Yonsei, Prototype of Korean Language Instruction

Article excerpt

The Korean Language Institute (KLI) of Yonsei University is a prototype of its kind, having produced thousands of graduates who now teach Korean at colleges around the world, work at overseas branches of Korean companies, remained in Korea to further their studies or work as high-profile executives in the finance and business sectors.

"We are proud that our institute is the oldest and largest Korean language center in the nation. We teach not only the language but also the culture and the history of this country to our students,'' says Cho Hang-rok, the center's assistant director.

KLI is among the language institutes affiliated with Yonsei, a higher learning institution founded by American missionaries which has been at the vanguard of western education for over a century.

The language institute opened on April 1, 1959 as the first to provide an intensive Korean language course with seven instructors and 24 students. Today, it employs 90 instructors and approximately a thousand students take various courses at the institute every year.

A total of 37,573 people from 103 countries have attended one or more courses at the institute over the past 40 years and 2,311 of them have received graduation certificates.

While diplomats and U.S. Armed Forces personnel accounted for the majority of students during the early years, since 1966, KLI has been in charge of the instruction of Peace Corps volunteers both in Korea and in the U.S.

Cho says, ``After the mid-eighties, in particular after the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul, the world began to recognize this small country and consequently we have seen an increase in the number of students and diverse nationalities. They come to Korea purely to study the language and its people. Also the children of emigrants arrived here to develop a deeper understanding of their roots.''

Today, one-third of KLI's students are Americans including ethnic Koreans who were either born there or went when they were kids. Their numbers are closely followed by the Japanese and Korean-Japanese. There are also many Germans, Canadians, Australians, Russians and Chinese.

The assistant director of KLI underlines its faculty members. The institute is manned by approximately 90 teaching staff including eight tenured full- time professors, all of whom have master's or doctorate degrees in English. Every faculty member has a long list of teaching experience and is specially trained for teaching the Korean language to non-Korean speakers.

Since 1974, the institute has published a journal every year on the Korean language titled, ``Mal'' which means ``Korean.'' In 1985, it held a symposium on the teaching skills of the Korean language under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Education.

The institute won the Sixth ``Sejong Cultural Award in Education'' on the 541st ``Hangul Day'' for having promoted Hangul, the Korean Language, internationally and evoked an interest in Korean culture through language instruction. The prize is named after King Sejong of the Choson Kingdom, who promulgated the Korean language.

Cho went on to say, ``Our faculty members include descendents of Choi Hyon-bae, Kim Yun-kyong and Paik Nak-june who struggled against the Japanese colonial government to protect Hangul. The professors incessantly exert efforts to improve their teaching skills through research and workshops."

Owing to these efforts, the textbooks and the teaching methods developed by KLI based on its past data have been exported to foreign colleges offering Korean language courses.

Now, KLI offers a regular program and several special programs. All the programs require a high school diploma or at least the equivalent as a prerequisite.

The regular program's schedule for year 2000 is composed of four quarters - spring, summer, fall and winter. Registration will be received on Mar. …