English Learning Problems in Thailand
With today’s century and growing demands, English language skill is very important. English helps us to link to countries around the world, helps us to meet certain goals in work and education, and allows us to travel and live in countries where we want to be. Unfortunately, not all countries in the world use English as their official language. According to Research Trends, 53 countries in the world use English as their first language. This means that the other countries who were not included in the list have to learn English more than the countries that speak English.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Maricor B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Language Learning Situation in Thailand
Learning another language can be a challenge for these countries. Thailand is one of the countries who do not use English as their official language. Consequently, they have to learn English to be able to cope with this century’s needs and demands. However, some problems reflect on learning English in Thailand. This is evident as Thailand’s English Proficiency level which is low with the EF EPI (EF English Proficiency Index, 2018) score of 48.54 and its position in Asia is number 16 out of 21 countries.
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My experiences as an EFL teacher in Thailand also supports this. In the short period (less than 3 years) that I stayed here in Thailand, I observed common problems for the English learning of students. First, the lack of exposure and opportunity of students to use English. It is because after learning English in school, students use Thai outside. The language, the signs, and almost everything they see around is in the Thai language. In my own analysis, this means that they can survive even without the English language because it is not a need whenever they go out of school unless they speak English at home, but this is rare. Second, the lack of interest and motivation. I put this together because for me interest comes from motivation. Base on my observation there is very few students who get interested in learning English. Most of them learn English because it is required or they need it for certain goals. The interest is really absent. This means teachers not only EFL teachers should help motivate the students or act as role models. Thus, the third problem that I observed is the lack of support from teachers, parents, peers and other people around them. The problem that I realize here is people cannot see the importance of English not unless they will use it for promotion or scholarship or the like. Other than that, there are no more reasons to learn English. These are the common problems that I observed here in Thailand.
My observations and experiences are also supported by some researches that I came across through my readings. A research by Noom-ura (2013) on the English-Teaching Problems in Thailand and Thai Teachers’ Professional Development Needs, found that the highest problems of students are: the lack of practice of students, the lack of opportunities for English exposure outside the school, not enough knowledge and skill, usage of translation instead of direct English speaking, problems in writing, lack of patience to practice English, problems with listening and pronunciation, and the lack of confidence to speak English. An article by Thep-Ackrapong (nd) presented the difference between the Thai language and the English language that is also a reason for students to learn English hard. In terms of pronunciation, grammar and text Thai and English differ. She explained that some phonemes like /l/ and /r/ and /t∫/ and /∫/ is a confusion. The stress pattern is also a problem because Thai usually put the stress at the end of and English word. Other major differences are word-formation and grammar. These reasons cause Thai students to encounter many problems while learning English.
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Nevertheless, I always believe that the other side of learning is challenges and the other side of success is fear. There will always be problems and challenges no matter what and teachers play a big role in helping the students. Personally, patience, knowledge, and passion are a great way to help EFL learners. In my opinion, schools should also set policies and follow them with consistency. Also, schools should provide as many opportunities and English exposure for students. Additionally, teachers should also be a role model for the students, if they show that English is important, students may also think the same because there is always a positive result for efforts. So, everyone should work hand in hand to address the problems and challenges in the English learning of students. If all these problems will be addressed, Thailand will no longer be seen as a country struggling in English, students will gain confidence in English and will be able to cope with all the demands of English.
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