Author Topic: Some tips for learning English, as demand for speakers is set to rise  (Read 522 times)

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Offline thaiga

BANGKOK: -- With the Asean Economic Community only three years away (2015), it is imperative that Thailand prepare itself linguistically for this highly interconnected regional environment with so many opportunities and challenges.

There has been discussion suggesting that Thai could become the language of Asean. While Thai is an elegant and beautiful language, it is totally wishful thinking to think that it would be adopted as the Asean lingua franca. Clearly English will be the common language of Asean.

Thus, it is imperative for Thailand to enhance the quality of its English language teaching and learning.

The approach presented here is not from linguistics but derived from the Kalama Sutra of the Lord Buddha and its call for learning from direct experience.

Thailand cannot afford to import thousands of native speakers to teach nor send thousands of Thais abroad for intensive English training. Thus, the strategy here emphasises selfstudy and informal education.

I am in no way a linguist but in studying 14 different languages have encountered nearly all major ways of teaching and studying other languages. From those rich experiences, I will draw out some suggestions that may enable Thais to enhance their communicative competence in English without undue pain and cost.

The first strategy relates to vocabulary development. While escaping the French colonial police and hiding in Northeast Siam, Ho Chi Minh apparently learned a great deal of Thai. His basic strategy was to learn 10 new words of Thai every day. Using this approach during the course of only a year a person will add 3,600 words to their English vocabulary contributing significantly to their proficiency.

The second strategy relates to the need to improve pronunciation. Here I have two suggestions. First is to make active use of the free Internet resource, Dictionary.com, which provides perfect pronunciation by clicking on an icon for each English word as often as needed.

Second, the two major pronunciation problems of most Thai and Lao speakers are to 1) give English words tones, and 2) to employ very soft consonant endings. The result can be English that is neither clear nor easy to understand. These basic mistakes can be easily corrected.

Apart from using an online dictionary, the Thai could find a native speaker of the target language (person from the UK, or person from Canada and read several passages to them from The Nation, for example) and then have the native speaker note all major pronunciation problems for the learner to work on in the future.

A third strategy related to both pronunciation and listening comprehension is to devote considerable time to listening to English in different forms (radio and TV broadcasts, movies, YouTube speeches and music, even karaoke) and for learners to register sounds in their mind as they hear them spoken. Media such as CNN, BCC, Radio Free Asia, or ABS provide ample listening opportunities. Nearly all persons in the Kingdom now have access to both radio and TV.

Also all the new modern technological tools such as tablets and iPads can be used effectively to engage in plearning (play learning concept of Ajarn ChaiAnan) of English or other languages. It's amazing how young children can be to start using these potentially valuable tools.

A fourth strategy is to seek out actively opportunities to communicate in English. There are countless ways to do this through social networks such as Facebook, modern pen pal systems such as postcrossing, attending events frequented by English speakers, joining multicultural sports teams/events, and becoming friends with diverse English speakers (of different ages and nationalities, for example).

The fifth strategy relates to what has been termed English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Given the huge number of words in the English language, individuals should focus on the kinds of words they will need relevant to their particular profession and interests. A nurse or pharmacist will need medical/health English, for example.

The dynamic and innovative Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, emphasised learning words that are the most important to individuals' daily real world lives.

These strategies suggested here can be used for learning any language.

Language learning can be a delightful experience. It need not be painful and costly. Learning other languages has been one of my greatest joys in life. May it be yours as well.

Gerald W Fry
Distinguished International Professor
Department of Organisational Leadership, Policy, and Development, University of Minnesota
The Nation
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.
 

 



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