Random Korean ESL tips

New to teaching? Trying to get an idea of what it will be like?
Here’s a few cultural tips we’ve picked up (some passed on to us, some learned the hard way).


1. Never write a student’s name is red. It symbolizes death. Though, for some reason, it is a popular “favorite color” among youth.

2. Common discipline for unruly students involves sending them to the hallway and raising their hands in the air for 4, 5, or even 10 minutes. Do with that what you will.

3. Work environment is very community-based. The downsides of that can be automatic deductions in your pay for office snacks, an office-wide gift for someone’s wedding or funeral, and mandatory office activities, like taking hikes together. The upside is you may get treated to ice cream by the boss.

4. When beckoning a student, don’t curl your fingers with your palm facing the ceiling–that’s how Koreans call animals. Flip your hand over so your palm is facing the floor, then curl your fingers to your palm–this is how they communicate with other humans.

5. In Asian culture being called out, or sticking out from the crowd in some way, can be very anxiety-producing, especially for kids. Being called on in class can be seen as a punishment, rather than just the pedagogical method used. I personally think that students should become used to Western culture (why else would they be learning English?), particularly if they hope to continue higher ed in the United States (I had Chinese classmates in grad school that became almost paralyzed when a teacher called on them in class–I want my students to avoid that future.). Just remember that speaking up in class is highly irregular for Korean (and other Asian) students, so be patient with their lack of response.

This is just a handful of things we’ve picked up along the way to smooth cultural differences in the classroom. What would you suggest?

Categories: CEV, Culture Quirks, Lost in Translation | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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