Yonsei’s Korean Language Program

Now that I’ve had almost two weeks of classes at Yonsei’s Korean Language Institute (KLI), I thought I’d tell you a little more about the program.

I have classes Monday through Friday, 9 am to 1 pm.  The 4 hours are split up into 4 periods of 50 minutes each – the first two cover a lesson from our textbook (focusing on grammar and vocabulary), the third is a reading lesson out of our reading textbook, and the last one is speaking and writing practice from the workbook.  We have a 문법 선생님 (grammar teacher), who teaches the first, second, and last periods, and an 읽이 선생님 (reading teacher), who covers the reading lesson.  It’s a lot of Korean class for one day, but the curriculum is well thought-out and designed to engage students (which keeps me from falling asleep on my more tired days).

I’m in the Regular Program, and placed into level 3 of the B course, an 8-level program specifically designed for native-English speakers and students whose native language is very different from Korean.  It’s basically just a slower version of the A course, which is only 6 levels and thus can be completed faster (in 1 ½ years instead of 2).  My class of 5 is quite small compared to other classes, which have around 12-13 students on average.  Our tiny class size means each of us gets lots of speaking practice and individual attention (which also helps me not fall asleep).  Our grammar teacher is great – she’s down-to-earth, understanding, and good at what she does.  Our reading teacher is hilarious and equally relatable.

This semester, level 3 is the highest level being offered in the B course due to lack of demand, meaning the students in my class will most likely be integrated into level 3 of the A course next term.  Most students studying Korean through this program are in Korea for an extended period of time (usually a year or more), and intend to complete most of the program.  (Yonsei recommends at least completing level 5 if you plan to attend a Korean university.)  The other four students in my class have all been in Seoul for at least 6 months – one has even been here for five years.  The fact that I’m here for a short and finite period of time (just a single term) makes me a bit of an outlier.  The reason I’m doing this 10-week program, rather than the shorter 5-week Summer Special Program, is that I received a grant from the University of Chicago to study a foreign language abroad this summer, and it requires me to be enrolled in a program that lasts at least 8-weeks.

From what I’ve heard, Yonsei’s KLI is (one of) the best Korean language programs in the country.  It’s usually only compared to that of Sogang University, also located in Seoul, which is said to emphasize speaking ability more.  My teacher, who has lots of friends who teach Korean at Sogang, said that the best thing to do would be to start off at Yonsei to master the basics (levels 1-2), switch over to Sogang to improve conversational skills (around levels 3-4), then return to Yonsei for the advanced classes (levels 5-6).  Regardless, I’m happy to be at Yonsei, and have learned a lot and enjoyed myself so far.  Getting up in time for 9 am class is a little tough for summer, but hey…it’s worth it.


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