MDes Talks: Studying English in Korea - Why Choose to Study Design in an English-Speaking Environment

I have lived in Hong Kong for two months now and completed the first school project with teammates. In PolyU’s ID&BM programme, you can find locals, Mainland Chinese and international students learning together. During and after class, we have to communicate in English.

Although Mandarin and Spanish have the largest and second largest native speakers in the world, English is still the most popular language being learned around the world, according to SCMP’s Infographic: A world of languages. As such, English is still seen by many as being the most influential language. For many of us, it is hard to imagine a world without the English language.

During this two months in school, I use English to exchange ideas in meetings, to give presentations; classes are taught in English. Being in an English-speaking environment, I still have some difficulties to find the right word or phrase to express a viewpoint or explain a situation. Compared with my life in Korea, I have made some improvement.

Studying English in Korea - Why Choose to Study Design in an English-Speaking Environment
View from HK Island

It comes as no surprise that language was the main concern when I planned to study abroad, while it would be accommodation, food or culture for others.

Same as other internationally recognised universities, the admission to PolyU requires a satisfactory English test (IELTS or TOEFL) score. This English language requirement applies to anyone who is not a native English speaker, and their Bachelor's degree or equivalent qualification is awarded by institutions where the medium of instruction is not English. Taking an international English test and meeting the minimum score are inevitable tasks. For me, studying English plays a huge part in different stages of my life. It gets me qualified for the university entrance exam in Korea, helps me landed a job and even now for pursuing a master’s degree in PolyU.

Studying English in Korea

Studying English in Korea - Why Choose to Study Design in an English-Speaking Environment
IELTS cram school in Korea

I was raised by Korean parents in Korea. It was apparent to see that I need to use Korean all my life. As far as I remember, I had the first time to learn English in the elementary school. This means that I already spent more than half of my life studying English; I am still learning this language.

Based on my experience, many Koreans think that they do not have enough English proficiency to converse with foreigners and so they do not practice it. But the other way round is true – it is hard to speak good English without practising. However, we do not have many opportunities to meet and talk to native English-speakers if we just live our lives in Korea. To practise English, one needs to be in an English-speaking environment.

Despite all these circumstances, Koreans are enthusiastic to educate their children to be bilingual. It is understandable, yet it is not easy in my view. I do not know how others teach English as a second language, but in Korea the teaching is entirely focused on grammar and reading skills and tests. I learnt English this way before.

Studying English on Social Media

Studying English in Korea - Why Choose to Study Design in an English-Speaking EnvironmentStudying English in Korea - Why Choose to Study Design in an English-Speaking Environment
Free YouTube channels for learning English

The Internet and technologies in the past decade have changed the way to learn foreign languages. There are now countless tools and ways that enabled self-starters to learn at their own pace and according to their interests. For instance, YouTube – the video sharing website and the second largest search engine, podcasts, apps and social media where you can easily befriend with international students.

To avoid getting lost in the sheer volume of information, it is essential to know what works. In my case, I prefer to watch YouTube videos to learn English. Youtube is a form of both entertainment and social media. Finding videos to watch on YouTube is easy with its mighty search engine and up-next auto-play algorithm (based on viewers’ behavioural data). This way, I have watched many different English lessons, including grammar, useful expression in real talk, idioms, and pronunciation.

Video or audio content published by users may not be seen as organized or orthodox compared with textbooks or teachings in the classroom. But it is impossible not to acknowledge that the new tools are changing the way we engage a foreign language.

For instance, many English speakers speak with an accent or use colloquial words phrases in their conversations. Had I only studied grammar and read textbooks, I would have missed a lot of their meanings. Understanding words, phrases and expressions, their context and origin, can be a great source of entertainment.

Now I have many friends to talk to and share our ideas and opinions every day. It has been a great start studying in PolyU.

Image credits. List image: Dickson Phua/ Flickr. Header image: PolyU. Content images: Jooyeon Ha

Posted by Jooyeon Ha - I like to help others by sharing knowledge, experience, time and energy with anyone who needs it, at the same time I am also keen on learning new things from others. Personally, I would like to talk about the culture, language, food, and movie.

MDes Talks is a series of Student Blogs contributed by students in different specialisms under the Master of Design Scheme. It is set out to share students’ first-hand experience in the d-school pedagogy, their projects, takeaways, and student life in general.