중앙데일리

How teaching is like making a salad

‘Did you learn [Korean] from only one source? No. You read classics, comic books, your teachers taught you grammar. Learning English is the same way.’

Sept 10,2008
Robert Dickey
To some expats in Korea, teaching English is just a means of getting by; but to others, it is much more than that.

American Robert Dickey, 49, definitely belongs in the latter group. A former head of Kotesol, the largest among the nongovernmental organizations founded to improve English teaching in Korea, Dickey said he opted for teaching over leading a comfortable but passionless life as a lawyer. He holds a juris doctorate, a professional graduate degree, from a U.S. law school.

According to Dickey, English education in Korea has come a long way since the 1988 Seoul Olympics put Korea on the world map. Dickey came to Korea in 1994 and has spent most of his time since then teaching English at Gyeongju University in South Gyeongsang.

Still, he said, Korea needs to be more open to various teaching methods rather than sticking to the age-old slog of rote learning, like forcing students to repeat “John’s dog is sick” in a lab.

“A lot of people are still looking for a magic teaching method,” he said in an interview last weekend in Seoul. The mentality, he said, is, “let’s spend a lot of money and build language labs in universities that everybody can listen to.”

This method alone, he said, is ineffective given the complexity of language learning.

“Did you learn [Korean] from only one source of input? No. You read Korean classics, read manhwa [comic books], your teachers taught you grammar,” he said. “Learning English is the same way. It requires lots of sources of input.”

Studying abroad, currently the favorite method of learning English for Korean youths, is one good source of input in terms of motivation, he said. But that cannot be all either, he claimed.

“Each adds to the mix. We call it a salad mentality,” he said. “A nice salad has a little of this, a little of that. It all comes together, and that makes something new and better.”

Dickey said the salad mentality can also be applied to teachers. He said different kinds of expats can expose Korean students to English in various ways. According to Dickey, around two-thirds of Kotesol members are expats.

He said the 16th Annual Kotesol International Conference will focus on seeking better ways to use that salad mentality.

The conference, to be held late next month in Seoul, will gather around 1,000 teachers for discussions on effective English teaching methods, he said.

Interestingly, several futurists have been invited to speak at the conference.

“Bringing futurists helps people open up their minds and be more creative about the future,” he said. “If teachers start thinking about the future, they will start teaching for the future, instead of teaching from the past.”


By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [joe@joongang.co.kr]



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