Marlborough’s new Korean elective has completed its first semester and now continues into its second. The class, taught by World Languages instructor Yoonju Mangione, introduces students to Korea’s culture and history, while also learning the language itself. Mira ’21 helped bring this elective to life, and advocated for its existence. She attended meetings, exchanged emails and interviewed teachers to help make this class into a reality.
After creating the elective, Mira is now enrolled in and thoroughly pleased with her time in class.
“It’s definitely the class I feel like I’ve learned the most in, because learning the language is something entirely new to me,” she said. “It’s definitely exceeding my expectations… I feel like each class we learn something new.”
This rings true for students across all grades; students in grades from 8th through 12th are enrolled in the elective. Korean student Lexie ’23 echoed Mira’s sentiments.
“It is like one of my favorite classes. I really like the teacher; she’s really fun and bubbly, and I feel like we cover material faster than in other language classes,” she said.
Being the very first teacher of this elective, Mangione was not sure how much of and how fast to go through the class curriculum.
“At the beginning of the semester I wasn’t exactly sure how to pace the class… I think I was very eager to teach everything, but quality over quantity was the lesson,” Mangione said.
Mangione started by teaching students how to read and write using the letters of the Korean alphabet, and then progressed to forming basic sentences. Currently, students are learning how to say phrases used in a restaurant setting.
“She is amazing, and she is really smart and she understands what the class needs,” Mira said. “She’s definitely made it [the class] her own… her slideshows are so cool, and they’re just really thought-out.”
While the Marlborough community cannot be together in the classroom yet, Mangione has found other ways to teach from home. In one of her lessons, Mangione laid out Korean dishes and side dishes, and taught students Korean table manners via Zoom. Although this live example using real food is one of the perks of distance learning, Mangione is looking forward and making plans for the future back on campus.
“I’m really excited that Korean class still started, even though we’re in the midst of a pandemic…of course, there’s a lot more that I feel like we’re missing out on, especially as a language class,” Mangione said. She was inspired by Marlborough’s close proximity to Koreatown, and the opportunities this presents for the class in the future.
Other topics also learned in the class are Korea’s history and pop-culture, including basics of Korean history, the split between South Korea and North Korea, the flag, the national anthem and the foundation myth of Korea, according to Mangione. They also look at more recent facets of contemporary Korean culture, such as K-dramas.
“I feel like it makes the class more meaningful, because I understand where the language is coming from, and especially in Korea, what has happened to have this language in their country to be able to speak it,” Lexi said.
Some Korean-American students feel that there is also a more personal element to the class that allows them to connect with their culture.
“I think there’s something special about being able to just go to a class at your school that is about your culture. It was really special to me to just have a safe space to… learn about something that was a part of me but never had the opportunity to learn,” Mira said.
Other students feel similarly, and thought the class gives them the opportunity to explore in-depth their Korean-American identity.
“I definitely feel more connected, because I feel like before I really didn’t know that much about anything… but now like I understand what people had to go through, what like other Korean-Americans are doing here, and how everything just kind of ties together,” Lexi said.
For Mira, to see this class come to full fruition from an idea to a functioning class was a fulfilling experience.
“I’m honestly still in shock that it even became possible, because at the beginning it was just an idea… now I think it’s such a great addition to the school, and it really makes Marlborough unique compared to other institutions, because they have something like this that’s really special.”