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Category: Engrish

Cross Cultural Influences – Mental Distress Or An Instance of Growth?

cardinal_ROne Japanese gentleman – Hoji Takahashi has sued NHK in Japan for 1.4 million yen, citing “mental distress” caused by an excessive use of words borrowed from English.  Mr. Takahashi is a member of a group that supports the primacy of the Japanese language, in Japan.

As found in Korean, Japanese does have loan words from English.  Loan words can take different forms in South Korea, for instance, if you walk into a franchise coffee shop, you will find signs for cinnamon that instead of reading “계피 가루” (a perfectly acceptable Korean term) will read “신아먄 퍼아드” which is simply “cinnamon powder” phonetically rendered into Hangul. There are many words from English that can be found in just the same manner: 헤어 스타일 (hair style),피트니스센터 (fitness Center), etc. and so on.

Some of these words are technically a sublanguage (Konglish), existing neither in Korean or English, for example: Officetel 오피스텔 (Office + Hotel).  Even in other countries such as Germany, whose own language has influenced English with its own loan words (haus), how has experienced a reverse influence, for example sogh-ee (sorry).  Instead of using the comparable word in German, Entschuldigung.  Per one article from National Public Radio,

‘sorry’ is quite a useful way of apologizing because it doesn’t commit you to very much. It’s very easy to say ‘sorry.’ The closest equivalent would be Entschuldigung, which is, ‘I apologize, . . . That’s really like admitting that you’ve done something wrong, whereas with saying ‘sorry,’ you could also just be expressing empathy: ‘I’m so sorry for you, but it has nothing to do with me.’
“Sorry” is one of more than 10,000 American words Germans have borrowed since 1990. Language experts here say English is the main foreign language that has influenced German over the past six decades. This cultural infusion is pervasive, with English used by journalists, by scientists and even at the highest levels of government.
“Germany doesn’t really have a very purist attitude to language — unlike France, where you have an academy whose task it is to find French alternatives for borrowings; or if there is a new technology that needs to be named, then the academy will find a name. . . (cite)

Other countries like France do have an official body to police their language (L’academie Francais), founded in 1635.  “Le walkman” used to be common in France but the academy decided a proper French word was needed, thus Le Baladeur was born and use of “Le walkman” in a news advert could gain a business a fine from the academy.

According to Holger Klatte, this use of loan words and influence from English is a problem:

“Languages do tend to affect one another, but the influence of English in Germany is so strong that Germans are having a hard time advancing their own vocabulary, . . . The second world war and Nazi times have led Germans to downplay the importance of their language, unlike the French, Finns and Poles — they promote their languages a lot more than we do.” (cite)

I also note that there is a divergence between the Korean used by the ROK and DPRK.  The DPRK, in its political quest for racial purity, excludes the use of Chinese or English loan words and, as such, contains up to forty percent different vocabulary that is unique to the north, as opposed to its cousin in the south.

Loan words – aberration or growth?  It is difficult to tell.

Koreans prefer fellow Koreans as English teachers

According to the Korea Times (October 10, 2012):

Academic research has established that Koreans have a clear preference for Korean teachers and professors, followed by a slightly lower preference for Caucasian teaching staff.

Negative preference values, however, were found for Chinese and Indian teachers. Our study extends testing the “country of origin” effect previously found for products such as cars or cosmetics to the services sector.

According to the article:

While generally Korean teachers demand more respect and enforce stricter discipline, Korean students and their parents in fact prefer Korean teachers. Local teachers working attitude and manners reflect the Korean culture, whereas in English conversation classes led by foreigners the teaching style may deviate from the traditional Korean approach.

Our study found significant preferences by Koreans for their own teaching staff (teachers and professors), followed by a slightly lower preference for Caucasians. The study measured these preferences on a scale from one to seven, where values above four indicated a preference, four itself indicated no preference either way, while values below four indicated dislike.

Values for Chinese and Indian teaching staff were found to be slightly negative, indicating that when Koreans do have a choice, they prefer a Korean or Caucasian teacher. The chart below visualizes the Koreans ethnicity preferences for educational services.

Now I realize I do not know much about this subject but I did think this one paragraph was kind of important:

We have identified and measured three explanatory factors visualized in the figure below:  country image, perception of service quality, and trust. The Koreans in this study, sampled in Australia, view their home country in a positive light, and generally also view Caucasians (represented by Australians in this study) positively. Values for Chinese and Indians revolve around the neutral zero mark.

Wonder what the results would have been if the study had actually been done in Korea?

I wonder if these Americans prefer to learn Korean from fellow Americans?

With a name like “Hackers Education Group” – what did you expect?

Hackers Education Group – a cram school franchise – has been very successful over the past couple of years – in fact, it is believed that it “raked in 100 billion won ($89.1 million) in revenue in 2010 alone, and 36 billion won in net profit.” But this powerful company is in trouble for alleged copyright infringement. 

Never heard of Hackers Education Group?  Here’s its home page (English) and here is the Korean home page.  According to this ad (name removed):

Hackers Language Research Institute (HLRI) is a reputable and successful English language research institute that specializes in publishing preparatory books for standardized tests such as TOEFL, TOEIC, TEPS and IELTS. Located in the heart of Gangnam-gu, near Gangnam Station, it also boasts one of the most popular language academies for university-aged students. The founder, Dr. XXXX XXXX, is one of South Korea’s top professors of linguistics. He put all of his knowledge into the development of a system of English language learning for Korean students. The team at HLRI works diligently to maintain his standards and push forward the company’s goal of providing the highest quality of up-to-date research to the Korean population.

 What kind of “up-to-date research” you ask?  Korea Herald (February 7, 2012) has the answer:

According to the investigators,  Cho ordered 50 of his staff workers to apply for and take the two most popular English proficiency tests here from 2007 to early this year. The two tests are Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC), administered by the U.S.-based Educational Testing Service (ETS), and Test of English Proficiency (TEPS) developed by Seoul National University.

The employees, assigned to cover different sections of the tests, were given tiny video and audio recorders to capture and record the questions on TOEIC 49 times and on TEPS 57 times. Questions of the recently adopted National English Ability Test were also copied in the same way using specially designed recorders, the prosecutors said.

The stolen questions were forwarded to the company, which were solved by native English speakers there, and then uploaded on Hackers subsidiaries’ website to share with students.

It probably doesn’t need to be said….but

Media reports said Hackers had earned a reputation for accurately predicting test questions.

Guess you would if you already had them.

In order to evade being caught for copyright violation, the questions were deleted the following day. Instead, similar questions were released in its textbooks. Hackers instructors at classes used the actual questions.

 Of course this has led to some questioning of Korean students’ true English ability.  According to AFP (February 7, 2012) :

Such a practice has prompted the ETS to raise questions over South Korean students’ genuine English-speaking ability… and sparked a negative international image of South Korea,” the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said in the statement.

Shocking! And, ever so contritely, Hackers Education Group explained that:

…documenting the test questions was only part of legitimate research.

The group’s founder has more than just copyright laws to worry about.  (JoongAng Daily, February 7, 2012)

“The group’s shares are owned 100 percent by Cho, who since 2001 has worked as a linguistics professor in a national university but has managed the group secretly,” prosecutors said, “further infringing on the ban on civil officials holding more than one office.”

The Asia Foundation’s English Teacher Program in Korea in the 1950s

Ever wonder what it was like to teach English in Korea in the 1950s?  Frederic Dustin, an American residing in Korea for almost six decades, recalls what it was like teaching at Yonhi University (now part of Yonsei University):

“The school had returned from Busan a year or so before and there was so much damage. That first fall of ’55 was difficult. Many of the classrooms still had no windows and some were missing doors so it was terribly drafty.”

In addition to the lack of heat, there was also a dearth of education material.

“A suitable textbook was simply not available at that time. The Robert Lado series developed at the University of Michigan was mainly for Spanish speakers and certainly not for 30 or more students in a class!”

So, borrowing from the early missionaries, Dustin used a story-telling system and, instead of the Bible, utilized “a little book of Aesop’s Fables” as his text book. Pantomiming the actions of the main characters of the stories, 25-year-old Dustin was able to convey to his not-much-younger students the gist of the story. It was entertaining as well as very successful.

I am not sure if it happens now as much as it did in the past but I am sure many of us old-timers have experienced something similar:

“It was almost impossible to sit down for a cup of coffee or a meal, especially when alone, without having an elderly Korean gentleman suddenly materialize seemingly from out of nowhere saying ‘May I introduce myself? I’m Mr. XX, the Minister of so-and-so government office.’ Many of the elderly, if not educated abroad, had learned their English from U.S. or Commonwealth missionaries in Bible classes in Korea.”

You can read the rest of the story here (complete with pictures) – at the Korea Times.

I also wish to make a few corrections to some errors that I made.  First, the pictures are from Fred Dustin who generously granted me their use for this article.  Second, the first picture’s date should be 1959.  And third, Mr. Dustin attended University of Washington and not Washington State University.

The high cost of studying English in Korean academies in the Philippines

It is surprising at just how little attention this has received but, 110 Korean students (Joongang-Ilbo says 113) – most of them between the ages of  10 and 16 – have had their passports confiscated and are being detained by Philippine immigration officials for entering the country illegally to study English at a Korean-operated English academy.  It is truly a sordid affair and should prove to be fairly amusing to many of the English teachers in Korea.

According to the Korea Times (January 14, 2011):

The students, mostly of elementary school age and a handful from middle school, had paid 2 million won to 3 million won individually to a Philippine institute that was in charge of the English learning program, and started classes early this month.

However, they were reported to have violated the law when the BI discovered that the institute did not pay the 150,000 won for each student’ SSP to the local government.

This is in fact not the first time students or Koreans have been detained in the Philippines for not having the proper documents they needed to stay and study.

Despite warnings against such incidents, many parents and Korean institutes that arrange the language courses just proceed with the cheap and quick language courses.

“Even when they realize that the program is not that good and the students have to study with a bunch of other Korean students, they just turn a blind eye,’’ said a clerk from a language institute, declining to be named.

According to immigration law in the Philippines, foreigners cannot come and study without a student visa or an SSP.

The SSP is only given to those who are studying at a certified institute by the immigration office, and experts warn parents to confirm this requirement before signing up for a language program in the Philippines.

As a note – the word “detain” in regards to the students doesn’t mean they are being held in jail but are being prevented from leaving the country.  They are still staying at their dorms and are able to do some touristy-type of activities.  The adults are/were being detained at Camp Bagong Diwa.


But just how willing are these parents to investigate the legal status of these academies?  The Joongang Ilbo editorial (January 17, 2011) characterizes the students’ plight as having been “victimized by greedy companies willing to break the law in order to save money.” 

Even today, most companies that help parents send their children to study in the Philippines still publicize on their Web sites that they can get students enrolled in courses without the necessary visas, citing their “experience” in such affairs.

They advertise that students can stay up to a year as long as they have their passports and a round-trip airline ticket.

You would think the offer of getting around the visa requirement would raise red flags in the minds of parents but obviously not.  As many of these articles have noted – studying English in North America and, for that matter, in Korea, is just too expensive.  It is probably a little ironic that Korean parents worry about crime in the United States but have little qualms of committing a crime – per se – in the Philippines.  How much of a crime?

Continue reading

What the QOOK?

From the Joongang Daily:

KT’s services for households including Internet, IPTV and home phones will now be under the QOOK brand…The company said QOOK stands for subscribers “cooking up and selecting quality services in any way they choose” 

Er… um… Am I missing something in Korean, or are you just as dumbfounded?

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.

Korean English Teacher Extradited to the States for Murder

Apparently being rich and living in the United States isn’t easy:  According to this newspaper account in Metro:

“David Heyon Nam, an American-born child of wealthy South Korean immigrants, had flunked out of several juvenile court programs by the time he turned 19, prosecutors said. He and three juveniles were looking for an easy target to rob one hot summer night in 1996 when they spotted 75-year-old Anthony Schroeder watching TV with the door open in his North Philadelphia home, authorities said.”  When Schroeder went to the door with a handgun, David Nam shot him with a shotgun (other accounts say a rifle) through the screen door.

David was duly arrested and arraigned but his father,  Gi Nam, a vice president of a suburban Philadelphia textile company, posted $100,000 cash toward his son’s $1 million bail, and young David was released with an electronic-monitoring bracelet.  In 1998, David severed the bracelet and then he and his parents fled back to Korea where David used several aliases and moved frequently to avoid being apprehended.

“In 1999, David Nam surrendered to South Korean authorities after he was featured on a TV show there about fugitives. He was released because the U.S. had no formal extradition treaty with South Korea at the time and, by the time that changed, he had gone back into hiding.”

According to the Associated Press and others, David was teaching English in Gyeonggi province under several aliases, but he could not avoid the long-arm of the law.

David was captured near Seoul by the FBI in March this year.  “He denied being the fugitive they sought, but the tattoos ‘Nam’ and ‘Solid’ – his street name as a Philadelphia teen – and fingerprints on a beer bottle the FBI found in his trash proved otherwise, authorities said.”

When it was pointed out that David is now married and the father of several children, prosecutor Lynne Abraham expressed little sympathy.  “That’s on him,” she said.  They (David and his accomplices) were there to rob him (Anthony Schroeder) and take whatever they could.”  “Before he said word one, he (David) shot him (Schroeder) through the screen … leaving Mr. Schroeder to die on the floor,” Abraham also vowed to prosecute David’s father, if he ever returns to the United States, for aiding and abetting a fugitive.  But there are some members in David’s family who are innocent.  Abraham noted that David’s wife was probably unaware of his past. 

Fortunately for David Nam, as part of the extradition agreement, the prosecutor will not seek the death penalty, but if convicted of the first-degree murder, he will be sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Son of “Hello Mr. Monkey” Will Attract the World Deeply

Just when you thought ESL could not get more funny, Mike Meyer (NY Times) has a funny tale of learning English in Beijing and how it is part of a drive for English literacy for the Olympics.

Korea Law Blog’s Recommendation on Where to Go for English-Teacher Employment-Law Help

As any regular reader of the Marmot’s Hole knows, Brendon Carr doesn’t want to field inquiries from English teachers. But that’s not because he hates English teachers: It’s because they’re calling the wrong place for help. Today Korea Law Blog recommends a good quasi-lawyer professional whom English teachers should be calling for help. If this is your need, check it out.

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