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All the materials in barebones are working teaching documents 
subject to review, alteration or abandonment in classroom practice.
Anyone is welcome to use this stuff, but copyright remains with
Thor May. Feedback, positive or negative, is very welcome.

ESL materials & ideas developed in Korea

Sungsim Courses - Suggested Guiding Principles

@ 5 June 2001

[note: This is a working document, in no way complete or definitive. It is merely a vehicle for developing some suggestions, which may be accepted, modified or rejected after further thought. As time passes, I am likely to add to, or modify these "principles" myself. - Thor]

1. Start with the customers. Most current Sungsim students are of fairly low academic ability. They will be motivated only by short term, clearly stated goals which they personally find persuasive. Within very narrow limits, they can learn something of value, especially vocational skills.[It may be of course that segments of the Sungsim population, or even some individuals within it, have attributes that are found in major universities. These university-competent individuals and population segments (where they exist) deserve every encouragement. However, the other, vocational students must not be sacrificed to methods and expectations which do not fit their abilities].

2. Make the learning program crystal clear. Any given Sungsim student should be able to recognize a certain pattern of coherence across all the language teachers and courses he or she encounters in the College. The pattern can be flexible, but its general form should be clear. That is, these students as a group have limited ability and interest to bring to the difficult job of language learning. It is therefore important not to disperse that limited ability in too many directions.

3. Recognize and learn from existing failures. The content, style and method of language learning courses can be almost infinite. Often in fact there is no pattern of approach at all, just a random collection of classroom tasks which get teachers and students through to the next period. Intelligent students with good memories can assemble useful knowledge even out of this junk mail approach. Most Sungsim language students have clearly failed to assemble useful knowledge from six years or more of exposure to foreign language teaching of some kind. We need to offer them a more controlled experience than they have known. This does not have to imply boring people, but rather intelligently managing the new information they have to digest. The section on "Narrative Credibility" in this ESL website has great relevance to planning a language institution which truly achieves what it sets out to achieve.

4. Match teaching resources with language goals. The total language course package offered to a Sungsim student should contain limited, explicit language goals from the outset, and a "bank" of teaching/learning activities from which both teachers and students can draw to help achieve those goals.

5. Match language goals with vocational objectives. The language goals designed for each Sungsim student should be related to their vocational training in interesting ways. For example, hotel management students should be constantly exposed to spoken dialogues and visual information in English which mimic what they are likely to encounter in an international hotel. This does not mean that students should be exposed to ONLY obviously vocational materials, but such materials should form a clear backbone theme in the total program.

6. Construct a learning contract for each student which carefully spells out the needed skills and knowledge. Counsel each student professionally about their vocational goals, and the language skills and knowledge required to meet those goals. Make sure they are committed to the learning contract, and fully understand their obligations before signing. The stated goals and skills should be modest; they should be honest; they should aim at what a student can expect at the time they leave Sungsim. "Managing a hotel" is NOT a realistic goal for a new Sungsim graduate, and "discussing world affairs or literature" (for example) is NOT a realistic language skill goal for most Sungsim students. Taking simple telephone messages for foreign visitors IS a realistic goal. Review the contract regularly with each student, and seek their self-assessment. Modify the contract when necessary.

7. Aim to make Sungsim a totally multilingual, multicultural environment. This can be taken beyond the classroom. For example, the Tourism Department secretaries' office can be redesigned with multilingual signs and information similar to what might be found in a hotel reception lobby, or travel agent. (Tourism Departmental secretaries, who now can't speak a word of English, should be encouraged to learn some English appropriate to their role). Public speeches in Sungsim itself should consciously incorporate some English phrases; (it is extremely odd to go to a graduation ceremony of "English language students" and not hear a word of English either from the Korean professors or their students...). Although I have referred to English here, the same idea would apply in faculty activities concerning Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, Russian, French etc.

8. Have working documents and notices written bilingually (as in the United Nations). All documentation concerned with students in a given language faculty, and/or affecting them should be presented both in Korean and the faculty language concerned (English, Russian ... etc.). That is, both students and staff (Korean and foreign) need to be exposed daily to a genuinely multilingual environment. Without that, foreign language classroom activities, unrelated to real life, become merely a sham and a rather boring game. It is not credible to criticize students for not learning a foreign language when the surrounding work environment and their professors create an obviously monolingual workplace. The small confusions and errors which everyone (including staff) would commit in a bilingual environment are exactly what students need to become used to managing without panic.

9. Encourage Korean faculty and service staff to communicate with each other and with students in the target second language, when possible. This implies constant code switching (between languages), but is also a daily encouragement to acquire second language fluency. This practice is as important for faculty as it is for students. (In true multilingual environments, such as many American or Australian workplaces, such code switching is normal and spontaneous. Ideas of "language purity" are mostly nonsense).

10. Make selected Korean words visible in romanized form around the campus. For example, have the cafeteria menu displayed in romanized Korean. Students need to become very familiar with reading and writing Korean words in romanized script. At the moment most do this only with difficulty. For example, if I ask a class to write the names of 5 Korean dishes in romanized form they will sit there fiddling for ten minutes. The same request for terms in Hangul brings an instant response. Why is this skill important? International visitors can't read Hangul. Service staff who can't read English/romanized maps, write menu items in romanized form, decode signs in writing for visitors etc. antagonize tourists. [The Korean Tourist Association has listed an inability to read maps, for example, as a major foreign visitor criticism of Koreans].

11. Teach numbers. In line with the general vocational aims of Sungsim, special attention needs to be paid to workplace numeracy. In many workplaces, basic numeracy is one of the most indispensable skills that an employee can have. I find that a lot of Sungsim students have great difficulty even adding up, or calculating 10% tax on a bill. That is a good indication that their exposure to arithmetic in junior school seemed to them abstract and unrelated to real life. Sungsim can remedy that deficit with brief, but frequent demands to use a little workplace arithmetic in lessons. That is step one.

Step two is to make students extremely familiar with hearing spoken numbers in English (or another foreign language). At the moment, if I dictate, say, a car hire charge to a class, most students will write it down incorrectly. Because the won uses large numbers, these are especially important to learn. Note that hotel service staff may frequently have to take business messages by telephone which include critically important numbers.

"Sungsim Courses - Suggested Guiding Principles" copyrighted to Thor May 2001; all rights reserved

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