For the following one month after last week’s August 22, I am going to have my 7th Ramadan in Yeungnam University. I still remember when I had my first Ramadan in 2003. I was a graduate student at that time, living only with small number of Yeungnam University ’s moslem students. And I felt that having Ramadan in was not really hard. Since at that time was winter, so the fasting time was so short. Moreover, working in laboratory whole day made me feel no hungry and thirsty. Ramadan is the holy month when moslems fast. Moslems are prohibited to eat and to drink from the sunrise to the sunset during Ramadan. At night we may eat and drink as usual. Not only prohibit for eating and drinking, during Ramadan moslems are urged to do good things, avoid to do bad things which can destruct the holiness of the month. Of course it is natural that we feel hungry and thirsty especially in the last hours prior to the sunset. And since this year’s Ramadan is still in summer, fasting time would be quite long, almost fifteen hours, more hardly than ever.
During Ramadan month also I had my first task as a co-lecturer for teaching senior-level undergraduate students. It was in fall semester 2008 when I, together with my supervisor Professor Kyoo Ho Kim in Department of Materials Science and Engineering, had my lecture, teaching Energy Materials subject. I remembered that several undergraduate non-Korean students took the class as well. As far as I know, at that time, my lecture was the first lecture for undergraduate level that used English as the lecture language in my department. It was also my first to make a personal relationship with many Korean students in the class. My personal problem was only at the lecture time. Since the lecture started at 16.30, it was the critical and challenged time for me to keep focus on my lecture when hungry and thirsty came along, and I did taught during one month of Ramadan. Really, it was an unforgotten memory for me.
Indeed, English was the main problem when I started the lecture one year ago. I felt that Korean students in my department did not use English textbooks for supporting their studies. Moreover, listening a lecture in English would be the hardest part in particular for the students who unfamiliar with reading English textbooks or English terms. I believe that not 100% of my lectures could be understandable by most of students, not only because this is a new lecture, but because there would be a language gap or barrier between me and the students.
I anticipated this by optimizing lecture materials. I thought that there were no other ways instead to use so many illustrations, graphs, simulation and pictures in my presentation. This was actually motivated by my experience when I was an undergraduate. One professor said in the middle of a lecture, “drawings are the language of engineers”. I kept remember his magical word and tried to applied it to my lecture. As a result, I gave a lecture in the class with fully-colored presentations enriched with many illustrations. I imagined that while I spoke in the front of the class or wrote on the whiteboard, the students kept watch and listen to me. Then how to know whether the students understood my lecture? Of course giving homework would be a necessary. I designed several problems exactly as I explained in the lecture to measure how far the students could follow my lecture. The other homework problems were designed in order to force the students to read the textbooks, or to seek the answer on the web.
To some extent, the students’ homework results were satisfied. Some of them tried their best to solve the problems by using English. Some of the students also visited me in my office asked for more explanation regarding the topics. Moreover, students were enthusiastic to my lecture as indicated by an increasing number of questions during the lecture. For keeping them to focus in my lecture, we had a discussion about the correct answer of the homework. The problem then came. I realized that I spent too much time for explaining some topics that usually could be finished quicker. There must be some other topics could also be covered during the lectures but due to my lecture situation, I had to slower my lecture down, hoping the students followed and understood it. I thought that I had the same situation as a Korean professor who also taught a lecture in English. He said,” It was not easy.” I agree with him.
I believe many Korean and English-translated textbooks have been making the students more comfortable to comprehend their major. The students can use their mother language for learning new topics quickly without any mistranslation that may rises confusion. Indeed, transfer of knowledge could be very fast if the textbooks are translated into our own language. On the other side, our language will be enriched by the new adopted science terminologies. However, as our society grows internationally, learning English would not only for a daily conversation but also for sharing ideas or knowledge especially among the persons who have the same interests. This situation needs a common and basic language that can be understood by each party. That common language could be learned from the textbook using the same common language. I think a small lecture using English was a good starting point. We just need to expand our textbooks, including using English textbooks.