Greetings! I teach Korean language at the University of Montreal in Canada as a visiting professor supported by the Korea Foundation fellowship. Canada’s official languages are French and English and the University of Montreal is located in Quebec, where French is primarily spoken. It is the largest university that offers East Asian Studies in the French-speaking area, but it did not always have sufficient Korean language courses. Compared to the 12 levels of Chinese Mandarin and the 14 levels of Japanese language courses that are offered, the university’s Korean language programming left much to be desired with classes in four introductory levels only.
However, in 2018, thanks to the support of the Korea Foundation, the University of Montreal began to offer higher-level Korean language education by adding classes in levels four through eight. In September last year, levels nine and ten were established as well. The additional courses enabled students to continue studying the Korean language upon their completion of the introductory courses. Accordingly, the Korean language program was able to gain more stability and a higher status within the school’s Center for East Asian Studies.
Students don’t just attend Korean language classes but also voluntarily operate groups for the exchange of the Korean and French languages. They also promote interest in and passion for Korean by participating in a variety of activities such as a Korean cooking class, a special lecture on Hangeul calligraphy, and Korean speaking contests. In February of last year, the first Korean speech contest was held by the University of Montreal and created meaningful memories for all who participated. Many professors cheered on and supported the event and it turned out to be a great success. Its festive atmosphere was all thanks to the enthusiastic cooperation of my fellow teachers and volunteers.
Beginning in March last year, all classes have been conducted online due to the unexpected COVID-19 pandemic. I was quite worried that the changed format of classes would dampen the students’ enthusiasm for learning Korean and the classes would lose their liveliness. The online classes posed more than a few limitations, but I tried to make the best of their merits, providing individual feedback to each student. As time passed, I was able to reduce the emotional distance between myself and the students. Though their classes were online, the students completed them in a joyful and happy manner.
Korean language at the University of Montreal is expanding more vigorously than any other Asian language, and professors agree that the KF’s support through facilitating a visiting professorship plays a significant role in this regard. Students study Korean while dreaming of the days when they will be able to travel to, continue their study in, or work in Korea, and their dreams are very much alive despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a person teaching the Korean language outside of Korea, my dream is to help these excellent Canadian students to grow up as friendly and positive actors for future Korea-Canada relations. I think this dream is possible due to my belief in the excellence of the Korean people, language and culture. Together with my beloved students who love Korea, I will do my best to contribute to solidifying the roots of Korean language education at the University of Montreal.