One of my biggest pet peeves about working with Korean English teachers and supervisors involves editing English for tests and other documents I get handed.

It completely blows my mind that the teachers and supervisors will praise my editing skills to no end–and yet completely ignore some, many, or even all the editing notes and corrections I might make on a document . . . and it makes me go completely insane when it’s on a TEST!

One of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had with this happened during a six month Teach English in English program in which I was an instructor.  There was a pre-program listening skills test that all the Korean English teacher trainees had to take in order to assess what kind of progress they would make during the program (they were also tested at the mid-way mark, and at the end of the of program).

I was handed the test manuscript that Korean English teachers and supervisors at the training center where I was working had made, and asked to edit it closely and carefully.  I gave it my usual close editing, and then returned it . . . foolishly assuming the notes would be followed.

Instead, the Korean teachers responsible for making the corrections ignored some that they disagreed with, and missed others.

Now you might think “Who cares, Jason? It’s just a test and the Koreans are responsible for the test.”  NO NO NO . . . the Koreans in charge of the program, upon hearing some complaints from the trainees about grammar errors and other problems on the written test paper, told the trainees that the native English instructors made the test and this resulted in immediate damage to the trainees’ perceptions of our credibility and competence. Not a small thing when you’re teaching Korean English teachers, some of whom resent being taught by a younger foreign teacher when they are older and don’t want to acknowledge they need more English language skills training and communicative teaching methods training.

The reason I’m writing about my pet peeve with editing and how Korean teachers and supervisors tend to ignore my editing notes is because this past Monday I edited a promotional pamphlet for my school.  As I was editing the copy I kept thinking that it all looked really familiar to me, and then I realized that it was familiar to me; I had edited the rough draft a Korean English teacher had shown me about two or three weeks ago.

I had circled all of the Konglish style capitalizations of words that he wanted to make ‘look’ important and yet should never be capitalized; I had crossed out grammar errors and spelling errors; I had rewritten unclear and bizarre wordings and expressions . . . and yet NONE of these corrections were to be seen in the proofs sent from the print shop for final editing!  The head English teacher who gave me the proofs to check over was surprised to see all the red ink on the proofs, and I had to go over it with her explaining why I had marked different things.  It’s so much “fun” to do work you’ve already done once a second time–NOT.

Today, the teacher who had originally shown me the rough draft of the writing which I had edited weeks ago comes and asks me to help him understand the edited copy of the proofs from the print shop . . .

We sit down, and I look at him and say, “Mr. X, do you not remember the editing notes that I did for you several weeks ago?  Why didn’t these things get changed?”  Mr. X looks a bit chagrined, and says he doesn’t remember.  I repeat my question, and he gets up from the table and goes to his desk, leafs around amongst a pile of papers and then finds the original rough draft.

He comes back, without the rough draft, and apologizes to me.  Argh.

I like this co-teacher, and because we have a fairly good co-teaching relationship I sat down for a THIRD time and re-explained all of my editing notes to him.  If I didn’t like him I would have told him to go look at my original notes and just do what they say . . .

Having one’s editing notes and corrections ignored seems to be a somewhat common phenomenon across Korea based on what I’ve heard from other native teachers.  It’s one thing when the native English teacher doesn’t have an English language degree, or other qualifications that would make them competent editors–I get that, but in my case not only am I am English literature major but I’m also a very experienced editor (I’ve edited English Master’s Degree thesis papers, English literature PhD dissertation work, and EFL/ESL journal articles).

I think the reasons editing notes and corrections get ignored are sometimes innocent (the Korean teacher is too tired and overworked and the deadline is looming and they just miss the corrections) but other times the editing is ignored because of pure laziness, arrogance and an unwillingness to acknowledge that the native teacher’s English abilities are superior to the Korean teacher’s . . . I’m sure there must be many other reasons but I’ll leave that to others to figure out.

I guess the point I’d like to make here to any Korean English teachers reading this is DON’T ASK FOR EDITING from a native English teacher if you’re not going to use the editing notes and corrections.

Oh, and please for the love of kimchi do not use Haansoft word processing program for writing in English.  The spell checker for English is atrocious, and there is no English grammar checking function.  Use Microsoft Word, and make sure to use the spell and grammar check function!  It’s ridiculous to be asked to edit a document that has basic grammar errors on it that could have been caught by a computer program thereby not wasting the native teacher’s time.

And on that note, it’s time to go home–woo!

J

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