[Letter to the editor]More than one way to learn English
In “India can supply English teachers” (Jan. 10), the Indian ambassador to Korea suggested that Korean schools can benefit by employing qualified English teachers from India. Since I run a private language institute, I find his remark interesting. We know there are many people in India who are fluent in English.
They speak English as if it is their mother tongue and Indians excel in various global fields by using that English ability. It is known that India has quite a competitive edge over China thanks to their English fluency.
The ambassador said the large-scale import of English teachers from India could be a cheap and effective way to help Korea become a better English-speaking country. It is true Korean parents are heavily burdened with English tuition fees because the pay of English teachers from Anglo-Saxon countries is usually very high.
The idea of recruiting English teachers from India is viable; however, there is a little hitch.
Unfortunately, it seems Koreans prefer learning North American English, not Australian, Philippine, or Indian-accented English. A few years back I received a couple of complaints from parents and students for employing British teachers who spoke with different pronunciations.
In fact, English today is considered one of the most contaminated languages, since English is officially spoken in as many as 60 countries. Such being the case, we often hear locally colored English, such as Chinglish, Dutchlish, Japlish, Hinglish, etc.
But there is no major problem in communicating with the Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, and Indians through English because English syntax is the same everywhere. Those variances in accent and vocabulary can be easily understood after investing some time getting to know them. After all, English is English.
With relentless globalism, Koreans will have more and more chances to encounter various foreigners who speak with their own English style. It is noticeable that the new Test of English for International Communication has already introduced a range of accents in the listening section ― U.S., Canadian, British and Australian. This change reflects types of English that are taught and spoken in the international workplace.
Koreans should broaden their English perspective so that they can learn English as a global language. English is just a tool of communication and in that sense the American accent, pronunciation and grammar are only secondary issues. We can learn English more effectively at a lower cost if we can change the mindset of the Korean people; North American English is not the only English worth learning.
Kim Eui-Yong, director, Academy of Foreign Languages, Changwon, South Gyeongsang