Koreans’ English Fluency
I really enjoyed reading Jon Huer's recent article about Koreans speaking English and I do agree with him to a certain extent.
I arrived in Seoul in mid-June from Singapore to attend a workshop here. After reading Huer's article and having sat through the first day of the workshop, I began to understand what his article was trying to convey.
First, perhaps because it was my first conference in Korea, I was surprised that there would be live translations performed throughout the four-day conference, but only from English to Korean and vice versa.
Second, we had the great pleasure of having a reputable Korean delegate who gave a really good presentation in English, but only chose to respond to a question from the floor in Korean, which was eventually translated into English for the international attendees.
Please do not get me wrong for quoting the examples above. As much as I truly enjoy being in, and visiting Korea, I do agree that this is one area that Koreans should think about ― their English fluency.
With tourism blooming in the country, I would surely think that delegates/tourists would enjoy the hospitality more with responsive hosts/locals.
Personally, I have had several incidents whereby simple assistance for directions to the nearest subway station required attempts with five different locals and at least 30 minutes to get the answer. The next time, I made sure I had my map with me and I would think twice about asking for help unless it was absolutely necessary.
Whether culture could be a reason or not, I can't comment because I am not at all an expert on Korean culture. However, I do feel that a lack of opportunity to practice the language, and perhaps like Huer mentioned in the article, English culture might be possible reasons as well.
Moreover, if Koreans were to participate in international conferences and forums with the mindset that Korean translations will be available to them, it naturally gives them an opportunity to choose the language of their comfort level. Instead, the use of English should be encouraged.
I hope when I do return to Korea in the near future, that I will be greeted by ``Welcome to Korea and nice to see you again."
Once again, thank Huer for his very honest and interesting article. Hope to read more insightful articles from him again soon!