Many international students, especially those who are not from the East Asian cultural sphere (漢字文化圈), find it difficult to master Sino-Korean vocabulary (Hanja-eo, 漢字語) when learning Korean. Previous studies showed that 90% of both instructors and students agreed that the knowledge of Chinese characters can help learners to make an improvement in learning their Korean vocabularies. However, these studies have different opinions on how to teach Sino-Korean vocabulary to international students: some suggest that Chinese characters should be taught together with Sino-Korean vocabulary while others argue that it is not necessary to master Chinese characters in order to learn Sino-Korean vocabulary.
This paper suggests that Sino-Korean vocabulary should be taught explicitly by using the LBH method in a multinational classroom. LBH is an acronym for “Learning by Hint”, a study strategy of Sino-Korean vocabulary that was introduced by Jeon Gwangjin (2006). It was originally designed for Korean native students (especially elementary school students) to improve their vocabulary. However, it is also an efficient method for international student learners of Sino-Korean vocabulary. When teaching Korean to non-native speakers, many instructors tend to explain Sino-Korean words holistically, which means that they only offer the definition of the word without explaining the morpheme, which is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. By using the LBH method, students can acquire a Sino-Korean word step by step. Students will learn the meaning of each morpheme first, and then relate the meaning of each morpheme to the meaning of the whole word. This enables them to understand the Sino-Korean words better and memorize the words in a more efficient way, without learning how to write the Chinese characters. In the last part of this paper, we give an example that shows how the LBH method can be adopted into a Korean academic reading class at the undergraduate level, together with the efficient way of teaching Sino-Korean words by dividing them into different categories according to their word structures.