Problems for learners in South KoreaMany teachers going to teach english
overseas in South Korea may wonder what problems learners in South Korea will face when they are being taught english
by a Western teacher. Teachers may be concerned with what type of challenges they will encounter with their students. There are many hurdles that South Korean students will face, when learning the english
language. The main difficulties for Korean students come from the essential differences between the english
and Korean language. They may struggle with alphabet related difficulties, grammar/structure, pronunciation and the different teaching methods of Western teachers.
One problem of South Korean learners is that the two languages are so different that the shift from one language to the other requires a huge effort on the learner’s part. The Phonetic difference is one of the most difficult of the english
language, because the Korean language does not use the Roman alphabet. This struggle comes from the difficulty of english
words in spelling and sound similarity. Koreans are used to a fairly strict phonetic alphabet. Therefore, a “?” character will always sound like the english
often has some unusual spellings with the same spelling for the silent “P” or different pronunciations for the same spellings like “cough” or “dough”. This can cause spelling and reading difficulties for the students (Hurdles Facing South Korean ESL Students 1). The study of spelling and how letters combine to represent sounds and form words in the english
language is unlike the Korean language. In the Korean language, each letter corresponds to a sound. An english
letter does not have one sound but can be pronounced in several different ways, depending on the word. Many Korean students have problems pronouncing voiced consonants such as: b, d, g, v, and z. South Koreans students have to make an extra effort to pronounce english
consonants such as: f and v, because the Korean language does not have them. Since Koreans have only one sound for the english
l and r, Korean students have problems distinguishing l from r, when pronouncing or listening to the english
words. Korean students have difficulty differentiating these pairs of voiced and voiceless sounds from each other, such as: f, v, p, b, t, d, z, j and dz.
Another difference between the Korean and english
language is that Korean grammar is arranged subject-object-verb that is opposite of the english
structure subject-verb-object. Therefore, South Korean learners have difficulty with the syntax of english
. They frequently place the verb at the end of the sentence as if they were speaking Korean (Hurdles Facing South Korean ESL Students 1). Since language is such a major part of the Korean culture, Korean student’s encounter with english
can be both enriching and frustrating. Not only do they have difficulty in understanding and using individual words, idiomatic expressions, allusions and historical contexts, but they also find it hard to adjust to different teaching methods. Since many Korean students learn by routine, listening, reading, observing and imitating, they are unaccustomed to discussion and debate. Instead, Korean learners appear passive, timid, defensive and even shy when they are asked to express their opinion and ideas clearly. Korean learners tend to express themselves in general and indirect ways, even when asked to communicate their own ideas. This is because they have been trained to think comprehensively and express themselves indirectly in case they offend others. Korean students often have a hard time providing specific details when describing things and events (Byung-Eun 32-35).
The difficulties Korean learners have learning english
are not limited to just Koreans. Students of all nationalities have trouble learning english
, due to language differences, culture gaps, language ability and their overall maturity. These difficulties are the central problems for Korean students, which cause them to be passive and timid. The challenge for the english
teacher is how to overcome these difficulties in a way that promotes an understanding between the Korean learners and the teacher. This understanding will lead to an effective teaching and learning environment that will bridge the cultural gap (Byung-Eun 35).
Byung-Eun Cho. “Issues Concerning Korean Learners of english
Education in Korea and some Common Difficulties of Korean Students.” The East Asian Learner Vol. 1(2004): 31-36. 4 Jun. 2012 http://www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/education/eal/eal-1-2/vol1-no2- Koreanlearnersofenglish.pdf
“Hurdles Facing South Korean ESL Students.” Esl Hitchhiker. http://www.eslhitchhiker.com/forum/hurdles-facing-south-Korean-esl- students. 19 Jan. 2012. Web Jun. 4, 2012.