[Student Voices]Get out of cram mode

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[Student Voices]Get out of cram mode

Take a look at a typical English class here today. What would a foreigner attending the class hear? Would one hear English spoken most of the time?

I do not think so. I myself find Korean-spoken English classes pointless.

Imagine what Americans or the English would think if they see their own language taught through a system of memorization. Even if the students get high scores in English, this makes no sense at all. Are we cannibalizing a language, relying solely on memorizing? This problem is caused by adopting misguided practices in teaching grammar and vocabulary. What is needed for thorough learning of the language is experience.

I, along with many students with experience of life abroad in English-speaking countries, can usually tell what is wrong with a sentence when I read it through. This ability was gained through experience. However, the method of teaching used in Korean schools is to make students memorize all the rules. However, this has an obvious drawback.

For instance, what happens when there is an exception? (And there are several.) The same word can be used in a different way; the rules of grammar can be bent. The students who merely memorized the rules will have absolutely no preparation for such cases. They can end up memorizing mistakes.

Even students familiar with English, like me, are forced to memorize things we do not need. Knowledge of grammar is needed for getting sentences and paragraphs right. While I have almost no trouble with this, I still have to memorize things. For instance, if a teacher asks me what form a particular sentence is, I have no idea. I never felt the need to memorize that kind of thing because grammar just comes naturally to me. I hope that the same could happen to our Korean students.

Of course, I feel that since it can be difficult to gain enough experience with English without living overseas, memorizing is necessary to an extent, but I think there should be an effort to reduce the need for such methods.

Then there is vocabulary. The English language has its roots in many different languages such as Latin, German and French. Therefore, it has an enormous word bank, and numerous words used in ordinary day-to-day life.

Actual spoken English is very difficult compared to what is taught in the Korean education system. Words I use in everyday life would fit into this “difficult” list for others.

The method Korean schools use to teach vocabulary is too close to cramming. I believe that if you memorize words in a way that involves too much information at once, it is impossible to hold on to it all.

Actually, in most schools, students memorize words just to do well on an English test, and forget them immediately afterwards.

In contrast, I learned English words through actual usage, ensuring that I can commit them to my long-term memory, and will be able to use those words in context.

Korea should teach students with sentences and books, allowing true learning of words rather than the short-term approach used now.

English in Korea is being taught based too much on a system of memorizing. What is really needed to do well in English is experience. Schools should provide more situations in which students can use English.

This will ensure natural development of grammar and also provide an environment where students can truly learn vocabulary. That is what students need, not a cram course to stuff as much as their heads can hold for a short span of time.

*Bummul Middle School, Daegu

by Park Sung-hyun
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