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Old 06-27-2013, 11:10 PM
 
Location: Planet Earth
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In Europe, they also have their own languages. In Portugal, they only learn English in the 7th grade and they even have French to learn too aside from English. Books are also in Portuguese. They don't use English on a daily basis but I know many who can speak English and they speak quite well. Of course not everyone can, but I know people who can who don't really practice speaking English except talking to me.
I think the Swedish and the Dutch can also speak good English notwithstanding having their own languages.
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Old 06-27-2013, 11:56 PM
 
Location: Miami,FL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
I've taught English for many years in both countries - SOuth Korea and Japan.

One of the problems is that they are both very homogeneous, and there isn't REALLY much need to speak English, although both countries have high requirements for certain companies to score well on the tests of English profiency though. So they both often study for tests and english levels, and not so much for speaking and conversing, in general, in English.

But, more than anything, the GRAMMAR is just so different from English. As a person who has off-and-on studied Japanese and Korean, since I live in these countries, I can honestly say that the grammar is really hard on the mind! You have to restructure sentences in completely illogical opposite ways.

I'm presently studying Portuguese, I also once lived in Brazil, and I love that I can think in Portuguese much quicker and easier, mostly because I can translate my sentences in the same sentence structure order. It makes a huge difference. Sometimes I switch to studying Portuguese/Spanish, because I can learn so much more so much more quickly, than the tedious mind-numbing energy-consuming time it takes studying Japanese or Korean. (Feels like it takes 10 times more work to get a fraction of the amount of output).
You are right, on the ranking of languages Japanese and Korean are the 2 hardest languages for an English speaker to learn. Here is the ranking Language Difficulty Ranking | Effective Language Learning What Are The Hardest Languages to Learn [infographic]
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Old 06-28-2013, 06:02 AM
 
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Agree that it's a combination of many factors. No need to learn English while young as everyone speaks Japanese/Korean and all the TV, movie and media for kids are translated to the native language. Although many are starting English education at a younger age, the official curriculum still only requires them to learn English starting at high school, which is a bit late to learn a totally unrelated language. Contrast that with the Dutch, who usually start learning English sometime in the elementary levels, their language is closely related to English and have a lot of opportunity to use English at a much younger age.

I once sat to observe a juku (Japanese cram school) class in "English" but everyone was speaking and discussing everything in Japanese! If I didn't know they were studying the English subject, I would've sworn it's actually an entirely Japanese class.

The lack of relationship with English also does not help much. I know some Europeans who when they were asking me to teach them some Asian languages, they asked, so how do you conjugate the verbs using the singular/plural first/second/third person scheme? To which I replied, there are no East Asian languages that use that kind of conjugation at all. You start with the very basic. Either learn to write some basic characters, learn a new alphabet or try to learn how to differentiate the tones. These are guys who can speak like four or five European languages, but gave up on Asian languages right there and then! It's because every time he/she learns a European language, he/she already has a system which makes it easy for them: learn the pronunciation, learn the conjugation, etc. plus there's a whole bunch of vocabulary that are common among these languages (especially those with Latin origins). Asian languages have to be learned very differently from the system they are used to.
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Old 06-28-2013, 06:35 AM
 
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I have to say that I think a lot of it involves saving face. This isn't just for Koreans, but for Chinese, Japanese, and other nationalities where this is a concept.

I teach ESL in Canada to Koreans. The Korean students here who attain a reasonable/high degree of English fluency are the ones who really work on integrating into the community and use English in daily life. They let go of the restraints that Asian culture (saving face) can put on communication. I speak French in my daily life and I know what it's like to fear making mistakes constantly, but when you come from a culture that emphasizes not speaking (rather than speaking and making a mistake), you put a constraint on using the language.

Most of them are highly educated but the way language is taught in Asia is completely different (compare this to German or Swedish students who, like Koreans, rarely use English in their daily lives but are taught in a manner which emphasizes communication whereas the Korean system focuses on grammar translation, writing, and reading). My Korean immigrant students could read and write English better than the French/Spanish students, but the French/Spanish students were not restrained in speaking.

Koreans are just as capable as other nationalities but their version of "good English" isn't the same as a western idea of what "good English" is.

That's just my take on it. I had a co-teacher once who had a master's degree in English but she couldn't even read a recipe to the class. On paper, she knew the language like the back of her hand, but could not speak it. In Taiwan, that didn't matter and her knowledge was prized, but in Canada, she couldn't get a job teaching English.
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Old 06-28-2013, 09:38 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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It sounds like the Japanese/Korean way of teaching English is not to dissimilar from the American way of teaching Spanish/French, which is notoriously bad at achieving conversational skills due to its focus on sentence diagramming and verb tenses.
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Old 06-28-2013, 09:58 AM
 
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The major reason is, English is not useful in those countries.

In addition to that, Chinese/Japanese/Korean share a huge vocabulary for science, technology and arts, which is totally different from that of European languages.
For example, in most if not all European languages, the words for "biology", "psychology", "philosophy", "socialism" etc. have the same origin and sound similar too. Whereas in East Asian countries, they are 生物學,心理學,哲學,社會主義. One can never associate them with English because they are not cognates.
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Old 06-28-2013, 11:11 AM
 
Location: Planet Earth
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Originally Posted by Bettafish View Post
The major reason is, English is not useful in those countries.

In addition to that, Chinese/Japanese/Korean share a huge vocabulary for science, technology and arts, which is totally different from that of European languages.
For example, in most if not all European languages, the words for "biology", "psychology", "philosophy", "socialism" etc. have the same origin and sound similar too. Whereas in East Asian countries, they are 生物學,心理學,哲學,社會主義. One can never associate them with English because they are not cognates.
English is not useful in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and all other European countries except for the UK and Ireland. Portuguese, Spanish or French do not speak English, they use their own language.
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Old 06-28-2013, 11:40 AM
 
Location: Macao
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Originally Posted by Hermosaa View Post
English is not useful in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and all other European countries except for the UK and Ireland. Portuguese, Spanish or French do not speak English, they use their own language.
Having lived in Spain (six months), Brazil (six months) Austria (3 months) and Hungary (2 months), I definitely have to say that it's easier for me to find a person who might speak some English while I'm over here in Korea and Japan.

Hungarians knew very very little English. Brazilians knew very very little English. Spain is just too big, and much like Germany and France, I found that most basically just lived in their own language bubble, with little need to study English. Austria was the polyglot one, that already knew Italian, French and German, so they were more apt to pick up on English.

I'm not very good with Korean or Japanese myself, but I have lived over here for 15 years, and it doesn't take long to find someone who can speak English with you, if you need to speak in English with someone.

In Hungary and Brazil, I just assemed that most would not be able to speak in English. Just nothing nothing nada. In Spain, it was hit and miss. In Japan, it's hit and miss. In Korea, I could pretty much guarantee that if a person was under 30 years old, they probably had some level of English on them.

Granted, it's not perfectly understandable English like you'd get with a Scandinavian, but it was always more than enough for me.
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Old 06-28-2013, 04:05 PM
 
Location: In the heights
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Originally Posted by Hermosaa View Post
English is not useful in Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and all other European countries except for the UK and Ireland. Portuguese, Spanish or French do not speak English, they use their own language.
Yea, and those countries are also quite developed with a wide range and history of literature and general media in their native languages (though not necessarily produced in those countries). They had also up until the very recent years hadn't had as much economic impetus to have to leave their countries and for those Spaniards, Portuguese and French who did leave, there was a good lot of other places to go where they did not have to pick up another language.

That being said, all those other languages still share some cognates with the English language and some of the structure, so that helps a lot, but that's not much of a motivating factor.
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Old 06-28-2013, 11:00 PM
JL
 
Location: Houston, TX
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this was interesting...

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