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Photo of Super junior Kyuhyun

    I have lived in Korea for a year and a half, arriving in March 2010 from the US. My reasons for moving to Korea are like many other foreigners: to teach English and travel doing so. ESL, or English as a Second Language, has become the rage in Korea these days and teaching in Korea is incredibly rewarding and fun.

    However, there are also challenges as well. Language barriers and cultural differences will be your greatest obstacle. Fortunately, by turning the tables and using their own Korean pop culture, teaching in the country becomes a lot easier.

    Take a look at these three steps to help you in your ESL lessons in Korea:

    1) Relate to your students. This is actually a universal rule in teaching, but even more so in a foreign country. The way you relate to Korean students is to talk about things they know. Namely, K-pop. K-pop is so engrained within Korean society that nearly every student - regardless of age - knows all the popular songs. Ever had a whole class sing Girls Generation's "Gee" or 2PM's "Hands up"? It's quite a treat to see.

    So the lesson here is don't talk about that new US musician that just came out. You'll just get blank stares from the students. Rather, talk about the latest K-pop superstar.

    2) Learn the culture. Every country has their own ways of standards. Korea is no exception. Although new teachers will struggle to learn Korea's culture at first, it will aid you in classroom teaching down the road. Don't know what Pepero Day is? Ask one of your Korean co-workers. Do you know the significance of Chuseok Day? Take the time to look it up on Wikipedia. Ever heard of the date 6-25 before? Look up history about the Korean War and find out.

    Your students will appreciate your attempts to learn their culture. Thus, they will be more motivated to learn.

    3) Take a Korean class. Korean can be difficult at first. Their writing system, Hangul, will look like Egyptian hieroglyphics at first sight. Speaking Korean will also be a game of tongue-twister to many. Yet, even knowing basic words will make the students laugh. Rather than tease you, they will be in awe how a foreigner is learning a new language. They will appreciate the fact that you are learning their native language, much like they are learning yours.

    Anyone that takes the time to learn someone else's language shows that you care. And you definitely do.

    If you follow these three tips, your students will be motivated to learn in the classroom. Often times, the best way to teach is not having the best theories or mythologies, but rather, to simply relate to the student. To see what makes them tick, their likes, and their hobbies. Once you take a curiosity in learning about them, they'll naturally do the same for you.


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Photo of Super junior Kyuhyun


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