In August 2008, a survey was conducted with the intention of gaining insights into the profiles and motivation of Japanese and Korean learners of German at a summer course of the University of Hamburg (Yoshimitsu 2009). Using a questionnaire, it was found that most of the Korean students started to learn German during high school and were better at communication in German than the Japanese students, whereas all of the Japanese students began to learn German in college and tended to have difficulties, especially in speaking German. In order to investigate the effects and influence of Korean high school German lessons on such differences, in September 2009 I visited German classes in three high schools in Seoul, Korea. This article reports on situation associated with German lessons in Korea.
By visiting classes in Korea, it was found that there are common problems between Korea and Japan, such as the motivations of students and the small number of lessons. But all students in Korea study English and another foreign language in secondary education, and some students succeed in reaching the basic (or sometimes more-than-basic) level in German before entering university.
As Ohtani (2007) remarked from the viewpoint of cross-cultural understanding in education, a foreign language is a tool, such as a ruler. A ruler, in itself, has limited value. But the more foreign languages a person knows, the better cross-cultural understanding is. Although all students do not succeed in learning, Korea provides a lot of students with an opportunity to learn at least two foreign languages. In comparison, in Japan, very few students learn two foreign languages. Interestingly, in Osaka Prefecture there are 3,000 students who study a second foreign language in high school. But this is only 1.3% of the high school students in the Osaka area. Japan is far behind Korea with respect to promoting cross-cultural understanding,.