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Speech contest brings Jordanians closer to Korean culture

By Dana Al Emam - Oct 12,2016 - Last updated at Oct 12,2016

AMMAN — For Sarah Atmeh, an interest in Korean drama series and K-pop music that she found online led her on a journey into Korean culture.   

The student of Islamic economy and Banking at Irbid’s Yarmouk University decided to learn Korean in order to better understand the country’s culture.

Unable to study the language at university, she began by educating herself through online courses. 

The resident of Jerash Governorate, around 48km north of Amman, was later able to meet Korean students of Arabic, and together they helped each other on their linguistic quests. 

On Wednesday, Atmeh shared her story in Korean as a competitor in the third Korean Speech Contest, which encourages Korean-learners to practise their language skills and become more confident. 

Contestants, who had the option to speak individually or in teams of two or three, delivered speeches on a topic of their choice for three to 10 minutes, depending on the number of team members.

This year, 10 individuals and teams qualified to the competition’s final stage. They were judged on their pronunciation, word choice and sentence structure, fluency, content and self-confidence.

In an interview with The Jordan Times on the sidelines of the contest, South Korea’s Ambassador to Jordan Lee Bom-yon said the contest is a chance for students who study the Korean language to practise what they learn and seek further educational opportunities.

He noted that many students that have enrolled in the Korean programme at the University of Jordan (UJ) since 2007 have obtained scholarships or job opportunities in Korea.

Cultural exchange is a key way to boost mutual understanding across borders, the diplomat highlighted, adding that his country seeks to bring the people of Jordan and Korea closer through activities and events, which are mainly held in October.

The diplomat acknowledged the role of drama series in forming cultural bridges, adding that his own interest in Jordan began when he saw Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum in a TV show. 

He told contestants that mastering the English language is no longer enough in a world that prefers individuals with two or more languages, adding that the contest in itself is a learning experience. 

Meanwhile, Ahmad Majdoubeh, UJ’s vice president, said the university is interested in exposing students to various languages and cultures around the world, including “rich” Asian cultures.

He added that Korean students who learn Arabic or other disciplines at UJ also enrich the learning experience of Jordanian students.

Although Jordan and Korea share a continent, in some way Korean language and culture are new to the Kingdom, he said. “We know very little about each other.”


Meanwhile, Jordan and Korea have built partnerships that are based on mutual understanding, particularly in cultural cooperation, Majdoubeh added.  

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