Problems for Learners in Thailand Like the people of other nations, Thai


Like the people of other nations, Thai people face many problems when trying to learn English; some of these problems are cultural and some are more rooted in the many obvious differences between the two languages. Different age groups or students of different levels may not always face the same problems. A class of intermediate children is likely to have different problems to those of an adult class of beginners.

One issue that can be quite frustrating as a teacher is rooted in the Thai culture of not wishing to lose face. This often leads to students being shy and unresponsive in class. They are scared of making mistakes in front of their peers as this would cause them to lose face.

Another issue that is based on culture and can also be frustrating for a teacher is a tendency of Thai people to say 'yes' when they mean 'no'. A lot of respect is placed on the teaching profession in Thailand and many students want to please their teacher. Occasionally this leads to situations such as students saying that they understand the work, when they don't. A good way around this one is just asking them to explain what they have understood. Teachers of classes of adults in Thailand should be aware of these cultural issues, be sensitive to them and try to come up with ways to ensure that they don't impede the students' learning experience.

One problem area for Thai students of English that isn't rooted in culture is English grammar. The grammar of the Thai language is very different from English grammar. Three very common mistakes that come directly from copying Thai grammar into English are: putting adjectives after nouns, not using tenses and not using the verb 'to be' with personal description adjectives. It is quite common to hear Thai students, depending on their level, saying things such as 'car red', 'I go there yesterday' and 'She very beautiful' as these are exactly how they would say them in Thai. There are several other recurring problems encountered by Thai students relating to grammar, but the most common three are listed.

Quite possibly the biggest problem for learners of English in Thailand is the pronunciation of English sounds and tones. There are several reasons for this, mainly stemming from the differences between the two languages. There are certain sounds in English that Thai students can find difficult to pronounce as they do not appear in the Thai alphabet, or the rules to pronounce those sounds are different in Thai.

Neither the voiced and unvoiced 'th' sounds (as in 'three' and 'there') appear in Thai, so as a result many Thai people have great difficulty pronouncing them. Often the softer, unvoiced 'th' is pronounced like a strong 's' sound and the harder voiced 'th' is pronounced like 'd'. Also the 'z' sound does not occur in Thai and sometimes students have problems identifying it as a separate sound from 's'. A similar problem that Thai people have in English is confusing 'r' and 'l'. In informal Thai, 'r' sounds are pronounced as 'l'. Many students often try to do this in English also.

One major difference between English and Thai is the pronunciation of final consonant sounds of each syllable. In spoken Thai, final consonant sounds are usually very soft and unvoiced. In English however, the final consonant sound is very important ' it can tell us about the situation.

Thai students have problems with present simple verbs in the third person singular and also past simple verbs. There is a tendency to pronounce them the same as the base form. For example 'arrive, arrives and arrived' can all often sound like 'arri' where the final 'v' sound is almost omitted.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org ' articles on Thai culture and the TEFL industry in general

www.ajarn.com ' articles on teaching Thai students and Thai culture

http://www.hmongstudies.org/ThaiCulture.pdf

Previous classroom experiences