Author Topic: Speaking English campaign is just a passing fad  (Read 560 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline thaiga

  • Korat forum specialist
  • *****
  • Posts: 16172
Speaking English campaign is just a passing fad
« on: December 30, 2011, 09:43:50 PM »
The Nation December 30, 2011 1:00 am

Thai students need better-trained teachers and a well-thought-out curriculum if they are ever to improve their ability in the English language

Beginning the first week of January, all education institutions must provide a time slot and a place for Thais to practise English once a week. This is part of the Yingluck government's effort to promote the world's lingua franca in this our tongue-tied country. As is well known, Thais do not always enjoy it when they have to speak foreign languages. They are reluctant and shy, fearful of making mistakes when speaking foreign tongues.

In the case of English, almost all Thai students study the language at their schools for at least 12 years, throughout their adolescence. Even with that long stretch of training, most are still unskilled and unable to express themselves in the international language.

When Thais speak English, they almost always carry a distinctive Thai accent. This is perhaps a step backwards from the language skills of their forebears a few centuries back. During the Ayudhya period in the 17th century for instance, the old capital of Siam was the hub of regional trade, frequented and inhabited by foreign traders and adventurers from afar. Many of those Siamese citizens in the old capital had to engage with all sorts of foreigners and speak their languages - especially English, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Chinese and Japanese, not to mention the languages of traders and visitors from neighbouring kingdoms in what are now Vietnam, Burma and Cambodia. A lot of local people, particularly if they were engaged in commerce, had to be multi-lingual in order to prosper.

Now, the Yingluck government, which has already initiated an assortment of populist policies, deems speaking English as part of the overall continuing campaign to win votes.

It's an idea sits alongside the plans for scholarships or free computer tablets for school students. These campaigns are vote-getting instruments. They look good, but in the long run they will not work because whenever there are well-publicised campaigns such as this, everything will go turbo in the first few weeks and then eventually drop dead. Those who are involved in these and similar campaigns are usually in it for the publicity and possible self interest, or else it might just seem to be the fashionable thing to do. Most importantly, the government provides the funding.

An improvement in English-language education and across-the-board ability among Thais would be better executed with better teachers for high schools.

A lot of people talk about the quality of English teaching and content in Thailand. But it seems to be a never-ending discussion. Good English teachers are hard to find these days. Most of the current crop of teachers are able to teach basic English, but in most cases the students have forgotten what they learned within a few months. Some Thais who have studied abroad have good English accents, but they are not interested in passing on their skills to the next generation of learners.

One of the main reasons for the sudden resurgence of interest in English-speaking is the anticipation of the Asean Economic Community in 2015. There is a common belief that speaking English will be the key to partaking in this community-building exercise.

That is a faulty idea. Actually, knowing one's country better is a prerequisite for such community building. Then, a knowledge of neighboring countries will help to consolidate the sense of community. To do that, the English language is secondary.

To improve and promote the English proficiency of the Thai people is laudable, of course. However, the way the "English Speaking Year" is being structured and promoted will surely not work. It is a public relations exercise, not a serious educational programme.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.