Differences of Essay Writing in English, Korean
About 500 non-native English teachers are getting the opportunity to learn new writing techniques this week at the Suwon Campus of Kyung Hee University.
An intensive three-day educational conference, which began Wednesday and wraps up Friday, is the Korea Secondary English Teachers' Association's (KOSETA) determined response to the latest news of Korea's poor performance on the International English Language Testing System, sponsored by the British Council.
The 2008 proficiency test ranked South Korea second from the bottom, ahead of only the United Arab Emirates. South Korea achieved an average score of 5.39 out of a possible 9 points. In contrast, the United Kingdom ranked first with an average score of 8.1, followed by South Africa with 7.51.
The test averages the scores of writing, reading, listening and speaking sections. South Korea's score in writing was the lowest of all the participating countries with a 5.08.
The organization plans on using American essay-teaching styles at the conference for the prose writing segments, while employing English Newspapers in Education (ENIE) to teach news article writing. Park Chang-seok, a pioneer of the ENIE-teaching style and English media professor at Kyung Hee University, gave an introductory address at the conference Wednesday.
The conference is aimed at providing teachers with the knowledge to both analyze and write in styles aimed toward international testing systems, such as the SATs, TOEFL and the TOEIC.
According to professor Park, a former managing editor of The Korea Times, Korean and English styles of writing are both unique in their conceptual approaches, due to the differences in cultural and historical backgrounds. Whereas Westerners speak directly by beginning with their main points, Korean models favor rhetorical expressions with conclusive endings.
It is important to recognize this fundamental difference, in order to recognize the effects background has on writing. The conference combines knowledge of the cultural gap and overcomes this with universally acknowledged priorities that all works need ― well thought out organization and a clear sense of purpose, he said. The following is the gist of Park's presentation at the conference.
English Essay Writing
American essays are taught to be written in three basic styles: informative, persuasive or creative. The informative essay is often descriptive and narrative, working toward a purely educational end. Persuasive writing presents an argument that seeks to convince the reader of a conviction. Examples include editorials that compare and contrast, or use cause and effect methods. Creative writing's goal is to express the author's ideas, such as in novels or plays.
Conveying ideas clearly is one of the biggest obstacles in writing an essay. Organization is important to this, but one simple acronym that serves as a helpful reminder is "KISS," which stands for keep it short and simple.
Most English essays retain a basic structure, which can be organized in a simple outline before beginning the rough draft. This will help de-clutter the mind and find the main points of the essay.
Essays are typically structured on an introduction, the main body and a strong conclusion. The main body is comprised of paragraphs, which should focus on one idea each. For the conclusion, the last sentence is the most important, as it is the last line left in the reader's mind. It should echo the introduction, but provoke a new idea that wraps up the ideas as a whole. The conclusion should be supported by the preceding paragraphs ― it is not the place to bring in a surprising plot twist.
Remember to keep the essay interesting as well. Three main factors in a good essay are originality, enthusiasm and clarity. Do not plagiarize, have unclear or unorganized thoughts, and stay away from filler information and padding.
English Newspapers in Education
English newspapers employ a markedly different style of writing than essays do, but the concision of language and logical organization of news articles can serve as great learning tools. Journalistic pieces follow a more or less regulated style of writing, in an endeavor to uniform standards internationally. Some of the characteristics include the omission of certain articles and pronouns, standardized abbreviations and the removal of any subjective vocabulary that could seen as bias.
This strict style of writing is difficult to master, but the resulting works that can be produced exemplify organization, logic and concision. Hard news stories in particular can help develop students' and teachers' rational thinking skills, and hone in on the essentials of writing.
Using newspapers in the classroom is cost-effective, as they are cheaper than textbooks and novels. They also provide up-to-date information on current events in a simplified language that can be quickly grasped.
The "inverted pyramid" technique for hard news stories reflects the priority-based structure that presents the most important facts in the lead ― the first sentence or paragraph of an article ― with the least important information left for the end of the story.
This method of writing was originally created in order to expedite a more efficient process in newspaper layouts. If there was not enough space on a page, editors could simply trim off the last few paragraphs of an article while being assured that nothing important was being left out.
There are several types of news articles that use different styles of writing, similar to how the essays have different categories.
The lead of the story is therefore the most important paragraph, the measurement of which has a different definition than essay writing. Paragraphs in news articles are very short, sometimes even a sentence long. While essays present paragraphs that focus on delving into a developed idea, newspaper paragraphs focus on a single aspect or thought, then move on to the next one. Journalism should be objective by nature, so longer paragraphs are not needed to convince, prove or describe. A news article should only serve to inform and in the clearest way possible.
Leads should answer as many of the main six questions as possible: "Who, What, When, Where, Why and How?" The rest of the article's information is extra and should follow accordingly in order of importance and relevancy.
Korean writing uses the opposite technique of the inverted pyramid. While English newspapers use deductive reasoning to come to a conclusion, Korean news articles first present specific information before giving the broader picture, and details come before the main idea.
Spending just 15 minutes a day reading English newspapers will help in fluency and understanding the different writing system. Use a method called "previewing," which means scanning a paper's stories for an idea of what the day's news is about.
First, spend a short amount of time analyzing the photos on a single page, the headlines then the sub-headlines. Next, read the first and last sentences. The reader should already know most of the information that he or she needs, just from doing this. Especially well-written articles will have all of the information in the lead.
Afterward, skim through the reading quickly, spending no more than 30 seconds on it. Names, numbers and off-set style type will jump out, providing the details of the story.
Stop to think about what has been read and whether or not there is useful knowledge. Decide what information in the article would be important to a reader ― what the reader decides they are looking for will bring a surprising difference in how he or she reads and approaches the story.
This whole process should take less than a couple of minutes, but can prove useful in increasing critical reading comprehension. Try previewing the whole newspaper, previewing each page. Gauge how much information was gathered from the exercise, then go back and read the articles to see how accurate the information intake was through the preview.