Teach English in Fengzhou Zhen - Changzhi Shi

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Just as each language and culture poses its own unique difficulties, Korean-speaking students face distinct challenges when learning English. Since it is the task of the instructor to help students surmount initial obstacles to learning English, it is critical for and EFL teacher in Korea to examine the inherent challenges of Korean-speakers when learning English. The difficulties that an EFL teacher will face can be categorized into three main groups: English grammar, English pronunciation, and classroom culture. One of the most apparent difficulties for Korean students stems from the fundamental differences between the two languages. English is an Indo-European language and Korean is in its own language family, Koreanic. An initial difficulty faced by Korean speakers is the difference in writing systems since Korean has it own written language called hangul. Although also a phonetic alphabet, Korean learners have to begin their study of English by learning how to pronounce, read, and write the roman alphabet. Since South Korea is a very globalized country, however, many young people have lots of exposure to the roman alphabet and may display less difficulty picking up the English writing system. One example of a tricky difference in grammatical structures between English and Korean is the syntax. In English, the word order follows a subject-verb-object pattern, whereas in Korean, the basic pattern of a sentence is subject-object-verb. This may mean that Korean students have to spend more time processing English sentences in their head before speaking them out loud. Many other critical concepts to understanding and speaking English are also absent in Korean. Korean does not have conjugation or inflection, so Korean learners have to make a greater effort when ensuring subject-verb agreement. Another obvious difference when listening to Korean learners speak English is the omission or misuse of the articles “a,” “an,” and “the” since these do not exist in Korean. As the Korean language has a single past tense, some Korean learners have trouble distinguishing and correctly using the various English past tenses (past simple, past perfect, past perfect continuous, etc.) Also pertaining to verbs, Korean is an agglutinative language meaning that verb information, such as tense, mood, and social relationship between the speaker and listener, is added at the end of the verb (FIS). This is in contrast to English where the extensive use of auxiliaries convey verb meaning. The differences in the phonetic system, the syntactic structure, and semantics of the two languages are quite great, so it requires serious effort and mental processes for a Korean speaker to learn English grammar. Correct pronunciation is also difficult for Korean learners of English because there are a number of sounds that are not native to the Korean language. This difficulty extends to reading English since each letter does not correspond to a single sound, as it does in Korean, but can be pronounced in many ways depending on the word. When pronouncing English, the differences in sounds between the two languages are found in consonants and vowels. All Korean consonant stops, fricatives, and affricates are voiceless, whereas English has pairs of voiced and voiceless stops, fricatives and affricates. Many Korean students have difficulty in pronouncing voiced consonants such as /b, d, g, v, ð, z/ and distinguishing them from their unvoiced counterparts (Cho, 32). Korean does not have the English labiodental consonants (/f, v/) or the /θ/ and /ð/ sounds found in the words thirteen and clothes, so these are initially difficult for Korean learners to pronounce and sometimes impossible for older learners. Similar to other Asian languages, Korean has one liquid sound for the English /l/ and /r/, so Korean students have problems distinguishing these sounds when speaking and listening. Another key accent problem stems from the differences in syllabic form. The Korean language tends to follow a consonant-vowel-consonant structure that Korean speakers sometimes try to use when pronouncing English words such as “plight” being pronounced “polite” (Cho, 33). Finally, whereas English is a stress-timed and rhythmic language, Korean is a syllable-timed language, so one major task for many Korean students is to learn English stress and rhythm. Grammar and pronunciation are therefore two components of learning English that EFL teachers will need to allot special attention to so students can obtain the most English education garnered to their specific needs. The last particular challenge EFL teachers will face is the difference in classroom culture. As Korean students get older, the pedagogy of English becomes very exam focused. Students then may be more interested in performing well on a specific test rather than practicing practical English skills, and speaking skills can wane in this period as class sizes grow and an emphasis on course books for a specific test. Classroom culture also affects the behavior some EFL teachers may not be accustomed to. Many Korean students learn by rote listening, reading, and imitating and are unaccustomed to discussion and debate, so to those familiar with Western-pedagogy, Korean students sometimes appear passive, defensive, and shy when invited to express their opinions and ideas clearly (Cho, 34). Korean students tend to express themselves in general and indirect ways originating from Confucian thinking where moderation is seen as a supreme virtue (Cho, 34). Instructors must understand these key cultural differences both to avoid unfair judgments and to understand the learning environment they are stepping into. EFL teachers in Korea will face a set of particular challenges when instructing native-Korean students due to differences in grammar, sounds, and classroom culture. Since the two languages come from very different language families, there are many key differences in syntax and parts of speech between English and Korean that pose challenges to Korean learners. Similarly, there are many sounds in English that are absent in Korean which Korean speakers have to pay special attention to when reading and pronouncing English words. Finally, the differences in Western and Korean classroom cultures is an element an EFL teacher will need to be aware of in order to best serve their students. Works Cited Cho, Byung-Eun. “Issues Concerning Korean Learners of English.” The East Asian Learner Vol. 1 (2) Nov. 2004. pp. 31-6. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=A9B17224E2C6ED00CE228DE67A65378C?doi= Frankfurt International School (FIS). “The Differences Between English and Koreans.” A Guide to Learning English. Accessed June 6, 2019. http://esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/korean.htm.