Yesterday in my last class of the day I asked the innocuous question, "What do you think about people who are not from Korea?" I wasn't asking a loaded question and would have accepted almost any answer like, "They are rich," "They are ugly," "They are big." All I wanted was the girl to say something because I wanted the class to have a decent pace.
After five minutes the girl still hadn't said anything even though she understood what I had asked. For some of my students asking them a question they didn't expect is the worst thing you can do because it means they actually have to give you an opinion and show imagination. Perhaps I should have moved onto the next question but I wanted this girl to answer because she really needs to practice her speaking and as the class only has four students it gives her a great chance to communicate with me.
After a while I asked another student to ask her the same question in Korean and she came out with "I don't think about." This was after I had wrote on the board the number of people who live in Korea, both North and South and also the fact that there are over six billion other people on the planet who are not Korean. I also mentioned that there are over two hundred countries that are not Korea, such as America, China and England. I didn't make fun of her or raise my voice and I tried to encourage her to come out with something.
I realise the question was a broad one but was hoping this would give her the scope to come out with an answer - or at least lie to me with a good sentence! It really frustrates me when my students show such a lack of imagination because Koreans are not like this. They really aren't. They have opinions and thoughts like everyone else and are creative, industrious and innovative people. I refuse to believe that she does not have an opinion on people outside of Korea. If I had said, "What do you think about people from Japan?" I would have at least got an answer even if it would have been the one her family have told her to think.