Teaching Korean globally

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Teaching Korean globally

Kang Seung-hae
The author is a professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of Education.

The Korean Wave naturally leads to an increasing number of foreign youths who want to learn the Korean language starting with singing K-pop songs and memorizing dialogue from K-dramas. To help accelerate such trends, the Ministry of Education has been supporting primary, middle and high schools in foreign countries to adopt Korean in their regular curriculum by sending Korean teachers to them and nurturing local teachers.

Such efforts have begun showing noticeable results overseas. In 2017, 1,423 elementary, middle and high schools in 27 countries offered programs Korean as a foreign language course in their regular curricula or after-school programs. But in 2021, the numbers grew to 1,820 and 44, respectively. Foreign students who learn Korean soared to 170,000 in 2021 from 120,000 in 2017.

Last year alone, five more countries — including Cambodia, Hungary and Jordan — designated the Korean language as a subject for their regular academic curricula. After choosing Korean as a second foreign language in 2020, Vietnam elevated it as a first foreign language in just a year. That’s not all. Russia, India and Sri Lanka all selected Korean as a second foreign language at schools. As global demand for Korean language education has grown dramatically, the need to systematically teach the Korean language, develop standardized teaching courses and produce and distribute textbooks and other teaching materials for Korean classes has also increased.

As a result, the Ministry of Education and the International Korean Education Foundation (IKEF) co-developed a standardized Korean language education course for primary, middle and high schools overseas early last year after referring to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) — an international standard for describing language ability in Europe.

Based on the effort, the two authorities began writing Korean education materials that can be used globally. The materials will be developed over the next four years.

The teaching materials are basically composed of: a basic textbook following the guidelines for teaching Korean at primary, middle and high schools overseas; auxiliary materials; and other teaching aids tailored for the local countries. The ministry and the IKEF are writing print textbooks and e-textbooks reflecting the local levels of proficiency. The teaching materials whose development will be completed this year will be distributed to local schools after checking their demand.

As an expert in Korean language education since 1985, I participating in writing a standardized textbook. I am excited at the thought that standardized — and localized — textbooks will soon be used for Korean education at elementary, middle and high schools globally.

The development of Korean teaching materials for students overseas carries great significance in three respects. First, more than 140 experts in Korean language education took part in developing and reviewing textbooks and other teaching aids. It is surprising that such a large number of professionals devoted to Korean education are joining forces to create a standardized Korean textbook. I look forward to seeing top-caliber teaching materials for Korean soon.

Second, the group of experts inserted interesting digital content, QR codes and illustrations reflecting the age of learners as they are mostly young students in foreign countries. Beside the main textbook, we also developed auxiliary materials on Korean culture, not to mention so-called “K-Wave textbook” in which BTS appears. The addition of K-pop to the Korean textbooks will surely stimulate foreign students to study Korean harder than before.

Third, we changed our principles in writing textbooks. Instead of focusing on vocabulary, grammar, speaking, listening & comprehension, reading & writing, we took a practical approach by shifting the focus to reception, calculation, interaction and mediation — a subdomain of language activities as defined in the IKEF.

I hope the new Korean teaching materials for primary, middle and high school students overseas will serve as a solid foundation for them to learn Korean, maintain their interest in the language and continue to learn it afterwards. The new book will also help other countries to adopt Korean as their second foreign language if there is demand for Korean language in these countries. I look forward to seeing more foreign students come to Korea for college education after learning the language from schools in their own country.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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