Saturday, April 15, 2006

Could you repeat that, please?

Apparently, Korea spends more than any other country on ESL education. But when you take into consideration the fact that up until a couple years ago, anybody with a high school diploma could find a well-paying job as a foreign English instructor here, you can begin to understand the level of English education provided by these so-called native "teachers." (We've heard stories of teachers showing up after a night of binge drinking, still horribly drunk even, to teach the kids). Finally, things were getting so out of hand with the foreigners, the government decided that it needed some basic requirements, and insisted upon teachers first possessing a bachelor's degree. This has curbed the problem somewhat, but how many liberal arts degree holders have any real knowledge or experience when it comes to foreign kids and ESL instruction? Fortunately, it's the kind of job that just takes practice, and a certain ability to bullshit. You are an actor playing the role of a teacher in a system set up to fail. In short, you get through the prescribed textbooks the school provides you with in the alloted time of 3 months, (divided into two 40-minute lessons a week), essentially making sure the kids have fun, and that they are given "homework, homework, homework!!!"

I have taken to playing "Simon Says", pictionary, and charades in many of my classes. My advanced writing classes are the most fun, though, because I've decided to use the text as minimally as possible. Instead, I have turned the class into a creative writing experiment, giving the students writing assigments that, God forbid, make use of their imagination (something that is not a high priority here, where most education is learned by rote). They write about what they would do if they were invisible, and they invent their own potions, spells (Harry Potter is HUGE here) and superheroes (my personal favorite is "Red Pepper Man", whose secret weapon is his "spicy smell" - it's so spicy, it even killed Superman and Spiderman at the same time, both having somehow become villainous).

As a self-proclaimed linguaphile, one of my major pet peeves is misplaced apostrophes. (Dammit, you fool, don't you know it's not "the dog shook it's tail."???!!!! That's a contraction! A contraction, I tells ya!!). Now, in Canada, where English is for most people their first (and only) language, such grave errors are absolutely unforgivable and should be punished by indentured labour, or something to that effect. In reality, it only shows that many people (university grads included) are hopelessly uneducated. I've granted Korea a bit more leeway in this department, and its (see, no apostrophe) use of English grammar is open to some pretty crazy and fantastical leaps of imagination. I've included a couple of my favorites for your amusement. Firstly, from Joe's track suit: "Collection is the is the foundation of a brand theat is cat is committed to". Ok. (If anybody knows what this means, let me know. I've just finished reading "The DaVinci Code", and am hoping that maybe it's an encoded message). Here's the best one (and this is off the cover of a child's sketchbook), entitled "Fall in Love": "Love is a song that reminds you/Love is being given the hores you're always wanted". (Hell, at least they didn't misplace the apostrophes!)

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