Stolen from Yonhap via Naver.
So bravo everyone's life over there. For those unfamiliar, English Villages are kind of like a mini-camp, where students will go for anywhere between one and five days and will participate in a lot of hands-on, interactive role-playing at different stations. The Gangjin Shinmun article mentions "hospital," "department store," "immigration counter," and so on. These villages are all the rage in Jeollanam-do, and there are already villages in Naju, Jangheung, Gurye, Gwangyang, Boseong, and a ton of other places. A different group of students arrive every few days or every week, so the teachers there run through the same lessons over and over. The article mentions that it will serve students from 3rd to 9th grade. I remember there was a big emphasis on preparing my students for going to the English Village, since they were pretty low level (well, consistent with rural elementary school students all over the province, I suppose). Anyway, you haven't experienced frustration until you've had to teach an "Immigration" dialogue to fifth-grade students who can't read, and a "hospital" dialogue to third-graders who can't do anything.
Originally the English Town was going to be placed above the cafeteria at Gangjin East Elementary School. There were a few empty classrooms up there, but they just put in a brand new library, with computers and stuff, up there, too, so a lot of folks didn't want that ripped out. The Foreign Language Town now occupies the former site of Chilryang Elementary School, which closed in 1999. Renovating that school cost about 650 million won.
It was also unpopular among some because it meant that foreign teachers would be taken out of the elementary schools and concentrated at the Village. So instead of each class seeing an
Another consequence of phasing out native speakers was that homeroom teachers would have to teach English classes without the help of a native speaker. Not too difficult, since Koreans have had a decade or more of English education in schools, and are exposed to the language their entire lives. Moreover, the textbooks are to be taught with a CD-ROM, so the teacher really doesn't have to talk at all, and the teachers' guides are entirely in Korean. The entire curriculum is designed to accommodate Korean homeroom teachers who may or may not have any idea what they're doing. But in the infinite wisdom of the people at my school, the teachers decided this would be an incredibly difficult task, and wanted to get an early jump on it by teaching all their classes alone in the spring semester, even though they had a native speaker at their disposal. Not sure if you've ever been kicked out of your own English class or asked to leave your own office, but it's a terribly disrespectful thing to experience. To make matters all the more infuriating, my coworkers refused to take English lessons from me, and skipped all of the weekly Classroom English classes I hosted. The classes of theirs I did observe consisted of teachers speaking in Korean for the entire class, forcing students to memorize dialogues---even though most students didn't know their ABCs yet---and getting physical if a student failed.
One incident in particular really helped move Hite off the shelves at the local grocery store. There were tons of meetings throughout the year for Korean English teachers, since they would face some difficulties after the white people left
I'm curious who will staff it. When I arrived in Gangjin in August, 2006, I was to be the only foreigner there. At various times throughout my contract they told me that as few as one and as many as nine foreigners would work at the Town. I've been in contact with one guy who was schedule to go there in late-March, but right before he was getting his contract and visa stuff in order they notified him that the position had already been filled. This Yonhap article (via Naver) says that three foreigners and one Korean teacher will work there, although who knows. I've seen statistics on other English Villages in Jeollanam-do, and the Korean teachers have almost always outnumbered the foreign teachers. At the one in Jangheung, for example, there are three Koreans, one Canadian, and one Filipino.
Nobody asked, but I don't really like the idea of English Towns. I think the money spent could have gone toward improving the nonexistant English skills of the Korean English teachers there. (My coteachers included a very pregnant music teacher who couldn't speak any English, a substitute gym teacher, and a 5th grade homeroom teacher). I'll admit I'm not an impartial observer, though, because of the overwhelmingly poor treatment I received at the hands of my coworkers. This English Town is also a curious thing to build since there is already an "English Only Zone" at 중앙초교 in Gangjin-eup, which already cycles the students in for immersion programs, and which already features a bunch of the same stations mentioned in the article. Whatever. It's quite clear that this is the direction Jeollanam-do is going in, and that form has again trumped function. As with most aspects of English education in South Korea, I liken this to using a sledgehammer to kill a fly. The students can't read and they can't spontaneously construct a sentence, and both students and teachers really need to get back to basics . . . but at least they'll be responding "It's sunny" to "How are you?" in style now and on a brand new soccer field.
Since Gangjin is throwing money around now, maybe they'll finally get around to paying my overtime, to paying me for my three-week-long winter camp, and to providing the very basic supplies I requested. Probably not. You know, I was a huge spokesman for Gangjin and Jeollanam-do last year, working hard to write up information on Galbijim and Waygook.org, and to provide positive English-language information for the county where there previously was none. Hell, some of the write-ups I did synthesized information that had never even been brought together in Korean. I was pretty eager to stick around, as it's a pleasant county. Sadly, some Koreans really do know how to kill the affection a foreigner feels for his home away from home. And just like a video like "Kicking it in Geumchon" will create more positive publicity for an unremarkable part of unremarkable Paju than any website or promotional campaign could, so too do posts like this and experiences like mine damage what little reputation that county has. After all, who else is writing