2:36 pm - 12/03/2018

Half of foreign students at SNU don't understand Korean lectures



About half of foreign students studying at Seoul National University (SNU) have a poor understanding of major classes conducted in the Korean language, a poll released Monday showed.

According to the survey of 432 foreign students by the university's Diversity Council, 47.2 percent said they have little to no understanding of major classes conducted in Korean.

It found 24.3 percent of the respondents having no understanding, while 22.9 percent said they don't understand much. Only 17.8 percent said they can mostly understand the classes.

In a similar outcome, 43.8 percent of the respondents cited a lack of Korean language ability as the most important factor in experiencing academic difficulties.

Slightly over half (50.9 percent) complained of difficulties in participating in debate during major classes conducted in Korean, with 36.6 percent saying they are unable to take part in team projects.

Foreign students invited by the Korean government must go through a Korean language course for one year before entering SNU, but many say that the program is not sufficient for the foreigners to fulfill their academic goals.

Indeed, 34.6 percent of government-invited foreign students said the pre-entrance Korean language course was very insufficient, while 8.4 percent said it was not helpful at all.

In addition, the foreign students don't appear satisfied with SNU classes conducted in English.

Of 10,904 lectures offered by SNU last year, only 11 percent, or 1,237, were conducted in English, meaning that foreign students who are poor at Korean have difficulties in taking various lectures.

In the poll, 36.1 percent called for increasing the number of English lectures, while 22.9 percent raised questions at English capabilities of SNU professors in charge of English lectures.

"It is necessary to find practical ways to help foreign students improve their understanding of major classes conducted in Korean, if there are not many short-term remedies, such as replacing Korean lectures with English and other foreign language lectures," an official at the SNU Diversity Council said.

"In the long term, the number of English lectures should be steadily increased. More systemic support will also be needed to help foreign students improve understanding of Korean lectures, such as the introduction of English subtitles and tutoring between students."



source: Yonhap News
921227 3rd-Dec-2018 11:06 pm (UTC)
Why study in a foreign country where your grasp of the native language isnt high enough? Like, international students in the US might not always have the best spoken engliah but they can read and comprehend written well enough
yejun 3rd-Dec-2018 11:10 pm (UTC)
1 year of Korean language studies before taking general classes in Korean? Uhm.... I had to pass advanced Japanese classes (2,5 years of university studies + self studies for an equal amount of time) before I got to take regular classes in Jpn...
The failure rate for foreign students in classes conducted in Korean must be sky high? This sounds dumb on so many levels?
girlknees 4th-Dec-2018 01:13 am (UTC)
for personal experience, the foreign students either fail spectacularly (i had to fail students as a TA based on language ability and tried to argue with the professor about it - she basically made an argument about how the students can choose to retake the class and that way the school makes more money)
or they let us pass because they want to get rid of us (my case).
ah0000 3rd-Dec-2018 11:13 pm (UTC)

If you're going to offer entrance to foreign students then you have to invest in resources that allow them to learn, whether that's more Korean learning resources or a translator or something. One year of Korean sounds really insufficient.

Altho I'm not familiar, do American/Western universities offer anything at all? Like dunno even about 1 year of English. Is it free? Same applies to them

premonitioner 4th-Dec-2018 03:56 am (UTC)
I know a lot of British universities require international students to prove they have a decent level of English before they let them in, and many offer English language courses. It's absolutely not free lmfao, British universities make most of their money off international students because they are capped on what they can charge students with British citizenship.
sciencebottle 3rd-Dec-2018 11:25 pm (UTC)
This seems really strange to me, but then I remember that international students are what bring in the money with their insane tuition prices so I think that may be a reason as to why their language reqs are so lax. It's the same thing where I'm from- Vancouver universities are notoriously extravagant with their recruitment of international students, and so many of them have a not good grasp of english in any way (and pay up to 20% more than domestic students in tuition for certain subjects like business and engineering). I don't know about SK, but in BC (british columbia) as far as I know, it is international student's money that helps pay for our health care costs as well.

For my university, if you come from a primarily non-english speaking country, you must meet certain requirements from the TOEFL or IELTS, or come from an english-medium school system. If your grades weren't high enough in english, you have the option of taking certain remedial english courses, but that's not just an international student thing- its offered to every student regardless. I can't speak for other universities, but as far as I know there are no 'english help' programs.
jyusou 4th-Dec-2018 02:47 am (UTC)
and pay up to 20% more than domestic students in tuition for certain subjects like business and engineering

nope, i compared my tuition with a friend who's a local....we paid 4 times as much.
daynr 4th-Dec-2018 12:57 am (UTC)
who thought one year of language study would be enough for collegiate level classes for the vast majority of people? who thought that you should go to a non-english speaking country and be able to have collegiate classes taught in english at a national university?

everything about this sounds silly.
girlknees 4th-Dec-2018 01:10 am (UTC)
most korean university students are required to take between 20% and 25% of their classes in english so for undergrad there’s actually a lot of classes to choose from in english (not enough for a full degree but still)

actually the 20-25% requirement is hell for a lot of korean students, and foreign students who speak excellent korean but can’t speak english (i TA’d one class here with 125, 10 of whom were chinese and spoke flawless korean — but we had to fail them all because they couldn’t grasp the english lectures.)
jaequeeragenda 4th-Dec-2018 01:05 am (UTC)
yeahhh i would never go to a foreign school if i can't speak read write the language fluently enough to be in college courses? wtf :/
girlknees 4th-Dec-2018 01:06 am (UTC)
for the students who receive the government scholarship, whether undergrad or grad school, one year or language studies is required no matter what uni they go to.

other students can apply to enter korean unis with no korean abilities, though they’re required to reach TOPIK 4 to graduate. i guess administrators expect students to take English taught classes the first year while they start learning korean?

in my case, i was told that grad school studies in my department could be done in english, which led me to apply to that department (i planned on studying korean but didn’t intend on taking lectures in korean.) long story short the decision to let non-korean speaking students apply was decided by the school at large, not each department. the department admin had no idea what to do with me when i arrived, and told me they had no english lectures scheduled the next few semesters. the last few years have been a ride to say it mildly.

ia you should learn the language of the country you’re in, but schools should not be making promises about students education that they can’t deliver on.
annayism 4th-Dec-2018 01:11 am (UTC)
i can't think of any universities in the us that require international students to have taken english classes or any that offer esl classes to them so....

i don't exactly agree with needing to increase the number of english speaking professors either??? why? not like any of the professors in unis where i live randomly have classes in chinese for all the students from there lmao
benihime99 4th-Dec-2018 06:40 am (UTC)
Don't know about the US but the UK requires a certain level to be authorized to study in their uni
I had to pass the toefl to be admitted and not every uni requires the same result
Where most where fine with student being average (which at the times was 60 out of 120), Cardiff required a minimum of 90.
Thar was years ago so it may have changed and I was applying for an actual diploma not an exchange program but erasmus student also had to fill certain requirement.

British student sent in France on the other hand didn't speak much french

Edited at 2018-12-04 06:40 am (UTC)
sra_interesante 4th-Dec-2018 01:57 am (UTC)
i always read jokes about this on social media but i didnt imagine their reality was this extreme

when those influencers living in korea that i follow on instagram take so many pictures and stay active on sns during korean lectures i was always wondering if they didnt had better things to do like idk .... pay attention to class??

seeing this i guess its pretty posible they just expected a english class but ended up in a korean class they cant even understand 🤷🤷🤷

Edited at 2018-12-04 01:57 am (UTC)
hillando 4th-Dec-2018 02:06 am (UTC)
seeing this i guess its pretty posible they just expected a english class but ended up in a korean class they cant even understand
this is funny because this has happened to me twice
I study at a GSIS, which are graduate schools that are required to hold classes in English (by law I think), so all class names and summaries and syllabi are in English as well. Twice I've been fooled into thinking I've signed up for a lecture held in English only for the professor to go "Korean only!" when we arrive in class the first week of semester. Thankfully they let me write my reports in English. I am advanced level in Korean, so following the lectures themselves is okay, but writing a 10-page essay in Korean? Nope. Not happening.
hillando 4th-Dec-2018 02:02 am (UTC)
Yeah the Korean government scholarship students (I am one as well) only have to pass TOPIK level 3 to pass language year and get admitted to their university. This is fine if your classes are in English, but the rest of them....hoo boy. I mean, I am like TOPIK level 6 and even I understand only like 80% of my international politics lecture (this is in a graduate school where the rules say that all classes should be conducted in English, but so far I've had two classes in Korean lmao). I feel like 1 year is only enough if you work really hard to learn the language and focus on vocabulary that's related to your major.

Especially the bigger universities that have GSIS (post-graduate departments that are required to hold all lectures in English) need to invest more in professors that can actually hold a class in English. If your major is in Korean and you're too lazy to put in the work to learn the language, then that's on you. Although I do think there should be some sort of support system for foreign students that are struggling.
girlknees 4th-Dec-2018 03:39 am (UTC)
for the grad-schools i think there's a disconnect between the departments and the university's admission's policy as a whole. at my school 13 departments are listed as offering master's degree's in english, but the department i entered weren't even aware that they were listed until i brought it up my first semester! so it's not only a shock to students who are promised something the school can't deliver, it's a shock to the faculty.
premonitioner 4th-Dec-2018 03:59 am (UTC)
I studied TOPIK lvl 5 content and no fckn way would I have been able understand Korean lectures. You'd have to pass TOPIK lvl6 with flying colours to be able to get by in a 100% Korean lecture

Edited at 2018-12-04 03:59 am (UTC)
horichansenpai 4th-Dec-2018 05:18 am (UTC)

Meanwhile nearly all the overseas students that go to my uni can speak/understand English nearly perfectly lol

benihime99 4th-Dec-2018 06:33 am (UTC)
Not a surprise
I work at a uni and most foreign student come to learn the language through immersion, most of them can't hold a conversation let alone follow classes at first. That's especially the case for anglophone ones who expect everyone to speak english, so yeah
Not surprised, but it usually gets better by the time they leave (immersion still is one of the best technique)

There's also the issue of them hanging out together and thus not learning much
glokmusic 4th-Dec-2018 07:21 am (UTC)

at my university (in america) incoming international students have to have a certain score on the TOEFL or TOEIC to be eligible. there are no classes offered in languages other than english so they’ve gotta be able to comprehend in english

i’m currently studying in japan, and there was no language requirement for me to go because we are required to take japanese language classes while abroad. i’m a japanese major so i have japanese capability, but there are others who don’t or who’s is not as high. all the universities we’re partnered with offer classes in english, and students are not allowed to take classes in japanese without passing a placement exam with a certain score. i don’t understand why korea does this

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