☆A few cents on ⓔⓢⓛ☆

Featuring scoops, opinions, issues, and links related to ESL in South Korea 。。。

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Non-Contract Society

Don't be surprised if your boss changes the terms of your contract. As the article on ESL Monkey states, "for many Koreans, a contract is part of the symbolism involved in beginning a relationship . . .[and they] view contracts as infinitely flexible and subject to further negotiation." Therefore, "the written contract is not the real contract; rather, the unwritten, oral agreement with an employer is the real contract." Foreigners panic when they realize this, for it is a culture shock. The printed word made it possible for our Founding Fathers to build our nation the way we know it today. The United States is a contract-based society with the written word carrying authority in legal matters. This clash in cultural beliefs undoubtedly causes disputes over contracts. Koreans rarely takes such disputes to court.

The following is a quote by a recruiter:

"Look over the contract and if you agree to it, sign and fax it back to me as quickly as possible."

English School Watch Organization unravels the hidden meaning:

"The sooner the contract is faxed back to the recruiter and the teacher is in Korea the sooner he or she will be able to collect their commission from the hakwon owner. Additionally, the language in this statement leaves the potential recruit little time to conduct appropriate research into the complaint history of the employer, or the recruiter him or herself. A number of teachers commented that they did not know precisely what they were agreeing to simply because they did know enough about the market and were not aware of information, and of sources and resources where they could conduct research allowing them to make informed decisions prior to signing their contracts."

Monday, May 01, 2006

Landing a Job

If you are aggresive, you might want to consider going to Korea first, then knocking on door-to-door submitting resumes and attending in-person interviews. This way you can see the actual facilities, housing accomdations, meet the staff, etc. No surprises. And chances are, you will land a job pretty soon.

However, the downside is that if you come on a tourist visa, you need to possess a round-trip ticket to bypass the authorities. What's worse, your employer won't reimburse your airfare. But you won't have to worry about your visa run to Japan because your employer will likely pick up that part of the ticket.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Who's on the Blacklist?

Prospective teachers BEWARE!

Some recruiters and institutions have a bad reputation of being dishonest, unreliable, and only profit-oriented. I've read numerous complaints from burnt teachers claiming that recruiters are full of unfulfilled promises, from airport pick-ups to settlement assistance. Once these job candidates set foot in Korea, they were on their own, in the blackhole.

The following is a quoteby a director while talking on the phone with his recruiters overseas:

"Tell them what they want to hear, write down what they want to see, agree to everything they ask, but get them to Korea."

Thus, to protect yourself from being burned, many ESL teachers in the field recommend doing your own job search and research your potential employer. Some reputable blacklist websites are as follows:

Hagwon Checklist

English School Watch

Jon's Blacklist

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Visa Visa Visa!

Which visa is right for you?

Most English instructors apply for the E2 visa, or more commonly known as "teaching visa". When you receive an offer, the institution will most likely sponsor your visa. All you have to submit are the necessary documents for visa processing such as your original diploma, sealed official transcript, resume, and passport-sized pictures of yourself. Wait a minute. Original diploma, you ask? An alternative is to send your original and copy to a nearby Korean consulate and have them notarize it for you. Diploma verification is necessary because in the past, there have been incidents of unqualified tourists trying to get by with phony diplomas. So now, thanks to them, the rules have gotten tighter and the process longer! Also, if the institution needs you ASAP, they will let you do a "visa run" to Japan, where the process can be expedited. The application forms are available on the Korean consulate website at your nearest location.

Nevertheless, there is a drawback to an E2 visa. Many teachers have related that holding an E2 visa makes you a "slave" of the academy. It is illegal to work other jobs, such as private tutorings, where the real money lie. If you're caught, you will be fined. Also, if you're fired for whatever reason, you must return to your country in a few days' notice, since you no longer have the legal right to reside in Korea.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"Whom is Educational System For?"

This was the title of a well-written article that I unexpectedly discovered while browsing through Carrot English, a webcam and phone tutoring service provider. The author expresses his concern on the disturbing reality of the Korean educational system. He relates:

"In a thoroughly modern, high tech country such as Korea, the education system languishes in the dark ages, entrapping its youth in a system of rote memorization, testing and cutthroat competition. Suitability for jobs, marriage opportunities, and even everyday interpersonal relations still hinge on one's scholastic performance, particularly in the highly competitive university entrance exam."

As a child, I've heard adults say, in Korean, "Ten more minutes of studying will change the face of your future wife/husband" and also "If you sleep now, you may dream but if you study now, you can make that dream come true." Thus, from very early on, parents of all economic status imbue their children with the social pressure to make it into the top Universities. Korean mothers often get together over lunch to boast about their kids. As the author of the article remarks, "mothers in Korea [also] have a competitive maternal spirit when it comes to their children's education."

It is also true that "parents spend intolerably high amounts of their income on private education to give their children the edge." I recall my mom telling me how she used to hoard money from my dad's humble paycheck for my piano lessons and my brother's tae kwon do lessons. For many high school students, the entire focus of their lives have been to drill them for the college entrance exam. Years of attending after-school "cram schools" have whipped them up into skilled test-takers. However, although the test scores for TOEIC (as an example) might be high, many aren't able to apply it to some practical use. The following is a poll taken from a small sample size, but nonetheless reflects the majority of English learners in Korea:

English Club Poll

As the poll indicates, the greatest number of students found "speaking" to be the most difficult mode of communication. Perhaps this is due to the "rigid uniformity of teaching and learning in the schools," which doesn't foster creativity or personal expression but strictly memorization skills. But knowing just the grammar rules inside out doesn't make one fluent.

The author continues:

"The strain of the extreme pressure on students is evident in the increase in the suicide rate of 15 to 19 year olds. More than 10 out of every 100,000 commit suicide each year and many kill themselves over low scores on school tests with the rate increasing after the university entrance exam."

Monday, April 24, 2006

E-resources and Online games

More and more institutions are incorporating the interactive component into their curriculum. Using the internet, ESL communities can exchange myriads of teaching materials, ideas, and games for classroom settings. Solitary games such as crossword puzzles and word searches enhance one's vocabulary whereas others including role-playing games encourage interaction and speaking. For role-playing games, each student is given a card that specifies the kind of role and situation he/she must assume. Not only does this help to develop one's communication skills but behavioral skills as well. Examples of some websites that offer ESL game ideas are:

Online Games and Quizzes
ESL Online Learning Games
ESL town Games

Saturday, April 22, 2006

I Love Konglish

According to Wikipedia, Konglish is "the use of English words (or words derived from English words) in a Korean context or a Korean dialect mixed with English loanwords. It also includes the use of words that are perceived to be English, but are in fact not English words. These could be words that have a different meaning in Konglish than they have in English, words that merely look or sound English, or words that are a mixture of Korean and English. Koreans usually use the word exclusively in the latter sense."

I love Konglish. I never realized that I use it all the time, naturally code-switching from English to Konglish in the presence of Koreans. Many English instructors would consider Konglish problematic and try to fix it. But I think Konglish is different from just "bad English." Konglish seems to reflect some cultural values. For example, Koreans say "hand phone" instead of "cell phone," "eye shopping" instead of "window shopping," "meeting" to mean a "blind date," not a business gathering, and "man-to-man" to mean "one-on-one." Notice how all the former expressions are more intimate and personal. It would be interesting to study, in greater depth, the linguistics of Konglish.

According to Wikipedia, much of the Konglish appeared "following the Korean War when U.S. troops mixed with Korean troops─ troops speaking 'black English' caused the English words to be permeated into Korean English." Then, in the 20th Century, "a large class of Konglish words came into Korean usage by way of Japanese," whose words had already been modified. At the very least, Konglish is not just some random gibberish, but culture-imbued words that has evolved over time and is still under transition.

As a native English speaker immersed in both cultures, I enjoy and appreciate Konglish. Apparently, Korean nationals are also conscious of their Konglish usage. In a popular comedy show, there is a section called "Interview" where a Korean comedian tried to pass as a native speaker by using fluent Konglish. It is absolutely hilarious.

Konglish is an interlanguage. According to Wikipedia, interlanguage is "a language that has been developed by the learners of a second language who have not fully acquired it, but only approximated it, preserving some features of their first language in speaking or writing the target language, and creating innovations." After continuous usage, interlanguage becomes "fossilized," which means that the person has internalized the incorrect usage that it is difficult to change.

Granted, non-proper use of English ought to be fixed, but English instructors should first attempt to learn and understand it before correcting it.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.