[LETTERS to the editor]What we do for EnglishLearning a foreign language, particularly English, is considered one of the most important things that Koreans students have to do nowadays. Tons of money are spent in private language institutes.
Many even go abroad for a semester or a year of language learning - not only affluent students but also the less better off manage to go abroad by working part-time jobs.
No one can deny the importance of learning English. It is essential for one to learn a certain level of the language. However, this trend wherein many students consider English to be the ultimate goal of education is worrisome.
Some time ago, I read about Korean students, even those in prestigious universities, working part-time jobs at bars to meet English-speaking boyfriends. There was also an article about people paying large sums of money to brokers to set them up with “friends” who are native speakers of other languages.
Today, with more than a million expats living in Korea, making friends with foreigners is just a part of everyday life. Meeting friends from other countries is inevitable and welcome; Korea cannot always be a nation apart.
It is good that Koreans are polite and nice to expats in Korea. However, the problem is that some people try to befriend foreigners just to learn English.
One of my American acquaintances who has been in Korea for a while told me about how Koreans are always “taking advantage” of her, trying to get close to her just to learn her language. People are nice to her, but all they want is to learn English from her. She said she could see this clearly. Those who try to make friends with English speakers say, “This is the era of globalization. Of course we have to make friends with foreigners.” However, they mostly do not try to make friends with people from Southeast Asia, who are non-native English speakers.
I strongly support Koreans being more open to making friends and helping foreigners living in Korea. However, I am opposed to some people trying to take advantage of them to learn English.
Where is our pride? During the Korean War, children followed American soldiers yelling, “Give me chocolate!” Students literally begged for food. Now, sadly, I see Korean students of all ages following foreigners around with smiles on their faces but in their hearts yelling, “TEACH ME ENGLISH!”
Kang Yoon Seung, student,
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies