Finally! I finished my first 100 hours of classes through KIIP (Korean Immigration and Integration Program). I took the pre-test that’s required before signing up for classes (unless you are a complete beginner and no absolutely no Korean – then they place you at level 1) back in November. I was placed in level 3, intermediate.
The class is based around a textbook for immigrants, and most of us in the class I was in were married to Korean men. The text covers topics such as personality, food, performances, Korean culture, holidays, etc. There are even sections of the book that explain how to talk to real estate agents when searching for a house, how to call a service center when something is broken in your house, and what kind of forms to fill out after giving birth, changing your name, or getting married.
The textbook is pretty well-organized. The only language it uses is Korean, and it does its best to use Korean to explain new vocabulary. However, the chapters have so many new vocabulary words that it’s hard to keep them all memorized. The grammar section is a lot more manageable; only two grammar points per chapter, with plenty of examples and practice for each.
My class was a Tuesday/Thursday class from. It was extremely hard to get used to sitting in the same class for four hours straight, and I usually had to bring snacks to keep sane. However, there are classes that go for 8 hours on Saturdays, for the people who work or can’t study during the day. I do feel like I learned a lot faster by being exposed to Korean 8 hours more a week than I would have normally.
However, I think the main factor that determines how much you learn is who your instructor is. My instructor was a 60-something woman who loved to ramble on about things unrelated to class, such as how to take care of a baby and how to deal with your in-laws. None of her advice was anything more than eye-roll inducing, and I mostly felt that she wasted our time when we could have been learning Korean. She also showed up late, left class without warning, and was on her phone a lot during class.
She didn’t do more than read the book to us, and she sometimes read the answers aloud instead of allowing us time to write them down ourselves. A few of us complained to the director once the class was over, at our mid-term test, and she seemed shocked and angry that we’d had a bad teacher. She promised us that our next teacher would be better.
The level test was a lot more nerve-wracking than I had expected. I expected the multiple-choice written portion to be a piece of cake. We had two tests in our textbook that covered the material we learned; one in the middle and one at the end. Both were simple and took some of the sentences from the grammar sections word-for-word.
Our test only had a written test and a speaking test; no writing portion. I was nervous but not freaking out before the test started. Just jittery and ready to be done with level 3 so that I could move on as planned. However, the written test was a lot more taxing than I thought it would be. There were about five questions that I was unsure about, but I knew most of the answers pretty solidly. It wasn’t just grammar being thrown at us, either; it was vocab, culture, and reading, and it made all of us nervous that we’d failed.
When we were done with the written portion, we went into another room to wait for our groups to be called in for the speaking portion, which was about 25% of our total score. We filled out a survey of the program and the class, and then my group of five was finally called. We were handed a one-sided sheet of paper and told to read it.
At once, we all got nervous, because it had pictures of Korean food on it – the food in the section about Korean holidays. We’d all mostly forgot either the names of the food or why it was eaten or when. Thankfully, we were only asked about one or two questions each, and I was asked what kind of food we eat in my country on special days. I talked about Thanksgiving. Then we were all put through a short and easy conversation where we had to “call” a service center and make a reservation to get something fixed.
As we left, I noticed that the two judges had written down mostly 4s on our papers – 5 being the highest score in each category. I was feeling a little more relieved, as I thought the speaking part would be the hardest.
I was anxious to find out my results, and a few days later, when I was in Seoul with a friend, I got a text from my teacher that I had gotten the highest score in my class: a 100 on the written exam and a 97 total, including the speaking portion. I was thrilled! Mostly because I now qualify for level 4 and a new teacher. I know this next level will be more intense but I’m going into with a newfound confidence and a much better understanding of the language.
Now, whenever I meet my husband’s friends or family, everyone compliments me on how good my Korean has gotten. Even with a teacher who barely taught, I managed to get through it knowing more than I did before, so I’m happy. Here’s hoping my next class goes even better!