Ten Questions, Answered

NOTE: This is the “clown-free” version of this post. If you wish to see the “clown-full” version please click here.

Over the past few months I have received questions from various channels and thought, “that would be a good blog post, perhaps I will try to answer it on my blog.” The answering part never happened and I thought I might try a little bit of a “mailbag” approach here in this post. You can find my answers to some questions I have been asked below.  If you have any other questions, please fire away!

  1. What the heck is your job, anyway?
    I am currently working in the Graduate School of International Studies at a university in Seoul. There are two main parts to this job. The first is to teach English (discussion, professional communication, academic English etc.) to students in the graduate school. The graduate school is English medium and just about 50% of the students are Korean and the rest are from different countries around the world. The second major aspect of my job is working with future interpreters/translators. My main task is to prepare them for Korean to English simultaneous interpretation.Additionally, I have been teaching whatever else the university asks me to and in the last couple of years this has led me to teach “Business Communication,” “Korean Politics” and “Introduction to Korean Studies.” The latter two were for mostly international students. I blogged about teaching politics here.I am very interested in teacher training and development and I have done a lot of work with this in the past few years. In-service Training, Curriculum Development and Mentoring are the main areas I have been most focused on.
  2. Your blog title is “Rants, Reviews and Reflections” but you don’t really review much do you?
    True enough. I guess it has been mostly rants and reflections. I did review some conferences (but lost momentum in that regard this summer and fall). There are a few reviews on the blog, though:
    Discussion Books
    Here is a review of the book “52” in the English Australia Journal.
    Maybe my next review will be of a “novella in verse about an American living in Mexico and Guatemala in the late 1990s” just to be different. I think I was drawn to the allure of alliteration too much but I also figured there would be more reviewing going on.
  3. Do you ever sleep? You seem to be online all the time.
    That is a good question. I guess I have strange hours. I think I average about 7 hours a sleep per day/night though. Naps are my friend. I think I am more strongly impacted by caffeine than most people of my age and size and sometimes this keeps me up late at night. Also sometimes I wake up in the night and fire off some tweets, which might give the impression I am always awake. I am more of a night owl but my classes this term have caused me to be up early which I don’t mind as much as I thought I would. I assure you that I usually get enough sleep and I thank you for your concern.
  4. Why don’t you use KakaoTalk? Are you some sort of Luddite?
    It’s just…I have enough things. I have enough distractions. I am trying to pick and choose. I am betting against the long term popularity of KakaoTalk. I am not saying I will never get it, just not getting into it now. Sorry to those of you that have to send me text messages. A special apology goes to the person who ran out of credit while visiting Seoul. I owe you!
  5. What is the deal with the clown pictures? Why do you always take and post pictures of clowns? Is Seoul filled with clowns?
    Some people are terrified of clowns! I can’t comment on the clowns per capita of Seoul vs. Serbia vs. Sudan vs. Seattle but I guess there are a lot. I dunno. I think they are used for ads for new stores (especially cell phone stores). Why do I take the pictures? It just seemed like a fun thing to do.

    photo (18)

    A scary robot mannequin bows for customers at a cell phone shop.

  6. Is it easy to get a job as a “non-native” teacher in Korea?
    In a word, no. To work legally, for most jobs English teachers need to be from one of the “big 7” English speaking countries. There are opportunities for illegal work (a risky proposition) and there are some uni or training jobs for those from non-English speaking nations but it is not very common to my mind. I think this is a real missed opportunity for Korea and I hope to write more about this in the near future.
  7. Have you heard that thing about Korean kids getting surgery on their tongues in order to speak English better? What do you think about it?
    Yeah, I have heard of it. I might be in a bubble of reasonable people but I have never met someone who actually thought this was a good idea. Most people are convinced that for example, Korean Americans, can speak English very well even with the wrong tongue so they are not swayed by this. I honestly believe this whole thing is a bit more hype than common practice. A moms with a lot more won than sense did something silly and it got blown up all the world. I think it is just a silly thing and not a true movement of any sort.
  8. Do you know Mary from Cleveland? She lives and teaches in Seoul.
    I do not know Mary, although I am sure she is a nice person. Seoul is a city of 12,000,000 people or so, depending on how you count it. There are certainly aspects of it being a small town, especially in the English teaching and expat community but I don’t know Mary and it is a statistical unlikelihood that I would. It is not 1890 or even 1990 in Korea when all the waygookin would probably know each other.
  9. Why do you use so much foul language in your posts?
    Sorry? I don’t know. Maybe just for fun? For emphasis? If it bothers you I can try to limit it the cursing. I am currently averaging .62 bad words per post. Maybe in 2014 I will aim for .50 or so. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
  10. What do you think about the plan for robots to replace “native teachers” in South Korea? 
    I don’t really think too much about it. I’d like to emphasize that this “plan” was put forward by the robotics industry and not really by anyone related to teaching. I think it was another example of great hype about something that was really much ado about nothing. That said, I think there are some really interesting thoughts to be thunk about what the role of the teacher is and how this is perceived by society.I’d also prefer not to gloss over the fact that (as far as I understand) in some renditions of this plan it was a teacher in the Philippines teaching (talking? controlling the robot?) remotely under the face of a White -faced robot. I just threw up in my mouth a little bit. Just a little.You can see the robot in action here. As a friend eloquently puts it, “Of course the kids like it, it’s a freakin’ robot! What kids don’t like robots?” I should also mention that the robots still need a (Korean) teacher in the room for discipline and everything. Wow, I guess I do have a lot to say on this. I should stop here before it turns into its own full post. In any case, I don’t think this plan was ever really taken very seriously with anyone with any amount of clout.I am partial to the quote, “”Any teacher that can be replaced with a computer, deserves to be” which is apparently from David Thornburg.


    A sign of the end times? Or just good hype for the Korean robotics industry? (Image from: http://www.evanbleker.com/koreas-english-teaching-robots-a-sign-that-the-end-times-are-near/)


  1. Pingback: Ten Questions, Asked | ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

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 )

Connecting to %s