So I just finished my second week of Korean language school at a Korean university. I’ve got praise, I’ve got complaints, I’ve got tips, and I’ve got syphilis. Let’s talk about the first three!
First, a general summary of what’s up:
- Cost over $2,000 USD, not including room/board
- Consists of two classes: Korean, and Korean Writing
- Monday and Wednesday we meet for 6 hours. Tuesday and Thursday for 3 hours. Friday for 2 hours.
- Total weekly classroom hours: 20
- The teachers only speak Korean
- ~20-30 minutes of homework per day
- I’m the only American in the program, surrounded by over 500 Chinese students. My Korean friends now jokingly refer to it as Beijing University.
Going in to the program, I expected this to be a short list, but it’s actually not so bad. Praise point #1: the class is taught in Korean. I don’t know how the student-noobs feel about this, but for me it’s kickass, because each week I get 20 hours of easily comprehensible input from a live, responsive human being. Even outside the classroom the teachers speak to me in Korean only, and actually bump up the level a bit (since they recognize I already know what’s up), which is hella kewl.
Praise point #2: It’s actually a lot more fun to spend time with a human being than TV. Sometimes. Depending on what you’re watching. Granted, I probably learn more from the TV, but I get to reinforce what I already know with the teachers, since they use comprehensible input. School in the morning (easy Korean) + TV for the rest of the day (real Korean) = a pretty good combo.
Bonus point: There is extremely little English spoken amongst the students, so I’m not being pumped for free lessons.
Compaint #1: My personal hierarchy of language acquisition goes LISTENING -> READING -> SPEAKING -> WRITING. School goes like this: LISTENING-WRITING-SPEAKING. Yep, so far there has been no reading. The only metric by which we are measured is spelling. Like, writing words/sentences by hand. On paper. With a pen. We spend way too much time doing this. Literally our entire grade so far is based on spelling, perhaps the least important language skill (not that’s it’s unimportant, but it does sit at the bottom of the hierarchy for me).
Complaint #2: Ain’t nothing fun after six hours… except that one thing.
Complaint #3: The homework is utterly useless. It is, no joke, copying two or three sentences by hand like ten times each. Going from an SRS to this kind of thing feels like throwing away my cell phone and trying to communicate via smoke signals. Effing primitive.
Complaint #4: $2,000 would have bought a lot of comics, books, games, and DVDs… but on the flipside, since I’m living in Korea I have access to all sorts of stuff I wouldn’t have at home, like Korean libraries, movie theaters, etc.
Bonus complaint: I got assigned a ‘helper student’ to ‘help me adapt’ to Korea. Not sure what the hell that’s supposed to mean, but basically I’ve got an officially sanctioned English-leech who I have to meet for several hours each week.
DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT live in the dorms. My Spidey-sense tingled when they asked if I wanted to stay in the dorms, and luckily I listened to my gut, declined the offer, and got an apartment near my Korean friends. I’ve gone and checked it out, and confirmed my worst suspicions; you see, the university likes to put all of the international students together so they can create an international ghetto in which not one single word of Korean can manage to slip in because you’re too nice to tell your roommate to shutup because you’re trying to watch Korean TV. Thus the only Korean these students get is from the classroom, which is absolutely nowhere near enough, so they’ll hav to keep coming back for more. Abandon all hope, ye who enter international student dorms. Also, you can’t bring girls to your room (what are you, 15 years old?), it costs a bunch of money, you have to eat cafeteria food (or pay for it anyway), and they lock the doors at midnight, so I hope you like sleeping on park benches if you stay out late every now and then. Eff the dorms.
On a related note, don’t befriend the other foreigners. Yeah, they’re nice, and you can smile and talk a bit in the classroom, but outside of class, put an M-Effin iron shield up. L2 friends or GTFO.
What do you think, overall?
I’m having a great time. It’s great because, thanks to immersion and SRS, I’m dominating the other students, and getting 20+ hours of immersion with a live human being who speaks at a level I’m already above.
Is it more effective than home immersion + SRS?
No. The methods they try to use for acquisition are primitive at best. Ironically, what makes it OK is not the shitty methods, but the fact that they’re being done in Korean. The teacher could literally be reading us stories, talking while painting, doing puppet shows, or whatever, as long as it’s in Korean. So yeah, no, yeah, SRS + immersion gets faster results.
Do I recommend it?
Do I recommend school by itself? Hell no, you’d be there forever, like the ‘intermediate students’ here who take ten minutes to string together a boring-ass, bizarrely-formal-given-the-context sentence. But as a supplement to your home environment, it’s pretty fun. It’s not like I’m SRSing 12 hours a day, I’ve got a bunch of free time, and trading in some of my TV time for class time is an OK tradeoff. So, uh, whatever. It’s pretty OK. Tell you what though, there are definitely a few perks to going back to college in your late 20s. Just ask this guy: