Friday, June 12, 2009

Why do Korean kids learn English before Hanja?

I read (maybe heard) that nowadaysCan you believe this?

"Hannas 1997: 71. "A balance was struck in August 1976, when the Ministry of Education agreed to keep Chinese characters out of the elementary schools and teach the 1,800 characters in special courses, not as part of Korean language or any other substantitive curricula. This is where things stand at present."Since 1976, it is common practice for Hanja not to be taught until middle school.

Yes, Korean doesn't have as many homonyms as Japanese, so the absolute need isn't there to struggle through the absolute mess that Japan has to (3 written languages, five vowels?) ... but still, a country (South Korea) that rarely used Hangul until the Japanese colonized the country or a country during ancient times that would traditionally be known to pompously send Chinese manuscripts to Japan in arcane Chinese characters so that the Japanese would have a tough time understanding it would one day come to ignore the importance of Hanja is ridiculous.

For anybody that's ever read the book, American Tragedy, this seems to be just like it. In a rush for Koreans to get rich as soon as possible all sense of traditional values (or any values for that matter) are ignored...

such as the plight of half of a country or a written language that's been used for all of recorded Korean history...

Well, all that's unimportant when your children can speak English as they have a better chance at leading more "successful" lives...


  1. ....Excuse me for having asked you if you
    live in Korea. I see that you did live here
    after reading your profile. You came here
    when you were twenty? that means... know what that means....!

    Either way---I am also an English teacher here.
    I have taught in every area of ESL you can
    imagine. (Still am, in fact). I did read
    on your blog that you are only "semi-serious"..
    and I do find it entertaining to read your
    posts when they seem so obviously..
    well...I wonder..are you trying to get people
    going? So they'll comment on your posts? you really believe what you post?

    I don't consider myself "fluent" in Korean..
    but..I'm pretty good. I can read and write
    very well, and can articulate quite well.

    As per this post(children not learning Hanja
    till middle school)--false~~ :)
    As well: Koreans don't speak Chinese--
    however they do use HanJa in daily life--
    you can see HanJa everywhere here--on
    bottles, in books, restaurants,
    the newspaper, etc...the list goes on.

    As per learning English before HanJa:
    it's well known that children aquire language
    much more easily than adults. Korea is a
    business oriented country that understands
    the importance of foreign languages. HanJa
    is a writing system commonly used in
    the daily lives of Koreans. Children do
    in fact learn HanJa. Some in Kindy, some starting
    in Elementary school. Korean children are
    not permitted to study English in Elementary
    school until the fourth grade. Any study
    in English before that is all private.
    Korea is an extremely small country, with
    a large population. That's why it's
    so competitive.

  2. Hi Joseph...
    I have tried to post on your site a few times..
    (I'm interested in the way you think/what
    you write...and would love to converse with you
    more about these topics), however..
    my posts don't seem to be going through,
    and I cannot access your email info.
    Could you post it here for me?
    Thanks! :)

  3. You seem to think you are like me. We are not; I never taught ESL.

    I taught SAT Verbal, SAT II Writing, SAT Math, SAT II Math to high school and middle school students that later went to very prestigious schools (one former student, I noticed on facebook, just got into Harvard) or basically other people around my age.

    I had conversational 1:1 English sessions with doctors, dentists, lots and lots of college students or people around my age, and a UC Berkeley post-doc in electrical engineering, etc etc....

    In fact, most of the time I worked in Korea, it was doing something that I already enjoyed doing, such as talking to people. Only thing I hated were the hours.

  4. I'm sorry for my attitude regarding your posts, but you your claims are very highly opinionated (and aggresive), yet clearly false.

    And, your claim that "As per this post(children not learning Hanja
    till middle school)--false~~ :)."

    You mention that you've been in Korea for 7 1/2 years now and you cite my primary schooling to have taken place outside of Korea, so that I could not possibly know this. But here:

    We have that since August 1976 that the Ministry of Education agreed to keep Chinese characters out of Middle School. You yourself mentioned that English can't be taught until the 4th grade.

    Source: fortunately, we have Wikipedia, "Hannas 1997: 71. "A balance was struck in August 1976, when the Ministry of Education agreed to keep Chinese characters out of the elementary schools and teach the 1,800 characters in special courses, not as part of Korean language or any other substantitive curricula. This is where things stand at present"

  5. Of course, certain private schools might opt out of this, but hey that's what private schools are for.

  6. haha...I have also worked at international
    schools, hospitals, done radio in Korea,
    writing, bla bla bla. I don't teach only
    "English", I also teach Subjects in English.
    I have taught all age groups--A wide variety
    of subjects---I also teach University interview prep./American Visa Interview prep, bla bla bla. So, while we may not be "the same"--
    we may be similar in that I also enjoy talking
    to people, but I truly enjoy teaching and
    helping people. Yes, some of my students
    have gone on to prestigious schools, but
    I can't take credit for that. I am only
    happy to have taught them.

  7. Well, if you truly do enjoy` teaching and helping people, then I would suggest having a more open and inquisitive attitude before you make such claims regarding my posts.

    I will back up all my posts with citations, if need be, and I will retract all my posts that I feel are not substantiated or are inaccurate. So, as things clearly now stand, Koreans learn Hanja after English in South Korea as stated by the ROK's Ministry of Education and we also have that Chinese Propaganda was clearly behind how certain Koreans (and Japanese as the t.v. show attests to) actually believed it (I believe that what I did right there was actually a huge service to Koreans on the Korean peninsula).

    So, that's why I'd clearly like to draw a distinction between what you and me. Anyways, ESL teachers have a bad name in Korea... =p

  8. I think you misuderstood what I said.
    I meant age-wise. Some start at the age
    of 4~5, some start in Elemetary school (6~7).
    Elementary schools do in fact have "HanJa"
    courses---they teach basic HanJa at school, bu to learn more, (and to be more advanced than other children), they've got a neat little way
    of doing it here. It's the 특히적성 program.
    Children pay a certain amt. to learn Chinese
    in their own school, AFTER school. (Starting
    at 1pm). OR: they go to a private institude as you mentioned. One particular kindy that I worked at did, in fact teach HanJa. Your claim was that students didn't learn HanJa at all until
    Middle school. Perhaps you meant in the
    Public School system? In any case, children (nowadays) do learn HanJa in elem school.

    PS: I don't intend for my posts to be "aggressive" or to hurt you in any
    way, however, I simply believed I could
    help you out--i.e. lend a helping hand.

  9. Again, False. "Your claim was that students didn't learn HanJa at all until
    Middle school."

    No my claim was "it is common practice for Hanja not to be taught until middle school." I didn't say anything that encompassing. Anyways, rather than trying to distort what I say, if you really do wish to provide a helping hand, then I'd suggest you show me some figures. Otherwise, I think your claim(s) stand unconvincing and as has been shown to be quite false time and again.

    In fact, there is nothing to say that your claims are based on anything other than (1) you are in Korea so you must be right (2) that I'm not from Korea so I must be wrong.

  10. ESL Teachers have a much harder time getting visas nowadays. There have been huge changes
    with immigration. For example: criminal background checks required of all teachers,
    and AIDS test, full physical, etc.

    This came into effect at the end of 2007.
    (I believe Dec. 2007).'s been much better.

  11. I dare you to produce me a Korean textbook, for elementary students, that has all the 1,800 characters that is part of the general curriculum on a widespread level.

  12. Joseph:
    I'm not here to "discredit" you.
    But...Wiki isn't always the best source.
    Although there is certainly a ton I don't
    know about, since I have been working in
    the public school system for quite some
    time, I was merely pointing out what
    I know to be accurate.

    I did not say that because I am
    in Korea I must be right, and
    did not mention that because you are not
    from Korea you must be wrong.

    You mentioned you are ethnically Korean,
    so there's obviously a side to your experience
    that I can't quite comprehend--but
    since things do tend to change as time goes
    on, it may be useful to 1)listen to what
    others have to say (Even if they are incorrect),
    and 2) resolve whatever needs to be resolved
    peacefully and in a mature manner.
    I asked you if you were serious about
    your posts. If you want evidence, I can
    provide evidence. As well, you certainly
    don't need to take my word for anything.

    However, I do believe that it's important to at least consider other opinions/views that are contrary to your own. In my opinion,
    within the last 7 years Korea has changed

    I'm not here to argue with you.

  13. Okay, FALSE again... haha, i'm sorry.

    you write, "ESL Teachers have a much harder time getting visas nowadays. There have been huge changes
    with immigration. For example: criminal background checks required of all teachers,
    and AIDS test, full physical, etc. This came into effect at the end of 2007.(I believe Dec. 2007)."

    Well, let me tell you something. The law wasn't even required in the first place had they chosen to enforce the laws already in place (hence those were laws that were passed to make a general Korean public feel that they'd get better ESL tutors...). What on Earth does a law passing have anything to do with a law being enforced?

    When I was in Korea, a law passed that required that even if I was a legal resident of Korea then I would be unable to teach at a hagwon or at an English Academy. More so, the law was passed so that unless I had the equivalent of a four-year U.S. degree (I'm not sure here, but I believe holders of 3 year European degrees became ineligible) to receive a work visa to work in Korea.

    Let me tell you my story. I was a high school dropout doing this. Let me repeat that. I was a high school drop out, not teaching at some hagwon in remote regions outside of Seoul, but I was teaching at places (and my story isn't all that unique) at places where students would drive up from Busan to attend or across the street from the World Trade Center in Korea. Places that cost more than half the average monthly wage in Korea to attend and the people that hired me knew very well that I didn't have a college diploma (not sure about the high school diploma drop out part; it's just so bizarre in Korea to not have a high school diploma that I don't think that was even considered, but I don't think it'd make much of a difference)

  14. You didn't have a teaching visa.
    I'm on an E-2 Visa. 4 Year University
    degree required. (Original diploma,
    sealed/stamped transcripts,
    criminal background check, Health
    Check). You were not teaching legally.
    To teach legally, these are the requirements.
    You eventually received a family visa.

    Teachers who get caught for teaching
    without a proper visa, get into
    serious trouble at times.

    I do not have Korean blood.
    That's why I'm on an E-2.

    As a final thought: Due to
    the shortage of qualified English teachers,
    some people will take what they can get.

    I know you didn't have a degree when you came.
    I mentioned that without actually saying that
    in an earlier post.

    I also live and teach in Seoul.
    PS: private lessons/1:1--lots of
    people do them. That is not unique.
    Most people learn English. The professional community esp.

  15. Let me tell why I responded to your anonymous posts even after I read this inflammatory comment,

    "제이마 said...
    so....are u saying that because this JAPANESE program is slagging off some Koreans..
    you've proven your argument to be true?

    What do you actually know about Korea?
    The Korean writing system? Haha..

    I don't mean to seem rude..but...
    what you have written is a bit ludicrous..
    I live in you?"

    The view you seem to hold as hinted by the view above is something that I feel many Koreans or people who stumble upon this blog might also hold. I felt it was serious enough to warrant a response.

    I believe Korea has changed a lot in the past seven years; the last time I visited was in the summer of 2006. I wish I could go back. And, no, I'm very open to new ideas, but you are nonetheless an anonymous poster, whose first comment was none other than to ridicule a claim I made...And, whose subsequent claims, I have refuted time and again...

    What's my point? I'm defending the integrity and asserting the credibility behind my posts. And, yes, as a curious and responsible individual I should be willing to listen to someone (and something which I'm doing, if i'm taking the time to disprove your claims), but I reserve the right not to respond to anonymous posters who start off with such ridiculous comments.

  16. If I were a member of this blogging community,
    I'd post with my name. I just posted...
    I don't have an ID. That's the reason why.

    I don't believe you have proven your
    point/refuted my claims at all.

    However, I choose not to argue.
    I'm not saying that you are "wrong",
    but I'm not trying to say you have no
    integrity, or that your posts are terrible.

    At least they spark some debate.
    It's always good to learn something new.
    Right? I didn't know that it was 1,800
    Characters of HanJa to be studied. I had
    never checked. There's no need to be
    defensive. This is just the internet.

  17. No, you can post by registering with blogger or through gmail or open id or facebook, or any thing. It holds you you more accountable for what you say.

    I am very accountable for all that I write here; this is the Internet.

  18. Hello. I read the part about how Korea used to send the Japanese documents in obscure Chinese characters to confuse them, but I can't really find anything about that. I would like to learn more. I'm not trying to refute you or anything, but I really am genuinely interested (I have a big interest in languages and linguistics.). Thanks in advance.