Friday, April 08, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: We're No. 13! We're No. 13!

It is hardly secret that Korea spends a ton of money in English education. So is that money doing anything? According to the newest data, it seems to be working. The latest report by Education First, a Britain-based language education company, Korea is 13th in the world in terms of English proficiency among the countries that do not use English as the first language, and third in Asia following Malaysia and Hong Kong. Unsurprisingly, the top of the chart is dominated by European countries. Given that Korea has been in dire poverty until the 1980s and Korean language is really far apart from English compared to most European languages, this is a solid showing.

There are a few surprises in the list when it comes to Korea. Korea's English proficiency is only slightly behind Hong Kong, and significantly better than India -- two former British colonies. Korea's English proficiency is also better than Mexico, a country that is right next to as well as has significant economic ties with the U.S. Korea's English proficiency is also ahead of several wealthy European countries like France, Portugal, Italy and Spain. And considering Korea's English push went up into another gear at around late 1990s, the Korean would expect more improvement in the future.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

17 comments:

  1. And here is a preemptive message to all the haters who whine about how Korea spends so much money and effort into English education and yet there are students who cannot form a sentence: shove it up your ass.

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  2. Unfortunately, the EF.com site may perpetuate the view that english is absolutely necessary for a country to advance - especially in the sciences. I am for more translation services to assist globalization. The world is missing out on a lot of great ideas b/c English is serving as a barricade.

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/227888/tedtalks-patricia-ryan-dont-insist-on-english#s-p2-sr-i0

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  3. Wow. Didn't know that Malaysia is so strong.
    I have the slightest mean to bash Malaysia, but when you're a Malaysian, you see why.

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  4. Is this survey really trustworthy? Considering my experiences with EF I highly doubt it.

    It reminds me of the American university ranking. Very nice indeed - by no means I'd scepticize the credidibilty of the institution which conducts these surveyes, but since I've read about the procedure, I highly doubt it's significance and authenticity.

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  5. "And here is a preemptive message to all the haters who whine about how Korea spends so much money and effort into English education and yet there are students who cannot form a sentence: shove it up your ass. "

    LOL it seems that TK has been in emotional overdrive recently, trying to defend his motherland from all the (legitimate) criticism of expats. HWAITING KOREA! South Korea is Best Korea!

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  6. @Linda

    I believe the output of scientific and other academic articles is so prolific these days that translation services, however good, cannot keep pace. It's much easier for specialists in many fields - doctors, scientists, and so on - to have a certain level of English proficiency (not necessarily all that high) than have to rely on translation services all the time.

    There does seem to be a danger that we in the Anglosphere are missing out on a lot of great ideas from elsewhere. Hopefully, translators will eventually let us know about them!

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  7. That education site is quite interesting. I note that they subscribe to the current orthodoxy that rote memorisation and study of grammar should be deprioritized in favour of teaching 'communication strategies'. It seems a fuzzy sort of subject to teach in a formal setting, particularly when a little real-world experience - and a little money on the table - would seem quite sufficient.

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  8. @d_profile

    I've been to Malaysia and yes they're very strong. If you go there from Singapore it may not look so great, but compared to all its other neighbours...

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  9. Is this for real? I highly doubt it. Next to Hongkong & Malaysia??? How come a lot as in tons of koreans are in the Philippines learning the English language? I'm confused.

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  10. I don't know where these rankings came from (link didn't load for me), but Koreans speak better English than the French, the Italians and the Spanish? Really? Does anyone actually believe that?

    As mentioned, the reason Koreans can't speak English very well despite the money they spend on it is that there are very few countries that are both wealthy and have a cultural and linguistic difference from the English-speaking world.

    The only places which fit this description are Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Naturally, they won't speak English very well.

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  11. Actually, as least with respect to Spain, the Korean would believe it. It was impossible to get the word "fork" understood to the waiting staff at restaurants

    Obviously that is not a proof for anything, but it does incline the Korean to think the ranking is plausible.

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  12. Certainly a random survey can be plausible, even when so many of fellow commentors doubt its results, as long as it can be used to repudiate those bad, bad expats who insult Best Korea!

    Hwaiting!

    ....


    (yes, I love to write sarcastic comments)

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  13. I won second place in a tournament last year. The guy who won first was leagues better than everyone else competing, myself included. On a similar note, I challenged someone to the same game a couple years ago just for fun. She happens to currently be ranked as the best female player in her country, but I did find one advantage I had over her, though it wasn't enough to win. In other words, I think this ranking is useless. Besides, now that Korea can bask in the fact that they beat Japan, there's no more motivation. :P

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  14. I buy it. I live in Korea, and I just barely speak functional Korean, and I'm always getting bailed out of misunderstandings by random Korean bystanders that speak English. I've never spent any significant amount of time in any other foreign countries, but I do have a friend who went to France and had a hard time getting around only speaking English.

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  15. " but Koreans speak better English than the French, the Italians and the Spanish? Really? Does anyone actually believe that?"

    I DO! I'm french and I can swear to you, that we're FAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR from being fluent in english!That Korean people are better than us, would be no surprise....

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