Background: I have been toying with the idea of reviewing Korean classes in Singapore and casually talked about this to a girl who was interning at SKIS. We worked out an agreement that I’ll attend 2 free lessons in the level of my choice and I’ll review it on my blog. So.. I ended up attending the highest level (Advanced 3) once but I ended up not being able to attend the 2nd lesson cos I was having a bad cough/fever. In a nutshell, I’ll review the ONE lesson I attended, which I think gave me a very good idea of what the lessons are like. Seeing how I’ve attend 2 levels (beginner 1 & 2) at its old campus wayy back in 2008.
I’m reviewing this to cater to everyone who’s interested in learning Korean, not just from my own perspective. ^^
Now located in one of Singapore’s wealthiest neighborhood, SKIS may seem a little far off for most of us, but the school has shuttle bus services to and fro Newton MRT and Clementi MRT before and after the Korean language classes, which makes the school a lot more accessible.
Location aside, SKIS is one of the most established language schools offering Korean language classes in Singapore. I met up with the teacher in charge for the KLC (Korean Language Center), who kindly walked me through some of the major milestones of the school, its programme and also a school tour. The school tries to make its programme more interesting by having cultural activities and friendly competitions between different classes / levels at its end of semester ceremony. Past activities includes learning to play traditional Korean instruments, making bibimbap together etc.
The classes currently uses Kyung Hee University Textbooks, which in my opinion, are a little dry and boring. The good news is that the school is switching over to Yonsei University Textbooks (which I raved about HERE and HERE) slowly from level 1 onwards. I find Yonsei textbooks more challenging in all aspects compared to Kyung Hee, so it remains to be seen which classes are using what level of books. Each class has maximum 20 students, which as the level increases.. dwindles.
I was told that the Advanced 3 classes (currently using Kyung Hee Intermediate 2 textbook – level 4) have only 5 students. The advanced 3 classes are taught by an experienced Korean teacher, who used to teach Korean as a mother tongue to Koreans.
Lesson time! I was forced to give an introduction in Korean, which was kinda awkward (imagine seeing this stranger in your class one day lol). The lesson (7-9pm with 5-10 min break in between) itself was quite structured.
The teacher handed out a worksheet which was supposedly a review of the last lesson. We were given the English translation of the dialogue taught last lesson – and asked to give its Korean version. For the grammar points, we are given the English version of the example sentences in the textbook (which were covered in the last lesson) and asked to write the Korean version. The English explanations for this lesson’s grammar points and new words are also given.
Sorry for the disgusting handwriting. I was trying to stop myself from coughing all through the lesson. And of course my answers were wrong – I didn’t attend the last lesson.
We spent around 40 min on this revision. Students were encouraged to speak only in Korean (to each other and also to the teacher) and the teacher taught in 95% Korean, using English for difficult words that the students may not understand.
Apparently it was the tradition of the class for the teacher to give homework to a few students each class – where they will prepare something in Korean and then have to share with the class (as a form of speaking practice). That day, 2 of the students were tasked to explain about the Mooncake Festival – which is a traditional festival in Singapore that falls on the same day as Chuseok. The students were encouraged to prepare ahead but not look at their script while sharing the stories. It was fun listening to the students and we had a good time learning together.
The teacher would ask questions time and again and sometimes correct the students’ pronunciation and awkward phrases. We then moved on to a passage in the textbook, where each of us were to recite one line.
The teacher would then teach us the new grammar points, using example sentences in the textbook. And before you knew it, 2 hours have passed.
If you are wondering why the chairs look so small – this is the classroom for elementary Korean students in the morning lol.
Okay, so that was the blow-by-blow account of what happened during the lesson. Now for my comments. Even though I was kinda invited to the school, I won’t deliberately try to say only good things – as I want to be accountable to all of you who are reading the blog :D I’m always honest, although I try to tone down my too honest opinions at times. ㅎㅎㅎ
What I liked:
- the teacher bothers to correct the pronunciation of students
- the teacher was really interesting, she made the effort to make the class more interactive, encouraged the students to interrupt her with questions any time and make the whole environment relaxed, fun and good for learning. She made the not-so-interesting textbook more interesting
- everyone had the chance to speak up
- lesson almost all taught in Korean
The teacher does correct the pronunciation of students, but she (and most teachers in other local lessons) is not TOO particular about it.
That being said, here comes a list of disclaimers lol.
Are the lessons suitable for everyone? No, or rather, it depends. Not all of us have the same goals in learning Korean. If you are someone who is really busy, but still want to make the effort of learning Korean in an environment that is well paced but not too stressful, and you are looking at considerable understanding but not like.. fluency, this will be the right choice for you. Not all of us want to have super challenging Korean lessons with loads of readings, writing practice, grammar study etc. Not all of us want to reach TOPIK 6 by the end of the course and not all of us have the time and enough motivation to want to study ‘hard-core’ for Korean.
Not all of us want to be damn stressed by being corrected when we pronounce / speak in a less than desired accurate way or being nick-picked about our intonation. Not all of us want lessons where we wont be able to catch up if we dont prepare in advanced. Not all of us want to study for final tests like it’s gonna be a huge deal if we score less than desirable.
If you are looking at Korean as a hobby, and prefer guided lessons that are available to a certain level, this is right for you. If you are looking for something relaxed/casual yet follows a curriculum, this is good for you. I think the lessons are suitable for working professionals or full time students who just want to pick up a hobby.
Like I have mentioned in a previous post,
There is a lot of difference between local foreign language classes and taking lessons in that country itself. The students you meet, the motivation and goals they have, the teachers, the curriculum, the expectations, the standards. EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT.
There, I quoted myself. To give you a better understanding of what it means to complete advanced 3 classes at SKIS, I’ll peg it to an equivalent of at most a level 2.5- 3 in Yonsei.
Of course, what you get out of the lessons and how good you are depends on yourselftoo, not just the lessons. It’s unfair of me to judge the lessons based on how poor / well the students speak. But I just want to set the expectations and what kind of proficiency level that you are likely to have by the time you have completed the 8 level courses in SKIS. Maybe next time when there are more serious learners in Singapore, the lessons will get more challenging? Supply depends on demand too.
That being said, it’s still one of the best places in Singapore to learn Korean (in a classroom setting). And everyone who asked me for a recommendation for a place to learn Korean in Singapore, I always say SKIS :D
p.s. I’ll be writing about a comparison between local classes (in general) and Korean lessons in Korea, where I’ll elaborate a lot more. If you are interested in it, keep a look out for it!! :D ㅎㅎㅎ
p.s.1 I’ll like to thank everyone at KLC and SKIS which made this an interesting experience for me! ^^
If you have attended SKIS, share your thoughts too!