Free Korean class

 

 

 

 

 
“오늘은 겹자음에 대해 배울 거예요. 여러분, 방(room)과 빵(bread)의 차이를 아세요? 한번 따라 읽어볼까요?” “선생님 방, 방 똑같이 들려요. 뭐가 틀려요?” 17일 오후 4시 30분 서울 용산구 갈월사회복지회관에서 마련되고 있는 외국인들을 위한 무료 한글공부방 초급 1반 교실. 30여명의 학생들이 선생님의 입모양을 뚫어지게 바라보며 ‘방과 빵’‘살과 쌀’ 발음을 따라해 보지만 두 소리를 잘 구별할 수 없는지 연신 고개를 갸우뚱거린다. 급기야 한 벽안의 학생이 서투른 한글과 영어를 섞어가며 어려움을 호소하자 모두들 “맞아요. Right”라며 술렁댄다.

매주 토요일 오후 4시30분부터 6시까지 열리고 있는 이 한글공부방은 지난 2000년 10월 남영동 청소년 공부방에서 시작, 2005년 이곳 복지관으로 장소를 옮겨 벌써 6년째 이어져오고 있다. 한글 강사들은 회사에 다니는 순수한 자원봉사자들. 주중에는 각자 직장에서 일하고 주말에는 개인 여가시간을 쪼개 한글을 가르치고 있다.

이 공부방을 이끌고 있는 강사 이선주씨(32)는 “한국을 찾는 외국인들이 자유로운 분위기에서 한글과 한국문화를 익히는데 조금이나마 도움을 주기 위해 이 공부방을 시작했다”며 “이곳에서 한글을 배운 외국인들이 친구나 동료에게 소개하고 영문 잡지 등에 글을 소개하면서 주변에 많이 알려져 끊임없이 새로운 학생들이 찾아오고 있다”고 말했다.

이 한글공부방의 특징은 모든 외국인들에게 개방돼 있고 자원봉사자들이 운영하는 곳이지만 비교적 교육내용이 단계별로 체계적으로 이뤄지고 있다는 점.

현재 지자체나 각 단체에서 운영하는 외국인들을 위한 한국어 교육 프로그램은 대부분 동남아시아 노동자들이나 국제결혼 이주 여성 대상이어서 이들을 제외한 외국인들이 지속적으로 한국어를 배울 기회가 별로 없는 실정이다.

현재 이 공부방에는 초급 1·2반 중급반, 고급반 등 총 4개 반이 있으며 매주 초급 1·2반에는 20~30여명, 중급·고급반은 10~15명의 학생들이 모이고 있다. 이들 중에는 3~4년 동안 꾸준히 나오는 학생들도 있으며 개인적으로 서로 친해져 수업 후 ‘다국적 문화 모임’을 갖기도 한다.

수강생들의 국적은 70% 정도가 미국, 캐나다, 호주, 프랑스 등 구미권이고 나머지는 일본, 중국, 필리핀 등 아시아권이다. 직업도 영어 강사를 비롯 한국 주재 외국계 회사 직원, 컨설턴트, 사업가, 대학생, 주부 등 다양하다.

2년 전에 한국에 와 영어 강사로 일하고 있는 존 피터버저스씨(35)씨는 “한국어를 배우고 싶었지만 대학 어학당은 직장인으로서 시간을 맞추기 어려워 포기했었는데 이런 곳을 알게 돼 무척 행운”이라며 “한국어가 어렵지만 알면 알수록 한국 생활이 편하고 재미있어진다”고 덧붙였다.

고급반 니시무라 아끼꼬(일본어 강사·37)씨는 3년째 주말 시간이 날 때마다 이 곳을 찾고 있다. 한국어를 비교적 유창하게 하는 그는 “수업 내용이 실용 위주로 잘 짜여져 있어 유익하다”며 “동기부여도 되고 국적이 다양한 친구도 사귈 수 있어 좋다”고 말했다

한글을 공부하고 싶은 외국인이나 자원봉사를 원하는 사람은 홈페이지(www.kongbubang.wo.to)를 찾으면 된다.

박윤주 기자 izzy@segye.com

 

 

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Committed teachers run free Korean classes

Committed teachers run free Korean classes

Date: April 28, 2007

It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon for a weekend getaway. But, many foreigners in Korea are heading to Seoul’s Sookmyung Women’s University Station, Line No. 4, and a community center nearby that offers Korean classes.

“Jeoneun Ohio aeseo watseummida.” (I’m from Ohio.)
About 16 foreign students repeat what their Korean teacher just wrote on the white board. They are all ears learning how this common phrase is present tense in English, simple past in Korean.

“Learning a foreign language takes a lot of work and effort, not to mention teaching one,” says head Korean teacher Lee Min-hee. The 32-year-old volunteer has been working during weekdays and voluntarily teaching Korean language to foreigners every Saturday with her friend Lee Sunju at the center in Namyeong-dong since 2000.

With a passion for learning foreign languages, Lee and her friends gathered to begin the voluntary teaching every weekend as a chance for language exchange. Now, six volunteers, including four teachers and two assistants, run the free Korean language program in the “Kongbubang” (study room) every weekend.

As their program focuses on practical aspects — listening and speaking skills needed for foreigners studying or working in Korea — it gradually became popular among foreigners. Through word-of-mouth, students and workers without time or money for Korean courses, learned about the lessons.

The teaching curriculum is composed of four levels: one beginners’ class, two intermediate classes and one advanced class. Though the class is free, teachers still expect students to be dedicated, Lee says. For her, teaching is another form of learning, so the program’s staff also have to study hard with Korean language books to prepare for their lessons and make study materials by themselves.

Most students are from North America and Europe. Chinese and Japanese are the next largest group, with a few hailing from Nepal, India, Myanmar and Argentina. They include college students, English teachers, U.S. soldiers, housewives, accountants and other business people. They like to socialize after class sometimes as well, and many keep in touch with their classmates even after returning home.

Yuliya Mukhtarova, a student in the advanced class, says that she likes the Kongbubang program not because the program is free but because the program is fun and run by passionate teachers. In fluent Korean, the 31-year-old Russian tour conductor says she has been enjoying the program and still fondly recalls a trip to Yicheon, Gyeonggi-do, that she and others from the program made two years ago.

Those interested in attending can simply show up on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. The building that houses the Kongubang is a two minute walk down the diagonal alley way running toward Exit No. 2 of the subway station.

Visit the website at http://kongbubang.wo.to/ for more detailed directions and a list of phone numbers to call for more information.

By Yoon So-jung
Korea.net staff writer 

Foreigners Learn Korean Language for Free

Foreigners Learn Korean Language for Free

By Grant Surridge
Staff Writer

 
Every Saturday afternoon at about 4 p.m. a diverse group of individuals begin to trickle steadily out of the Sookmyung Women’s University subway stop. As they make their way down a narrow lane off the main road they draw curious stares from shopkeepers they pass along the way.The reason is that almost none of them are Korean. Many are westerners here teaching English or serving with the U.S. military, but there are people from all corners of the globe. Nepal, India, Myanmar, Argentina are but a few of the countries represented.

They show up every weekend to learn the Korean language, free of charge. And it’s all due to the hard work and vision of a very dedicated young woman named Ms. Sunju Lee.

She started the Korean Study Room in October 2000 with the help of her friend Ms. Minhee Lee (no relation). After teaching Korean at another non-profit organization in Seoul she found that the classes were too big, there was too much focus on socializing and not enough on learning.

One day while studying at the building currently housing the Study Room classes, she looked at the Koreans working hard around her and wondered why these couldn’t be foreign faces staring back. With this in mind she enlisted the help of Ms. Lee and the Korean Study Room was born.

There are now five teachers working at the Study Room and after starting out with fewer than 20 students three years ago, there are now well over 60 turning out every week. The classes are organized into four different levels; absolute beginner, beginner, intermediate and advanced. Students are free to attend as they wish but are required to register the first time they attend a lesson.

“I think teaching the Korean language to foreigners is one of the best ways to introduce them to Korean culture,” offers a smiling Sunju. “For someone new to Korea there is such a huge cultural gap and so much to learn about my country.”

All of the teachers at the Korean study room have special training in teaching the language to non-Koreans. According to Sunju one of the biggest problems Koreans have in letting everyone else in on their language is that they simply don’t know how.

“Many Koreans will shower a foreigner with praise if he or she says as much as ‘hello.’ This may feel good but if we want to teach seriously we need a proper method.”

There are two obstacles that the Korean teachers face on a weekly basis at the study room. One is the need for students to take the classes seriously and study hard outside of class. Because the lessons are free of charge students can be rather blase when it comes to studying. Korean is an extremely difficult language to grasp at first and finding the motivation is not easy.

Secondly, the fact there are only four levels of classes makes it hard to find a perfect match for everybody every week, especially when there’s always new people showing and others dropping out. “Each person is at a slightly different level and it’s almost impossible for us to satisfy everyone,” admits Sunju. Every week we have students who would be bored in say level 2, but would be way over their heads in level 3.”

Despite this difficulty the venture has definitely been a success. “I’ve had students who’ve made real progress since we’ve started and that’s very rewarding,” beams Sunju.

And the students seem to enjoy things as well. They keep coming back in droves. Micheal is from Milwaukee, and has been teaching English in Korea for seven months now. After starting out in level one he’s since made the jump up to the second level. “I’ve