This holiday season, Kaitlin Gallagher, ’21, will give her mother a present she hopes she’ll never forget, thanks to a new Bridgewater State University class.
Kaitlin is taking Elementary Korean with the goal of talking with her mom – who is Korean and came to the United States as a teenager – in her mother’s native tongue.
“It’s going to be a complete surprise,” said the Taunton resident, who is majoring in health studies and minoring in psychology.
This semester, BSU expanded its foreign language offerings to include Korean, thanks in part to a grant from the Korea Foundation. Drs. Inkyoung Kim, an assistant political science professor, and Sean McPherson, an associate art and art history professor, applied for funding from the foundation after discovering a need for and student interest in Korean language classes.
“The Korean language program will be a good starting point that will bring Korean content to campus and widen the scope of Asian studies,” said Kim, who is originally from South Korea.
She works with the Korean Student Association and was impressed when more than 30 students attended a basic Korean language workshop the club held.
“They were eager to learn more,” she said.
The new program, run by the Department of Global Languages and Literatures, offers an introductory course this semester and two levels in the spring.
The Korea Foundation enhances understanding of Korea throughout the world. Its grants often go to the most elite schools. BSU had an advocate in Kim Yonghyon, the consul general of the Republic of Korea in Boston, as well as a reputation as a top educator of many of the area’s future teachers. The consul general understood that aspiring educators who study Korean language and culture can spread those lessons to their future students.
Learning Korean also benefits those who seek to study current events in that important region, according to McPherson. He added that students will find Korean to be a relatively accessible language to learn.
“I think it’s a wonderfully efficient and logical and beautiful writing system,” he said. “It’s possible to learn it much more quickly than what would be the case for elementary Japanese or Chinese.”
And, it shows Korean international students who come to Bridgewater that others on campus care about their culture and language, said Carmira Tessier, ’20, a communication studies major from Brockton, who is currently enrolled in Elementary Korean.
Carmira enjoys Korean dramas and K-pop music, so she aspires to learn the language. She even tried to teach herself in junior high.
“It never stuck with me,” she said. “I wanted to learn the right way.”
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