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Interview with You-Me Kim

Kim, You-Me
Leiter, Donna
Date of Interview: 
Cultural Idenitification
You-Me Kim talks about language and language assessment.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Donna Leiter interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
DL (Donna Leiter): My name is Donna Leiter, uh, the date is Wednesday, January 29, 2003, and I am interviewing You-Me Kim. Just as a reminder, You-Me Kim, the purpose of this interview is to find out what kind of language classes you've taken and how you were assessed or graded in these classes. How're you doing this morning?
YK (You-Me Kim): Good.
DL: Good? [Laugh] Feel good, feel better after drinking coffee?
YK: Yes.
DL: More awake? [Laugh] OK. That sounds like my, um, my sister-in-law's the same way.
YK: [Laugh]
DL: She has to have her morning coffee. Um, I just want to start out asking some general questions about language courses you've taken. Um, what kind of language classes have you taken, here and in Korea?
YK: In Korea from my middle school days, I took, uh, English class. Middle school and high school, college ye-, days, I took English class, and, uh, in my high school, uh, days, I probably fifteen years old, uh, I took, uh, German for two years.
DL: How about here in the United States? Did you take any language classes?
YK: No, I didn't take any class on English, just I took a graduate school course.
DL: OK, so pretty much all your language study has been over in Korea?
YK: Yes.
DL: For the most part, umm, let's see, you only took German for two years, um, how did you feel when you were in these language classes? How did you feel about the classes themselves?
YK: About English I feel so interesting because I usually like, uh, uh, language classes.
DL: Uh-huh.
YK: Including Korean and English, um, but the English and I pick out what the new meaning of the words or some sentence, paragraph, uh, those reading comprehensions are so interesting to me.
DL: Um, did you feel that way when you were taking German in those two years?
YK: Uh, in taking German I feel so depressed, and I-.
DL: // [Laughs] //
YK: // I, // I thought, uh, German is so difficult, especially when parts like, uh, subjects, verb agreements or word piece, change. Those parts are so difficult to me.
DL: OK, so, you really weren't as inter-, just you don't have an interest in taking German or learning German anymore?
YK: No.
DL: [Laugh] Not anymore, once was enough. [laugh] Um, would you, um, what kind of language assessment or testing did you experience when you were in these language classes?
YK: Mm, in my middle school or high school days, I took, the English test were, uh, multiple choice tests. Uh, and multiple, in the multiple choice tests there were three parts of contents. First parts were, uh, conversation sense, second parts were, uh, grammar, and third parts were reading comprehension, usually, uh, reading comprehension and then, uh, conjugation of sentences.
DL: And they were all // tested. //
YK: // And, and // after my college days, I took TOEFL test and, TSE, which means Test of Speaking English, yeah, so, in the TOEFL test and TSE test I focused on the reading, listening, not reading, listening comprehension-.
DL: // Uh-huh. //
YK: // -And // grammar and reading comprehension, and TSE test especially focus on the speaking.
DL: So did you prefer, which test style did you prefer? Did you prefer that multiple choice kind of test, or did you prefer, like the TOEFL and the TSE, the focus on listening and speaking?
YK: I like the TOEFL test because I thought TOEFL test can, um, present my, um, English ability exactly, because, um, if I just take TSE test, speaking English test, I can't express my grammar or reading comprehension ability, just in speaking, uh, I'm not good at speaking, so, but in case of TOEFL test, they, they take, um, reading comprehension in mind, listening comprehension, so those, uh, that's what, best picture, uh, composed of whole English parts, so then I can express what exactly my ability really is in English.
DL: You felt more comfortable with the TOEFL because it wasn't just focusing on a couple things, you got to test your broad // range of knowledge-. //
YK: // Uh-huh, uh-huh, yes, yes. //
DL: -In English. Uh, how often, when you said you took these multiple choice tests in middle school and high school, how often did you take these tests?
YK: Uh, multiple choice tests in middle school are usually, we have a big test, um, once a month.
DL: Uh-huh.
YK: Uh, and, uh, well the classroom teacher might give you once a week a kind of cloze test or completion or multiple choice test, for improving our English skills.
DL: Uh, how did you feel about these, I mean I know you said you like the TOEFL better, but when you were in these language classes taking these multiple choice tests, or these cloze tests, or one of those other, um, um, how did you feel about those tests?
YK: About the multiple choice test, it, I feel, uh, interesting because in th-, to know the, what the grammar is, or what the meaning of the paragraph, was interesting to me, so I thinking much, much best, about the test.
DL: So, no stress? You felt-.
YK: // No stress. //
DL: // -Pretty // comfortable. Um, do you feel like, in general, that, um, language assessment or being tested on, you know, languages is important?
YK: I think it is very important because through the, taking the assessment, uh, the learner can know what is the strong point, or, or what thing, or what is the weak point. They can figure out what, uh, is necessary to improve their language skills.
DL: What do you feel, personally, do need to improve on?
YK: Actually, umm, I think I need to improve my listening and speaking skill, skills more.
DL: Why's that?
YK: Uh. [pause] Huh?
DL: Why, why is that?
YK: Because, uh, actually when I came here in the USA, I thought, because I read so many English, uh, books, or I studied English kind of pretty long days, so I thought I have some kind of background knowledge of English, so when I, eh, talk with native speakers more often, I expected my English would develop so grammatically, like that, I expected, but, now, compared to my expectation, my listening and speaking ability is not developed, um, and I expected, so I, um.
DL: You, now, why do you, do you feel like that's because of the way you were maybe taught English in Korea, or do you think that's maybe something, do you feel, like guilty personally because you don't do that?
YK: It is because from guilty, but, uh, I feel kind of my ability's not good like theirs, so, I feel sorry about myself, I mean, uh, but sometimes I think my intelligence is not so good like that.
DL: Awww.
YK: [Laugh] So, whenever I talk with native speakers, if they speak kind of fast, or, if I am not familiar with, um, topics, I can't understand completely sometimes, so, or, usually, in the classroom, I think I just can't understand, like 50 percent of what the people says, so, b-, but especially listening and speaking, I feel so depressed, and, like that, so I want some kind of conversation partner, or some kind of more practice in the speaking or listening.
DL: Um, does it affect you, you said that when someone who's a native speaker talks quickly and talks really fast, it's hard for you to understand, um, do the accents around here, does that affect you?
YK: // Umm. //
DL: // Like, // when, for instance, not, I don't want to point her out, but, for instance, when Lisa talks to you-.
YK: Um-huh.
DL: -Do you ever have trouble understanding // anything she says? //
YK: // I don't think // the accent or pronunciation cannot be a big problem, the issue to me, because, uh, I think the lack of vocabulary, like, uh, some vocabulary, or some syntax can be a big issue to me. Because if I know some vocabulary, if the conversation is kind of weird, I can't understand, what, what the word is, but even if-.
DL: // I. //
YK: // -I // don't know the word itself, I can't know wh-what it is, so.
DL: Right. So, [laugh], being in this, just this s-, Southeastern region, I know that even I as a native speaker, I have had trouble understanding what some people have said, because sometimes their accent's so strong, and I know it's not their, you know, it's just where they have lived, but you've never really had, you feel like if you had more command over the vocabulary that, that wouldn't, that's not really a problem for you?
YK: But some, I do sometimes, uh, because I, I practice listening through the TOEFL test preparation exam in the te-, in the pa-, usually it was kind of standard English.
DL: Um-huh.
YK: K-, I, I think might be a little bit a six servance. So, uh, when I, eh, listen to some kind of other, uh, kind of standard English, I feel so comfort-, more comfortable. But I don't know, what's the different of Southern or Southern accent or Northern accent, just everything is English, is that, to me.
DL: So, you // don't-. //
YK: // So. //
DL: -Hear the differences // in the accents? //
YK: //Yeah.// No, I don't think I can figure out accents Southern, or, just everything is same English, // but, but. //
DL: // That's interesting. //
YK: Yeah, but, when I, eh, listen to, kind of single to standard English, especially is more comfortable to me.
DL: Right. So, if, um, for instance, a Northerner and a Southerner read the same sentence that was printed on a sheet of paper, and they both had real strong accents, it wouldn't matter to you'd, still get what they were saying?
YK: Um-huh.
DL: Be-, regardless of accents. That's so interesting, because, um, eh, for me, I mean, the, um, up on the accents, especially in the South, you pick up very quickly someone is not from this area, you can immediately, pick up, you know, you're not from the South. Um, I guess we should kind of get back [laugh] to the topic at hand, but I love talking about accents so much. Um, you said that you learned English and German, did you, did you study any of your own language? Uh, do they do that over in-, I mean, study any of your own // language? //
YK: // No, // of course I studied Korean, and, [pause], um, speaking and listening in, at my home, and, uh, from the middle school, we studied about Korean, and about Korean grammar, how we have some trends in our, uh, translation, or some syntax, kind of semantics, that kind of things we studied a lot about Korean, through middle school to, to, the, uh, uh, college days, so it is covered with literature and semantics.
DL: OK, so you cover both parts, so it's kind of like being in an English class in the United States, in a sense where, when you are in elementary school, middle school, you kind of study grammar things, when you get older, you're studying mostly literature.
YK: Yes.
DL: So, when you were in high schools learning Korean, was it mostly literature based, or was it still grammar and literature based?
YK: Uh, we still had grammar and literature, especially in written Chinese and in novels, precise things, uh, other parts // of. //
DL: // Was // it just Korean literature or did you also do, like world literature?
YK: Ummm. Not world literature, just Korean literature.
DL: Did you, um, and you said that, um, you, you had read a lot of English and things like that. Did you read any, like, English literature?
YK: Yes, I, kind of, like Scarlet Letter?
DL: Oh. [laughs]
YK: Oh, what did I, I mean, uh, not, especially in English literature, like English, uh, what is it?, the English, usually, it is for the English textbook, tutors, like, English.
DL: OK. So, maybe there's like a little piece of, like a little section or excerpt from English literature that might be in your // English textbook? //
YK: // W-, wuh, I, // I read English textbook. The English textbook, [pause], um, social science kind of things I read when I teach.
DL: OK. And, uh, have you taken any, um, I know you said you haven't taken any language classes now that you've been in the United States. Have you taken, I know you're taking linguistics courses because you're in the TESL program. Have you taken any, uh, like, English literature classes or world literature classes since you've been here in the United States?
YK: No. English literature, no.
DL: Um, how did you feel about the, um, you said in Korean, how did they, you told me how they assessed you when you took English in Korea, how did they assess in Korea when you took Korean-
YK: // Uh-huh. //
DL: // -In Korea? // How exactly was it, how, what kind of tests did you take? They were, were the same time, or?
YK: Same kind, multiple choice test.
DL: Same kind, multiple choice. Do you like multiple choice?
YK: Multiple choice? [Pause] Yeah, it is fun, because-.
DL: // [Laughs] //
YK: // -It's // kind of a puzzle, to know what is the wrong answer or right answer, so, lots of fun, I like it.
DL: OK. [Background noise] OK, // uh. //
YK: // But, // I don't know everyone, um, I mean, if I learn the, uh, essay test in Korean language lesson, I mean, if we took the essay test, we can develop kind of holistic aspects of language, for each purpose, so, it, it would be better for us, but we didn't get much chance to write in Korean, no, in the-.
DL: Uh-huh.
YK: -In the // assessment. //
DL: // Assessment? //
YK: Just we have kind of competition, of Korean writing or essay or poems, that kind of competition was there, but nothing assessments, so, we couldn't get our writing real professional, so, I'm sorry.
DL: So, do you feel like because you couldn't develop your writing ability in Korean, that that's hurt your writing ability in English?
YK: It is corrected actually, by, um, good acting Korean writing. I can be better at English writing, I think, because it's not English composition is my help. But, um, in my case, just I had to develop my writing ability by myself, individually, not in the classrooms, I mean, I think it might, it meant to be help, in the Korean.
DL: Right. I know you already told me, um, it's mostly multiple choice, but when you were learning English in Korea, did you get much writing assessment? Were there many tests that graded just your writing?
YK: Uh, in my college days, because my, um, I, my major was English literature, and, uh, English. So, at that time, maybe we took one or two course for English writing, uh, by native speaker in the college, but.
DL: How'd, you, how'd you feel about // those courses? //
YK: // Interest, // at that time, I didn't start, you know, because I was busy with obligations, those days, needs, but, so I didn't start it out.
DL: Did you like that class?
YK: Mmm, I mean, at that time, my focus was on other things, not in the classroom, I, I didn't care, I didn't know.
DL: It was just another class for you // to take? //
YK: // Yeah, yes. // But, uh, if I, I mean, I should, uh, but I, I just now realizing-.
DL: Right.
YK: -Importance.
DL: So, um, you take, you said, um, you're not taking language classes here, but, um, have you taken any writing classes?
YK: No writing classes, uh, but I, I went to the writing center to, // to. //
DL: // Now, // how do they help you there exactly?
YK: Huh, I write some my, usually my, like, web review for some, you say, paper, for my classes. So, I, I brought some drafts of mine, and they correct, uh, but, I wanted to be corrected by, like, logical stream in my writing, I, lo-, logical stream?
YK: Like beginning and middle and last part? Need to be, uh, corrected very logically.
DL: Right.
YK: Yeah. But, um, it was too long. My writing was too long and too much to be corrected in an hour, so, just they correct my grammar. And sometimes, um, both my presented tense. Um, we, Korean language doesn't have any, we have some tense system, but in normal language, we don't, um, divi-, distinguish between, uh, pres-present tense and past tense.
DL: Right.
YK: So it makes me confusing, so, when I-, shhh, when I need to write in past tense, sometimes I write in pre-, present tense-.
DL: // Huh. //
YK: // -So, // they correct my grammar, tense, subjects, verb agreement, like that, so, it, sometimes my English is not, doesn't make sense, so, I make kind of Korean English, like that, right sentence, but, uh, especial, of course I know this, this isn't, but I want more, uh, big part in the logical stream.
DL: Now when you go there and you say they correct your grammar, do they just hand you the paper they go through and they fix it for you, or are they explaining to you?
YK: Sometimes explain, but, um, basically the time, time they keep at-.
DL: Right.
YK: -Uh, just a, particularly correct my grammar and then so, so, but, spe-, uh, the other day I wrote about my autobiography-.
DL: // Uh-huh. //
YK: // -For // one class. Because I had to publish it, um, before the class, so, I chose to write my autobiography, so, my, you know, in my autobiography is very, eh, precious part to me, you know?
DL: Uh-huh.
YK: Like, um, when I was, when I was in my college days, or on my marriage, about my kids, and same thing, and, but, the content is so precious to me, but I have so many grammatical errors, so I showed it to some, new, new guy, new guy, and he just doesn't care what the content, and continually corrected my paper, my, my writing, so I feel, uh, actually I cried that time.
DL: I'm sorry.
YK: [Laugh] Can you understand the situation?
DL: Yeah.
YK: That kind of thing was, I mean, hard time to me. But, anyway, yeah, I need to develop my English writing.
DL: Do you think would help them if, for instance, let's say, they found, in your writing, one the sentences where you'd written something that isn't grammatically correct, if they read that sentence that you wrote out loud to you? Do you think you would hear why it was not correct if they read that, or would it still not, whether it's written or if they read it out loud to you, do you think that's going to help you hear where the mistakes are?
YK: Read out loud is not helping to me, just to know what I write in English, so, uh, what I want is, after they check my grammar and correct, they make, I, I book, they give me some kind of whole impression or some kind of what is the measure of mistakes, so I, I guess, so, you need to, like, exactly, you need to, uh, focus on some parts in writing, like that, that kind of comments, would be helpful to me, but, usually is not so.
DL: So, they don't real-, is it, was it just that one guy who didn't focus on content, or pretty much overall, they don't ever usually worry about content with you, they just do the grammar?
YK: Just grammar.
DL: Just grammar. Um, do they ever tell you that, "Oh, your content is good," or, "Your // content is bad." //
YK: // Sometimes they, // they say, "I like this."
DL: I can tell you from, I, I was a writing center tutor-.
YK: // Oh really? //
DL: // -Before, // not at this university, but at another university.
YK: Uh-huh.
DL: I can tell you that, maybe part of the reason they're not focusing on content is, if your content is good, then there's no reason to, they should probably at least tell you whether it's good or bad, because fixing grammar is much easier than fixing content.
YK: Uh-huh.
DL: Your content's mixed up, another words, when they read it, and have no idea what you're trying to say, that's a bigger issue than you're, you having grammar problems. Grammar is fixable. If your content's messed up, you almost have to start back to square one-.
YK: // Yeah, I know. Uh-huh. //
DL: // -And reconstruct // the whole thing. And so, I would get people who'd had papers that had lots of grammar errors, but I'd tell them, "Look, your content is really good. You've got good details, it makes sense to me." That, you know, that's good. "Now we'll fix the grammar. That's the easy part." So I was trying to make them feel better, so, like, you know, some people would come in, they seemed very frustrated, "I can't write, I can't write, I can't write." And these are native speakers, these, I had an experience with a couple of, um, ESL students, but for the most part, these are native speakers of English who felt down about themselves. But I would tell them, I'm like, you know what? All those people I came in contact with, their content was real good. They just, they had trouble organizing things. And once you can, get that, you know, if the content is good, you can fix everything else in life, so you shouldn't stress so much about that. But, um, thank you very much for participating in this interview. Are there any questions you have to ask me about anything we've talked about?
YK: Uh-huh.
DL: OK, thank you.
YK: Thank you.