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Why English Speaking is Difficult for Many Thai Learners

Why English Speaking is Difficult for Many Thai Learners | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Thailand is famously known as “ the land of smiles”. In some situations, smiling is the way to save face or to avoid conflicts. This often includes the time when Thai people have to communicate with foreigners in English and have no idea what the other meant. They simply smile to get out of a situation instead of making the best out of it by practicing their English speaking skill. On the other hand, they build up a fear of making mistakes and avoid being in that particular circumstance in the future. As English today plays important roles in tourism and the Thai economy as a whole, still, Thai people struggle to communicate effectively. Here are some areas suggested why it is difficult for Thai learners to improve their speaking skills.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Sirima A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Cultural Aspects

A fear of speaking English in daily life is common in Thailand partly due to its culture. In most cases, shyness correlates to respect in society. It is acceptable not to speak or reply to comment because it can be considered disrespectful. They believe that silence is also a way to stay away from any conflict. Since making mistakes is embarrassing and would even be scorned in some situations, learners avoid practicing their speaking skills. Furthermore, when some people try to pronounce an English word correctly the way native speakers do, they can be made fun of by the rest. However, when using English becomes social norms, society will, therefore, adjust gradually in the future.

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Phonetical System

Another factor is phonetic differences. Some sounds do not exist in the Thai language, for example, how Thai people pronounce ‘R’ in English is more similar to ‘L’. Moreover, they tend to skip the ending consonant at the end of English words such as ’s’, ’the’, ‘ch’, ’sh’, ’t’, ‘f’, ‘x’ or ‘l’. Although there are many English loan words used in the Thai language, they pronounce them differently from the original.


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Education Challenges

As communication brings people closer, the new generations are forced to adapt themselves subsequently. The problem is now lying upon education which seriously needed to look into. Those few who can afford a private or international school are fortunate ones, on the other hand, the majority of Thai students start with a poor quality curriculum at an early stage. An English lesson in Thailand does not support productive skills as much as it should be. It focuses more on grammar and vocabulary to pass the required scores for the exam than to encourage learners to be able to use it in everyday life. Also, primary teachers in the government schools have insufficient knowledge of English yet are forced to teach. As a result, students have no motivation and have the wrong concept for a reason to study English. It would be much better if we manage to increase more interactions with native speakers in the school environment. Teachers, leaners and even the community can all benefit from this strategy.

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To be able to overcome this drawback, not only the learner as an individual but also the whole system needs a proper revision which targets a more practical approach. The community needs to change the attitude towards speaking English and accept that making errors is a part of improvement, not something to be ashamed of.

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