Tips On Teaching English To Koreans
Tips On Teaching English To Koreans
- Try to learn the basics of the Korean alphabet and the simplest grammatical structures. Not only will this help you greatly when it comes to simple things like ordering dinner or directing a taxi, it will also help you to understand the mistakes that your students make, and make it far easier to fix them.
- Understand your own grammar. It’s very difficult to teach a foreign language without at least a basic knowledge of grammar, and as something we don’t really learn (at least in enough detail to teach) in high school, it’s something you’ll have to put a bit of effort into. A bit of early warning: if you’re teaching adults, they’ll tend to obsess over the grammatical side of English, which will push the pressure on you to understand it well up a whole lot higher. Ludicrously high in some cases, with a lot of ‘why?’s’ to answer.
- Become familiar with typical Korean pronunciation errors, and if possible try to demonstrate the differences using a range of different language. The two most common, which you’ll get very used to, relate to the letters used to write in Korean. The Korean alphabet does not allow for any difference to be shown between R and L, so many Koreans simply say them in the same way. If you’ve seen the movie ‘Team America’, Kim Jong Il’s speech in that film will give you an idea of what to expect. There are techniques to fix the problem, but initially Koreans simply will not hear the difference. The other common problem involves adding an –uh sound to the end of words that finish with consonants, making school, for example, sound like school-uh. This is due to nearly all words in the Korean language finishing with vowels, and also takes some time to edge out, but knowing what you’re looking for is half the battle.
- Understand some Korean culture, and some local news stories. Relating your classes to students is an extremely large part of making the lessons enjoyable, and if you can talk about the Korean economy, the latest news story, the high suicide rate or the local sports teams knowledgably you’ll be far more enjoyable to spend time with in class. On the flip side of the coin, don’t be too critical of Korean culture: while some casual debate can be welcome, Koreans are proud people and might not take criticism of their culture all that well. Immerse yourself and you can find your lessons are a learning experience for both you and your students. For a great starting point, Google search ‘fan death’, perhaps the most entertaining piece of Korean mythology.
- If you teach adults, you’ll occasionally be invited to go out eating or drinking with them. While you’re not obliged to go everytime, to some extent it’s a matter of pride to Korean’s that they’re able to treat their teacher well. You should always offer to pay your way, though in our experience it’s unlikely you’ll often be allowed to.
- Be flexible with the school, and they’ll show you the same respect back. Obviously, they’ll be some times when you’re asked to teach at the last minute and you’re simply unable to, but if you go out of your way when you can help out, you’ll receive the same respect back when you need a bit of extra time off, or something personal comes up. Korean work culture values mutual respect highly, and it’s important to make a good impression. This can, sometimes, mean working anti-social hours.
- Try to adapt every lesson to suit the student’s needs, even if in only the simplest of ways. If you’re talking about travel and the student is planning a trip to America, for example, you can use New York and a selection of American airports as your spoken examples. It’s simple, but it makes the lesson a whole lot more effective.
- Always set homework. It seems a strange requirement, but at the end of the day, a student’s English learning is your responsibility as well as theirs. If you set homework every class and the student does it, they’ll improve. If they don’t, you can point to their lack of homework completion as a legitimate reason that they haven’t learnt so much.
- Don’t talk too much about how crazy the nightlife is, or how much you like Korean women (!). These are slightly sore points with Koreans, as the media very much hypes up the idea that foreign language teachers simple come to Korea to drink too much, have a party and meet local women. If that’s your cup of tea, fine, just don’t publicize it too much, as it will lend you to that stereotype. It not only does nothing for you, but it does little for expats in general, too. Besides, whether you do these things or not, you’ll only be doing them in front of other people who also do, so those who object won’t know if you keep quiet!
- Throw away your red pens before you start. Korean tradition states that writing a name in red means that the person whose name is written is going to die. In reality, that takes a long time to remember, so you’re better off just chucking your red pens away early on and writing in blue, back or green the entire time.