For spending an estimated $15 billion a year on English education, you’d think Koreans would be speaking better English. Parents send their children to private English academies or hagwons, summer and winter English camps, trips abroad (that’s why it’s difficult to find cheap flights here) and private tutors. College students and office workers also spend time and money learning English the way younger Koreans do.
Korean English Fever Betrayed by Test Scores
The Korean private English education market is estimated at as much as 15 trillion won ($15 billion). On top of students, office workers are bent on studying the language…
The British Council announced Tuesday that Korea ranked 19th on the general training module of the IELTS among 20 countries â€• Korean applicants averaged 5.21 out of a full score of 9…
“Although Korea spends more money on English education and Koreans are trying to study English at an earlier age the test scores have remained the same,” the British Council said.
Why aren’t Koreans better in the language? I’m not an expert but one of the problems is they don’t use English as a tool for communication, but merely as one of the subjects they need to pass to enter a better university or to get work promotion. I’d read of some students obtaining a perfect 900 in their TOEIC tests yet they can’t speak the language. I guess this is one of the reasons why the speaking test is now included in TOEIC and TOEFL tests.
In my five years here, I’ve met several Koreans who speak English really well with a nice American or British accent. Most of them have spent time abroad without interpreters so they were really forced to use the language. Immersion. Koreans here don’t really use English outside their classes, unless they have foreign friends. Being a foreigner here, I sometimes think that they’re just being friendly so they could use the language.