Celta Focus on the Learner

December 1, 2016 Teaching

Focus on student: Ji Hyun
Level: Pre-intermediate
Word Count: 1231

For this assignment, I interviewed Ji Hyun who is a 20 something Korean. During the first day of class, I noticed that compared to other students, she had traveled to many different places. She had traveled to Guam, Saipan, and Hong Kong. She is in the middle of her class so there are a few students above her level, and a few students below.

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During the interview, I did not notice anything that stood out as unusual for an adult Korean student. She still has trouble with certain word endings (such as saying ???consultant-u??? instead of ???consultant???). This is because in Korean, it is impossible to end some words with consonants. In speaking, she generally thinks of the Korean sentence and tries to translate the Korean sentence into English. This is evident in sentences such as ???I??™m not human resource development, so training.???. She wanted to say that although she personally doesn??™t work in human resource development, the company she works for arranges training for clients.

At the beginning of the interview, I gave her a sheet (that I wrote myself) to get an idea of why she wants to study English. I also included a few questions about what her style of learning and interests are. Her answers indicated that she has an interest in many things, but that her preferred style of learning is still teacher centered. The two least favorite activities on the sheet were practicing dialogs (rather pedantic) and learning songs (maybe not relevant to her reasons for learning English). The one sentence on the sheet, ???I can get a better job because I want to work multi-company.??? along with other answers on the sheet, indicate that she is primarily interested in using English to get a good job. The grammar of that sentence, and what it indicates about her level of English, will be discussed later.

Like most Koreans, she studied English since middle school. Given my 5 years of experience teaching in the Korean public school system, I can say that the primary method of learning is heavily teacher centered. Meaning that the teacher lectures entirely in Korean, throughout the class. Students generally are not expected to produce the language except in written form. Because of this, in general, the writing skills of Koreans are better than their speaking ability. So, in the one sentence she wrote down on her sheet, she correctly used the infinitive (to work) but was unable to use it in a few places when she spoke.

She is more interested in international travel than the average Korean. My evidence for this is the fact that she has traveled to many unusual (or unusual for Koreans) places and wants to work for a multi-national company.

Her primary use of English entails writing e-mails for her company and reading English articles. She has some interest in English speaking cultures, but this should probably not be the primary focus of an ordinary English lesson in her case. Some culture is important so that she can have congenial relationships with foreigners that she has to work with.

As far as language features, the sentence she wrote above indicates that she has trouble with the ???can??? verb (meaning ability or permission and not want). She also has trouble with either prepositional phrases or phrasal verbs ???work for a multi-national company??? instead of ??? work multi-company???. She has the usual problems with using articles ???a, an, the???. She also needs work on her pronunciation with certain vowels. This includes removing some Korean features of how she handles certain word endings.

My recommendations for her would be as follows:

Practice various sentence structures and specific things (such as phrasal verbs) that she has trouble with.
Be more student centered. Have her produce the language in a comfortable setting.
Socialize with a variety of foreigners to get an idea of different personalities and culture.
Bring English articles or e-mails into class that she is having trouble with. Although this will be difficult for the teacher, it will make the class more relevant to her and the other students. If necessary, the teacher can plan a future lesson on the difficult language points that are brought up in this way.
Real situations and language should be preferred over contrived situations and language.

As far as material, the best material would be something she brings into class from work. However, for the purposes of this paper, a possible kind of material to bring into class would be a business e-mail message. Other kinds of materials would be newspaper articles or perhaps technical documents.

An example of a business letter that I might cover in class might be

This letter could be used to cover business letter form, passive future tense (will be shipped), as well as teaching students how to read a simple business letter.

Regarding the sentence ???I??™m not human resource development, so training.??? she should be encouraged to use complete sentences such as ???I don??™t like human resource development, so I do training.??? or ???My company works in human resource development, but that??™s not what I do. I am involved in training.???

As far as ending words inappropriately (such as ???consultant-u???) materials should be tailored so that words that have difficult endings come up more often. Given that her native language is Korean, this habit may be difficult to break. As far as understandability from other English speakers, this is not a major issue, but enough of one to address.

Since she is interested in travel, stories about travel is another sort of possible material to bring into class. These stories could involve places she has been to that the other students have not been to (such as Saipan). This would give her an opportunity to tell other students about her own personal experiences. Material could also include countries she has not been to with a pre-reading task of imagining what sort of experiences you might have visiting that country.

If possible, arrangements could be made so that she could socialize with other English speaking people outside of class. She could be assigned homework which would entail asking specific questions such as ???Where are you from??? ???How long have you been in Korea??? and so forth. Another useful task would be to have her go to a place with a lot of foreigners (such as Itaewon) and try to remember or even write down, things she has heard in casual conversations. To facilitate this, examples of common casual conversations could be covered in class beforehand.

Although most of the material should be relevant for work, occasionally something fun like simple jokes, poems, and pop songs should be presented in class as a break from the usual English lesson. Such material should be voted on by students and presented perhaps the day after a difficult topic was covered.
Works included or cited

???Questionnaire for new students.??? Brian M. Dean
Transcript (partial) interview between Brian Dean and Ji Hyun.

Dear Mr Flintstone:

With reference to our telephone conversation today, I am writing to confirm your order for: 120 x Cheddar Deluxe Ref. No. 856

The order will be shipped within three days via UPS and should arrive at your store in about 10 days.

Please contact us again if we can help in any way.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Beare
Director of Kens Cheese House

from: http://esl.about.com/cs/onthejobenglish/a/a_basbletter.htm


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