“According to [Kristina Beckam-Bristo’s study of cross-cultural classroom behaviors(2003)], Korean students believe that offering personal viewpoints in class is highly acceptable (given a rating of 5 out of 5), while Japanese students believe this behavior to be highly unacceptable (given a rating of 1 out of 5)”
“…the data collected [in the same paper] showed that Japanese students found it extremely unacceptable to arrive 7 minutes late to class (given a rating of 1 out of 5), while Korean students found this behavior to be extremely acceptable (given a rating of 5 out of 5).”
That’s doubled the number of academic references that I’ve used this year, so back to my usual generalising/ brainstorming:
– If Japanese are unhappy with the level of their class, it is almost always because they want to go down a level. Koreans demanding to be put in a particular class, e.g. one higher than their placement test would suggest, is fairly common, although less so than some European countries.
– Japanese are quite often of the (wrong) opinion that they already studied enough grammar and vocabulary at school and want their teacher to magically transform that into an ability to express themselves in English. Koreans are much more likely to demand something new, e.g. a list of unknown vocabulary, in every class
– Koreans are more likely to complain, and much more likely to complain directly to the teacher.
– Koreans are likely to have higher TOEIC and TOEFL scores. For example, there will often be several candidates for a job who all have perfect TOEFL scores, which I have never heard of in Japan. Exam classes in Korea will have less tolerance for warmers and other distractions than classes in Japan.
– Korean classes are more likely to have one or two students who are happy to speak out. Unfortunately, for me that’s makes them more difficult to deal with as those students are also only too happy to dominate the class. You may sometimes get a class where almost everyone is happy to speak out, though, which is a refreshing change from Japan
– Japanese have more tolerance for boring activities like shopping roleplays, especially if the task is manageable and they can therefore boost their confidence, whereas Koreans are more likely to expect roleplays with a twist, controversial topics etc.
– Discussion questions work better in Korea than in Japan.
– Koreans are more motivated by tests than Japanese. In fact, many Japanese will be permanently turned off a school by having a written placement test, let alone regular progress tests.
– The housewife English hobbyist market in huge in Japan (although rapidly shrinking) but very small in Korea.
– Koreans are likely to be motivated by future plans of studying, moving or even emigrating abroad, whereas the Japanese are more likely to be interested in using English on holiday, for short language courses abroad, or just to bring a bit of international colour into their lives.
– Koreans are much more likely to read authentic texts outside class than Japanese.
– Study groups are more common in Korea than Japan.
– Koreans are much more likely to choose “English names” to use in the classroom than Japanese students are. The Japanese are also more likely to stick to their other cultural norms in the classroom, e.g. addressing each other as “Nakamura-san” or “Shimoda-sensei” during English conversations and greeting each other in Japanese with a bow. In my experience, Korean adults are far more likely to stick strictly to English during the class or even ignore each other until the teacher arrives (perhaps to avoid the pretentiousness of speaking English outside class while also avoiding breaking the English-only illusion of the classroom space).
Caveats- Although the ages I taught in Korea and Japan were similar, other things such as motivation and income were probably very different due to the very different schools I worked for. I’ve also only spent two years in Korea, but some of these are things I started noticing with Korean students in Japan, including a mixed and an all-Korean class in the Korean company NHN in Tokyo.