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Students learn the art of conversational Korean

Students who finished a new, 10-week Korean conversation class at Mark Keppel Elementary on Thursday left the enrichment session with some practical knowledge of a new language and a hearty appetite for Korean food.

The school, which began a Korean Dual Language Program with a group of kindergartners this fall, started a distinct, weekly Korean language class in late February to introduce students who aren’t in the dual-language program to Korean.

Parents had asked for a way to offer their children some exposure to the language, so educators responded by creating the conversation class, which was open to Keppel students in every grade level, said Naehi Wong, who coordinates the dual language program.

Because the class met just once a week, the students have not been able to learn Korean in great depth, but it has given them a flavor for the language, Wong said, and perhaps the motivation to continue studying it as they get older.


“You never know what kind of seed you’re planting in their minds,” she said.

Soyen Sohn, who works as a Korean community liaison at the school, taught the 23 students in the class, which met before school on Thursdays.

Sohn has taught the students everyday vocabulary on topics like colors, numbers and family members, and expressions of “likes” and “dislikes,” as well as greetings.

“We try to do more practical things,” Wong said.


The students have also learned how to write their names in Korean, and have learned some of the basics of reading and writing in Korean, Wong said.

“She has introduced all the consonants and a few vowels,” Wong said.

During the last conversation class of the school year, Sohn reviewed some of the food vocabulary students had learned last week, like the Korean words for carrot, bean sprout, spicy paste and steamed rice. Then, students got to practice using the words as they made and ate a traditional Korean dish called bee-bim bop, a mixed rice dish that includes spinach, beef, carrots and sprouts.

“It’s good,” concluded Landon Neil, 5.

Several of the students asked for second helpings of the dish.

The class was good, said Alex Buck, 11, because the students got to eat food, and knowing some Korean would be a valuable thing to put on one’s college application.

The class was lots of fun, said Lily Zierhut, 10. “I like the sentence that means ‘Mom, Dad, I love you,’” she said.

Parent Terry Wang has enjoyed watching her two children in the class absorb bits and pieces of the language. “They’re having a great time,” she said. “Their teacher makes it really fun.”