Problems / Difficulties for learners in Thailand IntroductionIn this article I will


In this article I will gather the most common problems/difficulties Thai learners have when learning English.

I will spot the main difficulties you as the teacher will deal with and I will give my tips/solutions of how you can understand the problems and deal with them.

The article is based on own experience and new information I have learned from this course.

Some of the major differences between Thai learners and European learners are:

Certain students can be reluctant to talk and produce English in class. It can be caused by natural shyness or just the fact that they cannot express themselves in English or it can have its roots in cultural issues.

How do we deal with these issues and how do we know if certain behaviour is caused by student´s culture or by natural shyness. It can be tricky to sort out and different behaviours are often linked with each other.

How should we as ESL teachers deal with cultural differences and behaviours, what can and can't we do in a country with different rules and codes to what we are used to' I will come back to this later in the article.

Physical contact

A major difference between US, Europe and Thailand and many other countries in Asia is physical contact. In the west we use various ways when we greet each other, some of the most common are handshakes, friendly hugs and even several kisses on the cheek in many South European countries. We may not shake hand or hug our new students in Europe or America but some association are suited for such contact (e.g. the first day on the course or the graduation day).

Pronunciation difficulties One of the classic pronunciation problems for Thai people is to separate L and R in speech and they have a tendency to mix up how the sound of the letter can differ when used in speech and when pronounced individually. I have numerous times been writing L instead of R when playing Hangman with my students which of course causes protests. Other difficulties are the ch sounds like ch in Sandwich (often becomes sandwit) in spoken language or English that becomes Englit or Englik.

How do I deal with the issues mentioned above'

Encourage student to talk It can be a challenging task to make student communicate in English for various reasons, some of them mention above. There are some basic features you should think of to develop student to speak in class:

Invite to a friendly classroom atmosphere.

Get your student to understand that mistakes are a part of the learning process. To reach this goal you need do be relaxed as a teacher and indicate that it's better to communicate less perfect than not at all.

Cultural taboos

Thai people don't touch each other on the head as the head is significant for the highest point on the body, however it's not written in stone and in familiarly association it can be ok to touch it. Also don't point the sole of your foot at another people (the lowest part on the body).

Cultural mentality

As most people like to be in a good mood Thai people seems to prefer being in a constant good mood, the natural condition for many Thai people is happiness. However sometimes the mood sinks even for Thai people but the signal out might still be a smile. You need to be patient when learning the cultural codes and particularly in Thailand you should not lose your temper.

Overcome pronunciation difficulties

To make progress with pronunciation takes practice and time, the main objective is not that all your students should sound like natives. The objective is to produce English other people can understand. Thai students need a lot of repetition drills and listening exercises to develop their pronunciation and hearing.