[LETTERS to the editor]Embracing English-only instruction

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[LETTERS to the editor]Embracing English-only instruction

I work at Anseong High School. We have almost 1,000 students and it is located in a rural area. I’ve been teaching English for five years, and now I’m attending an intensive program for secondary school teachers. This is the first time to leave school in a month, so I am very thrilled to be selected for this program.

I am at Gyeonggi Institute for Foreign Language Education in Anjeong. Gifle has its own dormitory and good facilities. From 9 to 5, I take several courses with about 100 other English teachers. I’m very happy to practice English through a variety of courses and learn teaching methods from native instructors and my fellow teachers.

Other than our regular courses, in the first week of Gifle, the director, Jang Dong-sun, made an impressive speech. At first, when I heard that there was going to be a director’s lecture, I thought it would be boring. But that was the biggest mistake I ever made. That made me think about my identity as a Korean English teacher.

Nowadays, the Korean government encourages English teachers to teach in English only. From this point of view, Mr. Jang showed us deep sympathy. In fact, for lots of English teachers, the issue has been a hot potato. As a matter of fact, even though I knew I had to, I didn’t have the confidence to teach my classes using only English. Mr. Jang said that doing this is no longer avoidable and that the Korean government is going in the right direction for English education. The problem is the ability of many English teachers. From this point of view, I asked myself if I have enough English skill to manage this pressure.

For this reason, Mr. Jang emphasized English teachers should have confidence. Actually, I can say that I didn’t have enough confidence to teach my students in English. So far, I have used the excuse that my students wouldn’t understand me if I spoke only English. For very low-level students, that was true. But most of them are eager to learn English and they want to be fluent English speakers in a global world. It was shameful that I didn’t teach only in English ? not for my students, but for me.

Last but not least, Mr. Jang said we have to listen to parents as well as students. When I watch TV, it is not easy to find good news for teachers. Most news stories are about impolite students or aggressive and violent parents. Surely, as a teacher, I’m likely to fault their bad behavior rather than think about the reasons why they act this way. Sometimes, I have noticed that difficult students become open-minded when I just listen to them.

Finally after listening to his speech, I made up my mind to be a real English teacher, not just a Korean English teacher. Looking back, I usually told myself that it would take too much time to prepare lessons using only English, and my students would not be able to keep up with me. It was just an excuse. From now on, I’ll keep trying to teach them in English. I know it will take a lot of effort and time, but I will be happy to see my students excited about my class.

Kang Hye-ok, An Seong Comprehensive High School, Gyeonggi
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