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Taking the English “Hub” Out of Korea

As the Korean economy continues to worsen and the won’s value decreases, the number of foreign English teachers in the country is bound to drop too.  Where will all these teachers go?  They might just go home.  

Kent Holiday taught English in Korea for a short time, then went to work for Korea Telecom where he eventually became a top executive (with a six-figure income) and, unbelievably, quit to go back to his original profession — teaching English, but with a twist.  He is the CEO of Eluetian, a company based in Wyoming that teaches “English to Koreans of all ages using Skype, the free online calling and person-to-person video service.” With nearly 15,000 Korean students and 300 teachers it ”is one of Wyoming’s fastest-growing businesses” and is expected to expand.

“Our plan was never to be a company that had a few thousand subscribers,” Holiday said. “It’s a $100 billion market just between Korea, Japan and China, and so we wanted to be the leader and we wanted to have millions of users.”

Considering private tutors charge 40-60,000 won an hour and Eluetian charges only $150 a semester, with bona fide teachers doing the tutoring, this may be the answer to a lot of Korean parents’ and their children’s English needs.

You can read the rest of the article here.

  • Jewook

    To me this is depressing news. Because Korea’s English Education is so messed up I think we will lose a lot of our business to Eluetian. In fact I am so misgiving about Korea’s English Education, I am actually gonna introduce Eluetian to my cousin, who is in dire need because he has recently been hired by a foreign based company.

  • Above Criticism

    Holiday Kent???

  • robert neff

    LOL – note to self… Don’t write while suffering from a horrible cold.

    The correct name is Kent Holiday. Apologies to Mr. Holiday.

  • bizzle

    There is still no substitute for face-to-face lessons. I’ve met Koreans who are fluent in reading, writing and speaking, but freeze up when meeting a new westerner.

    You can watch CSI all day, but the first time you see a real dead body you know nothing really prepared you.

  • Sonagi

    Considering private tutors charge 40-60,000 won an hour and Eluetian charges only $150 a semester, with bonafide teachers doing the tutoring, this may be the answer to a lot of Korean parents’ and their children’s English needs.

    I located Eleutian’s website, and those figures are incorrect. One-on-one sessions last 15 minutes, and courses are one month long. One weekly 15-minute chat costs $59.99. Thrice a week for one month is discounted at $129.00.

    I checked out the bios of the featured teachers. All but one hold either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education. However, one is a former PE teacher who taught for only one year before doing other work, and only some of the others have ever actually worked as licensed teachers in a K-12 classroom. The one who didn’t graduate with a four-year degree is strikingly photogenic. In short, the staff aren’t much more qualified than your average foreign English teacher in Korea, and they’re 4x more expensive. I don’t think Kent Holiday’s little venture is going to wipe out private tutoring in Korea.

  • Sonagi

    correction: One weekly 15-minute chat for four weeks (one hour total) costs $59.99, or about the same as face-to-face private tutoring.

    That $150 a semester figure just sounded way too good to be true for an online class, nevermind private sessions.

  • robert neff

    Sonagi,

    I went back and looked at the site you linked to – I fully agree with you. Some of the teachers had their degrees listed while others merely had mother of ….. and so on.

    Actually this form of teaching is already in Korea. I know one company that does teach in this manner – won’t mention the company’s name – and they seem to be fairly popular. I have also noticed some ads in the newspaper classifieds in which people offer to teach over the internet using Skype. I tend to agree with #4 – I think I would prefer to learn face-to-face rather than through an internet connection, but it seems that education is slowly moving in that direction. The military has on-line courses taught through Maryland and I am sure others do as well.

  • http://vegametals.com KrZ

    I wonder how he managed to get a job at KT. I assume he speaks fluent Korean. Is he in fact Korean American?

  • Sonagi

    Meet the CEO himself. The Language Nazi shall refrain from commenting on the CEO’s greeting lest Mr. Holiday or his webmaster notice the incoming traffic and have a look at this thread.

  • http://www.jdlink.co.kr Linkd

    Ha!

  • R. Elgin

    This is just a different version of phone English. Robert, why do you think this is significant? This has been going on for some time, without Skype and the quality of the connection, with Skype, is variable.

  • Richardx

    Do we know if, in fact, the number of ESL teachers has dropped?

  • http://www.korealawblog.com Brendon Carr (Korea Law Blog)

    I’ve met Kent Holiday once through business, something like eight years ago. I think he must be from Alaska or something, because one of his earlier failed ventures was also named some variant of “Aleutian”.

  • Jewook

    Sonagi

    Thanks for taking a closer look at Eluetian. I thought Eluetian could be a option for my cousin because he’s a little tight on cash. Now I see there is nothing really special about them, and the article is just a long wordy commercial.

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    What the hell do people expect to learn in one hour per month? Even going to the more expensive option, it’s only 45 minutes a week. Unless you’re going to do this for years and years, what exactly can you learn well enough to retain? My students have difficult time enough with 12 hours a week (6 NET, 6 KET).

  • cm

    And they say Koreans don’t buy any American products.
    Just add up all the English teaching related products that Koreans purchase and I wouldn’t be surprised, that alone wipes out the entire year’s worth of Korean trade surplus with the US and tilt the trade advantage to the US.

  • gbevers

    Koreans do not need humans to learn English. A robot could teach English. Students need only something to spark conversation and guide them. That something could be typed audio and visual instructions. The students, themselves, will do the rest.

    My idea is an automated English capsule based on a game show format. Ten students enter the capsule with the goal of competing for discounts and opportunities to advance to the next level. They exit one hour later. Those that past a short quiz, given just before exiting the capsule, are qualified to advance to the next level. If they fail the quiz, they have to repeat the level. After completely the 500th level, you become English Capsule graduates.

  • gbevers

    Correction: taped audio and visual instructions….

  • keith

    The CEO’s English sounds like he’s picked up a lot of weird Konglishisms in his teaching here. It’s very poorly worded indeed.

    This is just an advertorial, KT publishes quite a lot of ‘pieces’ like this. I wonder how much he had to pay them? Anyway there are many companies doing the phone tutoring business in Korea, my wife has done it in the past as a PT job. The article is old news really.

  • iwshim

    Teaching back in the US aint the same. You miss out on the lifestyle Korea has to offer.

  • MrMao

    “I’ve met Koreans who are fluent in reading, writing and speaking, but freeze up when meeting a new westerner.”

    Hokum. More of the “Asian Grammar Expert” myth. Being fluent means being capable.

  • MrMao

    “Teaching back in the US aint the same. You miss out on the lifestyle Korea has to offer.”

    Dodging puddles of spit on the sidewalk?

  • http://www.jdlink.co.kr Linkd

    No, like the freedom to drive your motorcycle down the sidewalk.

  • slim

    “Teaching back in the US aint the same. You miss out on the lifestyle Korea has to offer.”

    Just like Korea, Wyoming has no gays.

  • http://vegametals.com KrZ

    One-on-one face-to-face tutoring is a lot better than any other form of teaching. I’ve never learned so much so quickly as when I hired a Korean tutor who had majored in Korean. There’s just something innately engaging about being in a closed room with no distractions. Two years of that, at $400 a month, will have you speaking near perfectly. Anyone who doesn’t understand the benefit of it has probably never tried to learn a foreign language.

  • redneck hickboy

    #15:

    Since when do Korean students arrange language course schedules that make any sense?

  • gbevers

    KrZ (#25),

    The problem will one-on-one tutoring is that it is too intense for both the student and the tutor, and you do not get the benefits of other people’s questions and mistakes. I think students need time to consider and absorb what their tutor says, and you get that time when the tutor takes his or her attention off you and puts it on one of the other students in the group.

    I think the best tutoring arrangement would be one tutor and three of four motivated students. It takes pressure off the students and the tutor and also introduces a bit of competition and a means to measure your progress against others. I think it also makes learning more fun because it creates a social group. And in a normal society, it also reduce your tutoring costs.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    The Koreans I know who’ve tried phone- or cyber-teaching usually did it for a little while and then the novelty wore off, it became their lowest priority, and they gave up. I can’t see this being a long-term source of competition.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Sonagi,

    With the current exchange rate, 59.99$/hour is probably a lot more than what people generally pay for private lessons.