Friday, June 22, 2012
An article here in Korean details the plans of some of the hagwons (hagwon = private or cram school) in Korea to deal with, and profit from, the increasing number of students learning Chinese. Most of it is about these plans but the numbers from Pagoda are worth citing here as it is one of the largest hagwon chains in the country.
While students learning Chinese from elementary are continuing to increase, large businesses are now giving preference to new employees that can speak the language.It also notes that there is an increase in students that are studying English and Chinese at the same time, probably not that enjoyable an experience for the average worker with little interest in languages that is only learning them to get ahead. If and when Chinese becomes the other must-have language in the country it'll take that much longer to achieve any sort of mastery in them.
Pagoda (a hagwon chain in Korea) has reported an increase of 53% in students learning Chinese compared to last year, and 224% more compared to 2009. Pagoda has begun a "Chinese intensive course" in Gangnam (south part of Seoul, one of the trendy areas) in order to help people rapidly improve in the language over a two-month period. In this course the teacher also drafts and manages a study plan with each student.
The good thing about Chinese from Korea's point of view though is that it can kind of be combined with already existing Korean literature/hanja classes. To increase student familiarity with written Chinese these hanja classes could simply be increased as is, or recognizing simplified characters could be added to the curriculum.
For what Chinese feels like to a speaker of Korean or Japanese, see this post I wrote a few years back. It's basically like the effect of Latin or Greek on English, except that these are all Indo-European languages while Chinese is not from the same family. Arabic and Persian is probably the best analogy for anyone that knows how these two languages have influenced each other, with one having influenced the other much more but with some bilateral influence having taken place as well.