Wednesday, July 17, 2013

today, I teach Korean

I've been given two Korean-language students to whom I'll be teaching the rudiments of Korean. I was told by my boss that the students—two ethnically Korean girls—are starting at zero. I didn't realize how young the girls would be, however, so I'm now regretting my choice of textbook. Even though the title of the textbook is Korean for Beginners, the books are designed for older students, high school and above.

Still, it's sort of exciting to be teaching Korean. I feel a bit naughty doing it: my own Korean skills hover in the high-intermediate range, so my right to teach the language is questionable at best. Still, I know I've got enough of a handle on the basics to be able to teach the fundamentals more or less competently.

Disdaining the textbook for now, I've been making up my own worksheets, beginning with alphabet practice (Korean, like English and other European languages, uses an alphabet invented by King Sejong and his team of scholars in the early 1440s; the modern Korean alphabet has 24 letters: 14 consonants and 10 vowels). After going through the alphabet's basics and teaching my kids how to pronounce the letters properly, I'll take the girls through the wild world of syllable formation: how to "stack" Korean consonants and vowels to make syllabic clusters. After that, I've mapped a route that will lead the girls through various vocabulary lists, subject/topic/object markers, and prepositions. By then, they'll have enough of a lexicon for us to begin forming sentences, at which point the real work will begin.

The girls are coming for Korean lessons only once a week. That's too little instruction, in my opinion, but I don't control the girls' schedules. The other problem, though, is that I'll be gone as of August 8, which means someone else will have to take up the mantle and continue the lessons. One of my coworkers, Samuel (not his real name), is a native-speaker Korean, but he isn't keen on teaching language: he'd rather concentrate on teaching math and science. Personally, I think Samuel is a logical enough guy, and a good enough teacher, to figure out a way to instruct the girls, but he's got confidence problems when it comes to teaching outside his comfort zone, despite the fact that Korean is his first language (Samuel is, by the way, a fluent speaker of English). So... who will take over for me once I'm gone? Another person in the office, one of my supervisors, might be able to teach the girls, but in her case there are scheduling issues to resolve.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see whether our attempt at a Korean-language curriculum can survive my departure from YB Near.


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