Fallacy on English divide
The latest KDI report on the English language divide misses the point. It concluded that students’ proficiency in English is dependent on the income level of parents. This is a stereotypical and misleading conclusion.
This is the age of the Internet and mobile phones. Anyone can learn English almost freely through the Internet and digital devices, including mobile phones.
Lots of free English-learning programs are available in cyberspace. Poor parents may lament over their inability to enroll kids at an expensive pre-school to experience English immersion. What parents should complain about is not their low incomes, but their lack of ability to help kids find free English-learning web sites and apps.
In fact, there is a high correlation between the English scores of children and the English proficiency of their parents. Coincidently or not, high-income parents are more proficient in English than low-income parents. Even low-income parents can help children achieve high grades in college-bound English tests at little cost. They should have the ability to search free English-learning web sites and Apps. The role of 30,000 English-language teachers is critical in helping students search such sites.
EBS, Arirang and TBS are effective conduits for reducing tutoring costs for English learners. The Korea Times is an ideal source from which to learn contemporary English.
Go to the homepage of The Korea Times, people can also read a few articles in Korean translation. The voice service, called text to speech (TTS), will help readers listen to the full text of all articles. This will help improve listening comprehension. Readers will not need a dictionary. If they will click on a word they don’t understand, it will automatically show its meaning. The services will also be available on both its web site mobile devices next month.
A four-page tabloid helps readers learn TOEIC, TOEFL, TEPS, editorials and cinema English for six days a week.
English proficiency between readers and non-readers of English dailies is quite enormous. A Korea Times survey shows that it has used about 10,000 current English words for the past 15 years. Coincidentally or not, all official English tests, including TOEFL, TOEIC and TEPS, do not exceed 10,000 words in test vocabulary.
Studying overseas is still a sure way to personal success. However, the merit of studying overseas loses credence as time passes. For example, anyone can attend the online lecture on justice by Harvard University professor Michael J. Sandel through the web and mobile devices.
Go to www.amazon.com and www.audible.com, anyone can read and listen to e-books of their interest.
A blind reliance on TOEIC, TOEFL and TEPS scores has contributed to helping students and test-takers master skills to get high scores, but not necessarily and effectively improve their English. Even people with high scores struggle to communicate in English.
Learning English is a life-long process. Patience and curiosity are the ingredients to mastering the language. A research paper backs the success of people proficient in English as they learn new on-the-job knowledge and information through English references and material.
For example, Wikipedia provides vast information on any topic although verification is necessary. A career success or failure is dependent on whether people can get information in English.
About 80 percent of information worldwide is available in English. Anyone fluent in English can get ahead of their peers in getting valuable information on a timely basis.
The race between Naver and Google has already ended. The nation’s first portal site could be the second Cyworld as its official language is Korean. It can lose its influence as time goes by. However, Google will dominate the world portal site as its official language is English.
Cyworld is a pioneer in the world’s social network service. However, Facebook sidelined Cyworld as the former adopts English while the latter was confined to Korean Hanguel.
Now is the time for policymakers, parents, students and learners to think outside the box. Koreans can learn English at any place and at any time with little cost in this mobile and Internet age. The government can produce web sites and apps tailored for specific needs and levels of Koreans. Digital textbooks should contain English-learning programs.
Policymakers should no longer stick to academic English materials for official proficiency testing. They should include current English materials for testing as academic English is not in wide daily use.
Parents can seek ways of encouraging children to use smartphones for learning English, not for playing games and searching K-pop stars. There are more mobile phone users than the Korean population. Smartphone, not money, is a solution to upgrading English proficiency. Children of both rich and poor parents can master English at little cost, only if they have curiosity to do so.
Lee Chang-sup is the executive managing director of The Korea Times. He is the author of the Korean language book titled How to Read The Korea Times. Contact him at email@example.com.