Sunday, April 01, 2007

그룹 사진

Our 2007 Spring 3-Week Korean Language Programme started on March 5 and ended on March 23. It brought together 45 students from Japan, Singapore, United Kingdom and Greater China. The mix was not really as international as I would have hope. The majority was made up of Japaneses. There were 37 Japaneses of which five were kyobo. Four came from Singapore, two from UK and 2 from Greater China. To be specific, one was from Taiwan and the other from Hong Kong. Quite surprisingly, Singapore has the biggest representation after Japan.

We were divided into four classes depending on our Korean language level. Our level was determined by the result of the placement test we took during our first day of school. There were classes for elementary level 1, elementary level 2, intermediate level 1 and intermediate level 2. The International Institute of Education of Kyung Hee University has a 6-level Korean language curriculum. From my observation, only those students who were in intermediate level 2 could be considered proficient in Korean language. Although intermediate level 1 and 2 are only one level apart, the difference in language standard was apparent. It seems that intermediate level is the period when students shall see exponential improvement. To be able to reach that, students studying in Korea, would have attended 600 hours or 30 weeks or 3 semesters of lesson. In Singapore, I probably only reach 150 hours of lesson after 1 year.

The oldest student in our group is a 50-year old Japanese man. He started learning Korean after watching the World Cup 2002 which was jointly hosted by Korea and Japan. He has been learning Korean for 5 years so it was not surprising that he was placed in the intermediate level 2 class. We sat together in the bus during one of our field trip. Through our chat, I get to know that he is a high school English teacher who lives in Kanazawa. He spends half a year in US learning English and another half travelling around the country. He is also a farmer and he will be busy when the planting season starts in April. He plants crop not for sale but for family and relatives consumption. Frankly, I really like the life he is leading. I think I will be very much happier leading a simple life.

My encounter with the Taiwanese was also interesting. He is studying in Tokyo and his Japanese is without a doubt good. Studying Korean is just a vacation break for him. Talking with him just confirm my suspicion that Taiwanese tends to think that all Singaporeans live under perennial fear of our authoritarian government. Yes, we do not practise full democracy and freedom of speech here but that does not mean we have to live in fear. His image of Singapore is that it is a very clean and beautiful city because Singaporeans are afraid of throwing rubbish wantonly as we are afraid of being fined. My reply to him is that Singapore is clean not because Singaporeans are afraid of throwing rubbish. On the contrary, Singaporeans are still throwing rubbish and very few people are fined or punished. It is clean because our cleaning agencies and workers are so efficient that all rubbish thrown is probably picked up the next day.

Having Japanese as classmate was actually quite a blessing. They were usually quite poor in speaking English and Chinese. Not knowing Japanese as well, I was compelled to use my half-baked Korean to communicate with them and that has helped me to practise my Korean a lot. I was actually quite glad when they knew what I was telling them. It was an interesting experience speaking to each other in a language that was foreign to us and to be able to understand each other most of the times.

To really have an international experience, I will probably have to go for the regular Korean language programme which is 10 weeks long. From what I have heard, the foreign student population in such programme can range from 600 to 800. Each student's face will appear as a dot in the group photo. Fortunately for our 3 week programme, our group-size is quite small and our faces still appear quite clear in our group photo. Kimchi ~

2007학년도 경희대학교육원 춘계3주 한국어교육 프로그램


  1. I am sure this picture will always remind you of sweet memories...