Over the years, this country has imported thousands of Americans, Canadians, South Africans and others to supplement local teachers of English. But the program has strained the government’s budget, and it is increasingly difficult to get native English speakers to live on islands and other remote areas.Oh, dear God. I know I sound like a ranting John Connor's mom when I go on like this, but I've seen the future and it isn't pretty.
Enter Engkey, a teacher with exacting standards and a silken voice. She is just a little penguin-shaped robot, but both symbolically and practically, she stands for progress, achievement and national pride. What she does not stand for, however, is bad pronunciation.
“Not good this time!” Engkey admonished a sixth grader as he stooped awkwardly over her. “You need to focus more on your accent. Let’s try again.”
Engkey, a contraction of English jockey (as in disc jockey), is the great hope of Choi Mun-taek, a team leader at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Intelligent Robotics. “In three to five years, Engkey will mature enough to replace native speakers,” he said.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
English robots deployed in the classroom — Oh, the humanity!
AP and the New York Times have been reporting on the deployment of robots in South Korea, both the military kind and the pedagogical kind: