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The Importance of Writing

미국 어학연수 에세이

By Yu Jimin (Seoul)

During the 14 days of my visit to the United States, two days were spent on the plane, four days sightseeing, and eight days attending classes. During the 14 days, I found my time attending classes the most memorable. Especially when I saw the amount of essay homework my roommate was doing, I was amazed. I want to talk about writing essays, and the importance of writing a lot of essays.

Monday, January 21st started with English 10 class, from 7:40 to 9:00. English 10 was just like Korea’s Korean class where we learn literature and writing. On top of two rows of horizontally placed desks, there were no pens or books, but just a piece of paper with the summary of the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” (the homework assignment for next class).

The teacher wrote down the summary of the novel discussed from the previous class, and started talking about the novel. Topics shown in the novel, summaries, and jokes were shared about the book, and all the students were encouraged to share their thoughts about the book in class. I couldn’t believe it was a class I was in at that time. The teacher did not have a book or teaching material in his hand. He simply talked from his head like it was a song lyric he listens to hundreds of times. Students spoke up about their thoughts on the book, and the teacher focused on helping the students talk in more detail.

Teacher: What was the theme?

Student: Depression.

Teacher: Depression, what?

Student: Depression of the protagonist’s…

After the class was over, I was once again surprised by the teacher’s assignment about the essay. The teacher told us that it was okay to share each other’s thoughts when writing the essay, but it is never okay to copy each other’s assignments, even spelling mistakes.

Teacher: That frightens me because… that means you don’t think.

The classes I took in the United States focused on helping students have more detailed thoughts. They did not care about students writing down the correct dictionary definitions on the tests, but to write down their thoughts.

At most schools in Korea, students do not learn much creative writing. Classes in Korea focus more on grammar. Usually the teacher will write down the notes from his paper onto the chalkboard, and then the students will write the notes from the chalkboard to their textbooks. The only voice you hear in the classroom is the voice of the teacher. We also read poems line by line and memorize  pre-analyzed meanings- simple and unstimulating. I used to like such ways of writing down written notes because it was convenient. Why try to discover the answers when it was already in the textbook? In my school and in many Korean schools, writing classes are not on the top priority, and if I could write a one-page paper that reads well, it was an easy A.

In 8th grade, during the time when I wanted to try everything and be good at everything, I was interested in writing. For a project, I had to write 3 book reports. Most of the students were happy they received good grades, but I questioned myself: Why do I deserve this grade? How did all the students receive good grades without much difference in the grades? So when I took my book reports to my teacher for a more detailed explanation of my grade, I got my paper back without any comment. The teacher could only say I did well, but because I  wanted comments on what I could improve, I was disappointed. However, this was not the first time. Since 7th grade, all I received from my projects were grades without comments on what to improve. The only important thing was answers and grades.

I learned from the classes in the United States that writing is a sensitive subject. In one blog, they explain that teachers in the United States grade students’ essays with “unbelievable caution, attention to details, analysis, and rationality, and it is common to see each page covered with red pen marks” (saranglives).

After attending an American class through the opportunity my school gave me, it was obvious why essays were so carefully graded. Communicating my thoughts to others is not an easy thing to do. With the diversity in the country, I could sense that communication is very important in the United States because communication is  the only way to share one’s thoughts with others. Besides this, putting our thoughts into words is a way to prepare students in a world where information flows constantly into our brains. It is like that phrase that says, “learning to write is a way to prepare one to live in the world outside.”

A thought came into my head when I was talking with a friend who attends a public high school. Most of the students in Korea live lives that are pressured by education, and leisure that releases the pressure. There is no time for them to dream about what they want to achieve. Even in school, studying all day, every day is recommended. There is no time given to understand oneself. I believe that for essays, meticulous and critical grading is necessary, just like in the class I took in the United States. We must learn to express our thoughts in words. There are so many things to memorize and so much time being wasted if we only search for the answers. There are life situations where we have to solve a problem with our limited knowledge. While people say it is easier to simply memorize, it is quite the opposite if we look at the future.

My thoughts might not be perfect and clean like the correct answer. Many people think their ideas are opaque and formless; even confusing. However, if I start organizing my thoughts into main ideas, check the hypothesis, correct my examples, and examine even the little details like the commas, my thoughts become concrete. There can be a single answer to some things. However, thoughts are limitless, and there are larger number of things that are not “answers” in the world.

Works Cited

saranglives. “영어에세이 Essay 쓰는 법 – 기본적인 형식 [출처] 영어에세이 Essay 쓰는 법 – 기본적인 형식|작성자 Saranglives.” 아이비엘리트 하우스 : 네이버 블로그, Saranglives, 28 Mar. 2016, blog.naver.com/saranglives/220667450490.

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