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English in School, Home and Dreams

Posted September. 16, 2006 03:50,   


Ailunkuk Zwin (11), who attends Singapore Tanjong Katong Girls` School, has “multinational” friends. Two Indian friends who speak the Tamil language, 10 Indian friends who speak the Hindi language, four Malaysian friends, and 23 Chinese friends.

Ailunkuk’s best friend is Bidiashuri Lakunatan (11), who is Indian and speaks Tamil. These two have no trouble chatting. They use English. English has been incorporated into her life to the degree that she speaks in English 60 percent of the time even when with her Chinese friends.

“I grew up watching Chinese television and reading English books at home. My parents speak in Chinese with each other but use both Chinese and English when they are talking to me or my brother (9).”

Vice-Principal Mdm Lim Kim Choo Marilyn of Tanjong Katong Girls` School says, “Since Singapore is an international city, we have 1,000 students from 30 different countries, even though we are a regular public school, not an international school. English is the standard language, but we teach six hours each week in the mother languages of the students, such as Chinese, Malaysian, and Tamil.”

The fact that Singapore is a city-state based on trade and commerce caused English to be used as the main language, but now the use of English is drawing foreign students to Singapore. Director Rozuye, who has been managing a language school in Singapore for 30 years, says, “The most important factor in English education is how easy it is to encounter English. The international environment is the biggest reason students are coming to Singapore.”

English needs to be easily accessible in order to become good at it –

Experts point out that the environment in Korea which makes it difficult to come across English in everyday life is the biggest obstacle to learning English.

In the Northern European countries, where it is accepted that students who have learned English in primary and secondary schools excel in English, the environment is strikingly different in the amount of contact people have with English.

Most Northern European countries do not dub television programs that are in English, adding subtitles when broadcasting them.

Philippa Olsen, head of the Media Team of the Ministry of Education, Research and Culture of Sweden, says, “Northern European countries usually prefer subtitles to dubbing. It helps people learn English, and we can cut down on the dubbing expenses.” According to Ms. Olsen, a quarter of the programs broadcast by the two public broadcasting stations and over one half of the programs broadcast by the two commercial stations are in English.

The ratio of programs broadcast in English to programs broadcast in Swedish is entirely up to the broadcasting stations. However, there are guidelines set by the Ministry and Riksdag, the national diet of Sweden, which must be followed.

Professor Lee Byung-min of the Department of English Education at Seoul National University proposed, “If there isn’t a large enough budget to make English programs, radio programs, which are relatively less expensive, are also an option.”

Korea’s endeavors toward a new English environment–

The government, universities, and self-governing bodies have realized the importance of an English environment and have been making various efforts over the past years.

English villages are a good example. The amount of English students experience while staying in the Paju Camp of the Gyeonggi English Village for six days is 60 hours, close to the hours of English education a student in the third grade would receive in two years of schooling.

Universities are also expanding English-speaking areas.

Since Yonsei University first opened the “Global Lounge” in the Student Union Building in November of 2002, ChungAng University, Sungkyunkwan University, Yeungnam University, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Sogang University, and Myongji University have created similar spaces within their campuses. A “Global Lounge” is a space for various activities including eating and reading, but only English must be used.

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) is transforming into a “Bilingual Campus” through their Vision 2005 project, and Korea University Seochang Campus and the Yonsei University Songdo Global Academic Complex are also examples of “English-using campuses” that are being planned.