Thursday, 4 September 2008

How the LPGA is like my classroom: No Speaking Korean!

An ESPN columnist writes about the LPGA's recent decision to require all woman golfers to speak servicable English, after discovering that Korean women were suddenly taking over the sport.

Choice quote: "And American college graduates get huge salaries to spend a year in Seoul, teaching the language. "


kesumo said...

I wrote to the author of this article to point out that teachers in Korea do not get "huge" salaries, and I got this auto reply:

Thanks for your note. I am no longer on staff at ESPN The Magazine. I can be reached at, or at XXX-XXX-XXXX.


Huh. Perhaps because his fact checking skills seem a bit lacking?

Roboseyo said...

I guess it's huge compared to the entry level positions available to the average Korean university depends on what you're comparing it to.

won't hear me complaining -- especially when my school covers my housing, however, a more accurate word than "huge" would have been more satisfying, because they make it sound like we're driving around lexuses here.

Sure, I can have fun, AND pay down my debts. . . but let's not get carried away!

selen said...

...I personally didn't see any facts to be "wrong" in eric's article. Like Rob said, the word "huge" might be an exaggeration but no more so than saying ESL teachers in Korea are "poor" or are teaching English for free. His main fault was vagueness.

Well whatever....I think LPGA should put a hefty fine on non-English speakers each time they fail the exam, which ought to be administered each year. It should be 2 parts, one written and an oral “practice speech” in front of a panel of sponsors who could score them on a scale. If the athlete passes both parts, hurray; if only 1 part, pay ½ the fine. I think this would be a much fairer (and an equally powerful motivator) to non-English speakers to learn English without taking away the players' ability to play. Players should be responsible for learning English, that way the LPGA won’t have to “waste” any money on providing tutors and translators (since the LPGA seems to have a problem with using translators since they “distance players from viewers”). This way the LPGA can still encourage players to learn English while continuing to feature the best players in the world. And with the fines they’d still make some dough to tide them over….

I'm sorry, but the day a 'sport' begins cutting out players based on anything but talent - it's not a real sport anymore. It's a hobby for the privileged.

Roboseyo said...

Actually, Selen, in my opinion, if the LPGA's PR department thinks it's so important for the women to A. have individual characters, and B. speak English better, I think THEY should foot the bill for tutors and things -- it wouldn't take THAT much to hire a handful of English coaches and image coaches to help the Korean players distinguish themselves, one from the next; a handful of nicknames would also be good, because to untrained ears, those Korean names all sound the same.

I'd argue that, for the sake of interviewing and public appearances, a written exam wouldn't be necessary, either.

I wonder how much of this problem came from Korean players clumping together into cliques, the way the Korean ESL students at my university clumped together.

It's interesting how this story seems to be ruffling a lot more feathers in America than here in Korea, where almost every job has an English performance/TOEIC score requirement.

Blowfish said...

Hm. What if we start disadvantaging foreign baseball players in Korea for not speaking fluent Korean?
The LPGA should have sought for a milder solution for the Korean players' English problems.

Roboseyo said...

Well Blowfish, I'd say the rules limiting the number of foreign players allowed on Korean baseball and soccer teams perform the same function.

There aren't limits on the number of Koreans permitted to play in the LPGA. . . and now the LPGA has backed off the language requirement, too, in the face of growing criticism.