Monday, April 30, 2007

Private school teachers critical of Uri cowardice

Here is the very sexy Hwang Hyeon Su, engaged in a one-person demo (common in S.Korea, as demos with two or more participants must be approved by local police) against the weakening of legislation to make the administration of private schools more accountable.

The sign can be translated as: "Will the Uri Party, which is trying to form an illicit connection with the Hannara Party in rejecting democratic changes to private schools, be like the Hannara Party, which always supports private school owners? [Publicly-supported] private schools should be transparent and democratic."

Hwang Hyeon Su, who teaches at a private high school in Incheon, has this to say: "It's the conservative Christian groups that are forcing Uri lawmakers to reverse changes to the law. They claim that Jesus doesn't want the administration of private schools to change."

Well I say, if the Good Lord was happy with the way schools were being run, then the blasphemous changes made by the Uri government must surely be undone!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Memo to English Teachers: English-Only Lessons are a BAD IDEA

Or, Why My Korean Should Be Better.*

That's right, this "Native Speaker" thinks that all English, all the time is a BAD IDEA. Allow me to offer a brief summary of all the things that Korean provides language learners and teachers in any given English lesson, in any given school in Korea.

At the Micro Level

Classroom Management
Teachers use Korean for dramatic or rhetorical effect. When it's used, students can't pretend that they don't understand a directive: Korean means that the teacher "means it." Korean is also used to show solidarity with students. It encourages students: it warms, it mitigates, it reduces inhibitions. Korean is used to discuss community happenings: teacher asides, gossip, references to current events, all are done in Korean, as its more "personal," with the sense that teacher and students are members of a community, and not only an institution.

Lesson Content
Where students and teachers possess competence in both languages, both should be used, as this facilitates learning. Switches to Korean are often unconscious, but have valuable pedagogical results. Korean is used to explain language points, and to provide repetitions, definitions, reformulations, clarifications, qualifications, and exemplifications. Korean provides the "crucial bits." Code-switching allows Korean and English to complement each other. Korean can be used to provide examples, anecdotes, and illustrations, so that teachers can delve into local knowledge to clarify lesson content, and fill the gaps between the classroom and the world outside it. The use of Korean allows greater detail, depth, and complexity, which is what any lesson is supposed to provide. The use of Korean taps forms of knowledge that students already possess.

Underlife Language
Korean is used in students' private exchanges, in order to explore lesson content in greater depth. Students use Korean to prompt correct answers, translate phrases and sentences, repeat the teacher's questions and directives, and clarify content. These uses have obvious pedagogical consequences. Should students really be punished for using Korean in these ways?? If, as I believe, students learn more (and more efficiently) from their peers than they can from their teachers, depriving them of the use of Korean will only inhibit learning.

Language socialization
Code-switching, either inter- or extra-sentential, develops students' competence in either language, and develops meta-linguistic and meta-cognitive competence. I'll try to provide examples from a classroom shortly. Further, the Ministry's proposal encourages the mislabeling of content or conceptual problems as language competency problems, and so leads to teachers' linguistic insecurity. Which, I imagine, pleases the Ministry.

At the Macro Level

The Monolingual Fallacy
The English-Only proposal supports the erroneous assumption that a learner's first language "interferes" with second language acquisition. This is known as the "monolingual fallacy." And while it was originally propagated by linguists who had little understanding of the bilingual experience, it is now, ironically, largely maintained by bilingual teachers, who really should acknowledge that a learner's first language assists language learning, in that it provides strategies that can facilitate communication, in situations where communication would otherwise be difficult or even impossible.

The Native Speaker Fallacy
The proposal also supports the "native speaker fallacy," where "Native Speakers" are seen automatically as the best teachers of English. This fallacy is clearly at work in Korea, as evidenced by the Ministry's determination to provide a "Native Speaker" in every middle school in the country.

US English, Please?
An English-only policy strengthens the dominance of "standard" dialects of English, and puts into question the validity of newer Englishes - tantamount, according to one author, to "linguistic genocide." Korean students are not attempting to mimic centre-based English speakers. Were a Korean to use an idiomatic expression like "out of left field" during a conversation with someone from New Delhi or Johannesburg, she would likely receive a look of confusion or pity from her interlocutor. After all, Korean students want to be functional in the communicative norms and purposes of English, but English as an "International Language" or as a "Lingua Franca," and NOT the English that is spoken among cottagers in Connecticut. I hope.

The policy will very likely lead to a greater reliance on materials developed in the centre, and thus inhibit the development of an endonormative Korean English, which is still in its infancy. The policy also serves to strengthen the dominance of centre professional circles of ELT.

Lessening Shock and Awe
The use of Korean reduces the degree of language stress and culture shock experienced by students, and therefore increases students' openness to learning English.

In short, a shared L1 is an invaluable resource for language teachers, and denying access to this resource will have serious pedagogical and political consequences. The government's plan, as with any plan that denies resources to teachers, must be resisted.

*Thank you, Suresh Canagarajah!

"un accord qui dérange"

Note to le Monde diplomatique, because I'm sure that its editors are avid readers of this blog:

I wish you had noted that people were demonstrating against the agreement even though these demonstrations had been declared illegal.

I wish you hadn't suggested that the Korean peninsula has been a "strategic zone" for the White House only since 2002.

And I don't think "Parlement" is the best translation for 국회 - I suggest "le Gukhoe."

Friday, April 20, 2007

Vote Samsung for president!

That's right, Eric Werker, Harvard Business School professor, says it's time for corporations to run for election!
This is not just the privatization of services, the [Forbes] article asserts. Instead, private corporations could actually hold a local position, such as mayor, offering credibility and, of course, making a profit from the taxes .... While many may argue that we already have such a system in place, the deliberate substitution of human thought and action with profit-seeking entities further extends the ideology that all human interaction be based on exchange rather than social good.
Yes, an HL-S5679W on every corner in your community! Imagine the Possibilities!

In other news, the OECD is to decide next week on whether to continue its Special Monitoring Process of labour conditions in South Korea. Don't give the government the stamp of approval it so desperately craves, you fuckers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

English for the masses

... because Roh has trouble flirting with the wait staff in European cities:
"During visits to foreign countries, I don't have any problem in communicating with heads of state thanks to interpreters. But during my free time after summit meetings, I have a problem as I'm not fluent in English."
What to say. Robert Phillipson has pointed out that the British empire was not interested in teaching English to the majority of its subjects. Language training was limited to small local classes of imperial coordinators. That changed following WW2, when the British Council and various US state agencies began spending huge sums to promote the use of English worldwide. (Socialist governments tended to resist, for example the Freedom Party in Sri Lanka excised English from the curriculum when it took power.)

Propaganda had really come into its own during WW2. So did they foresee the spread of mass communication? Hell yes, and they didn't need crystal balls. The first color TV was patented in 1942. An honest expression of what the US (military) elite had, has and will always have in mind might be something called From PSYOP to Mindwar: The Psychology of Victory, published in 1980. Excerpts here. The authors, one of whom now a military analyist for Fox News, knew their Gramsci and le Bon.

Yeh I know, folks aren't thoughtlessly reproducing the discourses that have accompanied "globalization" to Korea, at least not all of them. But after more than 3 years on the peninsula, I can say with confidence that most language teachers most certainly are. Mention critical literacy and you get a blank look. Tell them what it involves and the look changes to one of confusion or distaste. "I teach reading" you will be told. "I teach listening" they will say. "A teacher must be neutral." But what the fuck are the kids reading and listening to? How about encouraging them to ask some questions about the texts that are steam shoveled into their heads? Fuck VOA, fuck CNN. If you must use this shit, then put on some gloves and examine it with your students. If "grammar" and "vocabulary" is all you know how to teach, then get some books.

(ECE teachers, kindly ignore this rant, keep teaching social skills.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

More Koreans to lecture Koreans in English

the ministry plans to require universities to raise the amount of English-only classes to 3.1 percent by 2010 from the 2.19 percent level in 2006.
Oh, you'd rather not talk about, say, Korean history in English? That's fine:
The ministry will also require each university to hire more foreign professors in order to raise the number from the average 3.67 percent of the faculty at Korean universities in 2006 to 5.0 percent by 2010.
But education is not to be "opened" by the FTA.

That's nice.