Teach English in Huji Zhen - Nantong Shi

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Common Problems for English Language Learners in Thailand The Kingdom of Thailand is a Southeast Asian country with a rich history and an estimated population of approximately 70 million (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand). The Thai people are predominately Buddhist and are generally known as being a very welcoming people (e.g., the Land of Smiles) with very polite culture norms. Thai people are quite often seen folding their hands together in a polite ‘Wai’ to show respect to one another and to foreign guests upon greetings and departures in social interactions. As with many other countries, many people, especially students, are eager to learn English both for their education and future career opportunities. Many professionals in Thailand will learn English to a very high degree for arenas critical to the ongoing prosperity of Thailand such as tourism and healthcare. The Thai people learn the Thai language in schools and some also speak another dialect or variation of the Thai language at home and in their communities such as Northern Thai. While the Thai language is a delightful symphony of sound to enjoy, the differences between Thai and English present English Language Learners with some unique pronunciation and intonation challenges while learning English. The author of this paper recently began working as an English Consultant at a hospital and medical school in Thailand and recently began assisting two, soon to be three cohorts of learners along in their journey to improve their English level. The first is meeting with rotations of 4th year medical students who will receive 8-10 hours of assistance and instruction over several weeks to improve and gain confident in their presentation and public speaking skills. The second group are medical doctors who are aspiring to become assistant professors and need assistance in preparing and giving professional presentations ready for an international audience. A formal evaluation of each presentation is essential to provide feedback for students and doctors to intelligently improve their presentation skills. Despite the fact that both the medical students and doctors aspiring to become professors already have a very high level of English proficiency, there are certain challenges that many Thai English language learners face when learning English. Pronunciation and Intonation Challenges One pronunciation challenge for Thai English language learners is the “r” vs. “l” sound. The “r” and “l” sounds are generally a pronunciation variation on the same letter in Thai. For example a car in Thai would be pronounced more correctly as “rot,” however, many Thais will relax the sound and call a car a “lot.” In fact, the English /r/ consonant does not exist in the English language (http://englishspeaklikenative.com/resources/common-pronunciation-problems/thai-pronunciation-problems/). Another common problem for Thai English language learners is the pronunciation of the th (also known as /θ/ and /ð/) sounds. Thai learners find lingua-dental consonants extremely difficult to produce. Therefore learners must learn to place the tip of their tongue between the teeth, and need considerable practice to master these sounds (http://englishspeaklikenative.com/resources/common-pronunciation-problems/thai-pronunciation-problems/). One intonation issue that many learners have is placing the stress of the English word on the proper syllable. In the Thai language many multisyllabic words have the stress on the final syllable. From the observation of the writer, this translates to speakers also placing the emphasis on the last syllable of the English word. While some English words do have the stress on the final syllable, many do not and it is imperative for learners, especially intermediate and advanced, to being to master these rules to produce more natural sounding speech. Perhaps occasional exercises and activities that incorporate the five syllable stress rules of the training material (Lesson 13, page 8). From the observation of the writer, rule 3 (stress on the penultimate syllable) and rule 4 (stress on the ante-penultimate = third from the end) would bear the most fruit. It is essential for TESOL teachers to be able to understand how to help English language learners overcome pronunciation and intonation issues, especially if all or most of their learners come from one country or one native language. In this way teachers can increase the effectiveness of their lessons in their context.