I’m sure you know by know that I went for a 10-week Korean Language Programme @ Yonsei in Korea back in September 2014 (: I have repeated, “I went to Korea to study Korean” so many times that I no longer find it weird to say it out loud. Heh.
Anyways, just want to share my experience at Yonsei Korean Language Institute (KLI) and some tips on what school to pick (:
My experience at Yonsei KLI
The placement test
The placement test takes place a few days before school starts. Basically, the purpose is to ‘sort’ you into the correct level. There’s 2 parts to the placement test – written paper and oral.
The test is structured pretty much like a TOPIK paper. Just keep doing the paper until you can’t anymore (or till time runs out). Contrary to what I’ve read online (while prepping for my trip), the test is made up of multiple choices and fill in the blanks (you choose the correct words from a list). The essay part is right at the end and I think it’s for the highly skilled people ;p So, don’t stress yourself out (:
While doing the paper, the examiner will call you out for your oral test. The oral test is pretty straightforward. The examiner basically have a paper filled with questions to ask. They will go through the list and see how far you can go (: Questions range from what did you do last weekend, what’s your occupation, introduce a place of interest in your country and etc.
I was lucky. I totally fumbled during my oral cos I was so nervous! But the examiner realised that I could understand what she was saying and gave me a good score! She was my 읽기 teacher! I really enjoyed her lesson so much! I think I spoke a year’s worth of Korean sentences in her class.
<will go hunt for the photo I took with her>
It’s pretty systematic which I kind of like. Every teacher will have a thick book filled with sample sentences for the vocabulary and grammar of each chapter. Kinda interesting.
Baiscally, the class goes like this –
9.00 – 9.50 Conversation/Grammar/Vocabulary
10.00 – 10.50 Conversation/Grammar/Vocabulary
11.10 – 12.00 Reading Class (taught by a different teacher)
12.10 – 1.00 Oral Practice OR Conversation/Grammar/Vocabulary
A typical day in class will start with a recap of the grammar from the last lesson. The teacher will go down the row one by one, ask you a question and you have to reply using the grammar. For example, the teacher will go, “혜산씨, 영화 볼때 휴대전화를 싸도 돼?” and I have to reply with, “아니요, 영화 볼때 휴대전화를 쓰면 안돼요.”
Once that’s done, the teacher will start by reading the dialogue in the textbook (some teachers may make you memorise them). After which, the teacher will go through the vocabulary used and try to ask you questions related to them. Then she will bring you through the grammar for that chapter. What I liked was that…The teacher will give you sample sentences and go round the class to get you to construct sentences with it on the spot *thumbs up* Stressful, yes. But damn useful!
Reading class…I have really different experience with different teachers. My first teacher was awesome (my oral examiner!). She will read the passage, make us repeat then make us read it on our own. She will also go through the vocabulary and then…FREESTYLE! She will ask us questions regarding the passage (like comprehension), tell us stories, encourage us to tell her about our own culture, introduce us places to go for the weekend etc. If we speak in a language other than Korean, we have to pay 500won! Fun!
The 2nd teacher for Reading class was kinda boring. She followed the textbook to the T. Yawn. And when it comes to words that are commonly mispronounced, she will jump on you even before you read it. She naturally assumes that you will pronounce it wrongly. Like WHAT?! And she likes to answer her own questions! I gave up participating in class after awhile ;p
Anyways! After Reading class, the last lesson is used to wrap up loose ends from the 1st and 2nd period. If there’s time, there’s oral practice (:
Oh yes, after mid-terms, they will swap your teachers 😦 I find it rather disruptive cos you have to adapt to the new teacher all over again. But I guess, it helps cos different teachers may spot different areas that you need help with.
Homework + Exams
There’s homework everyday! Haha. This differ between teachers but the basic ‘set’ is to copy the dialogue from textbook (x2), form sentences with the vocabulary (x1) and the grammar (x2; dialogue style). Homework is not compulsory. But I highly recommend doing it. It’s really useful.
There will be mid-terms and final exams. Here’s how it’s split –
Oral – Scenario-based* + One-on-One Oral
Reading – Comprehension + Reading out loud
*Scenario-based Oral is done in pairs. Basically, you will be paired up, given 3 scenarios and you have to work with your partner to come up with a dialogue. Each person needs to have 8 dialogue each and you have to memorise everything! You don’t know which scenario will be tested. Try to use the grammar and vocabulary learned in class!
Exams are spread over 2 days + 0.5 days (scenario-based oral usually done a week before exams). Results are announced the day after your final paper. Talk about efficiency!
Different levels will have different activities. But there will be about 2 activities per semester – before and after mid-terms. For Level 2, we learnt how to make japchae before mid-terms and then had a singing ‘competition’ after mid-terms *cough*
I heard in Level 3, you have to act and in Level 4, you have to debate in…Korean! Gasp!
Tips on choosing school
Honestly? If you are already studying Korean, I will highly recommend going to the school of the textbook you are using (: As different schools teaches in different way (for example, Kyunghee starts with formal while Seoul starts with casual), if you jump schools, you might end up in a ‘lower’ level and having to re-do a lot of stuff.
If you are not studying Korean right now, you’re in luck! You can take your pick! But…do try to look through textbooks of the different schools before trying (:
Trust me. The textbooks is EVERYTHING. I spent 2 years studying 6 levels of Korean using Kyunghee’s textbook. After 6 levels, my Korean was still horrible. It was only after jumping to Seoul University’s and Yonsei’s did my Korean improved. So, textbook is important. Can’t stress this enough.
But I want to go to a school that concentrates on SPOKEN KOREAN.
I guess that’s what everyone will say. Well…from my experience, I think it really doesn’t matter which school you go to. If you want to improve your 말기, your social circle/classmates are more important.
There’s only 4 hours of class everyday. How much 말기 can you do? Not much.
For me, my 말기 didn’t improve as much as my friends from neighbouring classes. Why? 60% of my classmates speak Mandarin, the other 30% speaks English! For the most part, I end up speaking in English/Mandarin to them. I only truly speak Korean to my Japanese classmates *facepalm* On the other hand, my friend from the class next door…She had to speak in Korean because majority of her classmates don’t really speak English/Mandarin. Her 말기 really improved alot.
Oh and I didn’t manage to use much Korean in my daily life as well because everyone starts speaking to me in Mandarin somehow. Even if I speak to them in Korean/English to begin with. It’s really frustrating (though it does makes life slightly easier). BUT! I can now order delivery in Korean 😀
Yup! I think that’s about it for picking schools. Will try and write about accommodation (SK Global House) and getting a Korean SIM soon. Hopefully (: