Monday, January 17, 2011

Learner Profile: Young Hee

Learner Profile: Young Hee

•the teaching context and any considerations arising from this

Context is a Business College in Sydney, Australia. Opportunities include: multi-cultural classroom environment and foreign country language learning environment. Both are often challenging to find in Korea however also not guaranteed as many Koreans tend to congregate abroad in preferred colleges. Where the opportunity for work-study visa designation exists may allow English practice outside the classroom in a work related environment however this may be minimal and depends upon student motivation. Two hours of classes per day four days a week is not highly intensive but if scheduled in the morning allows afternoon part-time work placement over 18 months assuming it’s a two year program of study.

•the category of learner you think your chosen case is

Learner self identifies as pre-intermediate business English student with skills challenged by time pressure, complex sentence construction and displays basic abilities in message taking and short emails but under time pressure is incapable of real world office situations. This is often the highest skills and abilities levels attained by a majority of Korean English language learners. Listening skills are good in class but real world application of studies is limited. Finds English quite complicated compared to Japanese and Korean which are more similar to each other than virtually any other languages.

•the needs, specific goals, areas of interest the learner has either expressed or you think they may have

Learner expresses interest in clerical or secretarial position and a need to operate in an office environment to understand and respond to complex messages and emails from English language clients. While she expresses an interest in working for Samsung nearly every Korean desires to work for one of Korea’s more famous companies. While her ambition may be seen as quite low it reflects the reality of Korea which to some extent is still quite paternal and male-dominated as a society where young women are not expected to rise far above clerical or lower management positions and seen somewhat as liabilities in the work place for their tendency to marry and have children. While this could be slowly changing most women exit the business workplace soon after either marriage or their first child.

•anything else you think may be helpful

It is to some extent frustrating but realistic to see this case study and does go a long way to explain why Korea among the OECD nations spends more than any other on education and English language studies as a proportion of GDP. Yet at the same time Korea ranks if not at the bottom then very near the bottom in terms of functional abilities or results of such a large spend. Practical application of in class studies in the Korean business environment is rare to nil. I am often disappointed to see how quickly former students of mine have simply abandoned practice and become nearly unintelligible with the language in as little as three months. While their long term memory is intact the necessary short term usage activation of their cognitive skills quickly atrophies in a slide into language attrition.

•It also might be interesting to add why you chose this particular type of learner to define.

I chose this learner because she is the one I am most familiar with. Activates English through coursework or classroom practice only and rarely if ever extends that to real world working environment. It is a communicative tragedy I have witnessed again and again. I do think the only way to keep one of these "girls" speaking English would be to marry her myself and put her to work in my own company.

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