It is finally here!~ The long awaited blog post about Korean language classes on the NSLI-Y program! I will split this post up into 7 sections: placement, general, textbook, tests, break time, homework, and how I felt after being in the class.
In order to know what Korean class you will be in for the duration of the program, you will take a placement test to place you in the right class. The placement is not definite, therefore, you are allowed to move up or down if the teachers agree with your request to do so. (To be honest, I am not sure if that happened on my program. They are pretty good at placing students in the class that best fits them and their Korean language capacity.) On the Monday following our first weekend with our host family, we visited our university for the first time. It wasn’t technically the first day of school as we didn’t have any class, but we did take a placement test on that day. The placement test was a 4-page test with fill in the blank questions (with a word bank), reading passages, multiple choice, and one short answer question at the end of the test. We then took a second placement test because everyone had finished it pretty early and the teachers assumed that we had known all the material. The second placement test had the same makeup but it was obviously harder. This test also included a lot more grammar than the first placement test. After we took the sit down reading/writing test, we were called into rooms one by one to take a verbal test. I sat in a room with one of the Korean teachers (who soon proved to be my very own Korean language teacher) and answered questions that she asked me. They were basic questions about introductions, hobbies, and daily life. I believe that the verbal test is to gauge your grasp of understanding spoken Korean and to showcase what you can say on the spot (like if you can conjugate verbs in the past and future tense).
I was placed in 나무반 (Tree Class) which was considered the “intermediate class” or the level 2 class. It wasn’t intermediate by any stretch of the imagination, but compared to the three Korean class levels, it was considered intermediate. I would conclude that we were mostly advanced beginners and two or three were actually intermediate level Korean speakers. The class was split up into two sections, both 100 minutes long.
Grammar/speaking class – During this duration of the class, we would learn grammar points using our Teachers power points and Korean language flash cards. We would then practice the grammar by using the textbook and doing plenty of practice problems. The speaking part of the class was using these grammar points out loud and also talking about our weekends (to practice past tense).
Listening/speaking class – During this duration of the class, we would read aloud conversations from the textbook and practice answering questions after listening to a passage. When reading the conversations, our teacher would assign one-half of the class to read the lines of one character and the other half would read the other lines. We then would split up in partners (usually, the person sitting next to us but sometimes the teacher assigned us, partners, to switch things up).
To go along with everything we learned in class, we used the A-ha! Korean (아하! 한국어) textbook which is the Korean language textbook for Sookmyung Women’s University. For my class, we used the second book in the series of 4. At the end of the program, we were given the opportunity to buy the rest of the textbooks to continue studying with it. I only bought the third book because I wasn’t sure how well they would work for self-studying. The textbook comes with a mini booklet with all of the vocabulary words within the textbook, a workbook, and an audio cd with recordings of all the conversations and listening sections.
We would have a test on Korean every single Friday. We would use one 50 minute section from each class for our test. For our grammar/speaking test, we would have a fill in the blank, multiple choice, and short response test on the grammar points and vocabulary we had learned during the past week. Then for our speaking/listening test, we were assigned conversations from the textbook earlier in the week to memorize for the test. We would get partnered up randomly on Friday and then have to recite what we memorized to the teacher. We would have to memorize anywhere from 1-3 conversations and she would test us on one out of however many we were assigned. We would recite the lines of one character and then switch and do the other lines with our partner.
Our speaking/listening teacher would tell us on the spot whether we passed or failed the verbal test while we had to wait to get our grammar test back before knowing our grade. If you failed any test, you were given extra work to do over the weekend. I am not sure if you would need to retake the test or not since I never failed any tests but I do know you are given extra homework because some of the students in my class failed a test.
After every 50 minutes of Korean class, we would get 10 minutes of break time. (or 쉬는시간 as we came to know it by.) We spent this time refilling our water bottles, eating snacks, and just stretching. I would usually go off with some of my classmates and speak with our resident directors. My class and I would also leave the university during the break to run on over to the convenience store to buy snacks that we could eat during the following break times. Break time was greatly needed since 4 hours straight of Korean would be very taxing on the brain – for anyone.
We would almost always get Korean homework every single night. I would usually take an hour to two hours to finish my homework but I kept attention to detail and wrote as much as I could for the short response questions to practice effectively. The homework was usually an entire section from the workbook or our teacher would tell us what pages she wanted us to complete. Our teachers did not collect the workbook every class period. They would collect it randomly or usually after a test since we wouldn’t be needing it over the weekend.
Korean class was definitely the best part of the NSLI-Y program (and the most important). I got so close with all of my 나무반 classmates and learned more Korean than I could ever have learned by simply self-studying. Especially when it came to my accent, it improved by tenfolds and sounds almost completely natural. I studied very hard for all of my tests and never got more than 4 questions wrong on the tests (which ended up being anywhere from a B-plus to an A-plus depending on how many questions there were on each test). I was also given an award for being the most improved in my Korean class from my teachers which made me happy to know that my teachers could see my improvement too. My Korean class gave me a great start into my Korean language learning journey and I left Korea placing into an Intermediate level of Korean language knowledge.
That’s all I have for this blog post. The basic outline of my class will most likely be very similar to all the other Korean classes regardless of the level as long as they are all at Sookmyung Women’s University in the future. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and if you are a future NSLI-Y applicant or finalist, I hope this helps you see what Korean class will be like on the program. 안녕 친구들~
- 엠마 (Emma)