According to a Chosun Ilbo article entitled "American Professor Prepares Korean Language Teachers," American Robert Fouser is teaching Seoul National University students how to teach the Korean language to foreigners, which makes me wonder what exactly he does. For example, does he teach them the English they will need to explain the Korean language or does he teach them language teaching techniques? Or does he teach them both with a focus on dealing with the special problems of teaching the Korean lanaguage?
Mr. Fouser says that Koreans lack a systematic approach to teaching Korean to foreign learners, which I think is true, but I wish he or the article would have given some examples of exactly what Koreans are doing wrong. More on Robert Fouser in ENGLISH and in KOREAN.
Here are some of my suggestions for teaching Korean.
The very first thing that should be taught to foreign learners of Korean is hangeul, which is the easiest thing about the Korean language. Why bother learning Romanized Korean when hangeul can be learned in just a couple of days?
Next, the teacher should give the students a brief summary of how the Korean language works while introducing simple vocabulary words to be used in examples of the language. In other words, the teacher should give a general description of such things as Korean word order and how markers are used to indicate such things as subjects, objects, and verb tense. Korean and English are so opposite each other that without such an explanation many English speakers may waste weeks wondering what the hell is going on. When I first started learning Korean, I wasted about thirty-two weeks wondering what was going on because no one bothered explaining to me the basic concepts of the Korean language. Therefore, I think having a native English speaker teaching a Korean linguistics course concurrently with a native Korean speaker teaching a conversation class would be a good idea. English would be used in the linguistics class, but not in the conversation class.
After teaching hangeul and explaining the basic concepts of the Korean language, I would start piling on the vocabulary while making sure students understand the differences among Korean adjectives and transitive and intransitive verbs. I would have students juggling active and passive voice with every new verb they learn instead of saving passive voice for some future date. If the students were studying in Korea, I would teach them the seven basic Korean sentence patterns from the get-go so that they could start listening for them out in Korean society and start filling in the blanks with the new vocabulary they learn. I also believe in teaching past, present, and future tenses together rather than separately because they will be hearing them all together when they walk outside the classroom if they are learning in Korea.
A Korean language classroom in Korea should just be the staging area for preparing students for the real learning experience outside the classroom. Instead of trying to teach all the language inside the classroom, teachers should focus on teaching the concepts and structure of the language and have the students learn the meaty parts on their own outside the classroom. A sample homework assignment might be to give the students ten questions or statements to ask or say to Koreans outside the classroom, and then have the students record the responses they get. The students could then compare and discuss the responses they get the next day in class. That is more interesting and effective than reading the responses in a book.
Korean language teachers need to start thinking outside the four walls of the classroom.