[KS] failed Koreanists littering the streets
robcarrubba at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 16 09:29:46 EDT 2003
< 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. The same holds true for elements of any language, including Korean. >
If you reread my post you will find that I never asked for a 'rule' for anything, only for a well considered opinion.
Some rules are quite simple to explain, as in the allomorph /a/an/, some are more complex and context restricted as in the usage of 'the'. There are also numerous ways to explain the way in which ??? function in Korean language as well as in English. And there will be twists in and exceptions to rules, this is the nature of natural languages- a certain amount of flexibility is required for them to work.
Communicating this sort of information to students requires more than just the intuition of a native speaker; this is why there are TESOL degrees. This is why a teacher with an MA in Applied Linguistics is likely a far better teacher of English than someone with an MBA or a degree in French Literature; they have been trained to find explanations and answer questions in their field of study.
I've met more than a few Koreans who, in my experience, are better teachers of English (this includes Language, Literature, and Linguistics) than most native-speaker teachers. This especially holds true for beginning level language classes, when explanation of grammar takes precedence over absolute fluency, and for academic subjects where there is a certain cannon of technical knowledge specific to the field. I think it is a bad idea to presume that someone can teach English based on the fact that they are a native speaker.
If I have a question about Yi Sang I'm not going to ask some random person on the street or a French Lit major. I'm going to track down Walter Lew in the US or ??? in Korea. Why? They will likely know the answer to my question or at the very least have already put enough thought into the topic to present me with an opinion worth thinking about. In the end, I may have a different opinion about how something should be translated or understood, but this does not detract from their expertise or the fact that they have a solid understanding of the topic.
People who are experts in their area of study, know this sort of information. I'm just asking that they be encouraged to teach it in Korean Language Classrooms and publish it in Korean Language Textbooks. Having an MA in French literature may make one well informed on the topics of French lit, but, native-speaker or not, it does not qualify one to be teaching either English or Korean.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Yuh Ji-Yeon" <j-yuh at northwestern.edu>
To: <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 11:04 AM
Subject: Re: [KS] failed Koreanists littering the streets
> Points well taken, but I must disagree with the following:
> >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'.
> I must stand by what I wrote and disagree with Ross King here. I have been
> involved in English language education for quite a few years now, and the
> kind of deeply satisfying,
> explanation is not available for many many things. And this is true the
> higher up you go, i.e., the more fluent a student gets. As a native speaker
> well-educated in grammar, history, etc., there are many times I simply
> cannot find the explanation a student or editor demands. (If you know of
> one for such items as I mention above, let me know.) This does not mean
> that languages cannot be learned -- I never said that. It means that one
> must learn to recognize that languages are not logical, rational or
> scientific, but the result of centuries of use and disuse, change and
> continuity, an accretion of history that we roll out on our tongues daily.
> Language is largely convention --- this convention sits on top of basic
> grammatical rules and structures, but in many cases convention overrides
> grammar and then we say it is grammar. Convention means that what's right
> is not necessarily logical or explainable --- it's just the way people use
> the language and it has been accepted as correct. The higher up in fluency
> one gets, the more true this becomes. Any conscientious teacher of language
> understands that the rules only go so far, and in this sense, language is
> not always rule-governed. (This, by the way, is seen as particularly true
> for English, which is notorious among ESL students for its lack of
> consistency.) This means that to become fluent, one must learn to develop a
> feel for what's right and wrong, similar to that of well-educated native
> speakers who speak correctly but can't explain grammar if their life
> depended on it. This feel can be developed, but it takes an investment of
> time and energy, and this is true not just for Korean or English, but for
> any language. Please note that I do not say that one needs a "mystical
> feel" to learn a language. The rules and so forth can make you quite
> competent, but they cannot really give you native-speaker fluency. The
> fluency requires a feel, and this feel is not mystical. It is simple the
> intimate familiarity born of every day, lifetime use. This can be developed
> if you use a language every day over a sufficiently long period of time and
> make the effort to make a language part of your life and one of your
> primary mediums of communication and experience, rather than simply a
> subject you study.
> Too many students of Korean, heritage learners or otherwise, simply do not
> make the effort to incorporate Korean into their lives and therefore never
> advance beyond basic levels. You can't blame the lack of resources and
> materials for this. The opposite example is that I know many, many Koreans
> and Japanese and Chinese who make English part of their lives even when all
> they had was a dictionary (and some didn't even have that) and yet they
> became fluent. They did this back in the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s, before
> ESL became widespread. And they did this because they felt an acute
> need/desire to learn the language and thereby gain access to the benefits
> they believed it would give them. Student motivation is the primary factor.
> I would say that our American students of Korean are profoundly
> unmotivated, even apathetic and lazy. This is not necessarily their fault
> or the fault of Korea, but a result of the contemporary
> political/historical situation we are in. Bemoan this situation as much as
> you want, but please don't place so much blame on Korea for not pouring
> resources into Korean language education for North Americans.
> So while it may be in the interest of Korea for Americans to learn Korean,
> it may also be that Koreans really don't have the wherewithal to convince
> Americans of Korean's importance. Let me remind all of us that China and
> Japan did not become important in the Western consciousness because Chinese
> and Japanese people/governments tried to convince the West of their
> importance. They became important for strategic reasons that have no
> connection to the intrinsic importance or value of these two
> countries/peoples/cultures/languages. So sure, maybe Koreans should go
> around trying to convince Americans how important they are, but really,
> it's not going to have much effect unless the world political/economic
> situation changes and Americans themselves wake up and notice. In short,
> the brutal reality is that whether or not a country/people/language is seen
> as important has little to nothing to do with whether or not they
> themselves are good at promoting themselves.
> >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.
> My point exactly. Isn't it up to the U.S. govt to support foreign language
> studies? Why exactly should a foreign country spend its limited resources
> trying to convince reluctant people to learn its language? Let the U.S.
> convince its own people and support their language education. This is
> certainly in the national interest. (Does the U.S. spend money to support
> English language education in Korea and to promote English language
> education in Korea?) Besides, while the U.S. is certainly an important
> country to South Korea and it's in SK's interest to have more Americans
> familiar with the language, other countries are important too, and someday
> may be more important. So perhaps SK is making strategic and wise
> investments for future friends and allies. Who are North Americans to
> criticize this and demand more attention for themselves?
> Yuh Ji-Yeon
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