Hagwon classes starting from the womb

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UPDATED 22 Feb 2010 – don’t panic, but the satire may actually come true in this case. This Chosun Ilbo story suggests bilingual education starts in the womb. From the real news story:

UPDATED 22 Feb 2010 – don’t panic, but the satire may actually come true in this case. This Chosun Ilbo story suggests bilingual education starts in the womb. From the real news story:

The researchers observed the sucking reflex of babies to see whether they recognized linguistic stimulus. Newborn babies tend to suck anything that touches their tongue, lips, or cheeks, and the frequency of such action increases when something interesting happens. Exposing newborn babies to two different languages alternating every minute for 10 minutes, the researchers discovered that only the babies of bilingual mothers showed a sucking reflex when the two languages alternated. The team wrote in the article, “Bilingual newborns’ interest in both languages helps ensure attention to, and hence further learning about, each of their languages.”

— original post below —

After recent announcements from some hagwons (private English schools) that they would be opening their doors to 3-and-4 year olds, one new hagwon has burst onto the scene with a startling announcement:

Beginning April 1st, my company, English Before Birth, will be offering listening classes to children while still in utero. Before they are even born they can begin learning English and emerge a child better prepared for years of English education.

The school’s owner, a Korean who goes by the English name Mike, informs us that the current methods of teaching English just aren’t working:

We wait far too long to teach our kids English. The first 3 or 4 years of life are the most critical to developing a child’s brain, and most parents spend it on trivial things like toilet training, learning the colors, or watching TV shows like Dora the Explorer or Teletubbies. Thankfully, my approach begins when a baby first starts forming brain tissues, usually around 6-7 months along.

What exactly is that approach? According to Mike:

We’ll set the mothers in a room much like a DVD bang [a movie room]. The mothers can enjoy a big screen TV, while the babies listen with Bose speakers. For an extra fee we can even supply belly-sized headphones. There’s a nice a mixture of English on – cute stories, CNN, some cartoons, and the BBC. We also tend to throw in some shows adults watch too, since the moms will need to learn English to keep up with their kids! The choice of programming is up to the moms – we provide the programs and comfy chairs for them to relax in while their child learns English.

This reporter didn’t want to ask, but the question of ‘does it work?’ had to be raised. “Of course it works! Early childhood education makes up a significant percentage of a Korean family’s budget – and they wouldn’t be spending all that money that doesn’t work, now would they?” Mike said.

English Before Birth will have two locations: near the Apgujeong subway station for those south of the Han river, and near City Hall for those north of the Han river. Prices start at 10,000 / hour, with discounts for multiple hours or sessions purchased at a time.

This post is brought to you by the letter ‘S’ and the word ‘satire’. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t take this post seriously at all. Thanks.



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