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English Language Learning Difficulties of Korean Foreign Exchange Students in English Classes

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English Language Learning Difficulties of Korean Foreign Exchange Students in English Classes

Eddonfiel Amore J. Quezon

Khyle Kate C. Ventenilla

Rachelle E. Tuazon

ENGN12A – Writing in the Discipline

Professor Romualdo A. Mabuan

September 7, 2014

Introduction

     Listening, reading, writing, and speaking seem to be the biggest challenges that many foreign students, whose first language is not English, face throughout their academic lives in higher education, because the aforementioned are criterias used to measure progress and make major academic decisions (Leki, 2007). Many second-language (henceforth L2) learners, even those who possess sufficient sentence-level knowledge of grammar and vocabulary, find difficulties writing just as Kaplan found in his L2 writing classes (Kaplan, 1966). Extensive researches both foreign and local have explored the topic of the difficulties faced by second language learners in these facets. These include researches conducted by De Guzman et al. (2006), Kim (2008), Cho (2004), Silva (1993), and Kaplan (1966)

      In light of the foregoing study, De Guzman et al. (2006) points out that English learning in Korea and the Philippines is very different. They indicate that the opportunity to speak and practice English in Korea is very rare, in contrast to the Philippines where Koreans have to use it virtually anywhere. In the academic environment, failure of the Koreans to understand the lesson is attributed to the teachers’ unfamiliar pronunciation, use of difficult words, code-switching, and a fast rate of speech (De Guzman, 2006). Additionally, the Koreans find the expression of thoughts very difficult even if they do desire to participate. Also, the research of De Guzman (2006) adds that Koreans find it challenging to relate to discussions due to the use of the Filipino language by their professors and classmates.  

     Formal education in school typically forms the foundation of learning writing (Kim, 2008). Consequently, the organization of written discourse is much likely to be developed through the schooling in L2 learners’ mother tongues. Moreover, Kim points out that the schemata used in learning writing might affect the process and product of L2 writing later on. Due to the fact that writing at the discourse level is not taught in English classes in Korea, Kim (2008) adds that writing developed in Korean language arts classes are possibly the only resources Korean L2 writers utilize in order to practice their writing skills.

     The fundamental differences between the English and Korean language are the one of the most obvious difficulties for Korean students (Cho, 2004). Citing Suh (2003), Cho indicates that English belongs to the Indo-European Language Group, whereas Korean shares similar linguistic principles and structures to languages in the Ural- Altaic Language Family. Cho adds that the transition from one language to the other requires enormous efforts from the learner due to the dissimilarity of the phonetic system, the syntactic structure, and semantics of the two languages.  

     Silva (1993) reports that L2 learners spent more time consulting a dictionary, referring back to an outline or prompt, and exhibited more concern and difficulty with vocabulary. Additionally, producing outputs in the L2 was more laborious, less fluent, and less productive (Silva, 1993). Furthermore, Silva found that L2 learners wrote at a slower rate in Skibniewski & Skibniewska’s (1986) work and produced fewer words of written text citing Moragne e Silva (1989).

   

     After a careful examination of essays written by L2 writers, Kaplan (1966, 1987) reported that different cultures and languages have their preferred ways of organizing texts and those culture specific rhetorical preferences transfer to L2 writing making L2 texts look different from texts written by first-language (henceforth L1) English speakers. Hence, the dissimilarity of L2 writing from L1 presented by Kaplan (1966) has showed that the integration of L2 towards English will be difficult due to the differences in text organization and cultural preferences.

Significance of the Study

     This research aims to identify the English language learning difficulties (henceforth ELLDs) experienced and identify the coping strategies (henceforth CS)  utilized by the Korean foreign exchange students currently taking their English classes at the Lyceum of the Philippines University. This study also offers insights about the challenges faced by Korean “English as a Foreign Language” learner in order to transcend the language barrier in their writing experience and may provide further information for the teachers who teach the Korean EFL learners (henceforth KEFLL) in identifying the coping strategies the aforementioned utilize to further understand their current situation in class.

Research Questions

     The main purpose of the study is to identify the difficulties experienced by KEFLL in their English classes. Also, to describe the coping strategies they utilize in their English classes at the Lyceum of the Philippines University. Specifically, the study attempted to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the difficulties experienced by KEFLLs in their English classes in terms of listening, speaking, reading, and writing?
  2. What coping strategies are used by KEFLLs to respond to the difficulties in their English classes?

Methodology

Participants

     The participants of this study are 19 Korean foreign exchange students or KEFLLs (10 males and 9 females; ages range from 19 to 25 years old) enrolled in the following subjects: ENGN10A (Fundamentals of English), ENGN12A (Writing in the Discipline) and ENGN13A (Oral Speech Communication), who are currently a part of the Center for Language Education and Proficiency (CLEP) at the Lyceum of the Philippines University. Thirteen of the respondents previously studied in the private Gyeongju University (formerly known as Korea Tourism University) with academic levels ranging from second to fourth year levels. The remaining six respondents are from the private Tongmyong University in Busan with academic levels ranging from first to third year levels. Lastly, the foreign exchange programs of the participants from Tongmyong University began during the second quarter of 2014 while the participants from Gyeongju University began during the third quarter of 2014. This purposive non-random sampling was done to provide a more precise representation of the minuscule population present at the University. Lastly, the study was conducted during the first semester, AY 2014 – 2015.

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