Concentrate more on yourself and listen more to your own voice
Interview with Miran Kang, a Korean teacher in France
Q: Thank you so much for accepting our interview. Please tell us about yourself.
A: I teach Korean at François Magendie High School in Bordeaux, France and work as a researcher at the Université de La Réunion’s lab, teaching pedagogy. I also work as a translator.
François Magendie High School is the very first school in Europe that has designated Korean as a regular subject. In our Korean classes, we focus on a particular theme regarding the Korean language and culture. Besides, I have a variety of cultural activities with my students. Among them, the New Year’s Day event and the biennial exchange program with the Daejeon Foreign Language High School (DFLHS) are the biggest or most important.
Q: What is the status of Korean culture and the Korean language like in France?
A: The status of the Korean language has obviously gone up quite a lot. As Korea has gotten a bigger spotlight in the world, a lot more people became interested in the Korean culture and the Korean language. At the school and the university where I work, I can find many people around me showing a keen interest in Korea.
Q: Since when and how did France’s public school choose Korean as a regular subject?
A: France and Europe included Korean in their curriculum in 2011 for the first time. Since 2009, AFELACC (Association Francaise des Enseignants de Langue et Culture Coreennes) has conducted a cultural program to teach Korean culture and language. At that time, the program was of a once-off event. And just occasional Korean language classes or cultural ateliers such as Samulnori or Korean calligraphy were created as a special activity.
In the meantime, some Korean ateliers have provided classes about Korean culture consistently. Then the Bordeaux Office of Education showed special interest in them, and this led to the opening of a Korean demonstration class at François Magendie High School as part of a regular curriculum.
It was only an experimental class for the first three years, but it was really successful. More students were eager to take the Korean class each year and accordingly more cultural events were held. In the process, the exchange program with DFLHS surely played an important role. The Korean classes have been successful for the past ten years.
Q: Can you tell me more about how the exchange program is going?
A: It’s been a very successful program. Every year, students from both schools are matched individually and visit Daejeon and Bordeaux to learn about each other’s cultures every other year. This kind of program and trip to Korea is not common, and when our school holds a briefing session for the program, many middle school students aspire to participate in the exchange program. Our program is thought of as not only a project for the students, but a great opportunity for a journey for parents and other families. From the moment when the student enters the school, the entire family saves money for the exchange program.
This exchange program has proven to be more than a cultural and educational experience to them, giving a huge influence to the lives of student participants and their families. Many of them become advocates or ambassadors of Korean culture, sharing their knowledge with those who are not familiar with Korean culture.
Q: Recently, we meet with a very controversial issue of historical distortion with regard to Korean traditional culture. Are there any similar cases in France?
A: Well, there are some deeply embedded prejudices here, too, and so people here easily believe that anything they think originated from Asia is from China or Japan. For example, in a culture class for trying on the Taekwondo uniform, teachers and students are quick to call it a kimono. Once, students who learned Japanese made their uniform featuring the pattern of the rising sun flag and so we called together the students, a philosophy teacher, and a Japanese teacher to discuss the situation. Luckily we agreed not to wear the uniform anymore and they identify the Taekwondo uniform correctly.
Q: Lastly, do you have anything to tell our readers?
A: I felt uncomfortable when I first came to France. I didn’t know exactly why, but it wasn’t about the uncomfortableness living in a foreign country. I realized later that I’ve been pushed to live up to others’ expectations, their opinions and plans. I haven’t paid enough attention to myself and the expression of my own thoughts and experiences. My advice is they should concentrate more on themselves and listen more to their own voice.
62th Edition of The Monday Times (June 28, 2021)
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