The Benefits of Learning Korean
The benefits of learning Korean go far beyond just being able to communicate on a daily basis. Becoming a student in this country has allowed me to change places with the children I teach, and it has been eye opening.
I sat at my desk perplexed at my Korean teacher’s greeting. Before leaving the United States all I studied was the Korean alphabet and how to say hello and goodbye.
I understood 안녕하세요 and I pretty much mastered how to say it without a western accent, but 여러분 and every other word in the Korean language that came out of her mouth left me clueless.
I sighed deeply as I began to think about my students and how they must feel when I open my mouth to speak. Maybe if I keep my head down and hide behind the head in front of me, I thought to myself, she won’t call on me.
In a matter of seconds, after hearing one foreign sentence and not being able to decipher its meaning, my mind shut down and I wanted to hide. I somehow managed to act out the same behaviors I see in my students.
I changed places; I was in the process of experiencing their world and their challenges with learning English. But instead, I was learning their language from a teacher that doesn’t speak mine.
At that moment, I realized I am just as much a student as they are my teachers. It challenged me. It made me think about how I can be better and learn from this experience.
So, I started paying attention to how my Korean teacher taught a group of foreign adults with little knowledge of their native language.
One of the greatest lessons I learned from her instruction is the simple beauty of a smile and interactive teaching. She spoke only broken English, but she was able to make her students understand the meaning and use of a word by being very expressive with constant movements.
She made language-learning very fun. She was engaging and it made me better as a student.
After a few weeks, I started to transfer the knowledge I was learning from Korean class into my English classroom. I exercised the simple beauty of a smile and enthusiastic teaching. Slowly, I began to see my students’ steady improvement in their own language learning process.
There were moments when my students saw me studying Hangeul and they would try to help me with my homework. I marveled at them being my teacher.
I’m always amazed at how they light up when I give them a chance to teach me something they know very well. Sometimes, they are short language exchanges, but it gives me an opportunity to bond with the students that usually try to stay anonymous in my classroom.
When my students see me putting in effort to learn their language it shows them I value their culture. In the same token it makes them want to try harder to understand my world including the English language.
Changing places at first was very uncomfortable, but it was necessary in order for me to see through my students eyes. It has not only made me a better student but a more effective teacher.
Willynn taught in the education field for three years. It was her curiosity and interest to see the world from a different perspective that lead her to Daejeon, South Korea. Willynn is currently working with young learners teaching English for EPIK in South Korea. In her free time, Willynn loves to go on adventures with her husband, Micah, engage in language exchanges at coffee shops with the locals in her community. As well as participate at Open Mic events across Daejeon and Seoul sharing her spoken word pieces. Follow Willynn on Youtube or on WordPress.