TaLKing in English, Talking about English, and Learning Korean

Sometimes we confuse talking about English with talking in English. As English teachers, we need to gently encourage our students to talk as much as possible in English, and only sometimes in English. And as world citizens, we should learn as much about the country and host language as possible when we are teaching English abroad.

A new English teaching program, sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in Korea seems to understand that goal. Or at least that seems a reasonable inference about TaLK (Teach and Learn about Korea) from the persuasive recruitment website for 400 quality English teachers.  A few features struck me as particularly promising:

· Preference for individuals of Korean descent showing the government’s investment in the quality of the program

· Pitch for undergraduates and novice teachers to develop their skills

· Small class size and universal internet access

· Status as presidential scholars

· 15-hour work weeks

· planned visits to museums and cultural attractions

· pitch for TaLK program includes “be a local celebrity”

· opportunity to deepen the ties between Korean and American educators

The large recent demonstration by thousands of Korean citizens against the importation of untested beef has been widely misunderstood in the United States. Almost everyone, including American citizens, wants stricter regulation of food to guarantee food safety, but too many media reports pretend this mass demonstration showed widespread anti-American sentiment in South Korea.  I thought this innovative educational program was a poignant retort to that silly exaggeration. I’m confident that most citizens, in both South Korea and the United States, understand that you can’t blame individual people for unpopular government decisions.

The 400 young teachers selected for this program will have many opportunities to share experiences, teach English to eager students, and learn some Korean. They will also help sustain a strong friendship between people from two dynamic civilizations.

Visit TaLK on Korean Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology website for more information.

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