Author Topic: why bother to learn English  (Read 1720 times)

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Offline thaiga

why bother to learn English
« on: April 02, 2012, 11:46:56 AM »
Learning English language in Thailand: Hype or Necessity?

BANGKOK: -- Lately there has been increasing debate about the status of English language in Thai society. Many arguments are made for and against the relevance of English language and its usefulness. Arguments made by Thai politicians take us back and forth about the role of English language and distracts us away from the realities of this new century. This nationalistic faction believes that imposing English language on Thai people is against their culture,heritage and their unique identity.

The same group also argues that Thailand was never colonized so why bother to learn English. For them English is the language of the British colonies. It has no place in Thai society. Some others with a myopic vision believe that Thai people should not be made to feel insecure and inferior because of all the hype about importance of learning English.

It is an historical fact that in the 17th century the British did not go around the world to impose their language; they went places with an intention to do trade. Later, they forcibly occupied many countries in Africa and Asia.And of course they occupied North America and USA as well. In their more than 300 years of history in Africa and Asia they conquered many countries. It was followed by the creation of their own system of education, transport, communication and governance. British necessarily did not force people in the colonies to embrace English. In many cases, the rulers of princely states and elite in the colonies willingly adopted English language to have better relations with their new rulers. Spread of English language in colonies did not drastically change the native culture and identity. Stretching from India, Malaysia to Indonesia and Hong Kong the English language became an alternate way for communication. It was always used as other language along with several local languages and dialects.

In Europe the British did not impose their rule on neighboring countries. Scandinavian countries were never colonized but they learned to do business with England. They willingly adopted English as another language so that they could have better economic ties with England.

Days of colonization are now history. Every country that was part of the British Empire is now free. The whole landscape is changed by rapid expansion of communication technologies, transportation and financial markets. Colonization is now replaced by much more powerful forces of globalization. English language is no longer a cultural imposition; it is the language of the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. It has become the language of the global markets.

In this context, a common language can become a powerful tool to succeed in globalized economies. So the old argument that language is integral to a culture identity does not necessarily lead to separating it from others. Language is just one part of a culture.

To be able to migrate to other countries and be able to find a better paying job requires knowing more than one language. Knowing English is even better especially when a person wants to go to England, Australia or America to have higher education or explore new options for a better job or a career. Proficiency in English becomes an essential requirement. One's culture is not going to help to survive in a foreign land. Besides manners, work ethics and life style issues the language should also be seen as an essential survival tool.

Well, in Thailand English teaching and learning problems cannot be solved by employing the "native speakers". As mentioned earlier, Switzerland, and many other European countries where teaching and learning English is a big success, do not rely on what my colleague Dr. Sorin, call as "na (t) ive" speakers but on their own teachers of English.

In Asia, a good example is India. Although colonized for more than two centuries India does not employ foreigners to teach English. Yet, it has a huge population that can speak and write English. It has grown its own crop of English teachers. They are all graduates of Indian universities majoring in English. Singapore and Malaysia also followed the same model. It created its own pool of excellent English teachers.

If the Thai Ministry of Education is genuinely interested in improving English education, then they have to do the following:

Improve the quality of Thai English teachers. The teachers of English have to be good; they have to be an inspiration for their students. It would be very natural for young Thai students to say "if my teacher could do it, I can do it too". A white hillbilly native speaker from Texas, USA without a degree in English literature can never be an inspiration for Thai students.

If Thailand really wants to employ a foreign teacher, then he/she must be a real qualified language teacher, not just a na (t) ive speaker. It has to be one who has a high degree in language or linguistics, and who has also learned at least one or more foreign languages.

Although there may be some similarities between ASEAN and the European Union's Bologna Process which seeks to harmonize the region's higher education system. But in comparison to Europe the diversity in education systems and economic development across ASEAN presents many more difficult challenges. There is still hope that both the Thai politicians and the civil servants realize that in an emerging Asian Economic Community (AEC) English language can become a common language and act as glue that can bind the region together. It is very clear that English language is playing a major role in the process of globalization.

Another area of improvement that requires some urgent action is the Thai popular media. There should be more and more English language based news papers, magazines, radio stations and television shows focused on creating sights and sounds that can immerse the learners in an environment that facilitates learning of English language. Language learning is based on the sights and sound surrounding the learners.

So instead of wasting time on deciding what to call English, (English as a Foreign Language (EFL) or English as Second Language (ESL) and for what reason, the Thai Ministry of Education should really be engaged in and concerned about improving the quality of English teachers and of English teaching in Thailand.
The Nation
From toybits t/v
I went to Big C (Chiang Rai) yesterday, picked up three cans of APPLE JUICE (Treetop) which was in a can. The counter clerk refused to check out the three cans and I could not understand why. She said alcohol. ALCOHOL? I said in Thai "That's Apple JUICE". Said it a number of times - three to be exact. The person ahead of me was also somewhat perplexed - and then after a moment understood what I was trying to say. The can clearly showed APPLE JUICE. But apparently, the check-out counter clerk assumed those were beer cans without even reading the label.

That's English proficiency.
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Online Taman Tun

Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #1 on: April 02, 2012, 07:09:39 PM »
Hi Thaiga, I particularly liked "A white hillbilly native speaker from Texas" .  Some years ago I was working in Milan, Italy and one Saturday afternoon I struck up a conversation with a fellow Brit in a bar.  He had a strong Cockney accent fom the East End of London and every other F***ing word he F***ing uttered was a F***ing profanity.  After a while I asked him what he was doing in Milan.  "I am a F***ing English teacher" came the reply.   
We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out. Churchill

Offline thaiga

Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #2 on: April 02, 2012, 07:52:23 PM »
The Cockney Sparrow - A dying Breed

I wanna tell you a story

I was resting my arris in the rubba with a sky full of bread from a win on the cherries. Suddenly, in walked the trouble and strife with the saucepans. Blimey! Good job I wasn’t sitting anywhere near the old brass in the corner, that would have caused a bull and cow.
I’m just having a ball of chalk up the frog to get some shopping she said. “I ain’t got time to bunny, just give me a pony to get little Jimmy a new pair of daisies”, she said.
I gave her a bulls eye from my winnings, with a bit of rifle for the kids, and ordered myself another pigs.
I sat looking at the linen draper when an old china walked in and bought me a Tom Thumb. “Cheers geezer” I said, and slung it in me north and south. Me farmers were playing me up a bit so I stood on me plates for a while to ease the pain up my kyber and asked him why he was wearing a whistle and a new Dickie.
He told me his skin and blister just got married. That’s why he’d cut his barnet, had a dig in the grave, and changed his almonds.
cheers me old china
Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Online Taman Tun

Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2012, 08:12:23 PM »
Thaiga, I think the guy in Milan was an iron.
We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out. Churchill

Offline thaiga

Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2012, 01:01:37 AM »
Nice one :lol

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.

Offline Baby Farts

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Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2012, 11:37:56 AM »
Never been colonized?  We could talk about how the Japanese basically owned Thailand during WWII or how Thailand is colonized by the Chinese today...or maybe how major colonial powers came here, looked around and figured there was nothing worth dying for. 

English is not part of Thai culture?...and vice versa, yet most English teachers and people who work here are forced to take a Thai culture should be the other way around.  "Imposing English on Thais is against their culture and Heritage."  Well, imposing Thai culture on foreigners such as a "Sinsod" (paying money to take on the financial responsibility of a wife) is against my culture and heritage...etc. 

Take out a map of the world and show it to "the group of politicians"....ask them how many countries in the world use many countries in the world use Thai.  Say to them, "Which language do you think you should learn?"  Watch them scratch their heads. 


  • Guest
Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2012, 02:42:21 PM »
I can understand that there may be some irritation with the present move to (or mere talk about) improve the standard of English language teaching but the arguments put forward are spurious. For example, the claim that Thailand has never been colonised, true or not, is irrelevant. Similarly, Indians learned to speak English relatively fluently during the British occupation and one would expect their teachers to be of high quality. Furthermore, the occupiers who originally introduced the English language to India were probably highly literate,

Like it or not, English is an international language in the sense that it is used, at least as a second language, in many countries and is the language of business, tourism and air travel. In Thailand, if you don't speak Thai you can usually get by with some form of English. The British learned long ago that all you need to do is use pidgin English, shout and gesticulate.

The point that the standard of literacy of at least some native English speakers is below what should be expected is valid. Perhaps the reasons why they are employed include the shortage of English teachers and the ignorance of the language on the part of those who employ them. That could be resolved in part by employing the right people to vet applicants for teaching posts. That would mean employing more of those damned foreigners, though.

Cynically, one might take the view that to teach the downtrodden poor to speak, read and write English would give them a tool by which to learn more about the rest of the world, and where might that lead?

I often meet Thais who are proud of their English and want to practice it on every passing foreigner. Good for them!

Online Taman Tun

Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2012, 07:53:15 PM »
For sure at the moment English is the dominant worldwide business language but the Thais  would be very wise to spend some time learning Mandarin. That is the language of the future.  Personally I am only familiar with Gambi and yee ha so I have some way to go!  I do not see much future for Cockney but following my homophobic "iron" this morning I was wondering if "Butchers Leer" is also a part of the official Cockney vocabulary?     
We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out. Churchill

Offline thaiga

Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2012, 08:06:31 PM »
Butchers leer never heard of it.   Butchers is in lets have a look.(butchers hook)

But new ones come with todays generation.  like SHERBERT means taxi as in sherbert dab=CAB :uhm

Anyone who goes to a psychiatrist should have his head examined.


  • Guest
Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2012, 09:19:35 PM »
Until the Chinese and the other ASEAN countries learn how to become consumers rather than an export factory that exploits everyone within sight with not the vaguest regret because it serves the fascist owners of the businesses, it will languish in it's present form.

These economies have the problem of transforming themselves into consumer societies which might be a problem with their political systems as they stand.

Online Taman Tun

Re: why bother to learn English
« Reply #10 on: April 03, 2012, 11:27:43 PM »
The ASEAN country where I am currently resident has massive traffic problems because everyone owns a car.  Within a 20km radius of where I live there are at least 6 shopping malls which put the Mall, Korat to shame.  I live in a modest apartment block and drive a modest car.  My neighbours have Bentleys, Mercs and BMWs (not entry level 315s).  For Internet/TV I have a direct fibre optic connection into the apartment.  So, comrade, the consumer boom has already hit this ASEAN nation big time. The locals do not seem to be particularly ground down by the Capitalist jackboot.
We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out. Churchill