This semester at Korea University (KU), there are many foreign language lectures that are provided to students. The university offers mainly five different languages—Chinese, Japanese, French, German, and Russian. All five of them have beginner and intermediate courses. However, are these courses being run effectively at KU at the moment?
▲ The entrance of KU International Studies Hall. Photographed by Lee Jun Geon.
In order to become a leading international figure, many students at KU choose to take one of these lectures as their second foreign language. In fact, for the students in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, it is mandatory for them to take such courses in order to graduate. Unfortunately, there is a controversy among students over how such language lectures are being run.
Too Confused with Two Professors
Although not all second foreign language lectures have such system, more than half of the courses are taught by two different professors. Regarding this, many KU students have different perspectives.
Some students claim that having two professors has many advantages as it helps them learn different aspects of the language. “It was great to have two professors for the same course,” answers Lee Jung-eun (’11, Korean Language Education). “Through the system, I was able to learn more about grammar from one professor and practice my speaking skills with the other.” Lee also suggests that such system helped her to not get bored with the language, as she did not have to meet only one professor over and over again.
The general view, however, is that having two professors causes too much confusion, as although they use the same textbook, they do not communicate with each other enough. This may cause a problem of students having to repeat or skip a part of the curriculum and this may affect their study of the language.
It may seem as if such problems can be easily solved by simply repeatedly telling the professors. Unfortunately, according to the students, this is not the case. “Realistically, we cannot tell the professors about where we left off last time in the beginning of each class, and thus the problem just seems to get even worse,” says Jun Seungae (’13, Foreign Languages and Literature).
Another problem of having two professors is that they may have totally different styles in teaching. Since language is subjective, it is very likely that the two professors would have different preferences over the style and thoughts about writing or speaking. “During the course last semester, I did not know how to study for the class because there were not a lot of similarities between the styles of the two professors,” says Seok Heejin (’13, Division of Humanities).
Indeed, not all professors are like this, and there are many courses where the two professors communicate and cooperate with each other well. “In my case, when I was teaching the German Beginners course, I felt that our class did not face many difficulties as we were able to work in perfect harmony,” says Lecturer Yuk Hyeon Seung (Instituteof Foreign Language Studies). He still admits that if the two professors do not establish good teamwork it may cause turmoil within the class.
Four Days for Three Credits?
▲ The four-days per week time table for many different second foreign language lectures for this second semester. Screen capture of KUTime.
Currently, KU has organized many second foreign language courses to be held four times a week. According to the Academic Affairs Department of KU, the greatest advantage of taking the lectures often is that the students will be exposed to the language frequently.
One of the characteristics of a language is that if it is not used often, it will be forgotten very quickly. “I think that I have also benefited from this process,” says Koo Jae Ho (’09, French Languages and Literature). He also suggests that having many classes per week especially helps the students, including himself, to talk more freely and increase their speaking skills.
Unfortunately, there are many more students who take a negative stance towards having as many as four classes per week. “I think that taking classes this much can be an enormous stress for beginners,” says Lee, thinking back on her own experience. She states that too many classes may even lead to a reverse effect where students lose interest in the language and feel overloaded.
“The fact that students only get three credits for listening to the foreign language lectures that take place four times a week is another problem,” adds Lee. This especially seems to be a problem for many third or fourth graders who tend to be very busy preparing for graduation. Such a schedule prevents them from wanting to learn the new language.
Another problem of such lectures is that many students find it very hard to schedule the other courses that they want to or have to take since such courses take up a lot of time in their schedules. As they are required to listen to lectures four times a week, it is also very likely that the time would overlap with one of their required major courses or a class that they really wanted to take.
To make matters worse, some courses do not even have a pattern in the times the lectures take place. For example, in this second semester, courses in one of the Chinese, Japanese, and German Intermediate lectures require the students to be in class for second period on Monday, fourth period on Tuesday, fourth period on Thursday and first period on Friday. Since such schedule is not at all symmetric, the students find it hard to arrange and choose other lectures, avoiding the foreign language course.
Although there are justified reasons and many benefits in having second foreign language courses the way they are now at KU, many students have a lot of complaints about this system. The advantages and disadvantages of having lectures four times a week and having two professors teach the same course should be weighed once again to develop better lectures.