MIT to offer Korean language classes in the fall

Starting September 2016, MIT will offer four Korean language classes: Korean I and III over the fall semester, and Korean II and IV in the spring. There is also an option to take an intensive Korean I class over IAP.

MIT has offered the same four semester-long Korean classes since the fall of 2014; however, these courses are sponsored by Wellesley College in partnership with the MIT-Korea program. MIT students would have to cross-register to take these classes, which are taught by Wellesley College instructors on MIT’s campus, according to Matt Burt, managing director of MIT-Korea.

“The current Korean classes have high student demand, and every class at the beginning level was oversubscribed in the fall. As a result, [the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences] thought that it would be a good idea to add Korean to the syllabus,” Burt said in an interview with The Tech.

The current classes, though, are only available to students who want to participate in MIT-Korea MISTI or Global Teaching Labs. Both programs require students to have taken Korean IV or equivalent, which prevented many students from getting accepted into either one. The new classes will be open to all students.

“There’s been a lot of interest in MIT-Korea on campus,” Burt added. “I turned a lot of people down because of a lack of language experience, so most program participants are of Korean heritage. People are interested in Korean popular culture, but also want to explore Korea’s growing technological scene, which appeals to the MIT community.”

“MIT-Korea launched in 2012. The first year, we only had five interns. This year, so far, we had 16 students travel to Korea over IAP and at least 20 interns will be working there in the summer. I suspect that there would have been more students going had there been the option to take MIT-taught Korean classes, so hopefully, the number of participants in MIT-Korea will only rise with this change.”  

Emma Teng, who is the head of the Global Studies and Languages Department (GSL) at MIT, told The Tech that the proposed curricula of these courses are almost identical to their Wellesley College-taught predecessors, and GSL is working closely with faculty at Wellesley to fine-tune the syllabus.

Teng hired an instructor to teach these classes on Monday; the new faculty member is Dr. Hee-Jeong Jeong, a Korean linguistics professor currently working at Rice University.

MIT students will not be able to select Korean as their HASS concentration for the time being, but Teng hopes that this will change in the future. “Right now, you cannot concentrate in Korean specifically, but you can concentrate in ‘Other Languages’ if you cross-register at other schools and take language classes elsewhere. Students will be able to use MIT’s new Korean classes to fulfill the requirements for ‘Other Languages,’ or, alternatively, concentrate in ‘Asian and Asian Diaspora Studies.’ This may change in a few years.”

“In addition to these new Korean-language classes, GSL offers a range of classes about global cultures and languages,” SHASS Dean Melissa Nobles told The Tech in an e-mail. Two new Korean culture classes being offered in the fall are Intro to East Asian Culture: Zen to K-Pop and Digital Media in Japan and Korea.

“I am very pleased with the addition of MIT-taught Korean classes,” Nobles said. “I know there is a lot of student interest in learning [the language], and I am happy that our students can take the classes here at MIT.”