One of the most important traits of a successful tefl
instructor is being able to understand english
learning challenges that are unique to the country being taught in. Knowing what to expect not only will help fledgling teacher
s have backup plans when things go wrong, but it also allows for special lesson planning that addresses these difficulties unique to the language. Korean learners of english
face a significant challenge acquiring new language, as they are transitioning between two language groups that could not be any more different from one another.
The Korean writing system of Hangul is much more efficient than english
, where Hangul characters approximate to a specific phoneme. This means that the Korean language reads exactly as it sounds, which creates a difficult hurtle for speakers to overcome when the unpredictable nature of english
phonology is introduced. Beyond that, there is a marked difference in vowels and consonants between the two languages. Many Korean consonants are also voiceless, which means that the larger array of voiced sounds can be challenging to comprehend. As an example, labiodental consonants do not exist in the Korean language. Trying to make students understand how to properly voice the letters “f” and “v” will likely require careful demonstration and memorization. Due to the degree
of unfamiliarity, spaced repetition learning will be the most effective route to sealing these special consonants into memory.
Much like other Asian languages like Mandarin and japanese
, Korean sentences are structured with the subject and object coming first while the verb typically ends the sentence. Just like a native english
speaker trying to learn Korean, the Korean english
learner must constantly overcome the natural tendency to structure english
syntax in a similar way as their native language. To help students overcome these habits, it would be beneficial for the teacher
to routinely hold games or warm-up exercises at the start of class that selectively target these common structural problems.
The sheer variation in english
pronunciation and casual versus formal use is also of great concern to the teacher
in Korea. english
speakers not only tend to splice sounds together, but often will link speech in different ways depending on the english
speaking region. This is why it is essential to prepare students in Korea for more than just passing exams and getting into a great University, they must be taught to listen and understand the semantics of the language. Imagine the confusion a young student may have if they hear the phrase “If ya don't watcherself, then you're gonna crash.” Audio tapes and videos should be particularly useful for getting these oddities across. While the teacher
can caution against speaking in this manner, it is useful to try and help students develop the listening skills needed to decode the language!
A final note about english
learning difficulties is in regards to Asian honorifics. english
, particularly American english
is a very informal language in comparison to Korea. In the english
world, the first name is more important as is the identity of the individual. Elementary learners of Koreans may be surprised to hear that they should write their given name above their family name, but this adjustment should develop quickly. What may be more difficult, however; is for students to adjust to the revolution of the world around the self in Western society. While not incorrect, Korean students should be encouraged to think more of phrasing possessive phrases with “my” than “our”. In Korean society, one would be more inclined to describe a school as “our school”, but spoken in informal english
the words would become “my school.” These particular learning difficulties all constitute a complete submersion in one's own culture and may be significantly harder to shake when they interfere with the correct formation of language.
Whether Korean learners of english
encounter difficulties in pronunciation, reading, listening, or syntax; it is the duty of the tefl
instructor to become familiarized with the language of their host country. This does not mean that teacher
s should fraternize with students in their native tongue, but instead that teaching in itself is a learning process, and the teacher
should feel an obligation to understand the unique challenges and needs each student may have.