It’s now been about a week and a half since my summer program ended at Korea University, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the Korean class that I attended and whether or not the class was worth it.
Brace yourself, because I have a lot of thoughts.
Disclaimer: This post is intended to be a review of the experiences that I personally had in the summer program. It was an adapted, shortened version of the regular class, so take this review with a grain of salt.
I posted earlier about my placement test and how I got into Advanced Korean (read it here!). The gist of it is this: the placement test was silly, and Advanced Korean wasn’t actually advanced. The majority of our class didn’t belong in a truly advanced Korean class, so our teacher scaled back and used the Level 3 textbook rather than the Level 6 textbook that the class had originally been assigned. Honestly, while the Level 3 grammar was fairly easy to me, Level 6 would have probably been way over my head, so I’m not overly upset about that change.
The Structure of the Class
We met four days a week (Mon-Thurs) for six weeks from 4:50pm – 6:30pm.
Though we were required to purchase the Level 3 textbook of Fun! Fun! Korean (I also purchased the optional workbook for more personal practice), we didn’t strictly follow the structure of the textbook. Our teacher (who was absolutely adorable) basically made her own curriculum and used the textbook only for some of the exercises inside. We never read through the dialogues or did the listening exercises, and we only studied the vocabulary that she hand-picked from the book.
The Textboook — Fun! Fun! Korean 3
There are a total of 15 chapters in the book, but we only ended up focusing on Chapters 2-4 (although we studied Chapter 2 first, then Chapter 4, then Chapter 3. I have no idea why.). We also looked at a little bit of the vocab/exercises from other chapters, but not much. I’m not sure if teachers usually make it through a whole textbook in one semester, or if it is intended for one year. To finish the book in one semester, you’d basically have to study one chapter per week, which I suppose isn’t too insane, but it seems like a lot of vocab to master.
After using the book for six weeks, I’m really glad she built her own curriculum and didn’t strictly follow the book. Although I was really excited to finally have a textbook to study with for the first time in essentially 5 years, the book did not meet my high expectations. I’ll continue to use it and the workbook, since I did pay for them, but if I purchase another textbook in the future, it will NOT be the Fun! Fun! Korean series. I’ll probably do a more in-depth review in the future, but to describe my impressions simply, the graphics and design were too plain/boring, the vocabulary lists were disorganized, and there were WAY too many exercises. Super dull, and not that helpful for the self-studier.
The main two things that the teacher focused on were grammar (80%) and vocabulary (20%). What she did NOT incorporate was designated listening, speaking, or reading practice, although she did include optional writing assignments.
To be fair, we did listen, speak, and read a little in the class, but it was never the focus of the lesson. The majority of the class time was spent with her going through slideshows that explained the nuances of different grammar points and when to use/not use them. We would then usually turn to an exercise in the book that used that grammar structure, go through any unknown vocabulary in the exercise, and then do the exercises out loud with our partner.
What I Learned
Like I mentioned above, the classes were basically 80% grammar, and I was already familiar with 100% of the grammar patterns that were introduced, although one or two I only vaguely knew.
That said, I still learned a lot from those grammar lessons. She went very in depth about the grammar structures, and I’m now much more comfortable with some of the different nuances between similar sentence structures. For example, even though I knew that 으니까 and 아/어/여서 weren’t exactly interchangeable, I had never quite mastered their differences. Now I’m a lot more comfortable with using them.
What I Wish I Learned
Like I mentioned earlier, our teacher didn’t incorporate any designated study time for speaking, listening, or reading practice. I was okay with not having any reading practice, since I do a lot of that during my self-studying. Also, since the whole class was taught in Korean, I just considered that my listening practice (although for some reason, she’s always way easier to understand than the Koreans I interacted with outside the classroom… D:).
What I really wish there was more of was speaking practice. To be fair, we did speak Korean every day, while doing the grammar exercises and such, and we only spoke in Korean to our teacher, but I wish we had the chance to speak more than one or two sentences at a time, and to do something a little more advanced than reading an exercise out loud. I’m still not that great at putting together grammar and vocabulary well enough to form complex sentences. Writing is one thing, but trying to compose sentences on the spot is quite another thing.
My main complaint about this is that 40% of our final grade for this class was a 3-4 minute speech we had to give on the last day of class. Not practicing speaking in class is one thing, but not practicing speaking in class and then expecting your students to give a speech for almost half of their grade is ridiculous.
Was it worth it?
Looking back at the post, I said a lot of negative things about the class, but overall it was still a positive experience for me. After years of self-study, I was finally able to sit in a classroom with other students who were interested in the Korean language. I understand the nuances of several grammar points much better, and I am much more comfortable using them in conversation now. While we didn’t focus on speaking much in class, even just going through the exercises with my partner and asking my teacher questions was a lot more speaking practice than I was doing sitting by myself at home. And listening to our teacher teach in Korean for an hour and 40 minutes each day was great exposure to the language. It was also a good confidence booster that I’m sometimes actually not that bad at listening (especially since my listening confidence was low due to my other interactions in Korean daily life).
Was it worth it? I guess so. Would I do it again? Probably not. I would most likely look into other programs with better textbooks and with more speaking practice.