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Student interest to learn Korean motivates Khoon An to create Korean class, infusing lessons with Korean dramas and K-Pop

Graphic by Brad Carbine

Due to a high demand for learning Korean on campus, BYU–Hawaii student Khoon An, a sophomore majoring in music from South Korea, created his own Korean classes. An said he has had a very positive response to the class with many students wanting to join the class and even waiting for the class to open up again next semester.

An explained how the classes started, “I just wanted to teach Korean to my friends who wanted to learn. I used to teach Korean here a year ago or so, but only six or seven people came. I don’t know why, but this time so many people wanted to join so I now have two classes. There are about 16 or 17 students now with more waiting.”

An holds two one-hour classes per week that have about eight students in each class. The students are at beginner level in Korean and come from countries such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United States.

A demand to learn Korean at BYU–Hawaii

The popularity of the language class has prompted An to teach Korean language classes every semester. “I may even hold classes over summer. It gives me so much joy to teach. I also get experience in teaching.

“There are no Korean language classes offered on campus. This gives students an opportunity. Also, I think because Korean dramas and K-Pop are getting more popular, people want to try to learn to speak Korean.”

Interested in Korean culture, Switzal Miole, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in elementary education, said she wanted to take An’s class. “I love watching Korean dramas and I thought learning the language properly would help me understand more of the episodes. Also, it would help me interact with our Korean guests at my work.”

Miole continued, “The class is fun. I know pretty much everyone and no one’s trying to outshine the other so to speak.”

Another student in the Korean language class, Reymart Santiago, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in business management, said, “One of the reasons why I took the class is because I always wanted to interact with any Korean speaking person because of my work as a tour guide at the PCC.

“It’s a good thing to have this class going because it will help us understand their culture and also will greatly benefit us in our future and if we travel.”

A love for teaching language

With experience in teaching and language studies, An said he decided to hold the class to develop his teaching and to spread his culture. “When I was in Korea I used to teach English as well. I was so happy teaching and that’s why I am getting my TESOL certificate here. Korean is my language. I am also a YouTuber, and I film it so that I can spread out the Korean culture.”

An added, “I would like to be a Korean language teacher one day, maybe to foreigners who live in Korea or even on YouTube. I don’t see many Korean language learning opportunities online. If there are students who are interested to learn, there may not be good resources. I am willing to help and share my strategies online and through YouTube.” 

As well as gaining teaching experience and making YouTube videos, An said the joy of watching someone learn is the most satisfying reason for his teaching. “When I see people become better at Korean I feel so good. I’ve taught more than 400 people so far during my teaching experience, and when people tell me things like ‘you made me better’ or ‘your class was fun,’ it makes me feel so satisfied.”

How An prepares for and teaches his classes

An said, “I started teaching Korean many years ago during my mission, but at the time I didn’t know any teaching skills. As time went by, I got feedback and saw results and figured out what is more effective for foreigners to learn Korean. I’m not the best teacher, but I can say I have a lot of experience and I can help foreigners speak Korean better.”

According to An, he studies and researches to make his own course material. “Even though I’m a native Korean speaker, I study it so I can teach it well. I don’t like having a boring class, so I try to make my own curriculum. I try to teach Korean and infuse it with watching Korean dramas or using K-Pop, so that people can feel like they are enjoying and applying what they learn.”

An said expanding his classes to help those who already know some Korean is an option. “I’ve talked with people who served in Korea and they want to keep learning Korean. We’ve talked about it, and I may make another class for advanced foreign Korean speakers. People who speak a bit of Korean already. I also want to make a class for people who have taken my classes before and know a little so that they can continue to learn.”

Miole said of her experience in the class so far, “What I liked about the class is everyone is helping and supporting each other. Most of all, the teacher is not judgmental at all which creates a great environment for us to learn.

“I think it would be awesome if there were more languages to choose from here at school for minors and classes.”

Writer: Will Krueger