Yonsei University Korean Language Institute (KLI) : Part 1

Seeing as I have a bit of time on my hands before starting my new job, I thought id better blog as much as I can! I’m going to write a few entries on my experience at Yonsei University Korean Language Institute, which I attended for two terms in 2012 and also Yonsei’s Global House student dormitory, where I lived during those two terms.

This post will be on the language school.

In order to give a more coherent review, I’ve split it up into categories. Hopefully this will be more helpful for you guys.

Teaching method:
Unlike the way we run language classes for English in Australia; communicative games, lots of time for students to talk in class etc., lessons in korea are generally very ‘jug and mug’ – meaning students sit at their desk and are expected to take in what the teacher is saying. Although some teachers were a little different, I think I played a word game once, overall the approach was the same. So coming from an educational background, I had a lot to say…but held my tongue and got through the classes. There was a lot of ROTE learning (memorizing) and repeating after the teacher, which can be helpful but there are better ways.


Jug and mug

It’s hit and miss with this one. You have a main teacher, reading teacher and option class teacher. out of the 4 hours a day you spend in school, 3 are with your main teacher 1 with reading and if its option class day then you do option instead of the reading hour. For level 3, we had a main teacher change after mid-term exams.

Most of my level 3 teachers were okay, I had a really good main teacher after the change who was energetic and taught less ‘jug and mug’ style.. I had an awful reading teacher who seemed to be pregnant and eternally ill with a cold. But that wasn’t why she was awful. I really disliked the way she spoke to us, as if we were kindergarten students.. her classes were also very boring, as she always did exercises the same way and had a droning voice, she just wasn’t nice either. Seemed to have a bee in her bonnet everyday. I think she must have been sick of her job and ready to quit. In terms of context, I guess they all knew the stuff…but you would after you’ve taught it for the 50th time.

Level 4 started out better… but wasn’t any better in the end, unfortunately, in fact worse. There is no teacher change in level 4, so I was hoping that I’d get really good teachers. My main teacher was good, had a sense of humor and was talkative…but for some reason our class didn’t respond well with her, so the classes became boring and sometimes I felt I was the only one talking. I can’t say it was her fault, I think my class sucked, really. Just a bunch of boring people with nothing to say and no interests. Our reading teacher was also good, bit of a nerdy lady but funny and taught with her own kind of energy, cracked a joke now and then as well. Unfortunately our main teacher had to leave after a few weeks to teach another program – what the? – so only our class had a teacher change. This is when things went down hill super fast.

Our new teacher was appalling! I disliked her from day 1. She had a weird way of teaching, not only did she talk very slowly, as if we were stupid, she also had a slight arrogance in the way she’d tap her chalk on the board quickly every 5 seconds to get our attention.. Her manner was just very strange, difficult to describe. She also didn’t respect our opinions. Sometimes she’d tell a student that their opinion was wrong! Even if it was a cultural one, exclusive to that particular students country. I seriously think she was unstable. Her board work was messy and she also had a habit of making a Cookie Monster sound before directing a question at someone. i.e ” mbaahhh ~ Daniel! … ? mbaahhh ~ Teresa! ” … Really, very strange. She also asked for food and coffee from students without shame, which I also found weird and she wanted to stick her finger into my lip balm pot, which was shocking for me! because I don’t usually share lip balm, especially with someone who hasn’t washed their hands. I think maybe she has the wong idea of foreigners. To me it seemed she felt foreigners were open, therefore she seemed to think it was ‘anything goes’ for us, so we would not mind being asked for food or to share lip balm. Sure, I can see how that can be true, between friends maybe. However, as a teacher its different and I didn’t think it was right for her to behave that way. Also, its not like our class was made up students from English speaking countries only. There was Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Swedish, Hongkong and one Aussie. So it would be wrong to have the same approach for all students. The end of term party topped it off, she suggested we bring food and have a little party – great! I thought. Some free conversation time, might be fun! DISAPPOINTMENT to say the least. Not only did she turn up without any food, she tore open everything quickly and started eating herself first. I still have the image of her scoffing a TimTam and asking what it was. .. ergh…

So…the rest of my term was horrible. I hated going to class and my attendance dropped. I don’t think I’d ever hated going to class that much. If I were continuing to level 5, I would have been concerned, but seeing as it was the last term for me, I couldn’t give a rats butt.

I was happy with the textbook. You will be asked to buy 4 books each term; main textbook, reading textbook, workbook and another book used for your ‘option’ class, which you get to choose later out of speaking, reading, writing and listening.

The speaking option book:


The main textbook was all in color, lots of pictures and content was presented in more interesting ways than other books I’ve used. Given that, don’t expect too much. The textbook supports the teaching method. Every chapter begins with a dialogue, which includes the grammar patterns and vocabulary of the day. We would usually read through this with the teacher and then again in pairs where we would be asked to try and memorise it. I thought this was the most ridiculous exercise, given the fact that I had no idea what i was memorizing due to the new words and grammar patterns.



The reading book was black, grey and a light shade of green… or orange depending on your level. There are quite a lot of texts but you don’t study all of them, which made me feel i could have just photocopied the 6 or so readings we covered.

The workbooks are a must have. Picture below are of the reading and workbook.




All books come with audio CD so you can listen to the dialogues or texts yourself.

I bought my books second hand off the student board at KLI for about 50% off. They were close to new. Full price, the text books are 68 000won and the option book is another additional 18 000won or so. The student lounge at Yonsei university has a book shop which gives you 3% discount.

Learning environment:
I’ve studied in Seoul National University, Kyunghee University and Yonsei. I have to say in terms of the school building, they’re all pretty similar. Probably built around the same time, so nothing flashy and small classrooms. However, out of all three, Yonsei had the worst desks! they were those one seater chair-desks.. yes, the ones where a desk is fixed to a chair. The problem with these are that the desk is tiny. You can hardly fit your books on it and if your butt is any bigger than an aussie size 10 (US size 6) well.. You might be hanging off it. You may also get a sore back after awhile, as you can’t really change you sitting position due to the fact that the chair-desk is not one of those new ones, where the desk can be lifted and put away and it’s not cushioned. You need to ‘limbo’ into your seat every morning.

All classrooms are small, fitting around 12 chairs, organised around the room in a U shape – better watch out for perverts if you’re wearing a mini! Also, we were told the chairs are the very same chairs that were used when Yonsei KLI first started. Now, Im not sure whether they told us that so we could marvel at how ancient and sturdy the chairs were, but I wasn’t impressed. Yonsei KLI has enough money to get some new chairs, especially with 2012 being a top year with enrollments! Last semester was choca-bloc. According to my teacher, the school was out of classrooms and chairs! So…how about giving back to the students? Also, rooms have TVs but its not because you’ll be watching any programs. They use them to play the audio CDs.


I tried to find a photo of the chairs…but this is all I have haha!

Both Seoul and Kyunghee had long desks, which you shared with another student but had plenty of room and much more comfortable chairs.

Academic schedule:
You will be bloody busy. A term is 10 weeks, in that time there are two exam weeks, week 5 and 10. Exams go over two days and we were taught new material up until the day before exams. To be honest, the terms are too short, we were never able to do all parts of the book and self study was expected. Each level will be different of course, but for levels 3 and 4 which i did, in addition to learning grammar and vocabulary, we also had to write and memories speeches, debates, reports on the news and organize a class production. Level 3 was a short play and level 4 was a radio story. We were also expected to complete homework and complete workbook exercises. Some of you might be thinking about skipping homework or the workbook exercises but i can garauntee, you might just fail your exams if you do so.


Part of the term timetable. As you can see, you do a new lesson every day which includes vocabulary and 2 grammar patterns. Therefore over a week you learn 10 patterns, and uncountable vocab. After a 10 week term?… You’ll be busy πŸ™‚

I would have to give… 3.5 stars.

Although most of my review has been quite negative, it’s a good school, you’ll learn something.. but its no better than others, really. It would have been good if there were more opportunities for us to practice what we learnt instead of so much drilling and squeezing a massive amount of information into 10 weeks. Very lacking in ‘real life’ situations for us to practice Korean, generally very little student talking time in class. I can’t say the teachers are any better than other schools, in fact, I liked my teachers at Seoul Uni and Kyunghee more. The only good thing about Yonsei is its location maybe, close to trendy areas like Hongdae and its on line 2 of the railway map. Kyunghee is a little out near Huegi station on the light blue line i think… and Seoul, although on Line 2 as well, is in the middle of mountains. If you’re a guy, you might be happy to know that Ewha women’s university is next door, too. But if you’re keen on girls, you could enroll in their Korean language school! They do take guys. Do keep in mind that Yonsei is more expensive than some other schools and the Sinchon area is also expensive to live in.

So feel free to ask questions, I’m sure I’ve left something out. The post on Yonsei Global House will be coming soon!

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21 Responses to Yonsei University Korean Language Institute (KLI) : Part 1

  1. JM says:

    Hi! Good to see a recent review on a language school! I went to Sogang last semster and am currently attending SNU. I am quite frustrated right now because the perception I had vs reality is different. It seems we spend more time laughing, cracking jokes and playing than learning from our teachers. Our teachers don’t do much to curtail it either. And we speak so much English! At Sogang our teachers explicitly, but light heartedly, said don’t speak your native language. We listened and spoke rarely spoke our native languages. Even the 4 Japanese students in our class would stumbled through talking Korean instead of fluently in Japanese. Our teachers at SNU barely do anything to discourage this and encourage Korean. Very frustrating when you come to learn a difficult language(as a westerner).

    What was your experience at SNU?

    • misstotori says:

      Hi JM,

      Thanks for commenting!
      I’m sorry to hear that your experience at SNU isn’t going well. If you are really upset about it, you should tell the school. I’m sure the school would not ignore your feedback. My experience at SNU was a little different to the usual, as when I was there my class was part of a language and culture program for teachers. Therefore, I was put into a class that was full of adults who also all happened to be diplomats. I was in that class for a month and I learnt enough I guess… Seeing as my classmates were all working professionals, I had no issues with classroom chaos. What I can remember is that I didn’t really like the text book. I remember it to be a little dry. But I did appreciate the fact that the teacher used multimedia to teach the classes, as there were computers in each classroom. Yonsei does not have the facilities for multimedia. No videos, no movies, not even ppt.. nothing. I hope my comments were helpful and all the best with the rest of your Korean studies πŸ™‚

      • JM says:

        When I was at Sogang I was put in the Korean Foundation class, so I guess we were a little special too. But I loved it there, just wanted to get on a more grammar heavy program. SNU just updated their book (05/2013 thank God). I was dreading attending SNU after seeing their level one book. An outdated book from 2005! Eek! It’s a LOT better. Each chapter starts with vocab and pictures. Followed by a few grammar points and a convo with interchangeable words for more practice, all relating to the first section of grammar points. Then the same thing with a new set of grammar. Ending it with a small listening section, reading section, and a culture note. All in all, A LOT better than their previous book. And colour! xD

        I would like to say something, but I am the passive-aggressive type and will just switch school rather than bringing it up. Mainly because I would feel weird switching to a different class because I was that guy that didn’t like the class. But I guess you’re right, I probably should bring it up. Somehow. With my level 2 Korean skills πŸ˜›

        How would you compare SNU and Yonsei? I guess this really just boils down to luck of the draw and which teachers you get, hu? Get the good teachers, get the good experience. A little hard to judge in the end I guess.

        Anyway, it’s nice to finally talk to someone else (in English!) who is attending language school out here!

      • misstotori says:

        I absolutely agree with you. A lot is up to luck and of course the textbook. Thank goodness schools do continue to update and review their syllabus.

        Personally, I prefer classrooms with more space to breathe, room for free talking etc. which is why I had never thought about going to SNU. It feels too studious to me hahaha .. On the other hand, too much free time feels like the school is just stuffing around, so I wasn’t sure about Sogang. After attending Yonsei, I cant really say any school is better than the other. I feel like we didn’t have much chance to practice the language for practical use, alhtough we did learn a lot of grammar and did have some time to practice speaking. It could have been due to the teacher I had in my last term there. So yeah, teacher matters immensely.

        This topic could go on forever. It is hard to live in Korea, learn the language while getting used to everything around you. I guess the best way is to do as much as you can and meet as many Koreans as possible. Having local friends will make your life much easier and enjoyable.

  2. Vero says:

    Hi!! your article is really good and informative!! I just one more question please and I would like that you answer to me and is that between KyunHee University and Yonsei University which of those do you recomend more!! because Im thinking of travil the end of year but I just a confused about this two Universities!! I mean can you please expain me the difference between those two?? plaes!! And thanks!!

    • misstotori says:

      Hi Vero,

      Great question! First of all, why do you want to learn Korean? Do you plan to take further studies or work in Korea after? Or is it just out of interest? University plays a big role in future success here in Korea when looking for jobs and also during your career, so if you’re considering further study or work, I would say Yonsei is slightly better than Kyunghee. Kyunghee is a famous university, don’t get me wrong. A lot of actresses/actors/famous people have graduated from there, but it is not one of the SKY universities. SKY = Seoul, Korea, Yonsei. These are the top three universities in Korea and whoever attends these universities are seen in a different light. Which is why, if you take further study, I’d choose from one of these three. If you just want to study Korean and that’s all, I would say try Kyunghee if you like. They have a different approach to Yonsei, a little bit more fun? They had more variety in their classes, such as korean movie and kpop classes. I also remember there to be a more equal balance between male and female teachers, as Yonsei was about 90% female from what I saw (this makes a difference for some people). Yonsei is very academic, you have to be prepared for a busy schedule. I hope that helps! If you have ore questions, ask away πŸ™‚

      • misstotori says:

        Oh..and don’t limit yourself to just the two. There’s Korea university and Sogang who are good too! Sogang focuses on speaking and I have heard Korea has a good support system for foreigners.

  3. Vero says:

    Thanks for your advices really!! and also sorry for late mention but is just because of the difference of hours cause Im in Peru right Now!! And, well I would like to learn the korean language first and then I would like to apply for a carrear so thats also why I was a little confuse about which University is one of the best teaching korean!! so you personally recomend me Yonsei or Sogang University right?? mmm.. also about kyunhee can you please just make a short describe about how are the classes there!! and also just more question when you study there your is english have to be adavanced!! cause my first language is Spanish!! anyway thanks in advance!!

    • JM says:

      Since I’m here, I’ll give my opinion and let Miss T. take it away.

      When you come to study Korean, study Korean. Many people will speak English and other languages (sometimes Spanish too! ^^). But I think that will make you learn Korean slower. If you are not speaking in the language you are trying to learn, how will you be better? English WILL help you sometimes, but you do not study English unless you ask another student to help you. Everyone speaks Korean here, so do your best to learn it. I was so frustrated when I first came here and I didn’t know how to go shopping. You will benefit by not speaking English a lot~

      As for schools, I went to Sogang for one semester and am currently attending SNU. During the classes at Sogang, we practiced speaking for 2 out of the 3 classes/periods. The focus there is to get you to talk. The teachers will correct you sometimes, but not always. They speak almost in -μš” form and even teach you a good deal of μ „λŒ“λ§, which people can’t quite grasp at SNU for some reason… So if you want to learn how to speak well, everyone says go to Sogang! I think they teach a little less grammar than the other schools, so if you want to learn how to write very well and learn a lot of grammar, then try a different school. I have not been to Yonsei, but I feel like SNU might be in between Sogang and Yonsei. At SNU I feel we learn more grammar points, however class time seems just a little too short, so sometimes we don’t learn everything and pick it up the next day.They just revised the book, so it includes more speaking and reading practice.

      Anyway, I hope that helps a little. I know how hard it is to choose a school to learn Korean at. I’m still trying to choose one too… >.< Good luck!

      • misstotori says:

        Hey JM,
        Wow, thank you for your helpful comment! It’s great to have someone who’s experiences a different school share their opinion. I agree, Sogang students do seem to speak better. At the end of the day, each individual has to decide which school is better for them, but then again…studying isn’t everything. You gotta get out and use it! Otherwise is really makes no difference where you study.

    • misstotori says:

      Hey Vero, Yonsei and Sogang are both good schools, they just have a different focus. Any out of Yonsei, Korea, Seoul or Sogang would be fine really because they are top universities here. Going to. SKY university would help your aim of looking for work in Korea.
      I’m sorry but I can’t give you recent information about Kyunghee classes because I was there in 2009. The general atmosphere of classes and option classes available were good but I’m sure some things may have changed. I would suggest checking out their website for recent timetables etc. Or email them as they do have staff who can communicate in English.
      In regards to the English ability topic, I wouldn’t worry about English at all. You don’t need it in Korea to make friends or learn Korean. There will be students from all over the world, from countries that don’t use English either. As JM mentioned, if you want to learn Korean quickly, use Korean only. Don’t worry, things are always hard in the beginning but they get better as long as you stay focused, positive and proactive.

  4. Courtney says:

    I was wondering is it better to take the KLI Korean language course, or would you say it is better to take an alternate Korean language course?

    • misstotori says:

      Hi Courtney, sorry for the late reply. It’s really up to you. What kind of an experience do you want? And what’s your budget? Courses come at different prices and have different focal points. All I can say is, KLI is a well rounded course.. But I’ve been told that Sogang focuses a lot more on speaking, friends have had great experiences at Korea university and Seoul National is also recommended. Check out their websites and email those in charge. See what programs are like and what activities are on offer. Hope that helps πŸ™‚ thanks for visiting my blog! Good luck with your studies.

  5. grace says:

    Thank you so much for the information. I enrolled into the KLI regular program at Yonsei because they require that I pass level 5 for me to even apply (med school). I am taking a placement test coming Friday and If I get a lower level, possibly 3, how long does it take for me to get to level 5? How are the exams? Thank you for your feedback in advance.

    • misstotori says:

      Hi Grace, every term is 10 weeks. So if you have to go through two levels to get to level 5… It would be 20 weeks plus the term breaks. I guess you could get exact dates from the school office. Medicine! Woah! That’s going to be quite full on. All the best πŸ™‚

  6. Ciara says:

    Hi! I am planning to study abroad next spring and I am torn between Yonsei and Keimyung University (have you heard of Keimyung?)
    I’m a little nervous about the courses. I make good grades, but I always doubt myself and I’m a little worried since I will be in a completely different learning environment. Do you have any advice about handling the course load?

    • misstotori says:

      Hi Ciara, it’s always hard to decide when there’s not much info out there. Is this Keimyung University in Daegu? From what I’ve heard and seen, its a pretty nice place! It’s where a lot of the world famous musicals are held in Daegu. Other than that I don’t know much more about it.

      To be honest, your experience with learning Korean is what you make it. I wouldn’t stress too much about grades and so on, unless you feel you might fail. Generally I think its pretty hard to fail though, usually those who fail do for other reasons such missing heaps of class and not doing any study at all. I always feel that you learn the most out of class anyway, school gives you the tools and then you should go out and hang with Korean speakers.

      Yonsei is a famous school. If you want to be in a busy place in Seoul and possibly get some exposure too (a lot of tv stations look for foreign students from Yonsei) go there. Though the Keimyung I know is in a great area too.

      Don’t doubt yourself. You’ll be fine. If you come to Korea just be open minded and give everything a shot! Hope that helps πŸ˜‰

  7. Ciara says:

    Thanks so much for the advice!
    Yes, that’s the Keimyung I was talking about. It’s good to here that it’s a nice place.
    I’ve been researching courses at Yonsei and they have quite a few communication classes (more than Keimyung) so I might go there because that’s my major and I’ve just heard so many good things.
    I really am a good student, but I have the tendency to doubt my abilities sometimes, so I really appreciate the encouragement. I’m really motivated to speak and write well in Korean and get to a more advanced level.
    I’m really excited. Thanks again!

  8. Anya says:

    Thanks for the review!
    I was wondering do I need to take a placement test for the second time if I apply for two terms?
    Thanks πŸ™‚

    • misstotori says:

      Hi Anya, not from what I experienced. I did level 3, took a break for 2 months and went back to do level 4 and I didn’t need to do a test. So I’m guessing you only need to redo a placement test if you’re away for a long time. If you don’t take a break between terms you definitely don’t need to do any tests πŸ™‚

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