Colin Kaepernick and national anthem

Before the start of a ball game anywhere in the United States, the crowd is asked to stand for the national anthem _ “The Star Spangled Banner” _ and the presentation of the national flag. They stand and place their right hands over their hearts. Members of the military, the police force and firefighters stand at attention and salute. There is not a ball game of any type in America _ from elementary school to the pros _ where this doesn’t happen.

No law in the United States demands that the national anthem be played at public gatherings such as football games. It’s only a custom, but one that is not challenged. Maybe because of its prevalence, the national anthem has come to be observed merely as a perfunctory ritual, a routine, and most of the fans can’t wait for it to be over so the game can begin. Immediately after the last strains of the music, one can hear the refrain around the ball park, “Play ball!” The ball game, after all, is what they paid their money to see, not a rendition of the national anthem.

It is not against the law in the U.S. for a person not to stand for the national anthem if they don’t want to, though there are more than a few Americans who would love for Congress to pass a law that would mete out severe punishment to anyone who would refuse to stand for the anthem. So when Colin Kaepernick of the SanFrancisco 49ers decided to sit on the bench when the anthem was played before a game against the Green Bay Packers on August 26, it drew the ire of self-described patriots from across the nation who hold the flag and the anthem sacred.

Explaining why he sat on the bench during the national anthem, Kaepernick said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way…” (

Almost half a century ago, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in the Black Power Salute while standing on the podium during the national anthem _ played in their honor for crossing the finish line first and second in the 200-meter sprint, winning gold and silver medals _ at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, protesting against the, for them, unacceptable practice of segregation that Black people and other minorities routinely endured at that time in America.

Today _ almost fifty years after Smith and Carlos raised their fists during the national anthem _ Colin Kaepernick is choosing to sit on the bench or kneel during the anthem at nationally televised professional football games in which he is a player. What’s more, other players are joining him, and not just professional players, college and high school players too.

American football is the most popular spectator sport in the U.S. attracting huge crowds at stadiums and a national television audience numbering in the hundreds of millions every Sunday during the season. By choosing not to stand for the national anthem, Kaepernick is using the popularity of football and the prominence of his reputation as a football player to draw attention to the killing of Black Americans at the hands of the police across the country. In the media, Kaepernick has been attacked for grandstanding and calling attention to himself, so were Smith and Carlos in their day.

Though Kaepernick has not broken any law by refusing to stand for the national anthem, he has lost endorsements worth millions of dollars. Even without the endorsements, though, he is still richer than all but one percent of the entire human population. So losing endorsements because of his defiance doesn’t threaten his standard of living. Still, he’s received death threats from those who no doubt are perfectly capable of killing him.

The wealth of America dwarfs that of every other nation on Earth and the American military has such overwhelming might that it is invincible like no other country or empire has ever been. America’s real problems, though, are not from beyond its borders but from widespread human rights abuses festering at home. If we Americans cannot make our country fair and just for all, then the American flag and the national anthem stand only for corporate greed, war mongering, and privilege for the few _ symbols of a nation gone terribly wrong, no matter how rich and powerful it is.

In an opinion piece in the August 30, 2016 edition of The Washington Post, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes that Colin Kaepernick should be admired for risking his career because of the choice he has made.

“What should horrify Americans,” Abdul-Jabbar writes in The Post, “is not Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated during the national anthem, but that nearly 50 years after Ali was banned from boxing for his stance and Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s raised fists caused public ostracization and numerous death threats, we still need to call attention to the same racial inequities. Failure to fix this problem is what’s really un-American here.”

The ideal of any nation should be to protect all of its citizens from harm, provide each of them with ample opportunities to develop themselves so they can contribute to society by living the best lives it is possible for them to live, and ensure that all of them _ regardless of ethnic origins or socio-economic circumstances _ are granted their full measure of the rights and privileges of citizenship. A nation, after all, is made up of flesh-and-blood people, not flags and anthems.

Colin Kaepernick is doing more than just protesting against injustice in America. His demonstration shows that he believes and hopes that America might still live up to its best ideals, that we truly can be a great nation if we choose to be. This is real patriotism, and by his choice, it’s clear that Colin Kaepernick is a real patriot.
Published in THE KOREA TIMES on Monday, September 26, 2006.


Becoming a writer of English

“Give up on mathematics and you give up on college,” the Korean man said in crisply enunciated English. “But if you give up on English you give up on life,” and this is true not just in Korea but all over the world. English is the global language of commerce, science and diplomacy, and if you can’t understand, speak, think and write in English, if you’re not reading English media two hours a day or more, you can’t expect to prosper anywhere in the world.

This wasn’t always so, but in the modern world _ where second language speakers of English outnumber native speakers by at least three to one _ it is. The object of gaining fluency in English, even for native speakers, is to work with it as the best educated and wisest speakers and writers of the language _ native or not _ do, not to flash it around as an ornament but to use it every day as a valuable tool.

It’s not enough just to be able to understand and speak the language, though. You must keep striving to become better with it through constantly reading English language magazines, books, and newspapers, through watching and listening to astute commentators whenever and wherever you can, through enjoying dramas and documentaries and through engaging in lively conversations with other people who are just as eager to speak English as you are.

You must also be able to write reports, essays, articles and stories in English, crafting them so they are easy to understand, informative, and even a joy to read. To do this well you must read every word you write at least a dozen times before you let others see it. Mastering the craft of writing in English is vital to becoming fluent which alone makes it worth doing. But there are greater benefits.

When students begin teaching themselves how to write, they often buy overpriced writing manuals when all they need is a pen or a pencil and a pad of paper. With just these they can write and read and reread what they have written, aiming to rewrite it so as to make it read better. Students must take the time to read carefully and deeply what they have written, and then rewrite it until they are happy with it. This is how they become good writers.

Nothing helps your writing as much as reading. Reading is like weightlifting for the mind. The more you read, the stronger and better writer you will become. Read the writers who enchant you with their work and learn from them, then strive to make your writing read like theirs. Don’t be afraid to copy the work of your heroes, for all the great writers started out copying the writers who were their heroes.

It is the rare student who is lucky enough to find a teacher who loves to read and who struggles mightily to become a good writer, inspiring students and bestowing upon them insight about what it takes to write. Most of us must teach ourselves. The best teachers will lead the students to read good books, for they know that becoming a writer is an act of self-discovery that will take countless hours of reading, writing and rewriting.

Through dedication and diligence, earnest students will discover for themselves how they can write. In getting to that point, they will face endless frustrations and unavoidable failures as they grapple in their efforts to put this alien tongue on paper so that it might read like fine literature. Becoming a good writer of English doesn’t come easy for anybody. You have to want it as much as you want to breathe.

The best writers write so they can amaze themselves. But if it happens that a reader should enjoy reading something you have written, and it keeps them reading to the last word, still wanting to read more, maybe it will amaze them. Maybe one of your stories or articles articles might inspire a young reader to write.

Becoming functional with English

Test English and fluency are not the same. Preparing for a test _ whether it is a Suneung, a TOEFL, SAT, or an exam in biology _ most students cram in the weeks leading up to test day, not because they have any interest in the subject or want to learn something, but to goose up their test scores. A couple of weeks after the test, they will have forgotten most of what they had furiously crammed into their heads, and by that time couldn’t answer half the questions on the test.

It’s impossible to gain fluency in a foreign language or learn anything worth doing through the frenzy of trying to memorize a couple of hundred questions, mostly multiple choice, purported to measure one’s knowledge about the subject. The only thing a student might learn from sitting at a desk for a few hours filling out an answer sheet is how to become a test-taker. But as long as most governments, corporations, and universities put a premium on test scores, parents will gladly spend their money and commit their children’s precious time chasing after test scores.

Fluency _ unlike a test score _ is a never-ending pursuit of study and practice with the aim of understanding, listening, speaking, thinking, and writing in English, striving to be as good as the most eloquent speakers of the language are. As with everything, to be good with a foreign language you have to love it so much that you want to get close to it, spend time with it, even revel in its difficulties.

Those who aspire to fluency in English or in any language know they would lose all they have gained if they ever stop working with it. The smart ones keep studying relentlessly, for they realize there is always more for them to learn. Indeed, many Koreans have an obsession with English as if they are its scholars, which in fact they must be if they are to continue honing their talent with the language.

Most Koreans who are fluent with English have never lived outside of Korea, they practice their English here where they never need to use it in their daily lives. If they become as literate with English as well-educated speakers _ and there are many Koreans who are that good _ it’s not because they’ve crammed for high test scores.

In their pursuit of fluency, they make time each day doing things like watching CNN, the BBC and Hollywood movies. They get DVDs of the movies they like and watch them again and again, shadowing the dialogue of the actors until they can enunciate the words and phrases as good as, say, George Clooney and Gwyneth Paltrow.

They read articles and books in English not just for the practice, but to learn about the world through the language. Many Koreans devote time every day to read the daily English language newspapers such as the one you are reading now. These newspapers have the latest information about the most pressing issues of the day in the nation and the world. They meet in small groups a couple of times a week on their own to talk about what they are reading. Of course, for their discussions they speak with each other only using English.

“When I became determined that I was going to be functional with English,” a student I know said, “my test scores dropped but not by much. Though they were still respectable, they weren’t the top scores that I used to make. But at that point I no longer cared about test scores. It became more important for me to be fluent with English than to get a high test score. For me, the real test was when I could talk with an educated and informed speaker of English about subjects and ideas at length.

“My biggest thrill, however, is reading a book like Ruchir Sharma’s ‘Breakout Nations’ (2012) in English and being able to understand the ideas Sharma writes about and brings to light. When I could do that _ when I began to understand the world through what I was reading in English _ I knew I was starting to gain depth with the language, and that beats a test score hands down.”

English, the platform for all possible growth engines

In Korea it’s never difficult to find people who speak English, even in small towns. Sitting in coffee shops around the country are people of all ages who would just love to talk with a native speaker of English, and not just for practice but to make a new friend. So if you’re a Westerner and you buy a cup of coffee in one of these shops, it won’t be long before someone will ask you where you’re from.

With great force, English arrived in Korea in the 1950s along with the U.S. Army, and neither has left. English has become more than just another foreign language here. Koreans whose command of English approaches that of erudite native speakers improve their prospects considerably for attractive jobs with good pay.

During the war years, Koreans in large numbers _ mostly children and teenagers who are now old men and women _ learned English from American soldiers not much older than they were. Only they didn’t learn the language in classrooms. They learned it from the GIs who gave them cans of SPAM, candy bars, cigarettes, shelter-halves, tent poles, ponchos that were too big for them, and other military gear in exchange for cleaning up around the army camps and doing chores the soldiers didn’t want to do. By learning English, these youngsters came to control the communication between the soldiers and civilians _ an unintended consequence _ which gave them opportunities to go into business for themselves.

Even if the U.K. and the United States lose their standing in the world, English will still be the international language of commerce and science. Despite what appears to be a retreat from globalization _ Brexit being the most recent and prominent example _ the world isn’t going to deglobalize. International trade, which began in antiquity, now penetrates every endeavor of human activity. It has even been tagged with the fancy buzzword, globalization, and will not be turned back or even slowed down for long. Though it will keep changing.

Manufacturing is constantly being refined and enhanced with the latest technology such that all products are now made in sufficient quantities to satisfy the demands of every market. Manufactured products today are of better quality and less expensive than ever. And because transportation is rapid, reliable, and economical, trade has expanded to benefit many more people than were alive a hundred years ago. Korea has in fact made itself a rich country by taking advantage of globalization _ chiefly through English.

A young Korean I met on a university campus recently explained Korea’s obsession with English like this:

“Because we’re not a big country, we have an urgency to study English intensely so we can use it to deal with the world on as favorable terms as we can,” he said. Listening to him, you would think he grew up in America or lived there for a long time and even attended some of its best schools _ he expressed himself as if he were a well-educated American.

He’s a graduate student at a university near Busan, though, enrolled in a program conducted mostly in English. Except for the year he spent as an exchange student at a university in the U.S., he has lived his whole life in Korea. It’s evident in talking with him that not only is he fluent with English, but that he reads and studies with it too. What’s more, there are a lot of young people like him in Korea.

“Our country has less than one percent of the world’s population,” he said. “And the land we inherited from our ancestors doesn’t cover even a tiny fraction of a percent of the earth’s surface. And on our part of the peninsula that we think of as our island, there are no natural resources to speak of.” Many Koreans describe their country as “our island” because for them the DMZ is an impenetrable barrier, much more so than the sea. In fact, the sea for Korea is the lifeline to the rest of the world.
“Whether it’s with manufactured products, construction projects in other countries, culture and entertainment, medical tourism, or inventions and ideas we have yet to create, we must maintain a robust exchange with the nations and people of the world.

“As a nation, should we continue to thrive _ for can we aspire to do anything less? _ our mastery of English is vital to our prosperity.”


An earlier version of this article appeared in THE KOREA TIMES, Sunday, August 24, 2016. 

Preparing for the TOEFL

She reads English newspapers, books, and magazines three to four hours a day and engages in discussions in English every chance she gets, “and I’ve been doing this since high school,” she said. It doesn’t take long to realize that she’s not only good with English, she’s erudite. She reads broadly, deeply, and well. Not only does she speak the language properly, but speaks it with an eloquence that can only come from being cultivated and informed – native speaker or not. What’s truly surprising about her is that she learned to speak English fluently before she left Korea to attend graduate school in the United States.

But as much as she reads, thinks with, and engages the world through English, she’s never made a top score on the TOEFL, though she’s always scored high. (Many would say that her TOEFL score is first-rate, but she wouldn’t say that.)

“Even though I knew I was getting better with English,” she said, “I could never make the highest score on the test, though I’ve come close. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing and talking with people in English, and when it came time to take the TOEFL, I never thought to do anything different to prepare for it. It seemed like a waste of time to take a prep course, especially since I’m a student of English anyway, so I took the test and didn’t worry about the score. The TOEFL is supposed to test how good you are with English, isn’t it?”

Evidently, the admissions officers at the selective university in the American Midwest where she applied looked at more than her TOEFL score when they considered her candidacy, for she is a graduate student there now.

Many students believe that a high TOEFL score is the ticket to an American graduate school, which they also believe is the gateway to an attractive job, so they pay good money to enroll in test review courses in which they perform drills to become proficient test-takers, if only for the day of the test. Yet despite all of the money, time, and effort students put into these preparation courses, more than a few of them still have difficulty reading English, and more often than not, their real speaking skills – as opposed to testable skills – aren’t good.

To become fluent with English, one must read, write, and engage in learned discussions with others eager to do the same. Mastering English – like mastering anything – is slow and never-ending work that seldom moves in a straight line.

And so it is with our graduate student. “I’ll never learn all that I want to know,” she said. “Going to grad school in suburban Chicago for the last couple of years, it dawned on me that I don’t know even a scrap of what I want to know. But learning about things that I never knew before is always exciting.”

The TOEFL is a thorough test of English ability in that it tests all the skills of a person’s competence with the language. It’s not an easy test to take for anybody and even well educated native speakers would have trouble making a top score on the test. Most students who have taken the TOEFL say that it’s as much an endurance trial as it is a test of English, and with the four hours of intense reading, listening, speaking, and writing allotted to the students to complete the test, you can see why.

Yet as comprehensive as the TOEFL is, like all standardized tests, it has its limits, which makes it predictable (if only just a little) and with suitable materials and instruction, many students prepare for it in hopes of raising their scores. In the months leading up to the day of the test, these students concentrate their efforts only on testable material. So rather than read English newspapers – such as the Korea Times – and converse with others in English, they bulk up on memorizing test questions and nothing else, in the belief that this will get them the best results when they take the test.

But just being a good test-taker isn’t enough to guarantee a high TOEFL score, for the TOEFL favors the student who is fluent with English, one who reads, writes, listens to, and speaks English every day. So the question comes down to this: how do you prepare yourself so that you’re ready to take the TOEFL? The best way to prepare is to be a student the test favors – one like our graduate student.

Lyman McLallen taught at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul for the last nine years. He is a graduate of the Orchard School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Emails, memos, and short messages

Every time you write an email, memo, or a short message, think of the people who you want to read it. Don’t take much of their time. Write messages that are easy to read, clear to understand, and express what you want to say in the fewest words possible

Read your messages as you imagine your readers might read them. Do you understand them? Can you make them easier to read? Can you shorten them? Before you send a message to its intended readers, make sure you understand it, which is no guarantee its readers will, but if you do, then they might.

College students in Korea, 2015

Looking at college students in Korea today, I know that when I was their age I wasn’t as learned as any of them are. Hardly any of the students I work with are native speakers of English, and though only a few of them have ever lived in English-speaking countries, and then rarely longer than for a couple of years, they all speak and write English well, for it’s prized in Korea to be good with English.

Taking the same classes with the Korean students at the university where I work are many students from China, from Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia, some from Mongolia, the Philippines, from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh, many from the countries of Central Asia and Eastern Europe, from Iran and Turkey, from Russia, and students from all over Africa and the Americas. (Listening to the accents of students from Singapore and Hong Kong, you would think them British, and proper British, at that.)

Many students here are fluent in three or more languages, which itself is amazing, but what’s truly remarkable about these students is that as young as they are, already they’ve read broadly and well and have deep understanding about the world, and I’ve learned so much while being with them, that I feel I too should be paying tuition to the university.

Not counting the population of the urban areas around the city, some ten million people live in Seoul. The city has almost forty universities and colleges, both private and public, large and small. There are at least ten medical colleges in Seoul, and a few colleges teaching Oriental medicine as well (what we in the West know as acupuncture). There are law colleges here, fine arts colleges, and graduate and professional schools too. Having student bodies with significant numbers of international students is not unusual for universities in Korea, for students from all over the world come here to study. In fact, there are more than 350,000 college students just in Seoul, which makes this one of the biggest college towns on the planet.

Students everywhere these days have a tough time after they graduate trying to get the jobs they want, so more of them than ever are enrolling in graduate school. To support themselves, they work at part-time jobs such as tutoring children in English and math (and increasingly, Chinese), they work at retail stores, coffee shops, and at restaurants. “What else am I going to do?” a student asks. Only she didn’t mean it as a question.

The world is going to change more during their lives than it’s changed in the last four-hundred years, and even the most astute observers today can’t imagine how that change is going to take shape. One thing is sure, though, the students in college today will recast and rebuild the world with technologies that will make our most advanced and esoteric tools and devices seem crude by comparison. They’ll also have to solve the problems that we haven’t solved yet, not least of which are the obvious ones of pollution and global warming, and then there’s the looming crisis of not having enough clean fresh water for all the people of earth to drink.

Humanity has been in peril from the beginning, but we’re clever animals – engineers by instinct, you might say – always trying to find better ways to live. In the span of roughly six-thousand generations of us (around 120,000 years) our species has gone from living in small isolated family groups of hunter-gatherers barely able to eek out meager existences, to building a world of vast cities where the big problem that faces each of us is finding work that has worth for us and is valuable to society.

So that humanity will not soon destroy itself, students today – and not just in Korea but everywhere – will have to live their lives with more wisdom and courage than did all of the wisest and most courageous people who ever lived. Indeed, they will have to be much wiser and more courageous than we have been.

Looking at college students today, it strikes me that they have no choice but to do everything they can to become the women and men that their era will demand them to be if humanity is not just to survive but to prevail. In every way imaginable, they must become the most extraordinary human beings to yet set foot on Planet Earth.

For the last nine years, Lyman McLallen taught at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. He is a graduate of the Orchard School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Write this way to graduate school

This story appears in THE KOREA TIMES on Thursday, June 25, 2015.

“Right now, we get applications from at least thirty worthy candidates for each one we accept,” she said. I was talking long distance to an admissions officer at the graduate school of a well-regarded public university in America. It was after midnight in Seoul but morning in that part of the United States. I wanted to find out what it took – other than money – to get into the graduate school there and figured the best way to do that was to call and ask someone at the admissions office, and an inexpensive long distance phone card made that easy.

It’s difficult to get into a decent graduate school in the United States these days, even for qualified Americans, but it can be done. The admissions officer I talked with explained that the students who stand the best chance of making it into the graduate school there, regardless of where they’re from, must be good writers.

“We’ve never had as many applicants as we’re getting now,” she said, “and many apply from Korea. They’re capable too but we can’t take them all – we just don’t have the space – so we must choose carefully because the students we want in our graduate school will not just succeed, we want students who will thrive here.

“We look at grades and test scores like we’ve always done,” she said. “But we’re more interested in how well our candidates write for us.”

With email and Skype, university admissions officers around the world have refined their application procedures so they can learn as much as they can about the abilities of the applicants before they decide who they will accept. “We want to talk with them and want them to write for us,” she explained, “a lot.

“And we can have them do that for us today like we were never able to do even a couple of years ago.”

In talking long distance with admissions officers at other universities in the United States, they all say the same thing: they want their candidates to write for them. And they arrange for them to do that through email. For example, the admissions office will send a candidate a question they want her or him to respond to with a piece of writing within thirty minutes of opening the message. “This reduces the odds that someone is helping them,” she said. “Also, we get to see how well they organize their writing when they’ve got to meet a deadline.

“The candidates who will make it into our graduate school will write for us a dozen times this way,” she said. “Maybe more.”

The only way to respond to questions like this with good writing is to read and write every day and reread everything that you write and then rewrite it until you’re pleased with it. The sooner students begin the daily regimen of reading and writing, the better writers they will become and the better their chances of making it into a good American graduate school.

Writing courses are everywhere and it’s easy for students to pay their money and enroll in them. The advertisements for these courses claim they can turn any student into a good writer. What they don’t make clear is that unless a student dedicates her or himself to reading and writing everyday – and on their own too – even the best teachers in the world can’t help them.

But how to begin? Start by reading. Read short stories, essays, magazine and newspaper articles. Start with this newspaper. Learn how to write from what you’re reading. Emulate the writing that excites you the most, that pulls you to the end, still wanting to read more, so that your writing starts to pull you to the end.

Studying writing textbooks and grammar manuals probably won’t hurt, but they’ll never take the place of reading good articles and stories and writing and rereading everything that you write and then rewriting it again until you get it the way you want it, and you do that by reading and writing and never stopping. It’s the only way you can turn yourself into a good writer.

What good teachers do

The best teachers in any classroom are always the best students.                                                                                                       an old maxim of the schoolhouse

I’m sure this has happened to you. You got stuck in a class with a teacher who had no imagination, no enthusiasm, didn’t care about the subject, didn’t care whether you learned anything or not, and you knew this teacher didn’t want to be there. And because of that, you didn’t want to be there either. Not only did he or she bore you, worse is that you didn’t learn a thing. You did get frustrated, though.

But if you ever took a class with a good teacher who reached out to you, and you were ready for how she or he would help you in your efforts to learn all that you could, it more than made up for all the rotten teachers you were ever forced to endure. (How often did you find yourself in classes with good teachers?)

You don’t need teachers – even good teachers – if you really want to learn. Good teachers will surely help you learn more than you might without them but you don’t need them if you’re curious and if your zeal for work never stops.

If you ever wanted to learn something bad enough, did you learn it even if you didn’t have a teacher? You taught yourself, didn’t you? You became your own teacher. When you ran into the inevitable difficulties rife in any subject or craft, did you let them stop you? How do you think good teachers overcome the difficulties that face them? What is a good teacher?

Good teachers know that they can’t reach perfection, yet they strive for it anyway. Their curiosity is matched only by their enthusiasm, and this is what the students learn from them. Good teachers don’t prepare students for tests because to them a knack for passing tests is not important. They know that students who are truly engaged with their work don’t fear tests and aren’t concerned with grades because mastering the subject is their goal.

Good teachers love the subjects they teach and work to get the students to love them as much as they love them. The best teachers inspire students by their own example because they’re constantly working to be the best students they can possibly be. More, they want the students who take their classes to become even better students than they themselves are and they do everything they can to help them become that. That’s what good teachers do.

English every day

An earlier version of this story appeared in THE KOREA TIMES on Thursday, May 14, 2015.

When students love a subject, they don’t study it for the grade but for the joy of it. They immerse themselves in that subject and never stop studying it. And they become good at it.

Students don’t study for tests. They cram for them. A couple of weeks before the test, they attend a review session where the teacher spotlights what the test will cover, then they look at nothing else until the test. They memorize facts and figures they’ll never look at again. Even if they make a perfect score, they’ll soon forget everything they’ve crammed into their heads, because they endured the test only for the grade.

You never study anything you love that way because you know it takes time, work, patience, and a high tolerance for frustration to really learn it the way you want to. You know that you won’t gain mastery of a subject unless you love it with all of your heart, but even then you still won’t find it easy. Such is the way of any craft or discipline that is worthy of you.

And so it is with English.

Cultivating and inspiring a love for English in Korean children begins with the necessary task of having them learn the Roman alphabet by heart so they can start forming words with the letters, then teaching them just enough grammar so they can understand short easy-to-read passages in English. The next step is introducing them to the mechanics of writing simple sentences, sentences they can read to themselves and understand and then show to their friends so they can read them too.

It’s not enough for students to love English only for itself, for the language alone won’t keep them interested. They must have fun with it. As they get better with English, children will look for American comic books, not so they can improve their English, but for the prospect of having fun. It’s the fun, after all, that lures them into reading the comic books, and because of the fun, they become better readers without even knowing it.

Twenty years from now – in 2035 – today’s children will be in their mid-to-late twenties and they will have finished or will soon finish university and will be taking their places in society. The world then will be more intertwined and complicated than it is now. Scientific discovery will be greater. By comparison, the sleekest smart phones and tablets of today will be awkward and slow next to the devices people will use then.

What we know for sure is that English will be the world language and that citizens from every nation will have to be intelligently literate in English, not merely fluent. The Koreans of that era will have to be masters of English as much as their contemporaries from Harvard and Oxford will be.

Every student in Korea has a smart phone or a smart tablet, or both, and since their devices are a constant temptation from their classwork, teachers would do well to find ways of letting the students practice their English – even in the early grades – with the help of their devices.

At the Korea Times website, the editors continue to create new possibilities they never dreamed of before they started the site. In addition to posting the news articles and opinion pieces the newspaper has published since its beginning in 1950, the website has video and voice features, an online dictionary, plus it archives all the articles from past editions.

For students of all ages and levels, there is the NIE Times (Newspaper in Education) which is a gateway to the mastery of English. To keep its young readers interested in English and informed about what’s happening in the nation and the world, the NIE Times is always adding stories and lessons to keep children interested in continuing their studies with English.