19An Emerging Path to English in Korea: Informal Digital Learning of English

JU SEONG LEE

Introduction

K‐pop sensation Bangtan Boys (BTS) made a recent appearance on The Ellen Show (2017). The host asked the leader, Rap Monster (RM), who does the most of BTS's English interviews, and about how he taught himself to learn English. RM shared that he had learned English informally through watching American TV shows: “My English tutor was a sitcom, ‘Friends’…when I was like 14 or 15… [my mother] bought all the seasons' DVDs. Firstly, I watched with Korean subtitle, and then next time I watched with the English subtitle, and then I just removed it.” In another interview (Kim 2017), RM also commented, “[My mother] made me watch the news on CNN and BBC … I had to do a short [English] interview … I practiced memorizing three sentences for two hours…these kinds of interviews make me develop a lot and that helps me.” Consequently, his engagement in informal language learning seemed to contribute tremendously to improving his receptive and productive English skills.

With a particular focus on English as a foreign language (EFL) learners of Korean such as RM, I have described this “changing face of language learning” (Richards 2015, p. 5) as informal digital learning of English (IDLE). IDLE can be conceptualized as “self‐directed, informal English learning using a range of different digital devices (e.g. smartphones, desktop computers) and resources (e.g. web apps, social media) independent ...

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