[CAMPUS COMMENTARY]Now is the summer of our English studySummer vacation has started for most college students. For these young people, vacation means it’s time to look for part-time jobs or enroll at foreign language institutes; those with more time and money to spare will be making plans to travel.
Whatever they choose to do, however, they will probably not feel free from anxiety about their future ― particularly when it comes to the pressure to find employment after graduation.
Among the things students do during vacation, I found that most choose to go to foreign language institutes to learn how to write and speak English better. It’s not money nor time to relax that students crave during vacation, but English skills that they want the most.
Why is that? Because many believe they will be happier if they can land a job that pays a nice salary. So to be able to get such a job, earn that nice salary and consequently become happier, what they think of first is to polish their English skills.
One of my friends, who is serving in the military’s ward office, was planning to study abroad after he was released from the army.
But he thought his English was not good enough to attend an English-speaking school. So these days, he goes to an English institute after his duty hours in the army.
The tuition fee he pays is quite high, but he says he is not satisfied with the lessons. At the moment he is looking for an English tutor who can do a better job of teaching him so he can adjust better to living abroad. At the same time, however, he is worried all the money he is paying will be spent in vain. He might not even get accepted to a foreign college, he said, sighing. All he can do at the moment is to keep studying English.
Recently, another friend of mine began attending an English institute in the affluent Gangnam area. He does not live in Gangnam; his house is not even in Seoul. But he believes his English will get better only if he can attend one of the institutes that are concentrated in Gangnam-gu.
So to take early morning classes, he wakes up at 5 a.m. I told him he looked quite tired, but he waved it off, saying he is alright. He seems to believe strongly that the financial investment he is making to hone his English skills will bring good results.
Most Korean students have opportunities to learn English 6 to 10 years, before they enter college. There are English classes they can attend from elementary school through high school.
I can’t help wondering if they are happy about studying English so they can get higher scores in various English language tests.
Despite spending a great deal of our time and money to learn English, I am also astonished to learn that the average Korean’s English-speaking ability is not as good as that of people in other countries; evidently some do a better job of learning English as a second language.
What I hope is that we learn English for the sake of our own personal development, not to get better scores on Toeic tests or to get employed. That way, learning English can be more fun and less pressured.
We should be studying English for ourselves, not for the standards that society demands of us.
*The writer is the editor of the Sejong Times, the English-language newspaper at Sejong University.
by Jung Yeon-joon