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Learning How to Teach Korean

Posted January. 07, 2006 03:00,   


“I’ve been using Korean for over 50 years, but it’s not at all easy to teach Korean to foreigners.”

On Thursday at 4:00 p.m. at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute, Kang Sang-chul (57) was taking a Korean instructor course. Despite his tight schedule, Kang is taking the course awash with excitement that he will be able to teach Korean to foreigners starting next month.

Next month, Kang will leave for Turkey to volunteer as a Korean instructor to teach local residents.

Including Kang, a total of 92 people were taking the Thursday class of the Korean instructor course. People with different jobs and ages, ranging from college students to late-learners of over 60 years, were paying keen attention to the lecture.

As the Korean language is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the Korean Wave in the Asian region, institutes educating Korean instructors are also gaining popularity.

With the increase of foreigners wishing to learn Korean, the demand for Korean teachers is soaring. In addition, after the basic act of Korean language took effect last July, the first Korean teachers’ certificate system was established.

According to the International Korean Language Foundation, 13 graduate schools of education, seven universities, and about 70 irregular educational institutions were providing Korean instructor courses as of September last year.

Nowadays, universities and private institutions are rushing to open courses for Korean teachers’ education.

The number of students enrolled in the Korean instructor course at Ewha Womans University’s Ewha Language Center was on a steady increase from 58 in 2001 and 2002, 127 in 2003, to 170 in 2004, but decreased to 120 in 2005. This decrease is due to many other private institutions that have opened courses for Korean teachers’ education.

There are no concrete figures, but experts in the Korean teachers’ training industry estimate that over 70 percent of the language institutions at universities have opened Korean instructors’ education courses.

Jun Na-young, chief at the office of academic affairs at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Institute, said, “Thanks to the enhancement of Korea’s status in the international community and the Korean Wave, there has been a Korean language boom since 2000. What is even more surprising than the increased number of foreigners learning Korean is that the number of Koreans learning our language has skyrocketed.”

There are diverse reasons for acquiring teacher certificates. Some people want to do missionary work and volunteer services, but others want a competitive edge in the job market.

Hur Hye-young (30), who completed the course last year, said, “When I went to New York, I could feel people’s increased interest in the Korean language. Once I acquire a teacher’s certificate, I want to teach the foreign laborers and those who visit Korea.”

However, there are also voices of concern worrying the sharp increase of training institutions.

Oh Kwang-geun, head of the laboratory at the International Korean Language Foundation said, “It is uncertain how many of the instructors would actually get jobs. It is more desirable to establish political measures to support the foreigners who have learned Korean to go back to their home country and get a teaching job there.”

Jae-Young Kim redfoot@donga.com