[KS] failed Koreanists littering the streets
jrpking at interchange.ubc.ca
jrpking at interchange.ubc.ca
Tue Apr 15 18:33:24 EDT 2003
Thanks to Yuh Ji-Yeon for her comments, most of which I agree with. A few more remarks:
> It is no wonder that S. Korea should be more interested in spending limited
> resources on students who want to learn Korean.
Of course -- it is very much in Korea's interests to promote the study of Korean in Vietnam, Indonesia, China, etc. More power to them. And Korea can afford to do this. My question is: can Korea afford NOT to promote the study of Korean and Korea in the USA?
I quite agree that the US is hopeless in learning ANY foreign languages and cultures, and that if left to the market forces you describe, the study of KFL in the USA will take something like a 100 years to get anywhere.
And if that's what happens, so be it. But I just think it would be grossly short-sighted of Korea as a country trying to market its products (to continue your market-driven musings) to the USA not to invest simultaneously in making sure that more Americans have more chances to learn Korean and to learn about Korea. Right now there doesn't seem to be much of a mood for this in Korea (among those who should know better, I mean).
So yes, it is our duty as Koreanists to try to persuade Americans (if not 'en masse' as you suggest) to see Korea and Korean as important, but it is, I think, equally important -- and far more realistic -- to try to persuade the _Koreans_ that they should be investing in this. It's about strategic alliances between Koreanists and Korea-philes and Korea forged to chip away at American ignorance. In talking to Koreans in Korean as a non-Korean, one of the first things you notice is that it has hardly ever occurred to the average Korean that their language is worth learning at all!
> Also, many of the things that people seem to want -- detailed
> explanations, etc. of various quirks and principles in the language, aren't
> available for other languages either.
Well, but they are for Japanese and Chinese (and have been for a long time -- certainly since before these countries had important economies), as well as for the other languages belonging to the top 13 world economies (isn't Korean in the top 13 or something like that?). And in many cases they're available because the home/host countries made a long-term investment in promoting knowledge of their country and its language abroad. Korea so far has been slow to do this.
>And some of it just isn't possible.
> It's like asking for a really good, detailed and accurate explanation of
> the use of the articles the and a/an in English. Or the various situations
> in which you can put an adjective after the noun it modifies. You can't get
> it because it only follows general rules and the actual usage depends a
> great deal on convention and what sounds good to a native ear.
This just isn't true and is tantamount to saying that human language can't be learned. There ARE such 'good, detailed and accurate explanations' for various points of English structure, and it is the job of ESL specialists and English linguists to write those explanations and the (thousands of) books that enshrine them. Language is rule-governed, not some mystical mishmash of 'what sounds good to a native ear'.
Your remark reminds me, though, that many of the KFL textbooks authored by Koreans seem to be based on this mystical approach to Korean grammar, and as a result, never attempt to actually get it right/ be accurate for the foreign learner -- after all, only a native speaker can ever really 'get it'.
> And by the way, we once
> had lots (relatively speaking) of North Americans learning Russian, and
> that's not an easy language either.
It's a walk in the park compared to CJK, but it is an interesting example to bring up for political reasons. The bottom fell out of Russian and Slavic Studies in the USA as soon as the USSR collapsed -- all the federal funding spent on encouraging Americans to learn Russian dried up, and now hardly anybody learns it. Incredibly short-sighted on the part of the US government. (If they won't support Russian, hard to imagine they'll put much support into Korean.) Don't know what policies Russia has to promote the study of Russian abroad, but I bet they at least have something.
Associate Professor of Korean, University of British Columbia
Dean, Korean Language Village, Concordia Language Villages
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