OWL Magazine Korea

“Jung Chanyong: ‘Don’t Ever Study English'”

The book “Don’t Ever Study English” by Dr. Jung Chanyong was published in 1999. It primarily advocates for a more practical approach to improving English proficiency, moving away from conventional methods of English education.

Featuring a fictional character named “K” as the protagonist, the book follows the unconventional English study method proposed by the author, Jung Chanyong, ultimately leading to a proper grasp of English proficiency and alleviating “English stress.”

“The English Education Environment in South Korea in 1999”

At the time of its publication, in 1999, many people were experiencing stress due to English. The educational environment for English learning was vastly different from today, with textbooks like “Sungmun Comprehensive English” being bestsellers in the field of English education. Practical English instruction in schools was minimal, mostly focusing on teaching “Japanese-style English grammar” rather than practical usage.

Access to the internet was also limited compared to today’s standards. Smartphones were nonexistent, and online resources weren’t as readily available. Finding an English dictionary meant carrying around thick paper dictionaries or using electronic dictionaries, which were not commonly used.

Nowadays, English education has evolved significantly, with native English-speaking teachers available even in elementary schools and language institutes. However, back then, such resources were scarce in South Korea, especially outside Seoul.

“The Impact of ‘Don’t Ever Study English,’ Which Garnered Significant Attention at the Time”

In such an English education environment, Dr. Jung Chanyong’s proposal of a radically different English study method sparked considerable attention. The book suggests moving away from the grammar and reading-focused approach prevalent in South Korea at the time towards a speaking and listening-centered study method.

The book stirred controversy even after its publication. Debates arose about whether the character “K” actually existed, and online communities shared experiences of attempting the study method outlined in “Don’t Ever Study English” and failing.

“Finding Success in English Study Through ‘Don’t Ever Study English'”

Personally, I consider this book to be a turning point in my life. Had I not come across it, I might have never moved away from the traditional Japanese-style English grammar study method.

However, encountering the book at the right time allowed me to explore a new method of English study after high school, following the approach outlined in the book and steadily building practical English skills through consistent practice, especially during my military service. Overcoming the challenges posed by the book’s recommended three-step method took time, and I eventually supplemented it with resources like “Grammar in Use” by Cambridge University Press, which wasn’t well-known in Korea at the time.

“The 5-Step English Study Method Introduced in ‘Don’t Ever Study English'”

While the book outlines a 5-step English study method, there may be better methods available now. It’s essential to find an approach that works best for oneself, especially considering the integration of AI into learning methods today.

Nevertheless, at the time, the educational landscape was vastly different. The focus was on building listening and speaking skills, which were severely lacking. Following the book’s method diligently exposed me to English sounds and facilitated what we call a ‘language breakthrough.’

The 5-step method outlined in the book is as follows:

Step 1: Listening

  1. Obtain an English tape suitable for your English level.
  2. Concentrate on listening to the tape from start to finish twice a day.
  3. Listen every day, but take one day off after listening for six consecutive days.
  4. Continue until you can hear every sound on the tape completely.

Step 2: Dictation

  1. Retrieve the tape that you have successfully listened to completely so far.
  2. Transcribe the tape.
  3. Transcribe one sentence at a time. That is, listen to the entire sentence, stop the tape, and repeat the transcription process until the sentence is complete. Use approximate spelling for unfamiliar words.
  4. After transcribing the entire content of the tape, confirm the spelling of unfamiliar words in an English-English dictionary. (Many times, misspelled words may not be found in the dictionary. In fact, it’s not a big problem in principle. The important thing is whether you can follow the sound you heard. Also, it’s okay if you understand the meaning or not.)
  5. Once the content of the tape is completed in this way, read aloud from start to finish, imitating the pronunciation and intonation of the tape as if you were speaking loudly. (For unclear parts, be sure to listen to the tape again to clarify.)
  6. When every sentence feels completely familiar, stop.
  7. Take one day off from English study completely each week during this process.

Step 3: Vocabulary Look-up and Oral Reading

  1. Look up unfamiliar words in an English-English dictionary among the transcribed content from the tape.
  2. Write down explanations and example sentences, and if there are unfamiliar words, look them up again.
  3. Continue looking up words until no more unfamiliar words appear.
  4. After about an hour of searching, stop looking up words in the dictionary and read aloud what you’ve found. (At this point, it’s better to read each word about ten times rather than reading them all together.)
  5. After about an hour of reading aloud what you’ve found, stop.
  6. Take one day off from the task completely each week.
  7. This step is completed when you read aloud until the meanings and examples of unknown words from the text are fully ingrained.

Step 4: Video Watching and Dictation

  1. Obtain a videotape.
  2. Put on headphones and watch it once a day.
  3. When your listening becomes perfect, transcribe and read aloud.
  4. Look up unfamiliar words in an English-English dictionary and read aloud.

Step 5: Reading Newspapers Aloud

  1. Get the latest edition of an original English-language newspaper.
  2. Read a short article from the social section aloud.
  3. If you judge that you can do it without looking, tell someone about the event as if you were acting without reading the article.
  4. Once you’re fluent, move on to the second article using the same method.
  5. When you finish a page, handle unfamiliar words as in step 3.
  6. Do this for all types of content in the newspaper, including advertisements, interviews, and comics.”

“The Importance of Persistence in Achieving Goals”

Looking back, the method may seem trivial now, and it’s natural to think that listening and speaking should come first when learning English. However, considering the education and learning environment at the time, as well as the lack of research and authoritative figures in the field, it’s understandable why the book sparked controversy.

Apart from the content of the book, the most critical factor in achieving one’s goals is perseverance. Setting big goals, breaking them down into smaller ones, and consistently pursuing them can ultimately lead to success.

Encountering this book when I was entirely clueless about English and integrating its method with what seemed suitable for me enabled me to excel in English exams, opening doors to opportunities to work with English-speaking natives. It also made consuming English content much more manageable, making this book a pivotal one in my life.

Though now it may be a mere memory, it holds a significant place for me personally.

“Don’t Ever Study English”

  • Author: Jung Chanyong
  • Publication Date: July 31, 1999
  • ISBN13: 9788986167511
  • Available at Yes24: http://app.ac/5EruA2S63