Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ask a Korean! Wiki: What Do Korean High Schoolers Like?

.... for the purpose of their English education?

Dear Korean,

I recently began a year-long committment as a guest English teacher in an all-girls high school. I'm an American guy fresh out of college, new to Korea, and I want to learn more about the interests of my students so I can capture their attention in class. I want them to speak frequently in class by raising their hands in response to the topics I present. But what topics? I struck a good chord bringing up Jaebeom and 2PM. Another musical group I have heard of is Girls Generation. What kind of current events? Fashions? Movies? TV shows ?


Dear Luke,

If the Korean knew what Korean high school girls like to talk about, he would have done a lot better in dating when he was in high school. Instead, the Korean's high school life (at least the part that was spent in a high school in Korea) consisted of getting onto the school bus on 7 a.m. and getting home at 10:30 p.m.

In all seriousness, this is a topic better reserved for others like you who are on the front line of teaching Korean students. NSET readers, any ideas?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. He. Ok, I am not a specialist on Korean high school girls either. But a hunch tells me that Korean TV drama or korean movies might be a thing that a lot might have an interest in. You can probably either try classic ones (winter sonata, autumn in my heart etc.) or more recent ones (cinderella's sister maybe, but it's over already, see here for whats running now: to talk about. Girl's generation is pretty hot right now, thats true. There is a TV show where a member has a fake marriage with another a member of another band. They basically just pretend they are married and live in the same house. The show is pretty funny sometimes, because they really act awkward due to this unnatural situation. Maybe that's an intersting topic to talk about.

  2. Word of caution. When I was stationed in Korea, I picked up a part time gig tutoring high school kids on the weekend. I had no guidance and decided to do something like I think you may be about to try. I figured their teachers were giving them the "nuts and bolts" of English so I would expand on that with honing their ability to use conversational English in a real setting. From my perspective, it seemed to be a success. The kids became much more comfortable with English and seemed more able to manipulate it in a spoken setting.

    The one of the kids' parents found out what I was doing. The manager of the program took the kids away from me, gave me a new group along with a work book and flash cards. Apparently, I was supposed to help them with rote memorization of words and grammar.

    I'm not saying not to do what you're contemplating. It would likely be helpful. Just don't forget to give your students the basics.

  3. @Aaron, you do realize that caters to English speaking kpop fans, many of them actually non-Koreans? So I doubt that'd be much help.

    Actually, I find that average Korean girls in Korea spend much less time watching kdramas than Korean Americans. Popular tv shows among young people these days include "Infinity Challenge," "One night, two days," "We Got Married, and "Hot Brothers."

    You can't go wrong with boy bands when it comes to teenage girls. The most popular ones are DBSK, Super Junior, Shinee, 2PM, 2AM, and Big Bang.

    Finally, girls all over the world are universally interested in fashion and beauty tips. For instance, how to treat breakouts, finding shoes that match their school uniforms, etc.

  4. If you take the time to watch one of the music shows every week (Inkigayo, Music Core, or Musicbank) you'll probably have plenty of stuff to talk about.

  5. I wouldn't count on students to voluntarily raise their hands and answer your questions. For a variety of reasons (shyness, traditional teacher-centered learning environment, etc.), I find that it's just too much like pulling teeth to call out a question and wait for an answer.
    Better to have a list of students' names, and call them out individually to ask them something, and try and get discussion going from there.
    I had a lot of success lately asking students about Korean legends like Dangoon, the myth of the first Korean.

  6. I find that the all-girl's schools are better behaved than any other set-up (all boys, mixed). You might've lucked out, sir. Also, I didn't see 2NE1 (twenty-one) mentioned. A lot of my older girls (I teach middle school) dig them.

    I've noticed that many of my girls are talented artists, too, so designing posters, creating a new fashionable mp3 player or smartphone or something might work well in class. I don't get to do it much, but project-based learning is a blast and would probably fly well with that age.

    Word to the wise. Don't schedule your PBLs a week or two before exams. They'll be super-stressed out, I'm sure, beforehand and won't need any extra homework.

  7. My kids and their friends have been watching My Girlfriend is a 9 Tailed Fox pretty regularly for the past few weeks. They're all between 9 and 13, but it seems like older kids may be in to it as well. It isn't too hard to follow, even if you can't understand Korean.

  8. I think noow would be a good time to bring up the topic of JYJ, or the 'sub-unit' of DongBangShinKi because they just released a new album. Other bands that recently have been making comebacks include 2NE1, Miss A, and BEAST.

    Also, since many of the kids are studying, I doubt that they have a bunch of free time to watch drama shows. They might watch shows like We Got Married (mention JoKwon and Ga-in, and Nichkhun and Victoria-ssi) and Infinity Challenge.

    I'm sure if you watch MusicCore, Music Bank, or Inkigayo even once you'll have a lot you can discuss in class with your girls.


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