Upon their arrival, many foreigners, or native English teachers may be puzzled by their new surroundings, especially when one is assigned to work on an island with a population of only about 600,000. Some may not even have heard of Jeju Island prior to their appointment.
It is not Seoul, where one can get a guide book easily. To help their colleagues, authors Tommy Tran and Thai An Pham have published the “Global Jeju Guide Book” with the assistance of TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) program coordinator Mona Chang and the Jeju Provincial Office of Education (POE).
Tommy Tran has lived on Jeju for two years and three months. He experienced both TaLK and EPIK (English Program in Korea). With his background in Korean studies, he wanted to share the multitude of places to visit on the island.
“Honestly speaking, it was also in part due to my mild annoyance at other Western expats for complaining about not having much to see or do here,” Tran told The Jeju Weekly.
According to Chang, there are information sessions given to foreign teachers at the beginning of their stay, but POE wanted to give them more comprehensive information.
Chang emphasized the importance of cultural education and guidance. “Participants of TaLK program do not come to Korea simply to make money, but to learn about Korea and its culture,” Chang told The Weekly.
The book simply started with Tommy Tran’s curiosity and love of Jeju. Chang and Tran started the project with the intention to help foreign teachers coming to Jeju to teach English. Later, Chang decided to add a section for Korean students.
Former TaLK program participant, Thai An Pham, willingly joined the team and started on Part Two of the publication. The book took about two years to research and four months to write, edit, and publish.
The book’s objective is to “provide the most reliable information and guidelines to EPIK and TaLK native English teachers of Jeju as well as students and parents.”
Guide to Jeju is Part One, which was written by Tran. It starts off with “What is Jeju?” and provides information on various sightseeing spots, transportation, life and culture, basic daily life, shopping and food.
Part Two, titled Useful Dialogues, written by Pham, is composed of elementary school, middle school, and high school level dialogues, which are selected based on topics covered in Part One. Pham added puzzles too because she believed that kids will simply get bored only reading the dialogues.
Pham also mentioned that she wanted to help Korean students because when she asked students on the street a question, she could see that they were eager to help, yet were unable to due to their lack of English vocabulary and experience with the foreign language.
She hopes that students will learn to be more comfortable with English, if they start “one dialogue at a time.”
Targeting foreigners and Korean students, the book “started out as non-textbook, but it ended up being [a] textbook of some sort,” Pham said.
There is some useful and interesting information for target audiences, such as explaining some basic customs of Jeju, and Korea, which can potentially help native English teachers to decide to settle on Jeju.
However, due to the long period of research, it also contains some outdated information.
Due to demand, the POE is planning to reprint more copies. At the moment, all three authors are re-editing to fix grammatical errors and to give more up-to-date information.
“Jeju residents or next generation native English teachers will take over the project and keep updating the book,” said Chang.
For the two authors, writing the book made them more attached to Jeju. Tran, who is currently attending a Ph.D. program in Korean studies, plans to come back to Jeju after he finishes and focus on Jeju Studies.
Pham, who will leave Jeju next year, also plans to come back after she finishes her Masters program in education.
“Foreigners are always leaving Jeju, and Jeju won’t remember them, but those foreigners will always remember Jeju,” Pham said, showing her attachment to Jeju.
Currently, the book has been distributed to 184 schools on Jeju, including elementary, middle, and high schools. Also, the Jeju International Education and Information Institute and its four Foreign Language Education Centers hold copies of the book.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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