I have chosen to write about problems for learners of english
in Korea. As I have been teaching in the country for the last two months,I have personally encountered problems that I believe to be common. As I see them, these issues stem from two areas: basic differences in the structures of Korean (Hangeul) and english
and; problems of pronunciation of english
sounds where there exist no equivalents in the Korean language of Hangeul.While I can't claim to fully understand the problems facing all Korean students, I have varied personal experiences - as well as those of fellow foreign teacher
s - to draw on in making my comments.
I teach approximately seven hundred students on a weekly basis, ranging in age from about 14 to 17 years old, both male and female. I have also spoken to a number of foreign teacher
s, who have lived and taught in the country for an extended period, and whom teach students of all ages. Furthermore, I have encountered and worked with a number of adult learners, many of whom teach english
to other Koreans. These experiences have enabled me to confidently draw certain, albeit limited, conclusions.
Two of the main issues Korean learners faces are making errors in sentence structure, and neglecting to use articles in front of nouns. Because the structure of Korean sentences follows a format of subject-object-verb (as opposed to the english
structure of subject-verb-object), many Korean learners struggle to correctly form english
sentences both in spoken and written forms. They will often try to translate directly from Korean to english
, with the result being that their speech and writing seem disjointed.Koreans also tend to forget to use articles such as a, an, and the in their speech. While Korean does use a modifier to form the plural of words, when speaking in english
, Koreans will often use the singular when they ought to use the plural form of a word. At least with my high school students, this error carries over to writing as well. At least part of this problem - as it relates to speech - can be attributed to Koreans' tendency to “skip over” the letter s in words. Because the plural form of most english
words end in “s,” the listener will assume the Korean speaker is using the singular form of a word, even in those cases where the Korean speaker knows how to form the plural and intends to use it in their speech.
It is well known that Asian learners of english
tend to experience great difficulty in pronouncing “l” and “r” sounds, so this is not a problem unique to Koreans. Even for experienced Asian speakers of english
this problem often persists. The only way to eradicate the problem is through continued practice and attention to detail. It seems that this can take years of practice, but many Korean speakers will never be able to properly pronounce these sounds. The persistence of the problem relates to a lack of proper modeling – and continued, correct, modeling throughout the learning process – as well as general laziness. It is easy for any speaker of another language to become lazy in pronouncing certain sounds if it is still possible to get one's meaning across without having to work that extra bit harder to make the correct sound. Koreans are no different in this way. Too, many lack exposure to native speakers who can model proper pronunciation for them, and who can teach them the tongue and mouth placement needed to achieve the correct sounds.
Even for those students who have been studying english
for many years, problems persist. To illustrate, one of my co-workers studied english
language and literature at both the undergraduate and graduate levels; she has been teaching english
to Korean students for more than fifteen years; and she is currently working on her doctoral dissertation in english
literature. Even so, she regularly makes all of the errors that I have previously described. While most of the Koreans I have encountered do not possess this level of experience with the english
language, I use the example of this teacher
to demonstrate that even the most advanced Korean learners will continually struggle with certain problems, particularly errors in word order and pronunciation.