I wrote about Jeju's foreigner ghetto, or rather "English Town," last month, and yesterday the Joongang Ilbo put up an article telling us more about this 1.4-trillion-won project.
It’s a highly ambitious plan and one fraught with challenges, especially given the uncertainty of the global economy.
But, if it works, the English Education City on Jeju Island could transform the island into an education hub.
God damn it, the h-word.
JDC hopes to collaborate with known international schools in building the city in Jeju.
“I can’t say the specific names of all the schools interested at this point but several schools including [in the U.S.] Phillips Academy, Andover; Phillips Exeter Academy, Milton Academy and others are showing interest. Officials at the schools like the idea and we’re currently in the process of holding talks,” said JDC’s Kim Seung-kwan.
“We’re asking the schools to allow us to use their names for the new institutions, though many are reluctant at this point. For example, New Songdo International City reached an agreement with Milton Academy but failed to reach an agreement on the name,” said Kim.
LOL, I'm sure they'll go ahead and use them anyway, it's not like anyone ever checks up or holds anyone accountable. They're also coming up with some innovative schemes to round out the white population:
To create an English-speaking environment, JDC has some interesting plans. “We hope to attract seniors from English-speaking countries to live on Jeju Island either for the short term or long term. They can do a variety of jobs around the English Town,” said Kim of JDC.
We heard a similar line of thinking with the Muan American Town, where retirees could come live and teach English for free. I've written plenty about why English Villages and Towns suck, the chief reason being a lack of commitment to truly learning the language. Moreover, in the case of the Paju English Village, an investigation found that it's not an English-only environment at all. The novelty wears off quickly, and people realize that they could have had the same education with a phrase book and some quality time in front of Youtube. We already read that these village are losing money all across Korea, so why the impulse to build an even bigger one?
Above all, these are built to stem the tide of Koreans who travel overseas to study, but what people really don't realize is that these towns and villages are hardly authentic. You'll know what I mean if you've ever tried to install an English-only policy at school: nobody follows it and you yourself have to simplify the language greatly to be understood. What you gain in comprehensibility you lose in authenticity, so that I wonder how often students and teachers have ever heard a foreigner speak Engish at a normal pace. That problem becomes amplified when you create foreign community of retirees, professors, teachers, and whomever else they import, a community that wasn't allowed to form organically. And it points to the ambivalence of English education here, the lack of a clearly defined reason for learning the language. People might study a language to enter that language community and share information with its speakers, something best accomplished by going abroad and actually meeting them. However, since English is essentially a domestic product here---used for domestic job interviews, to enter domestic colleges, and used on domestic tests---the native speaker is superfluous, as we've seen in the schools. If that's the case---and nothing really wrong with that since people study languages to simply read and write texts, too---there's no need to create an English-immersion community or to, ironically, isolate it on an island.
To sum up my thoughts, I'll plagiarize myself:
Anyway, when I first began following this trend in 2004 or 2005 I thought to myself "Why would people want to build English Villages in a country where don't talk to the foreigners they already have?" What's with always having to compartmentalize English---and foreigners---and make it something you have to go out and study? What's with the need to make it self-contained, whether in a school, in a town, or on a tour bus? The hundreds of hagwon in your own town aren't enough? The native speaker at your school isn't enough? The foreigners you pass every day on the street and yell "HellOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO monkey" at their back after they've walked by aren't good enough? The white guy you ignore all day at school and then approach for private lessons later isn't good enough? The half-dozen channels devoted to English education aren't good enough? The thousands upon thousands of Korean-language websites devoted to learning English aren't good enough? It's come to this?
There's nothing wrong with building and going to theme parks, which is essentially what these villages are, though again I find them to be like using sledgehammers to kill mosquitos. I think they'd be fun for a visit once in a while, but they're not as authentic as they're cracked up to be, and they're not going to churn out millions of English-speakers. Decades of decades-long English study hasn't done that yet. I was going to include a line about building a hypothetical Chinese Village in Pennsylvania and hiring spitters and rude shopkeepers, but I'll leave that out. You get what I mean, though. The English Education City is to an authentic language community what "Love Story in Harvard" is to the Ivy Leagues.