Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Foreigners and Foreign Languages

The French foreign language teacher scandal of 1984

Prelude 1: The 1983 Law "Limiting Aliens' Residence Period" and banning "unqualified" foreigners from working.

Part 1: Le Monde and what came before
Part 2: Korea is "Ali Baba's" Cave
Part 3: Seoul Should not be a Workplace for Parisians
Part 4: In private foreign language classes, there are a lot of ‘fraud teachers’
Part 5: Jibberish
Part 6: 'I Want to Strike it Rich in Seoul Too' - Continuous Job Inquiries by the French
Part 7: Foreigners Enjoy Better Life With Mother Tongues
Part 8: Foreigners and Foreign Languages
Part 9: Sickening Face

Part 10: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
Part 11: The First Sanctions on Foreigners Working Illegally
Part 12: All Private Lessons by Foreigners Prohibited
Part 13: Institutes Asked to Hire Eligible Foreign Teachers
Part 14: "Seoul Wind"
Part 15: Foreign Language Teacher Shortage
Part 16: Troublemaking vagabond foreigner story finally airs

Part 8: Foreigners and Foreign Languages

On August 24, 1984, after first bringing the scandal of French foreign teachers living the easy life as language teachers to the public's attention, expanding it into a look at 'fraud' teachers, and painting a picture of a Korea about to be deluged by unqualified young French men, the Joongang Ilbo decided to look at the problems such unqualified teachers cause for English education in Korea, and for the first time linked the issue to pending laws and ordinances regarding private institutes and private lesson teaching.

Many thanks to Kim So-eun for transcribing the Hanja.

Foreigners and Foreign Languages

A foreign news article about the red carpet treatment and, of course, good luck that has sometimes come the way of vagabond travelers from abroad because they teach speaking in Korea has directly confirmed that [these people] are perversely leaving foreign countries [to come take advantage of] our foreign language study boom.

The fundamental purpose of foreign language study is to acquire advanced learning and help the overseas expansion of our citizens. Therefore the most important thing is to procure qualified teachers and instructors for these schools and private institutes which serve this purpose.

Based on pending laws and enforcement ordinances regarding private institutes, to qualify to be a private institute instructor one will have to be at least a junior college graduate or its equivalent. However, regarding foreigners this method of verifying academic background is vague and this enforcement ordinance is not particularly effective.

Especially, regarding cases of foreigners who have recently come to Korea to ride our country’s foreign language boom and work as teachers, there are naturally many doubts as to how suitable these people are, about their standard of refinement and of course their language education skill.

These vagabond foreigners live without doing anything in particular in their home countries and only need to raise just enough money for a plane ticket. They first enter the country and then through foreign language lessons they make the money needed for room, board, and traveling. A Le Monde article eloquently revealed the facts of how some Parisians regard as Korea as a gold mine.

The true educational effect of foreign language learning is that when learning to speak and write a foreign country’s language, to some degree one learns its culture and ‘spirit’ as well. Attaching importance to conversation, [learners] can’t distinguish a teacher’s or instructor’s standard of refinement and mistake them for nothing but a 'tape recorder.' Ultimately there’s a worry that when learning conversation students will imitate that country’s vulgar culture, vulgar living language, and vulgar values. Educational methods are also a problem.

In addition, in language learning, continuous dialogue, repetition, and correction is required, and the applicable traditional grammar of the language should be also be received from the teacher. Of course, one can’t believe that foreign travelers have completely mastered these teaching methods. There is also a concern that these days incorrect foreign speaking is being learned.

There’s a risk when private institutes, corporations and some households [consider] any foreigner with different-colored skin or eyes to be good, and we are seeing that this reckless learning fever is actually having a negative effect on foreign language education.

Also, for this reason it could come to pass that our citizens' image of their level of culture will fall and will offset the effectiveness of gaining foreign language learning.

The first thing the authorities need to do is strengthen the requirements for private institute instructor qualifications. In March, a number of foreign language institutes which had hired unqualified instructors were closed by administrative measures. If needed, the law should be amended to end the hiring of instructors who don't meet a set level of knowledge/refinement and who haven't mastered teaching methods.

In addition, to be of help to those citizens who aspire to learning a foreign language by studying accurate foreign speaking and writing under a qualified teacher, we should bear in mind that learning foreign languages from vagabond foreigners is actually inefficient and not even effective.

You might notice some familiar themes in that piece, such as "These vagabond foreigners live without doing anything in particular in their home countries," "there are naturally many doubts about how suitable these people are," the belief that "any foreigner with different-colored skin or eyes is good," "conversation students will imitate that country’s vulgar culture, vulgar living language, and vulgar values," and of course, "regarding foreigners this method of verifying academic background is vague" and "authorities need to do is strengthen the requirements for private institute instructor qualifications."

These themes have in fact reappeared in articles from the past two weeks, such as this, this, this, and this. While much has changed in Korea over the last twenty-six years, it's apparent some things haven't.


Chris in South Korea said...

My first, rather off-the-cuff thought - why would it be seen as a bad thing if your country is perceived as a goldmine of work? If the people coming in can find jobs and otherwise support themselves without causing the society (too many) problems, what's the deal? And yet, a few foreigners commit a few crimes and somehow we're all unqualified?

Or would you rather be known as a country where foreigners have a hard time working because of all the red tape and corruption?

Kudos on the series.

louve9 said...

Here is some information that I came across when I wrote my thesis on the effects of Neo-Confucianism on South Korean speculative fiction. It not only begins to explain why Koreans have a negative attitude toward non-Korean people, but it also shows what percentage of the South Korean populace maintains such an attitude as well as why South Koreans attack non-Koreans who are conveyers of culture in a passive-aggressive manner through propaganda.

“Some insight to the apparent chauvinism of South Korea is offered by Marcus Noland, Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers in the Executive Office of the President of the United States. Noland explains that in 2002 the Pew Survey on Global Attitudes took a public opinion poll. The survey interviewed more than 40,000 people in 46 countries from around the world on a variety of issues. Within this survey, one of the questions asked was whether the respondents agreed with the statement that “Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others.” Of the 46 countries polled, France, which is known for its reputation of cultural chauvinism, had only 40 percent of its interviewees agree with the statement. In Russia and the United States, 60 percent of the people polled responded affirmatively, and both of these countries maintain a strong degree of nationalism. The Japanese responded with an even higher rate, with 75 percent of the populace seeing itself as better.

“However, according to Noland, the highest percentage of people who viewed their culture as superior to others around the world, with an overwhelming 90 percent of its population believing this to be so, was South Korea. Noland goes on to explain that “Paradoxically, while an astonishing share of Koreans apparently feel culturally superior to the rest of the world, they also apparently lack confidence in that culture’s resilience—five out of six Koreans think that it should be protected from foreign influence” (Noland). Furthermore, in 2007 South Korean people participated in the same survey with no significant change in the results. These ultra-nationalistic and xenophobic elements are what define the Korean cultural identity; statistics like these provide a strong foundation to the claims that ultra-nationalistic and xenophobic views continue to permeate South Korean society and show no signs of changing in the near future. Moreover, this becomes a distinct problem for South Koreans in a world that continues daily to become more of a global community.”

To put things plainly, South Koreans believe, simultaneously, that they are better then everyone else, but too weak to protect their superiority. This is what Nietzsche described as a “slave” mentality. What Nietzsche meant by this is that a person or society that is oppressed, in reality or simply in their own self-perception, will seek to overthrow their oppressors by making them “evil.” This is why Koreans are so fearful of globalization; the idea that everyone is equally human destroys there ability to see themselves as better then everyone else.

louve9 said...

Furthermore, this type of self-concept can be seen in the base Neo-Confucian perceptions established in Korea by T’oegye and Yulgok’s philosophic programs (and before any naysayer says that philosophy doesn’t mean anything, these are the guys that South Koreans print on the 1000 won and the 5000 won notes, you know like George Washington on the dollar bill and Lincoln on the five). T’oegye and Yulgok’s metaphysical debate about principal of li and ch’i, however, have origins that are older and are found in the views of the Chinese Sung Neo-Confucian philosopher, Chu Hsi.

In order to fully understand Chu Hsi’s ideas regarding li and ch’i, and the Li-xue (School of Principle) form of Neo-Confucianism that he started, as well as its effects on the Korean mindset, one should understand the historical framework from which these ideas developed. In his discussion of Chu Hsi’s metaphysical program, James T.C. Liu touches on this point and explains:

“Chu Hsi provided a metaphysical foundation for Confucianism, for he believed that without this foundation Confucian principles could not endure. Indeed, the confrontation with the Jurchen clearly demonstrated the sad decline of Confucian principles. Chu and his colleagues stood firmly for defense initiatives and the recovery of the North, but against the humiliating peace and shameful surrender to the Jurchen enemy. It is only reasonable to conclude that the general patriotic response of intellectuals to the extraordinary disaster of the Jurchen confrontation figured prominently in the dedicated search for, and deep commitment to, the profound body of knowledge that some have called “neo” Confucianism. Regrettably, most works on Confucianism tend simply to neglect this Jurchen confrontation, as if the history of ideas somehow unfolded by an inner logic, within a vacuum devoid of the military and political issues that were at the time threatening the very basis of cultural survival.” (45)

Understanding that Chu Hsi’s metaphysics were the direct result of Jurchen aggression colors the ideals that they engender as being, by their very nature, ultra-nationalistic, xenophobic, and anti-foreign. Conversely though, Chu Hsi’s form of Neo-Confucianism is inherently reliant on the idea of a dichotomy that eternally looks to be integrated into a monistic system of belief. However, it is this foundational dualism that continually creates an evil-other for the Neo-Confucian moral agents to define themselves against and is the central paradoxical dilemma of Li-xue Neo-Confucianism.

Work Cited

Liu, James T.C. “The Jurchen-Sung Confrontation.” China Under Jurchen Rule: Essays on Chin Intellectual and Cultural History. Ed. Hoyt Cleveland Tillman and Stephen H. West. New York: State University of New York Press, 1995. 39-49.