The Reality of English Conversation Classes: A Study in a South Korean University
Rachel Heppner Kroeker
University of Birmingham
Government Language Planning and Policies (LPPs) have affected how English is learned and promoted in South Korea. One result has been requiring university students to take English conversation classes. However, it was through personal interactions with these classes that the focus seemed to be on general English proficiency rather than on conversation learning. Additionally, it seemed that conversation classes were not guided by any acknowledged goals or an evaluation process of those goals, which seems to have generated much divergence across these classes. This led to an examination of what conversation classes are in a local Korean university. Five research areas were investigated: the standards which teachers are to meet in conversation classes, the role of these classes, the teachers of conversation, the expectations of conversation classes as held by students, teachers, and administrators and the construct of conversation. Three questionnaires were designed to gather quantitative and qualitative data in these areas. It was found that the observed divergence is caused by a lack of standards to meet, an economically driven role, a leveling system based on receptive skill testing, differing expectations and a simplistic understanding of the conversation construct. Much awareness and discussion is needed to create a conversation-learning environment in university conversation classes if that is to be the goal. The limitations are acknowledged in this study as well as recommendations for further research.
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