English is hardly spoken by Thais, the influence of the English language has not been much on the Thai society primarily because they were not colonized by any foreign country unlike others in the region, most countries in Asia that speak English like India, Singapore and Philippines were ruled by Britain or America for centuries, there was a upside to it and that is their ability to converse in a global language. Thailand is now focusing on improving their English language skills because they want to be more competitive, more so because of the ASEAN integration which is on the lines of the European union. There are several schools and the government push to hire foreign teachers to teach English. I’ve taught English to Thais and I can definitely say it is a tough job.
The challenges that a teacher in Thailand will face
The reasons lie in their native Thai language, Thai is a tonal language unlike English and many sounds are nothing like the English phonemes. The big challenges are getting the Thais to say the sound R and L, for some strange reason they interchange these sounds so “run” becomes “lun” and “lunch” becomes “runch”. They usually don’t enunciate the last sounds in most words. Thais would say “fly lie” for “fried rice”.
How do Thai students behave?
They are extremely well behaved students in general and very eager to learn. So learning English can be a painfully slow process. The big question is how to teach them? The answer according to me is teach like you would teach kinder garden students and move slowly towards more complicated language, the grammar approach will mostly fail. Teach conversation with pictures and examples, make them do some activity where they derive the meaning for what is being taught, often they are too shy to ask questions. Pay particular attention to the “s” sound for plurals, they often miss it. traditionally they are taught English grammar in schools but most cannot apply that to real life situations. They the best way to get them to speak English is to have them practice language they can use. Where can they use the language learned in a class? The truth is they cannot use it anywhere outside the school. Few Thais have English speaking friends or environments that support English.
Back to teaching Thais.
How to teach English to Thai students?
Many schools in Thailand don’t have a set curriculum, however they will provide lesson plans. The easier way is to teach 2 or 3 sentences in context in a lesson lasting 50 minutes. One technique that i have successfully used is the PPP (present, practice and produce) method. the first step is the presentation, present the language, context and demo a few times. Repetition can set a subconscious learning pattern. Use visual aids like flash cards, videos and props or toys. The second step would be practice. Use an activity to help them understand and practice, again repetition in an exciting way. Finally ask them to use the language is a fun easy way, classroom activities will go a long way, make it fun and the learning becomes faster. Thais have a concept called “sanook” it can be understood as having fun doing mundane things like learning a foreign language. Use worksheets, games and toys in your lessons.
The PPP method of teaching.
The PPP method works well in schools and larger groups. For private tutoring and exam practice, use more technology like interactive computer based learning programs. I have a e-learning module here.
Thais want to learn English because they need to get an acceptable score in TOEIC to get most jobs. It is ironical that Thai companies require their employees to have basic English skills documented in the form of a test score. TOEIC is a test for beginners, it has no speaking test. It tests for listening and reading ability only. The listening module has pictures and 4 options describing the picture and the most suitable option needs to be selected. reading test in TOEIC is more of a grammar test. It has written script with incorrect words or grammar, the test taker is expected to find the errors.
Role play method
is the most popular method to teach English in Thailand.
In this method students assume different roles to make a small simple conversation is widely practiced by foreign teachers in schools. I have taught Thai students and honestly, this method is good entertainment but very slow in helping language acquisition. Students get to learn some sentences and contexts in general. Its effective only to an extent and works well with younger students. The focus is on conversation. However, role play method does not do much for adult learners who want to be able to speak freely and have the ability to make sentences. Most college students don’t want to learn English just because it is an international language, their real immediate goals are to get through some English exam like TOEIC, Cambridge English tests, IELTS and TOEFL. A typical role play session would introduce vocabulary in context and have student to student interactions, repeated many times over and usually ends in a game to give them a sense of achievement.
If you love teaching and enjoy a challenge, try teaching in Thailand, it is a true test.
Looks matter in Thailand! an English teacher is typically supposed be blond and white. This look will open doors and is more accepted image of a English teacher. Isn’t that discriminatory?! well that’s the reality. However, there are many non white or so called “non-native speakers” from Philippines and India teaching in Thailand.
Encourage them to speak in English whenever you can and if you can interact with them is some Thai, it is helpful, many English teachers are discouraged from speaking in Thai, in my experience throwing in a few Thai words would help. Use relevant content and examples while teaching. Avoid using western cliches and don’t assume that they understand any English, so do not use “teacher talk” they won’t understand and will get confused. Most Thai students begin to learn English in middle school or later so if you are told that the class has intermediate skills consider them beginners.
Adapt and improve your English lesson.
Teaching English in Thailand requires the teachers to be extremely adaptable and be able to improvise on the lesson plan. A common suggestion that TEFL courses give is increasing or decreasing the number of variables that you teach depending on how the class responds. The most important goal of an English lesson should be the take away for the students. Most Thai students may learn a sentence or a few words if not the entire lesson. It all adds up. ESL teachers know that the most effective lessons are never even half retained. Whatever learning is retained by Thai students will add to their overall understanding of the language.
Teaching Exam prep for English tests like IELTS to Thai students
Exam prep lessons for Thai students would drive most seasoned foreign teachers up the wall. Most IELTS training courses in Bangkok and other cities usually do not teach Thai students below a certain level. The eligibility is band 3 on IELTS. I have taught Thai students for some years now and the best way to conduct exam prep would be to start with collocations and vocabulary, give as much practice as you can. Here are the steps:
1. Familiarize the Thai students with vocabulary necessary to handle general topics like Education, sports, health, food, vacations etc.
2. train them on writing small paragraphs on their school, home, health etc and slowly progress to having them write essays.
3. Teach comparatives, how to write about similarities, changes and superlatives.
4. encourage them to speak about general topics for speaking prep.
5. try dictation and transcription techniques to improve listening.
Thai students in general are slow learners of English as they do not entirely recongnise phonetic sounds of English.
Legal requirements to become a teacher in Thailand.
It is not a legal requirement for native speakers to have TEFL or TESOL certificate.
I would highly recommend one. If you have never taught or have taught people who understand your language, then you must take a TEFL or TESOL course. For it teaches you how to do your job in Thailand as an English teacher. Some of the teaching methods mentioned above are taught in the TEFL or TESOL course. You get real work experience in a Thai school teaching English to Pratom and Matyom students. Pratom students in Thai schools are children aged up to 10, Matyom students are older.
Do a TEFL course before you embark on teaching the Thai, I would say do it in Thailand so you could get some exposure to Thai schools before you teach them. One TEFL and TESOL school I know and can certainly recommend is UniTEFL in Chiangmai.
UniTEFL Chiang Mai
P & S Building 3
213/2 Huay Kaew Road, T. Suthep
A. Muang Chiang Mai 50200
Email [email protected]
Their program has teaching sessions every week in different schools and is quite a rewarding experience. The course is fairly priced at about 45000 Thai bahts and comes with placement assistance, they don’t guarantee a placement but are good at placing their students.
Do you want to become a teacher of English in Thailand? After reading all this if you still feel that is the job that you want. You can email us [email protected] .
Where to find teaching jobs in Thailand?
2. Another way is talking to agencies. There are many teacher recruitment agencies in Thailand both foreign owned and Thai owned. Agencies place you faster and with schools that may not have advertised online. You can email ([email protected]) a request for agencies’ contact details or check online. Most of them do not charge the job seeker anything, they benefit from the employer and provide additional support to teachers working with them.
3. The other way is to contact schools directly. Here is a list of international schools in Bangkok
read about finding jobs on the post – finer aspects of finding a teaching job in Thailand
read more Teachers salary in Thailand,