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Half of SNU int’l students struggle with Korean

Almost half of the international students attending Seoul National University do not adequately understand lectures conducted in Korean, a survey of 432 international students conducted by the school’s diversity council has revealed.

. Seoul has been South Korea’s educational hub for decades and has also caught on with international students in recent years. Photo: Wikimedia CommonSeoul has been South Korea’s educational hub for decades and has also caught on with international students in recent years. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Just 17.8% of international students were able to understand most of the lectures

According to reports, when about understanding lectures conducted in Korean, 47.2% of the respondents said they couldn’t follow the class at all, or they often can’t fully understand the lecturer.

The council suggested offering English subtitles for the lectures

Just 17.8%  answered that they were able to understand most of the lectures.

Meanwhile, 43.8% counted the “lack of Korean language proficiency” as the main reason they struggle to study in Korea.

More than half of the respondents said they found it difficult to join class discussions and 36.6%  said they struggled to participate in group projects.

Students who come to Korea on Korean Government Scholarship Program are required to take a one-year language course before they start studies at SNU.  However, about 43% of the 107 students who took the course said it was not enough to gain proficiency in the language.

The survey, however, found that many international students (more than 70%) were interested in taking classes on Korean language or Korean culture despite experiencing difficulties.

Meanwhile, 36.1% of the respondents said SNU should increase the number of lectures conducted in English, while 22.9% said the professors’ English proficiency should be improved to raise the quality of the English lectures.

“To help the international students, the university should seek plans such as increasing the number of English lectures and providing better Korean language courses to the students,” SNU’s diversity council said.

The council suggested offering English subtitles for the lectures conducted in Korean or arranging tutoring by classmates.

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2 Responses to Half of SNU int’l students struggle with Korean

  1. This is why they say before you go to another country, learn their language. You can’t expect the professors to cater to English just because you did not take time to learn Korean. 1 year can or cannot get you to a TOPIK 3. It is all up to you. So the future students applying to Korean universities please learn as much as you can before you go there. I do agree that English speaking professors should upgrade their speaking, but you are in a Korean speaking country so do your hardest to learn Korean so you won’t have to struggle. Just some constructive criticism.

    • The issue isn’t so much that they only took one year of Korean language and culture classes. The TOPIK itself has never included a speaking portion. So, when students don’t understand something they have no opportunities to ask for clarification the way they would if they were taking a speaking test. Luckily, a speaking portion will be added in coming years.

      Also, studying a language in your home country for X amount of years never fully prepares you for communicating with native speakers unless you have adequate chances to use the language, especially when you take into account that some people speak standard language with accents due to their regional dialects. I took Spanish for a year in college before studying abroad in Costa Rica and prior to that I learned some Spanish from my (then) Mexican coworker’s. While I could understand people on the street I had a difficult time understanding my main professor at first because he would speak incredibly fast—he never did slow down to my knowledge. Additionally, I lived with a host family from Ecuador (totally different dialect) and could barely understand them unless they spoke slowly and clearly. Ironically, I have had little trouble understanding Colombians and Argentinans when they speak.

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