The Korean public school english
programs do not focus enough on teaching students strong phonics skills. Focusing on teaching the applied principals like voiced and non-voiced consonants, the difference between fricatives and plosives as well as alveolar and palatal-alveolar sounds in the starting grades of school will help students achieve a greater level of confidence and skill through out their life.
All Korean public schools have an english
program. Sohee Kim, is a Korean elementary school english teacher
in Bucheon, South Korea. She recounts her own difficult time learning english
pronunciation in middle school. She says that at the time teacher
s themselves struggled greatly to correctly pronounce the english
they were teaching. She realized this later in her education. In her opinion the letters ‘R’ and ‘L’ pose the greatest difficulty to Korean students. Even now she admits that she struggles with letters like ‘F’, the sound for which does not exist in Korean. According to her there is not enough time in the curriculum to devote to phonics study. The focus is more on vocabulary and phrases for conversation.
All post secondary institutions require an english
ability grade as part of the entrance exams. These tests unfortunately do not include evaluation of pronunciation or conversation ability. Patrick Nay is a former Korean high school native english teacher
and currently an english
language professor at Catholic University in Bucheon, South Korea. His students include recent high school graduates and those in their early twenties. Professor Nay’s lessons center mostly on conversation, achieving confidence, and fluency. He says that many of his students still struggle with pronunciation. He agrees the ‘R’ and ‘L’ are a difficulty as well as ‘B’ and ‘V’ and the ‘TH’ consonant blend. He says that students have told him that being adults uncertain in their english
pronunciation they struggle with confidence when the opportunity arises even at this stage in their education.
For a privileged few children
education begins very early and they avoid these problems. At around 4 to 5 years old these children
are enrolled in private english
kindergartens. I have had personal experience teaching at such a kindergarten. With a very limited grasp of their native language these kids
begin to study basic english
phonics. There is a course of 3 phonics books, which the students complete, in the next year of study. These books focus on the consonants, vowels and then consonant blends in the context of vocabulary. Almost every weekday, for 5 hours, the kids
learn phonics, vocabulary, reading, and writing. After the 3 year program the students are confident with their use of english
. A great deal of time is devoted to phonics lessons so the students have an excellent grasp of speaking and reading as well as the confidence to use those skills.
The difficulties some students have appear to be rooted in lack of comprehensive education on the phonics of english
in public schools. Because this is a problem that starts in the lowest grades of school and persists throughout the student’s life is important to tackle it in the beginning. Students that began their english
studies with intensive phonics focus achieve a greater level of confidence when learning and using english
. Korean elementary schools must devote a greater time to teaching the applied knowledge of voiced and non-voiced consonants, the difference between fricatives and plosives as well as alveolar and palatal-alveolar sounds to build a better foundation for all students through out their educational carrier.
Patrick Nay. english
professor at Bucheon Catholic University. Bucheon, South Korea.
Sohee Kim. Elementary school english teacher
. Bucheon, South Korea.
Personal Experience. 2 years teaching experience at kindergarten. Bucheon, South Korea.