I have never been able to find a review for studying Korean as part of the Language Institute at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU). Granted its not the most well known program (Yonsei, Seoul National and Sogang often take the lead) but SKKU is not without its own unique selling points.
I went straight in at Level 3 after taking a placement test (I was expecting to barely scrape into Level 2!), and let me tell you, they don’t mess around. As soon as we get into class we utilize not knowing each other to learn personality vocab! Korean has an abundance of these and with a majority of Asian students in class us Westerners are at a bit of a disadvantage (but don’t let that stop you!).
Top Tip: Practice personality vocab by writing about characters in TV Shows.
- 배우기 쉬운 한국어 3
- 말하기 쉬운 한국어 5+6
- Level 3 Workbooks
Lessons are from 9am till 3pm with 10 minute breaks every hour and an hour and 10 minute break for lunch at 11:20am. (They give you a timetable and everything is mapped out).
Grammar is always in the mornings and is all in Korean – if you haven’t done studying all in Korean before, look up Korean grammar terms before you come to class because I was lost for the first day.
Speaking is in the afternoon which has its pluses (its often more laid back and involves more interaction) but comes with its downsides (if you aren’t switched on its so easy to get lost).
SKKU is definitely creative with its speaking projects and cultural lessons which is so refreshing when learning a language especially when you get to the Intermediate-Advanced Levels like I did.
The most memorable ones were the Hanbok origami towards the end of the year and our food tasting class when we were learning taste vocab. Both classes had a very laid-back approach and were often filled with chit-chat including the teacher.
I have never actually done presentations in Korean before so this was a completely new experience but on the whole they went quite well I think.
- Survey Presentation – In groups we did surveys with foreigners (all in Korean) and then made a presentation on the results.
- Cooking Presentation – This was a solo presentation where we had to make food in our own home and then present the recipe (finding a British recipe that didn’t need an oven and had ingredients in Korea was a challenge).
- News Presentation – In groups we had to come up with a news report based on an accident or an incident and present it with witnesses and on-location presenters as well as an anchor.
As I said before the all Korean aspect was daunting but it was easy to pick up once we got into the swing of things. The grammar took what we had learnt in Beginner classes and added to their complexity. We weren’t just stringing a few basic sentences together with connectives – they were being introduced as conditionals, clauses and descriptions. We also learnt written form and reported speech which open up a whole range of new sentences we could make.
Level 3 is definitely more grammar intensive but that doesn’t mean we were without a long list of vocab to learn every single day. At the beginning of our speaking chapters we had a list of vocab and had to decide if the verbs were action or descriptive and then found an example sentence next to them. Unfortunately this is the only level at SKKU to plan its vocab so neatly.
The vocab topics included personality, taste, accidents, illness and cleaning which aid living in Korea a lot. Oh and banking vocab – invaluable! A fair amount of the vocab had Chinese character equivalents but you could use your phone dictionary in class so you weren’t at too much of a disadvantage.
I made a Memrise course for Level 3 here.
You always have 2 teachers in each class of up to 15 people. Our first teacher is from Monday through to Wednesday morning and had good English knowledge which helped the two westerners in the class. She was loud and outgoing making class fun but sometimes she was insensitive to Western stereotypes. Enthusiastically trying to relate to us Westerners she said that she heard Mexico was filled with gun crime and British food tastes bad ….
Our other teacher from Wednesday afternoon through to Friday was quieter and spoke Chinese (they seem really well matched as they balance each other out) and was always open to questions. When I told her I had depression (not something you advertise in Korea but for me it was unavoidable at the time) she responded so well and when it was sunny she said as she walked past, “Ruth, make sure you spend time in the sun because it will make you happy”. I was so shocked and touched at the same time because I really needed to hear it.
For my first Level at SKKU it went okay, I was class president for the level (which came with a lovely scholarship I achieved when I passed the level) and for the most part it was fun (one teacher did kind of abuse that a bit but hey ho). The homework wasn’t too intense but studying after school is a must.
Testing – Listening, speaking and then grammar exams with a pass at 70% (not as bad as it sounds). They provide you with a sheet beforehand telling you what will be in the exam and what things you can avoid revising without backlash.
I didn’t want to include everything in the level as it would take away some of the fun I had feeling my way but I know I wished I had a heads up of what to expect. I hope this has helped give you an idea of what studying at SKKU entails and if it is the right place for you (but nothing beats going in and doing it yourself). I’m gonna be posting Levels 4 and 5 in review as well (I am leaving early so not doing Level 6) but hopefully it will help, until next time… ~Ruthie