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Demand for Korean grows in French schools

Dec 03,2019
Marie-Laurence Manifacier, the principal of College Fontcarrade in Montpellier, France, in the school’s Korean language atelier class on Nov. 20. [MINISTRY OF CULTURE, SPORTS AND TOURISM]
About a dozen sixth grade students at College Fontcarrade, a school in Montpellier, a southern city in France, are currently learning hangul from their Korean teacher Lee Jang-seok.

“How do you say this in Korean?” the teacher asked the students in Korean, pointing to a window he drew on the whiteboard.

“Changmoon,” the students said in unison.

“That’s right. Let’s repeat it one more time, everyone. ‘Changmoon,’” said Lee as he wrote the word in hangul for the students to copy.

The students here are not as familiar with K-pop as those in Paris are, but they can definitely read and write their names in Korean. The Korean class is an atelier, or workshop, class that the school has set up to test out before including it as part of the school’s regular foreign language offerings. The school currently offers Japanese and Chinese, but no other Asian languages.

“Compared to other schools in Montpellier, College Fontcarrade is known to focus more on foreign languages,” said Marie-Laurence Manifacier, the principal of the school. “I think the time is just right at the moment to introduce Korean language to our students as the interest of Korean culture has become quite high over the past few years.”

The atelier program, which began last year according to the principal, allows students who are interested in taking courses the following year to take the class two hours a week, in an attempt to let them get a glimpse at Korea and its language before including it in the school’s regular curriculum.

When Lee started a private hangul class in 2005, there were only six students. But the number has rapidly increased to 158 today. That is why Lee talked to the school about the possibility of adding the language as part of its regular curriculum.

“Compared to the 1,200 students who take Chinese and 300 who take Japanese, the number will be relatively low for Korean when the school launches the program,” said Lee. “But I can see from the high interest in Korean culture that the classes will fill up very fast.”

The principal also said that the school designated Nov. 12 as “Korea Day” and kicked off a 10-day Korean Culture festival that day. Various performances were held by young Koreans invited from Korea and the students got to taste different dishes from Korea during the festival as well.

“In short, Korean culture is in vogue here,” said Manifacier. “Many students are curious about Korean food, its fashion, films, music and - especially for our students - the language.”

M. Franck Le Cars, an official from the Montpellier government’s education department, however, showed concern in the limited number of teachers who can teach Korean in Montpellier.

“Currently, there are only two teachers who are qualified to teach at public schools in Montpellier,” said Cars, insisting the need to collaborate with the Korean government. “I have no doubt that the number of students interested in Korean will increase, but we are not sure if we have time to foster teachers of this language because there are not many universities here that have Korean language courses or programs. The French Education Ministry should also think about it in the meantime.”

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]






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