By Mr. Franklin Fisher (Red Cloud)July 10, 2013
CAMP RED CLOUD -- When Suh In-hee first started her job making pizza and taking food orders at the Camp Stanley bowling center two years ago, some customers found her Korean-accented English hard to understand.
Things got at least a little better over time, she said, but when she heard recently that the U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I would soon start English classes for Korean employees, she was eager for a chance to improve.
She asked her boss to let her attend and he said yes. Dozens of other employees did the same.
The garrison kicked off its English-improvement effort July 3 with classes at the education centers on Camp Casey in Dongducheon and Camp Red Cloud in Uijeongbu.
Eighteen students, Suh among them, attended class at Red Cloud; 26 were in their seats at Casey.
Retired Korean former employees of the garrison taught the classes as unpaid volunteers, using a textbook titled "Full Option English Conversation." There's also a free MP3 students can download from the Internet for English practice at home.
"This class will be bilingual," Yi Chong-yol, who taught the class at Red Cloud, told the students.
"I try focus on English," Yi said. "I will start with English, end with English. So if you don't understand what I am saying, don't hesitate, ask me and I will answer to the best of my knowledge."
"My goal," Yi told them, "is to make you at least speak with foreigners, especially the Americans, in the compound, speaking freely, what you do in your job, how to serve your customers. If you can speak to your customers freely, as a minimum, that will satisfy my goal," he said.
The classes are being held on a trial basis in hopes of helping Korean employees get better at understanding the English spoken to them by American customers and supervisors. It's also hoped it'll improve their English pronunciation, vocabulary and overall ability to make themselves understood in English.
It's the first time Area I has ever held English-improvement classes for its Korean employees, said , Bud Rader, director of USAG Red Cloud and Area I's Directorate of Human Resources.
Garrison officials plan three or four more weekly classes, after which they'll weigh whether to continue the program and if so, for how long.
At the class on Red Cloud, Yi took the students through the first several pages of their book. He'd read an English sentence, have them repeat it, then make sure they understood it.
Some sentences were taught through short dialogues.
"Dong Ha, what time is the party tonight?
"It's at eight o'clock. Are you going?"
"Yeah, I was thinking about it. Are you?
"Yeah. So I'll see you there."
Others were taught as standalone sentences.
"Indiana has four seasons." Or, "The man told me, 'Thailand has three seasons, hot, hotter, hottest.'" Or, "You can say that again. There's no doubt about it."
"This may be very simple, easy for you," Yi told the students. "But if you don't practice, it may not be yours. You may heard of it, but it can go away easy."
"I want, I need, better English, better English communication," Kim Kyong-tae, 46, a water plant operator with USAG Red Cloud and Area I's Directorate of Public Works at Camp Casey, said in a brief interview.
Better English, he said, would help him in his job, as when, for example, a water pipe breaks and he has to explain to American military customers what repairs are needed and when they'll have water again.
Suh said the first class was helpful and she looked forward to attending the rest, especially to improve her "hearing and talk" -- listening comprehension and general conversational ability.
"I think, in class, very helpful to me," she said. "I want to go."
At the end of the class cycle, said Rader, students will be take a survey on how much the classes might have helped them; their supervisors will also be interviewed on whether they're seeing the right results.
"Because that's the gauge," Rader said. "How well they're picking up, and is their duty performance improving because of the class. That's what it all comes down to. To make sure they can do their job better."