When I touched down in Busan in July 2016, I was no stranger to the expat lifestyle. In fact, South Korea became ‘no. 12’ in a long list of countries I’d resided in since my travel story began back in my twenties, and I was looking forward to the new adventures my family and I were about to embark on.
But one thing was different and it soon became very obvious that I was perhaps a little out of my depth when it came to the language. No, of course I didn’t expect to be able to understand everything from day one, but I was expecting to get by in English for the most part, at least at the beginning.
Unlike anywhere else I’d ever lived, I couldn’t even read the words I was seeing. People in shops didn’t always speak English and all the banners and posters on buildings bedazzled me. I was thrown into complete confusion when trying to decipher the instructions for my washing machine in our apartment and I quickly realized that I was going to have to do something about this…and fast!
Now, I’m fortunate that I love learning languages, but I was even more fortunate to find the Busan Global Centre that offers Korean Classes to expat residents in the city. These courses are as close to being free as is possible (you just need to pay 10,000KRW to cover the cost of a cultural day activity and buy your textbook,also approximately 10,000KRW) which in itself is a great deal!
Located down by City Hall it may not be on everyone’s doorstep but it is easily accessible by metro (orange) line 1, stop “City Hall”. Take Exit 2 and upon reaching the road you will see this rather prominent building right in front of you. Cross the road and you are there!
I have also recently found out that Bus 141 from Haeundae will take you door to door – perfect! Well, perfect if it’s not raining and the city traffic isn’t too horrific! Always best to stick to the metro in bad weather; while it may be more crowded, there won’t be the delays that there are on the roads! I learnt that the hard way just last week!
BCG is then located up on the 13th floor of this (The National Pensions Fund) building. Standing just opposite City Hall and the Busan Metropolitan Police Department, both easily recognisable and well known in the area should you need to ask for directions.
For their language courses, they have three fixed terms throughout the year, each lasting approximately 12 weeks. Whether, like me, you’re a true beginner or you have a good base in Korean, you’ll need to pop along to enroll in the classes (and take a small test to identify your level) at specific times in the year that they advertise on their website. Generally these are spread over three days Monday to Wednesday, about a week before term starts. You will need your ARC to be able to register, but that’s about it.
So here I am. I completed level one last December and 6 months on from starting, I have just finished up with level 2! While I may not be fluent (and don’t expect to be in that length of time!) I am having a really good go at it and LOVING it! I know the basics, my numbers, days of the week, can order food and deal with small encounters, but more importantly than that, I use my Korean daily and feel extremely accomplished! Who’d have thought I’d be learning to read, write and speak Korean as a busy mum of two, but here you go – proof that it’s possible!
Besides their language courses (both morning and evening classes are available) they offer a number of other services to expatriates all for free which I think is amazing. Not only focusing on native-English speakers, they also offer consultations and phone lines in Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Korean, Russian, and Uzbek. They offer counseling and give advice on healthcare, immigration, legal issues and can even help you with translations if you’re struggling with something.
The BGC Call Centre is open from 9am – 6pm on weekdays. Closed weekend and holidays. Contact them on 1577-7716 for any queries you may have.
Their website is also very comprehensible and will have all the latest updates for Korean language courses and the term dates on the section entitled ‘ Korean Class Information’ or for the link below for direct access.
For me, this is literally one of the best resources in the city; I can’t fault the team at BCG who have been nothing but friendly and helpful. Whether it be for language courses or general inquiries, give them a call, or better still pop by and speak with them. Maybe I’ll see you there as I’ll be signing up for my next language course soon!