PH Embassy in Seoul launches Filipino language program for Filipino-Korean kids

From the Department of Foreign Affairs

The Philippine Embassy in Seoul, in collaboration with the Seoul Metropolitan Government and two Filipino community organizations for university students and multicultural families, launched last June 14 an ambitious pilot project near Seoul City Hall to teach the Filipino language to Filipino-Korean children, together with their Filipino parents.

“Wika Nga! Filipino Language Classes for Filipino-Korean Children” aims to teach 20 children from the of 7 to 12, drawn from the Seoul Filipino Parents and Children Organization (SFPCO), in 10 weekly sessions designed by the Pinoy Iskolars sa Korea (PIKO), how to speak Filipino and how to appreciate their Filipino heritage, using Korean as the medium of instruction.

“In starting the two-hour classes today for the next 10 weeks, we hope to continue this project not only until August, but also to make it the cornerstone of a more comprehensive and sustained assistance. The Embassy, in collaboration with local authorities and Filipino community organizations, seeks to extend to multicultural families through education,” Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Raul S. Hernandez said in the opening remarks at the Seoul Global Center (SGC).

For his part, Mr. Kim Dong-hoon, Director of the SGC’s Daily Living Consultation Team, said the program “will hugely encourage those with multicultural background” and consequently “change the awareness of multiculturalism in Korean society.” Further he expressed certainty that the children “will grow up as global leaders in future by joining this program.”

The SGC is a comprehensive support center offering daily living, business activities, administrative services, various educational courses and international exchange events to foreign residents in Seoul with the funding and organizational support of the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Program designer and PIKO President Ron Laranjo, also an MA Linguistics student at Korea University, said he intends to teach the cost-free program – unlike typical hagwon (private academies) – in a fun and culturally accurate way, while providing the Filipino parent, typically mothers married to Korean nationals, an opportunity to conduct tutorials to their children.

“This is crucial,” explained the Embassy’s Education Officer Roderico Atienza, “given that many Filipino mothers are not in any position to assert their Filipino identity in their own homes. As a result, mixed Filipino-Korean children not only identify more with the Korean culture of their father’s family but are also oftentimes even ashamed to admit to being Filipino.”

“In fact, Korea’s multiculturalism program – like in many developed countries – often puts the burden of acculturation on the foreign parent, who is expected to adjust to Korean culture, traditions and language with little expectation of reciprocity,” the Embassy’s Multiculturalism Officer Aian Caringal added.

While official policies are beginning to consider the marriage migrants’ perspective, with the Minister of Gender Equality and Family establishing migrant women’s centers together with Korean local administrations throughout the country, public attitudes take longer to evolve. Fortunately, Confucian attitudes toward education allow such a skills-acquisition program to be viewed positively, something the Embassy is keen to emphasize to both parents.

Seoul is one of the more proactive local governments keen to push for the success of a more equitable kind of multiculturalism in Korea. In fact, Philippine-born Rep. Jasmine Lee, the first naturalized Korean to be elected in Korea’s National Assembly, used to work on multicultural programs benefiting foreign parents at the SGC together with Director Kim.

The SGC used to run a similar program for multicultural children, including Filipino-Koreans, for almost two years beginning 2011. Filipino-Korean mother Patricia Amaranto taught 90-minute classes under the Filipino language program, for kids 8-10 years old.

“However, the Center decided to discontinue the program in December 2012 following a drop in attendance and mixed interest from the different participants,” said Elena dela Cruz, Korean-speaking SGC Assistant Manager for the Daily Consultation Team and herself a multicultural parent.

In conceptualizing the WikaNga project together with PIKO, the Embassy felt the active support of both parents was the key to sustainability. Over and above the two hours of classroom instruction per week, the Filipino parent will be tasked to play an active role in teaching Filipino to their children at home through homework and the use of supplementary materials.

The participants of the pilot course were especially selected from the members of Seoul-based SFPCO, led by Venus Avelino-Lee, to ensure the commitment of the initial batch of 10 mothers and their 21 children not only for complete or near perfect attendance for the duration of the course, but also for active and careful feedback in order to improve the content.

Major content areas include how to write and read the Filipino alphabet; correctly vocalize and distinguish Filipino sounds; construct basic sentences; introduce themselves; count numbers; describe things; ask for information and say simple action words, said Laranjo. Some cultural notes will also be discussed in class for the kids to appreciate their Filipino heritage.

Social Welfare Attaché Lucita Villanueva, a veteran social worker from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, vetted the project to ensure strong gender-equality and child-friendly content. While their children are at class, the mothers will gather separately for counseling or specially-designed family development sessions, whenever possible, together with the Korean fathers.

Apart from ensuring the project’s continuity, it was also necessary to make it replicable in various municipalities in Korea to ensure the momentum and the interest of a greater number of families. Inputs from the pilot program’s participants are intended to help design an instruction package that can be sent by email or DVD at low cost to various parts of Korea.

The program will culminate in a Filipino Camp, where the children will be taught together with their parents how to play traditional Filipino games, eat Filipino food and perform songs and dances, using the lessons learned in the nine sessions, with PIKO members as facilitators. Participants with at least 80% attendance will be given a Certificate of Completion.

Exemplary pupils will be encouraged to participate in the 2nd Filipino Language Speech Contest in Korea being planned by the Philippine Embassy this August in celebration of the National Language Month (Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa).


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