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More textbooks needed for foreigners learning Korean abroad

2011/08/03 | 269 views | Permalink | Source

Participants listen to a speech at the opening ceremony of the 10th International Conference on Education for Koreans Abroad, Tuesday, in Ulsan. From July 25 to 30, Korean language teachers from over 40 nations participated in the forum to discuss ways to boost the quality and professionalism of Korean language teachers abroad. / Yonhap

By Yun Suh-young

More textbooks customized to foreigners' needs are essential for the promotion of Korean language education abroad, educators say.

Foreign Korean language teachers talked about the difficulties of teaching Korean abroad at The 10th International Conference on Education for Koreans Abroad which took place in Ulsan from July 25 to 30. Coming from over 40 nations, 103 teachers participated in the six-day event.

The largest group of teachers came from China with 31 from Korean-Chinese schools with 10 from Japan, 8 from the U.S., 4 from Canada and others from countries such as Russia, Belarus, Norway, Romania and Bulgaria.

Under the theme "Korea's modern society and tradition, Korean education", the Educational Foundation for Koreans Abroad (KFKA) hosted the conference.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and the National Institute for International Education provided sponsorship for the forum, designed to boost the quality and professionalism of Korean language teachers abroad.

One of the biggest problems the participants at the conference pointed out was the lack of appropriate Korean language textbooks.

"Foreign teachers who participated in the conference talked about the difficulties of teaching Korean abroad because there were no adequate Korean language textbooks suited to adults", said Seo Dong-seok, executive director of the KFKA.

"They also complained of the lack of Korean language textbooks that were customized to the local culture".

Currently, the textbooks used by Korean language teachers overseas are ones that are targeted to children and teenagers and produced for overseas Korean students, not foreigners.

"Foreigners use the same textbook that overseas Koreans use for learning. This is a problem. Each country has a different culture so the language textbooks should also be customized, but there's no other alternative at the moment", said Seo.

The education ministry produces and distributes Korean language textbooks abroad but only the elementary, middle, and high schools receive the books. Universities are left off the list. Foreign teachers often buy the Korean language teaching materials from a local Korean school in the country because it is difficult to find textbooks with which they can teach their students.

"These foreign teachers hope that the Korean government will provide support for university level as well since many of the teachers who came are university lecturers. But the government, even if they want to help out, can't if they don't have the necessary budget. They can only spend as much as they can secure", said Seo.

At the moment, Korean language classes at university level are funded separately by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

"We don't fund university level. We don't have the wherewithal to pay for the labor costs of Korean lecturers in universities although we are aware of the fact that the demand for Korean classes has increased due to the Korean Wave. If we hire a German teacher for second foreign language classes, Germany doesn't pay for them, we do. The same thing applies to Korean teachers abroad. The universities pay their Korean lecturers individually, not us", an official from the education ministry said.

The education ministry recently published for the first time a Korean language textbook from level 1 to 6 targeting the English-speaking region. But textbooks customized to other areas and cultures and those specifically written for adults are still needed.

"There is a limit to providing textbooks abroad. It's not a matter of not having enough textbooks, but the lack of customized material that can suit the needs of the foreigners there", said the official.

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