“South Korea is an EFL situation”

Since Korea is an EFL situation I cannot use authentic materials. *

Since Korea is an EFL situation I have to use more authentic materials.

Since Korea is an EFL situation I must speak English in class as much as possible because I am the only source of English that students get.

Since Korea is an EFL situation it is imperative that I give grammar explanations in Korean.

Since Korea is an EFL situation I have to focus on mostly grammar.

Since Korea is an EFL situation I should’t focus on grammar.

Since Korea is an EFL situation my students can’t really use English.

That might work in an ESL situation but it wouldn’t work in Korea. Korea is an EFL situation.

I have heard similar statements numerous times from teachers in Korea. When I hear such statements I often can’t help but think that the speaker is showing off their hard-earned TESOL (jargon?) knowledge. I also can’t help but think they are making excuses or justifying the status quo or what they do or want to do.

In my last post we explored terms like ESL, EFL, TESOL, and so on and now I find myself wondering about all the truisms of “EFL” and how true they actually are.  It seems to me sometimes labeling the situation as “EFL” or whatever can sort of circumvent truly thinking about the students and their true  needs and abilities.

With the internet, movies, global travel, and all the Korean students that have experience living abroad as well as a multitude of other factors I am not sure how well all the statements above hold up to scrutiny. While I can agree that Korea meets the criteria usually applied to be an EFL situation I am unsure what that really means in practice, especially when considering the wide range of contexts that ELT professionals in Korea find themselves in.

*Here is the #KELTchat  summary on authentic materials

Advertisements

12 comments

  1. livinglearning

    Your posts always give me the opportunity to rethink my own positions! Until I started studying TESOL, I never gave much thought to the acronyms associated with the field. There are too many to keep track of and, as you say, it’s not always clear how they relate to every teaching situation. For example, I work in an English Village. My students are immersed in English from morning to night for several weeks at a time, while the world outside continues on in Korean. During their free time they can use their L1. Is it EFL? I think the important thing is to teach the students you have based on their needs at the moment. I don’t know whether knowing it’s an EFL class or not has a bearing on those needs. More to think about..

    • mikecorea

      Thanks for sharing your context…To my mind there are both “EFL” and “ESL” aspects to it, which is why the neat labels don’t work so well. In my previous post about my confusion on the terms mentioned camps/villiages because I think that these attempts at immersion even on Korean soil are not strictly “EFL” situations to my mind.

      You wrote, “I think the important thing is to teach the students you have based on their needs at the moment. I don’t know whether knowing it’s an EFL class or not has a bearing on those needs” and I couldn’t agree more.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Ps- “Your posts always give me the opportunity to rethink my own positions” is just fantastic to read!

  2. Anne-Onymous

    At the beginning of the current conversation course, students were given a survey so they could think about their goals for the 6-week course. One high beginner student wrote, that she wanted “to speak fluently” by mid-August. She promptly went on to miss the second class because she slept in. In classes of 9-12 students, I regularly assign voluntary homework such as exercises from the back of the book, recommend websites, encourage them to use music and movies to improve their listening skills; ANYTHING that will get them to use or be exposed to English outside of the classroom. One or two might hand over their books so I can check their work, but on the whole students are quite happy to do their 75 minutes once a day and then not think about it again until the next morning. For me, that is the where I might say “Since Korea is an EFL situation, there is no point expecting exposure outside the classroom.” You can lecture, encourage, bribe, or blackmail, but unless your students are really serious about improving their English, they will restrict their practice to class time.

    The only other time I really notice the limitations of EFL is when using textbooks. Many textbooks seem to be aimed more at ESL situations; or more specifically at classes with mixed L1 and cultures. For example, in a unit about festivals, students are asked to describe a holiday or festival from their country. “Do you have anything like this in your country?” Or when students are asked to talk about the best place in their country to go on vacation and students end up discussing Jeju, or on rarer occasions, Japan. The discussion point – which would work well in a class of people from Brazil to Russia – falls a little flat when all the students are university students from Korea, most of whom have not yet had opportunities to travel.

    This is not a complaint, merely an observation. After all, the shared experiences of Korean students provides plenty of alternative topics of conversation and both I and the students like to go “off-book” anyway for some of the class.

    • mikecorea

      Hello “Anne-Onymous”

      Thanks very much for the comments. Much appreciated. I think you raise some great points. I had to smile when I read about the textbooks. Very true. I also fully agree about your point on the experiences of Korean studnets providing plenty of topics for conversation. I suppose the real trouble is when teachers aren’t confident (experienced?) enough to make such decisions.

      I can relate to your story about students not doing much work after class! I have surely been there.
      You wrote, “You can lecture, encourage, bribe, or blackmail, but unless your students are really serious about improving their English, they will restrict their practice to class time.” Very good point! I think your point about not expecting too much work outside of class time is spot on. WIth that said, I can report that I have been lucky enough to have quite a few students in Korea that were really keen to practice outside of class.

      I guess one part that makes me think the EFL/ESL distinction is a bit cloudy for me is that not on students in what is typically known as an ESL situation always make huge efforts to engage in English outside of class either.

      Thanks again for the comments and someday I hope you will reveal your real identity.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      ps- Thanks for modeling the “correct” use of commas.
      pps-I might have expected you to let me know if I was being pedantic for judging people for using “ESL” when talking about Korea.

  3. Flaming Science Wizard

    The unwieldy collocation of “EFL situation” strikes me as intentional on your part. I have not heard it before coming here, and my initial feeling was that it was a non-native speaker / Konglish construction. Is that indeed the case, sir?

    Maybe “Korea is an EFL market”? But that has all those corporate / capitalist connotations.

    “Koreans study EFL” or “We teach EFL here”?

    “English is taught as a foreign language in Korea”. That strips away the jargony acronym, perhaps gets a few paces away from any baggage from “the literature”, and is indisputably true in most all contexts outside the International Schools.

    • mikecorea

      Sir,
      Thanks for the comments and the questions.
      I feel like you caught me a bit red handed with overuse of my poetic license.
      Actually, I have indeed heard the phrase, “Since Korea is an EFL situation” from many Korean teachers of English in the past. As I was creating the list of comments I decided that i didn’t want to slam Korean English teachers so I opened it up to other things that I’ve heard and even added some statements I’d likely agree with while maintaining the “unwieldy” collocation. I probably have never heard a “native speaker” say “Since this is an EFL situation I need to…” but I have heard some of the points from “native speakers.” So, I have to say that it was intentional to use the phrase again and again.

      I like your suggestion (as well as the options and analysis before it) though my thought remains that no matter what we call it we still *should think about the actual students that we have in the room and not the label. (I am of course not suggesting that you’d disagree with this) “English is taught as a foreign language in Korea” is undoubtedly true and would work well, especially because it doesn’t seem to easily lead to the excuses or shortcuts that I think often come with the label.

      Thank you for stopping by and thanks for sharing your thoughts, Flaming Science Wizard.

  4. Pingback: Help with ER « ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections
  5. Pingback: Beyond #ESL and #EFL: Newer Categories in English Teaching | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections
  6. Pingback: Yeajin’s EFL World | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections
  7. Pingback: How to become a better English teacher | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections
    • mikecorea

      Never about Korea or anywhere?
      Flaming Science Wizard above accuses me of using an unwieldy collocation and I sort of agreed but i definitely heard it a few times.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s