|Immersion villages give learners a real boost|
English education in South Korea is undergoing a revolutionary change: local governments are competing to establish English immersion villages. These would allow students to develop their language skills in an English-only environment similar to that of a real English-speaking community.
In these villages, people would be given English names and even use foreign currency to purchase things. Hotels, post offices and other facilities would be run as they would be in English-speaking countries. That would give visitors a chance to learn more about foreign culture.
An "English" village in Kyonggi Province, in the centre of Korean peninsula, is at the centre of the revolution. It was established in August and its language programmes have got a positive response from both teachers and students, since then.
The students here have very different attitudes from those in regular school classrooms. Students seem so sincere when introducing themselves in English that the native and Korean teachers are very excited about helping," Lee Sung-shik, a middle school teacher in Seoul, commented.
Lee's students participated in the language programmes in August. After registering, each student got 30 fake dollars for their stay in the village. Teachers took back one or two dollars whenever a student used Korean or broke other rules. And they gave one dollar to any student who followed the instructions well. At the end of the session, some students had 70-80 dollars. That meant they had successfully passed the language courses.
So, the English village had a successful debut, providing students there with an innovative way of learning.
"We are giving them an environment and atmosphere that is the same as what they would get if they went abroad to study," said Carl Dusthimer, director of the English village. "We have developed a unique curriculum. This curriculum allows students to choose the content areas they want to experience. It takes them on a journey into areas such as drama, art, music, and science. But it does it in ways they can't experience in other programmes."
Following in the footsteps of this English village is Seoul English Village in southeastern Seoul. It's set to open in late November. It will also offer an environment similar to that of English-speaking countries. This relieves parents of the burden of sending their children overseas for study. It will provide young students with real-life experiences through various simulated environments such as going through immigration procedures and booking a hotel room. Meanwhile, another province is planning to set up an English immersion campus near Seoul, by 2006. This English village will have schools, a sports centre, and various cultural facilities.
An increasing number of South Korean schools are introducing English immersion programmes for students tired of traditional classroom education. In some schools, English is not taught as a subject as such. Instead it is taught through the study of other subjects like mathematics, social studies and science, with English used as the means of communication.