I’ve just finished my first week at Sogang University’s Korean level 5 program, and I thought I’d share my experiences with you. To summarize my first week in one word: WOW! Seriously, just wow! I’m amazed at how intense and effective the classes are. I heard so many good things about the Sogang language school long before coming here, but the reality is just so much better than expected. The teachers are super dedicated, extremely helpful, and excellent at explaining things. My class mates are also really nice. I’m the only European in our group. Aside from me, there are a handful of girls from Japan, a few from Hong Kong, a couple of girls from Taiwan, one from Indonesia, and finally three Korean Americans. Since Korean is the only common language for most of us, it’s the only language spoken during breaks. The teachers obviously also only teach in Korean. That’s four intense hours of Korean every. single. day. Yes!
It feels great to be back in school, and I literally mean back in school. Not high school, not university, but school. We’re a small class of only 14 students, and the activities remind me so much of what we used to do in elementary and middle school. We have dictation, fill in the blanks, show and tell, watch and learn, and work in pairs. No computers or smart phones are allowed during class, and it actually feels liberating to just sit there and learn. I already feel that my ability to concentrate and my attention span, which at times can be at the level of that of a goldfish, has improved significantly.
Every school day consists of four lessons. The first one (9:00-9:50) is writing class with Mr. Park. He introduces relevant grammar on the board, and then we have to make exercises in class. Each time we’re given a written assignment that we must hand in the next day for feedback. He’s excellent at correcting mistakes and he’s super encouraging and good at explaining.
Then, from 10:00-12:00 we have speaking and reading class with Ms. Jeong. She’s just the nicest, most energetic teacher I ever had. Always smiling, and excellent at explaining abstract concepts through vivid body language and facial expressions. She’s already learned all our names (since it’s a Korean class, I’m Sohee) and she’s very gentle when she corrects our grammatical errors or mispronunciation. I really like these classes as we get to practice speaking a lot. This week we learned how to give a professional presentation in Korean (I actually used this when I gave my talk at the Korean Labor Institute on Wednesday). She has us memorize a lot, but I really like it because you need to memorize some things in order to be creative with them. This week I’ve learned to stand up straight in front of a group and use this speaking pattern:
여러분 안녕하십니까? 지금부터 제 발표를 시작하겠습니다. 제 발표의 주제는 …입니다. …로 1,2,3를 들 수 있습니다. 먼저, 1는 …(으)로서 …곳으로 유명합니다. 다음으로 2 는…그리고 마지말으로 3는 … 입니다. …ㄹ/을 뿐만 아니라 …도 있습니다. 게다가…할 수도 있습니다. 이것으로 발표를 마치겠습니다. 들어 주셔서 감사합니다.
For those of you who can read Korean, you can see that we have learned how to introduce topics and how to elaborate on the special characteristics of a topic following a certain order. Not easy at first, but I have it down now. Doing it in front of your class mates 4-5 times over ought to give you some degree of speaking confidence.
Finally from 12:10-1:00 we have a video class with Ms. Cho. This class helps us improve our listening skills. We usually start by watching a video clip in Korean for about 10 minutes. Then we learn new vocabulary, do exercises like dictation (받아쓰기), write sentences and dialogues with the words, and sometimes we do shadowing. Shadowing is the most fun, because here we are supposed to say the lines of the actors out loud as we are watching the clip. It’s important that we use the same speed and intonation, so naturally it’s a bit difficult. But wow, it’s effective. Since I’m guilty of doing this when I watch Korean tv alone, this type of excercise comes to me quite naturally, haha.
It’s only been 5 days, and I’ve even been absent quite a bit due to my own teaching schedule and a trip to Sejong City, but I’ve learned so much already. The grammar is not new to me but reviewing it is extremely helpful. And I love how we’re learning naturally spoken Korean. Even though I already knew the slang expression “이게 직빵이야” (“this is the best way”) I love that this is the kind of natural daily spoken Korean that we’re learning. I’ll spend the weekend digging into my huge pile of homework and sharpening my pencils so I’m ready for Monday! Happy weekend everyone!!