Monday, April 09, 2018

does this seem logical to you?

One reason why I generally avoid reading articles in the Korea Times and Korea Herald is that, when they're written by expats, they tend to be pretty awful. Here's a good example from two days ago: a piece by a certain Adam B. titled "My thoughts on English language teaching" (note the lack of hyphenation for the phrasal adjective—a sign of things to come).

The guy seems to have a thesis, which doesn't appear until the second paragraph. The thesis appears to be: "Newspapers are ideal for chunk teaching" (by which he means teaching language in chunks, like phrases and other locutions, as opposed to teaching only individual words), but the rest of the piece focuses on pretty much everything except the value of newspapers as a language-teaching tool.

There is, for example, an immediate digression into the importance of teaching slang (without clearly relating this to chunk teaching), followed by a second digression, even further afield, into the concept of what counts as a native speaker (Adam titles this section "Nativism," perhaps not understanding that nativism, as a term, might make sense in discussions of anthropology or politics, but not so much in language teaching unless we're talking about Noam Chomsky's concept of nativism). The first sentence of the "nativism" paragraph strikes me as flat-out wrong: "Citizenship determines who is a native English speaker ― and who is not." A Korean who has become a US citizen, but whose English hasn't evolved beyond the pidgin level (see def. 2) after twenty years in country, is in no way a "native speaker" of English just because he has a US passport and US citizenship. That's arrant nonsense.

The piece then segues to a sloppy and superficial discussion of "intelligence," finally transitioning to the conclusion by noting that "the gifted need help[;] they need an intellectual incentive, otherwise their intellectual prowess is going to wither away in the classroom." This leads to the concluding paragraph, which begins with "Multilingual native English speakers are exactly what the gifted need[.]" This notion, which I freely admit may have merit on its own, comes out of nowhere in the context of the article. Up to now, there has been no discussion of the utility of being multilingual, but suddenly here it is: a concept that shows up only in the final paragraph, which ends thus:

Advanced learners have already mastered the intricacies of grammar. Immersing themselves in the language found in newspapers is a logical progression. We need the ELT field to be more newspaper-oriented.

So the very last sentence does indeed tie in, kind of, with the second-paragraph thesis that newspapers ought to be part of language teaching. But as you can see, there's been no mention of how any of this relates to chunking, which gets a mention at the beginning before being totally forgotten for the rest of the article.

Wow. My head hurts. This article, if we think of it as an essay, wouldn't pass muster in any decent high-school English class. If I were to try to reverse-engineer the article's content into an outline, I would fail miserably, as there's no overall, internally supporting structure—just a series of ideas, ladled like slop, one atop the other, with an untidy "conclusion" offering the barest hint of intro/conclusion symmetry.

This is, alas, indicative of the quality of expat teacher who flocks to Korea. And Korean parents have no clue as to what manner of person is teaching their kids. Thus does a broken system remain broken.

For the Korean side of this problem, see this old post.

1 comment:

Charles said...

In reply to the title of this post: No, not at all.