There are many important things that teachers have to do to prepare for teaching in Korea. The preceding months before moving to Korea are filled with navigating the visa process, finishing a TEFL course, saying goodbye to friends and family, packing and so on. While these steps are all necessary, many teachers over look something that’s very basic, but super important – learning the language! So, do you have to speak Korean?
This is going to sound painfully obvious, but Korea is a foreign country and their language is NOT English. Despite teachers going there to teach English, it’s very important to learn some Korean. You don’t have to be fluent in Korean to teach there, but you will definitely need it for a lot of aspects of daily life. Additionally, if you really want to get the most of the experience you owe it to yourself and the locals to at least try to learn their language!
One of the key reasons for picking up some Korean is classroom management. You will most likely be teaching kindergarten, elementary or middle school students. Although you’ll see them in English class, they will eventually (if not immediately) want to switch into Korean. Having an understanding of Korean will help you use commands and let you in on what they’re talking about. Also, if you can speak a little bit of Korean, most students will think you’re fluent. At that point, Korean is no longer their “secret code.”
While many younger Koreans have a decent understanding of English, you might not have as much luck with older generations. Korean culture is often timid, so even if Koreans know English, they may be too embarrassed to speak with you. This can make a lot of mundane, daily errands really difficult! Whether you need to ask for directions, order food at a restaurant, navigate a grocery store, or get your laundry dry-cleaned – there will be no shortage of times when you’ll definitely need Korean.
The Full Experience
The final reason for learning Korean should be pretty obvious – you’ll be living in Korea! Just imagine a foreign person moving to the U.S. or Canada. Would it be pretty ridiculous if they didn’t try to learn any English?? Yes – it would be ridiculous. So, don’t be that foreigner who lives in Korea for a year (or more) without picking up some basics. It will definitely make your life easier. Also, it will show the locals that you care about them and their culture because you’re making an effort.