would like to conduct a survey to ascertain what everyday Koreans think of English.

Monday, October 4, 2010

How I Best Learn A Language

Over the course of time, I have found that I must do to become competent in a foreign language is to immediately use what I have learned. I have spent many years perfecting my Japanese speaking ability and although it still needs work, I can now say with a high degree of confidence that I can speak Japanese.
For those who do not live in a country where the language is spoken by the majority of the population, I suggest seeking out places where the language is used. In my case, it was a Japanese supermarket chain called Mitsuwa Marketplace. Here, I was able to immerse myself in Japanese and doing so did wonders for my speaking, comprehension, and reading abilities. Whereas many of my fellow students would forget everything right after an exam, I was able to build on what I had learned thus reaching a higher degree of fluency.
After becoming able to converse in a foreign language, one should focus on language maintenance. It would be a shame to forget what one has spent so much time and effort trying to learn. I am constantly using Japanese with friends, watching Japanese T.V. shows, listening to Japanese music, etc. Basically, I view any kind of exposure to the language as a plus. Living in Korea affords one many opportunities for studying Japanese in the form of language schools, Japanese language channels, and the proximity to Japan itself.
If one has trouble finding the motivation to study, I suggest looking for something that interests you that you would need the language for. This could be anything from wanting to understand the meanings of the songs that you sing to wanting to hang out with the locals and not be left out on the loop when someone tells a joke. At one point, my motivation was Japanese video games. Most of my friends were content to just play the ones that would reach the States but I needed more. I wanted to learn Japanese so much that if my elementary school would have offered it, I would have taken Japanese then but no such luck. Once being exposed to the culture, I became interested in other aspects of Japan and through Japan, I became interested in other Asian countries. I doubt I’d be in Korea at the moment if it were not for my wanting to play Japanese video games as a child. I guess having the proper motivation can open many doors in the future.   
So, three things that I think are especially pertinent to language study are using what you have learned, maintaining what you know, and finding the right motivation to get yourself started. These three things, along with others, will take you far when you decide to dive into a foreign language.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CIP: Never Been To A Hill

Every Wednesday right after lunch I teach a combined class of first and second graders. The differences in their respective language abilities make for a challenging teaching environment but it is through classes such as this one that one becomes a better teacher. On this particular sunny day we were learning the names of different locales in preparation for more advanced sentence structures that will come in the following weeks. The flashcards that I used to facilitate learning included one of each of the following: a pond, a lake, a stream, a river, a hill, a mountain, and a beach. Just by reading the title one will know what the focus of this particular post will be about.

As I presented the flashcards to the students, I questioned them to see if they comprehended the locales and had them raise their hands if they had been to the locale in question. The homeroom teacher also provided a translation for the more ambiguous flashcards. All of the students raised their hands for all of the flashcards until I came to the picture of a hill. For some reason, one of the first graders was very adamant about not having been to a hill. I tried to explain to the student that the school itself is on a hill and the homeroom teacher provided a translation for the student but that wasn't enough. He sat there shaking his head as if to say, "nothing doing".

I reckon that because of the way the concept of a hill was being shown the student may have had trouble with it. It seemed straight forward to me and the other students but apparently not to that particular student. That student's concept of a hill differed from what was being shown and that led him to believe that he had never been to one. 

I believe that one of the meanings that could derived from the student's reaction is not everyone will view the same picture or even the same assignment in the same manner. Because every student's experience is different the way that one perceives an object can and often will be different from others. 

Teachers must remember at all times that things are relative. There is no one way of seeing things. This means that teachers shouldn't take anything for granted when presenting new content to students. Teachers should keep an open mind and should always try to see things from multiple angles. This is especially relevant for EFL teachers.  

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Paraphrasing to avoid plagiarism

I wholeheartedly agree with the part of the plagiarism article that talks about how difficult it can be for non-native and native English speakers to come up with acceptable paraphrases. I believe this to be especially true for individuals that do not particularly enjoy writing. Often I find myself wondering if I have changed the sentence around enough that it can now be considered something new and it is usually at those times I opt to use quotes instead.

For writers that are using English as their L2, I surmise that the process could be all the more challenging. But I do think that it could be a way to help them develop or further their language skills. It could potentially force them to think more in English and that would boost their cognitive skills.