Thanks for all the comments on the previous post. Love seeing discussion 😀
It appears that I’ve briefly talked about this topic many times, and I shall do it again today. It’s something I feel strongly about, having both types of experience. Why am I bringing this up again? I was kinda invited by the Singapore Korean School to sit in for their Advanced 3 Korean classes (highest level) and to do a review on it. (More on that next week). I am still struggling to take a stand on how I feel about it, but it definitely triggers the good and bad I’ve come to associate with foreign language classes.
Let’s talk abut the topic in general, nothing to do with any particular school (local or in Korea) or even language. But I like to be honest with my opinion.
One thing about language lessons: PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS. Or so I like to call them. Have your teacher ever told you the following?
‘this passage is too difficult for your class level now. I think we should skip it’ – true stories
‘this passage is what you all should be able to read comfortably by now’
Basically, the teacher sets the pace of the classroom, and unknowingly, it sets YOUR own pace too. You get pegged to a certain level, and when the teacher says its too difficult for you, you believe it and skip it. Most people who attends language lessons tend to set their expectations accordingly and many will not do much outside of the curriculum.
Ok, on the other hand, if you attend lessons that are well paced and challenging and slightly above your standard, it’s an awesome experience. Perhaps that is why I’m so biased towards Yonsei KLI (and snub the others) cos I had a really good experience there. I was in Level 6 (the highest) just 2 years into studying Korean O.o My class consists of Koreans studying abroad, Korean Americans and… me. Super challenging but it made me really motivated. And I love motivation and challenges.
But sadly, most lessons aren’t like this.
Another related thing is restrictions. You basically skip past anything that is ‘not tested’. Come on, how many of us actually studies something that our teacher tells us ‘it’s not needed’? But think again. Which part of language is not needed? So what if it’s not tested? Does that mean you skip it? Basically you are kind of restricted. The type of vocabulary you know, the grammar structures, the type of sentences you learn how to say. I hate feeling restricted. And restrictions means your learning pace is slowed down and you are drawn into the false illusion that you are actually progressing well when you are able to follow the lessons.
Slangs. Sadly, a lot of language classes tend to not teach that. Which I find a pity. Isn’t language classes about being able to communicate? Of course good grammar is important, but isn’t learning how to speak like locals an important thing too? Language classes (especially local ones) tend to shy away from slangs and I’ve seen teachers say ‘Don’t learn this!!!!’ even though it’s something that locals say very very often. Native country lessons (lessons in Korea) seem to be more receptive to teaching slang. It’s not in the syllabus but if you ask, the teacher will welcome the discussion (from my experiences).
Routine. I’m not a fan of routine and many of the classes are full of routine. Repeat after the teacher. Repeat grammar constructions. Repeat this and repeat that. I love interesting materials an I love to switch from one book to the next.
But of course, it’s not to say that foreign language lessons are not suitable for everybody. I may be an advocate of self studying, but I can see that foreign language lesson are fun too. It’s awesome to have a group of friends sign up for the same lessons and through pair work, practices etc, learn a language together. For the working adults, it’s almost impossible to set aside free time to really sit down and self study. Taking classes help to pace yourself and ensure that you are always progressing steadily.
For those that are taking the language for fun and as a hobby, lessons can help make learning more fun.
There is a lot of difference between local foreign language classes and taking lessons in that country itself. The students you meet, the motivation and goals they have, the teachers, the curriculum, the expectations, the standards. EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.
This is why I like to encourage self study, especially if you have plans to really study up till a high level, possibly aiming at fluency and have plans to really study in Korea, work there, live there etc. It sucks to realize that even after completing up till a very high level locally (and burning a lot of money in the progress), you may be still stuck at the level 3 (or less?) of language classes in Korean universities. #thisisreality
I’m definitely not saying that you suck at grammar, reading, vocabulary etc but placement tests are very often judged on your speaking ability and pronunciation. (oh well, at least in KU). Level 4 students speak decently and I’ve been told that I should belong to level 3 during a speaking interview which I fumbled. #truestory #stabsself
Oh well, that’s worth another blog post altogether 😛
In the end, it’s also not like its a ‘one or other only’ kind of choice. You can start out with lessons, self study in between, go back to classes etc.
Basically after talking so much, what is my point? Here’s a summary.
HOW TO CHOOSE? – ask yourself the following questions
FIRST. ASK YOURSELF: What are your goals? Why do you want to study Korean? What do you hope to achieve? – TOPIK level 6? Ability to strike simple conversation with a Korean friend?
YOU SHOULD SELF STUDY IF YOU…
- like to set your own pace / independent
- can motivate yourself
- like to explore and use ‘unconventional/interesting’ learning methods
YOU SHOULD ATTEND KOREAN LESSONS IF YOU…
- Prefer to interact with teachers / other learners in a interactive setting
- Prefer a more leisurely pace and a lot of guidance – local lessons
- At a loss of what to do / which books to use / how to plan your study without someone to guide you
- Prefer to get feedback in terms of having a teacher mark your homework
As usual. I would love to hear your opinion on this!!! It’ll be awesome if someone here is an advocate of lessons! Then we can debate 😛
I hope I don’t sound too… harsh and arrogant and attract too much hate. D: D: D: