Building Confidence and Enjoyment in Education through Cultural Acceptance in Kindergarten

지난달 교육칼럼은 영어가 모국어가 아닌 우리 자녀들에게 ESL과는 또 다른 방법의 영어교육을 실시하고 있는 팰리사이드 팍 공립유치원(Early Childhood Center)의 이중언어교육 프로그램(Bilingual Program )에 관해 기사를 게재했다. 이번달에도 지난달에 이어 이중언어교육 프로그램이 주는 또 다른 유익에 대해 소개한다. 어린 자녀가 취학할 시기가 되면 부모들은 제일 먼저 자녀의 언어에 대한 걱정을 앞세우게 된다. 영어를 잘 구사하지 못하는 아이가 학교 수업을 잘 따라갈 수 있을지, 또 학교 생활에 제대로 적응할 수 있을지 등 여러 가지 염려가 많아지는데, 아이들은 영어가 모국어가 아니기 때문에 영어에 대한 두려움이 있을 수도 있지만, 사실은 자신이 영어를 잘 구사하지 못한다는 사실 때문에 두려움을 갖는 경우가 많다고 한다. 이중언어교육은 단순히 영어를 구사하도록 가르치는 것이 아니라 모든 지식적 접근을 모국어인 한국어로 사고하도록 하되, 그것이 영어와 어떻게 다르고 영어로는 어떻게 표현하는지를 특수한 방법으로 지도하기 때문에 영어에 대한 두려움도 없어질뿐더러 오히려 두 언어의 차이를 알게되고, 한국어 능력을 잃지않으면서 영어를 습득하게 된다고 한다. 영어에 대한 두려움 대신 아이들 스스로가 흥미와 재미를 느끼게 해주는 이중언어교육, 팰리사이드 팍 ECC정지윤선생님의 두번째 칼럼을 소개한다. 

글 Jeeyoon Chung, 현 팰팍 ECC 한국어 이중언어 교사

If your child is about to embark on their educational adventure in kin-dergarten next year, I am sure as a parent, you have just as many but-terflies in your stomach as your child has, or even more. Raising your child in a community that has a high ratio of Korean Americans, may have allowed you to raise your child with a limited fluency in English, and I am here to tell you that that is okay. It is only natural that a child raised in a home whose heritage language is Korean, will acquire it as their first language rather than English. The key to allowing your child to embrace English as their second language in a natural and stress-free educational environment is by allowing them to enter a classroom that accepts their linguistic differences.

A Korean/English Bilingual classroom allows students to come to school to not only learn the same content as a monolingual (all English) class-room, but to also feel as if they belong and not be blocked from com-munication with their teacher and fellow peers because they do not yet have the English fluency to fully express themselves. The key to having fun is to first build confidence in children, allowing them to feel that yes, “I understand the teacher”, “I know how to follow directions”, and “I belong in a school that understands me.”  In a bilingual classroom, the teacher speaks the heritage language and can easily guide and trans-late for your child so that they may experience a more natural process of acquiring the English language, giving him/her encouragement in a language they will understand. If you place a child with a low English fluency into an English only, monolingual classroom, they may, from the first day of school, feel that they do not belong, have trouble communi-cating their needs, cultivate a fear of going to school, and therefore, the English language. For some children, Kindergarten is the first time they feel a separation from their parents, which is stressful as it is, without placing them in an environment where they do not speak the language and are asked to speak “English”, a request that they can not yet fulfill. They may acquire feelings of isolation or that they don’t belong, which is quite detrimental in building confidence, a key ingredient when cultivat-ing a student’s cultural identity, and their drive to learn. 

Now I understand that there is yet still a fear in most Korean parents regarding enrolling their child in a bilingual program because they fear that their child will not acquire fluency in English. As a Korean/English bilingual teacher at ECC, I am here to inform you that our objective is not to teach Korean, but English through Korean. Your child comes to school with a lot of knowledge in their heads already. They may know their animals, colors, shapes, phrases, and other wonderful content. In a bilingual classroom, that content is translated for them. They learn to say the information that they know in English and then build upon that knowledge with more English terms, which can be explained to them, if need be, in Korean. It is a shame to have bright young Korean minds lose content or be unable to learn crucial lessons, just because their heritage language and cultural background is Korean and they were put in a monolingual classroom, hence creating a missed oppor-tunity for learning.

As a kindergartener in a bilingual classroom, students are met with a Korean teacher, such as myself. Our classroom learns all the same content as the other classes, but the students’ learning is supported by a teacher who culturally understands them. They can share their thoughts and emotions about books, science, art, math, and many other subjects because we speak a common language. This allows the teacher to give examples or explanations that Korean American chil-dren would comprehend more easily.  For example, when teaching students about objects that “match”, monolingual classrooms may talk about “bagels and cream cheese” or “peaches and cream.” As a bilin-gual teacher, who is more culturally sensitive, he/she would make sure that my visuals explain the concept of “match” by including items that are more easily comprehendible by Korean students, such as “shoes and socks” or “needle and thread.”Although the lessons are taught in English, the students may ask questions in Korean and not be afraid or nervous that his/her inquires would be met with blank stares or mis-comprehension. Even when praising a student, a bilingual teacher will be able to say “Well done” or “Good Job” in both languages, allowing a student to feel pride without confusion on the meaning. When stu-dents feel that they are doing a good job, and can fulfill what is asked of them in school, they develop a sense of pride in their own accom-plishments. Acquiring English becomes something that is “easy”, “fun” and very often, “exciting.” They grow to love adding new words to their personal word walls in the classroom; they ask how to say things in English or how to read or write a certain word. When the process of acquiring said abilities is explained in their heritage language, they can comprehend the task and achieve success in a natural educational en-vironment that fully supports their learning potential.  

As the year goes on, the Korean gradually diminishes from the bilingual classroom as the students grow less and less dependent on their heri-tage language. Commands are given in English and students are given the responsibility to take more of their learning into their own hands, such as reading books from the classroom library according to their level, writing full sentences by utilizing word walls around them, and allowing visual clues to help them understand written content.  They become wonderful bilingual students who can now enter first grade and parents do not have to worry about their child not being able to grasp the content at school or communicate with their teacher due to language barriers. 

Education should not start with the element of fear. Or if it exists, then it should be diminished as much as possible in kindergarten so that a child may learn without the dread of making mistakes, which is how we all learn. By becoming acclimated to their new role as a student in a culturally supportive environment, students will be able to grow up, proud of who they are, certain of their social acceptance, and confident in their abilities as scholars. With solid foundations such as these, I hope students will find education a fun and exciting experience. 

Jeeyoon Chung

현 팰팍 ECC 한국어 이중언어교사

콜럼비아대학원 사범대학 이중언어/이중문화교육 

석사럿거스대학 영문학학사

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창간 20주년을 맞이한 북동부 최대의 한인 라이프스타일 매거진
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