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Interviewing Thai Teacher: Waan Waan

Interviewing Thai Teacher

What Makes a Good Thai Teacher?…

Welcome to the third post in the Thai Teacher Interview series. If you missed it, Yuki Tachaya (PickUp Thai Podcasts) was the first Thai teacher interview, and the second Kannaphat Saelee Study Thai).

Note: At the end of each interview you can download the interview questions to ask Thai teachers of your own choosing.

Interviewing Thai Teacher: Waan Waan…

Name: Napaporn Yinbanroeng
Professional name: Waan Waan
Age range: 30-40
Location: Bangkok
Facebook: Learn Thai with Waan Waan
Youtube: Learn Thai with Waan Waan

How long have you been teaching Thai to foreigners?

Since 1999. Now it is not difficult to guess how old I am, right? Lol

What motivates you to continue teaching Thai?

As a teacher, I do not consider myself to be only a language teacher but more like someone who understands what my students feel when they experience cultural differences but unable to express themselves because of the language barrier. It is such a rewarding sensation to bridge the gap and help them have mutual understanding with the Thai people using the Thai language.

How long do you see yourself teaching Thai?

As long as I still enjoy it. With the social media nowadays, it makes it even more fun to create teaching materials. I find myself enjoying going around Thailand filming different things related to the Thai language for my students, be it cultural, psychological or linguistic aspects of the country. I‘ve got so many ideas in my head for creating resources for my audience and I hope to deliver that to them in a fun and creative way. I also want to write books that my students can use and also do some recordings for audio lessons or organizing workshops / meetups / outings for people who not only want to learn the language but want to immerse themselves in the Thai environment and culture. As you can see my career still has lots of room to grow. Hope you guys do not give up before me! lol

What student age brackets do you teach?

My students are mostly adults between 20 to 60 years of age. Sometimes I have some students who are younger or older than that. The youngest one is 6 years old and the oldest one is 65 years old.

What are the types of courses that you offer?

I offer a variety of courses to fit all kinds of students’ needs. As I tend to create my own materials to teach them, each course can vary from beginner Thai, intermediate, to advanced business Thai, not only conversational, and reading but also writing courses. For example I had a student from Q8 petroleum company so I created teaching materials from his work documents. And when I taught students from the US embassy the teaching materials were created based on their needs to pass the exam held to test their ability of using Thai at the work place. Some other students of mine are from different industries eg Unilever, Chanel, Thai namthip (Coca Cola) and as you can imagine I had to design the courses and activities that were suitable for their interests and nature of work each one has to deal with on a daily basis. All you need to do is contact me and let me know what types of course suit you best, I may have to assess all 4 of your skills and we will further discuss possible options in detail.

What nationalities have you taught?

I have taught students from all over the world like in Asia I have had Japanese, Chinese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Burmese, Indian, Filipino, Cambodian, Indonesian, Taiwanese, Korean students. From Europe, they are from France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Spain, England, Scotland, Belgium, Ireland, etc. and of course students from the US, Australia and Brazil as well.

Apart from Thai, what other languages do you use to teach Thai? Have you studied and/or lived abroad before? If yes, please tell us about your experiences as an overseas student or expat.

English and Chinese language. English was my major subject and the minor subject at the university was Chinese. I lived in Guangzhou, China for my study for two years so that is very useful when I teach students who speak Chinese.

I was also a cultural exchange student in New Zealand and travelled to the US and South America for a year which helped a lot with character building and understanding of different cultures. I realized I became more extroverted after all these years of traveling and living abroad since I had to try to communicate with the locals using English and Chinese. Speaking a language is a skill, just like driving and swimming , which means you will have to actually “do it” and practice a lot if you want to be fluent. When it comes to speaking, I have to say it is really your own choice to have to push yourself against your true nature in order to master a language. I myself was an introvert before and I had to break out of my comfort zone to improve my language skills. All of these experiences greatly give me sympathy for my students as a language learner.

What are some of your favorite teaching methods?

My teaching methods are dependent on whom I teach and how many of them in one class. Some students can learn best when they listen, some by speaking and some by reading. When I start a new class I have to determine what each student is like, what are their interests and learning methods in order to deliver the best lessons to them. Having said that, my favorite methods are flash cards and role play. At the beginning I would make my students look at pictures and listen to a lot of series of words repeatedly without taking notes and I will have them repeated those words with increased speed each time they repeat them. Then I will teach them sentence structures and put those words into sentences and stories. I tend to want to train them to listen and speak with the Thai speed and I also teach them both the proper Thai and the spoken street Thai. So social media like Facebook and Youtube are used for some short listening practice as well as teaching materials created by me.

Is your teaching approach more teacher centered or student centered?

Both teacher centered and student centered approaches are used with different groups of students. I have a course outline of what the students are supposed to learn and I let them determine what they want to learn. With structured lessons and my help, they will grasp things naturally and develop their language skills gradually.

Do you use course books in teaching Thai?

Sometimes as a supplementary material. I prefer my own selected materials.

How do you assess whether or not your students understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

By letting them do exercises after each lesson…maybe making sentences, role play, making questions from what has been taught, etc.

What do you do when it is obvious that your students do not understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

I give them more examples and let them practice with different approaches. One thing I always keep in mind is that each student has their own way and their own pace of learning things and everyone can have a bad day, so sometimes I have to tell myself not to be too hard on them and I will try to find out what works best for them and help them achieve their goal gradually. The key is to Jai yen yen! ☺

What are your thoughts about the use of transliteration in teaching Thai?

I am not too strict when it comes to transliteration. A student said to me once transliteration is like learning another language that no one actually uses in reality …and I agree. So I tend to let my students spell things the way they hear it and it works very well considering they are from different countries having different mother tongues.

In your opinion, how important is reading and writing Thai in helping foreigners learn the language?

I think it is important to learn to read Thai. There are a number of students who claim to read before speaking so I think it is very important on day to day survival because if you can read at least you will be able to read road signs and go around by yourself. However, to go beyond your limits you are required to speak the language as well. In my opinion it is best if you learn to speak a bit before starting to read and the reading exercise should be prepared based on the vocab you previously learn from speaking lessons so that it enhances your speaking ability eg pronunciation and so on. I do not teach reading from ABC (ก ข ค), but I teach them based on their three groups of consonants and built up exercises are created afterward.

Ideally, when should an absolute beginner begin to speak Thai?

As mentioned above, it is your own choice to break out of your comfort zone and start using it. I would say anyone can speak another language from day one they start to learn even if it’s a short sentence like “bpai nai ไปไหน” or a word like “ห้องน้ำ toilet”. When I was traveling in South America I didn’t speak any Spanish, the first word I picked up was Banos as it was written at the toilet every time the bus stopped for it. So I started to say “Banos” and some other words came up from time to time. Later when I had a chance to take an intensive short Spanish course in Sucre, Bolivia, I walked to the market from day one that I learned to buy my food and it wasn’t just ready to eat food, but I tried to buy a kilo of beef / pork and some veggies because I wanted to cook by myself. Yes, I went with my notes taken in class but the next few days I got better and better I didn’t need it anymore. Then one day I wanted to buy sugar but it seemed the sugar shops only sold a kilo at least so I had to think of how to get a small quantity of five baht sugar. So I walked to the fruit juice stall that I had my juice for the past days and tried to tell the seller I only wanted to buy a small amount but those people wanted to sell me a kilo, can I buy just a bit from you? And yeah I got a five baht of sugar for my cooking that evening…And I was so proud of my limited Spanish language at the time. I am not good at Spanish but did you get what moral of the story is?

Last but not least, do I have to tell you speaking a language cannot kill you unlike when you learn to drive or to swim? :D You are not gonna die or hurt yourself by speaking it, right ? So just go out and have a laugh with your new learned language as soon as you can, ok?

With love,
Waan Waan, your Thai teacher
Learn Thai with Waan Waan

Thai teacher interview questions…

The download has additional questions for you to pick and choose from – enough for everyone’s liking.

Download: Questions for potential Thai teachers

Watch this space for more Thai teacher interviews.

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Interviewing Thai Teacher: Kannaphat Saelee (Jan)

Interviewing Thai Teacher

What Makes a Good Thai Teacher?…

Welcome to the second post in the Thai Teacher Interview series. If you missed it, the first interview was with Yuki Tachaya (PickUp Thai Podcasts).

Note: At the end of each interview you can download the interview questions to ask Thai teachers of your own choosing.

Interviewing Thai Teacher: Kannaphat Saelee (Jan)…

Name: Kannaphat Saelee (Jan)Interviewing Thai Teacher
Professional name: Jan
Age range: 30 – 40
Location: Bangkok
Website: Study Thai
Facebook: Study Thai With Kru Jan
Skype: jankannaphat

How long have you been teaching Thai to foreigners?

Almost 7 years. I started in 2011 in Chiang Mai and moved to Bangkok in 2017.

What made you want to teach Thai?

I find teaching Thai to foreigners very challenging. Even though you’re a native speaker and speak perfect Thai, it doesn’t mean you can teach it to others. I have a good understanding of both English and Thai, not just the language but also the way both cultures think and interact . So I enjoy helping foreigners to understand the similarities and differences to bridge that cultural gap. And because I enjoy helping others see the connections, it never feels like work.

What qualifications do you have to teach the Thai language?

Apart from being a native speaker of the language, I also have a degree in linguistics. I’m officially trained and have worked in 2 licensed schools in Chiang Mai, teaching Thai as a foreign language. And with 7 years of experience under my belt, I am confident of my qualifications.

What student age brackets do you teach?

All ages, the youngest student I ever had was 8 and the oldest one was 80. Yes, 80! You can never be too young or too old. People often debate about the best time to learn a new language, and I always say the time is now.

What are the types of courses that you offer?

I offer:

1. Survival Thai ( 2-6 sessions)
2. Beginner Level (Beginner Level 1, 2)
3. Intermediate Level (Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate Level 1, 2)
4. Advanced Level (Pre-Advanced and Advanced Level 1, 2)
5. Reading & Writing Thai (15 – 20 sessions)
6. Customized Thai Lessons

Have you studied and/or lived abroad before?

Although I get asked many times whether I have studied or lived abroad before, I actually studied in Chiang Mai University and have always lived in Thailand my entire life. So, I jokingly tell my students if I can learn to speak English fluently growing up in Thailand, they have no excuse not to learn Thai!

Is your teaching approach more teacher centered or student centered?

Both. I always listen to my students’ requests and suggestions but I make the final decision on what is best for them. I pay attention to each student individually and see how they learn best. Each student requires a unique approach to learning. Some methods might work with some students, while others may not. And sometimes, students don’t know what they need most. So while I follow a specific course overall, each lesson is tailored to the individual student or class.

What are some of your favorite teaching methods?


I have seen so many learners fail in learning to read Thai or they find it’s extremely difficult to conquer. So, after having successfully taught many students to read Thai, I found it’s best to teach them for a shorter time with specific orders.

I designed a reading & writing course that will help students to learn Thai script in 30 hours within a 5-week period. It has worked really well so far. I was confident it would work from the beginning, but when I really started to see increased comprehension, I knew this unique approach was gold.

For conversational Thai, I sometimes take my students to a local coffee shop, restaurant or a market, so they can learn from using the language in everyday life. It’s relaxing and effective.

Do you use course books in teaching Thai?

I use books and handouts and online materials. I wrote my own books and all materials to use in my lessons.

What your thoughts about the use of transliteration in teaching Thai?

It’s not the best idea and could cause confusion. However, it’s useful for complete beginners. They just need to stop depending on it as soon as possible.

In your opinion, how important is reading and writing Thai in helping foreigners learn the language?

I think being able to read Thai script is essential in learning Thai and eventually mastering the language. The more interactions you have with the language the more likely it will stick. Also, Thai language is a phonetic language so learning how to read will help you better to pronounce and communicate with the locals.

I usually recommend students to learn to read Thai if they want to speak Thai well. Thai language is all about the pronunciation. With the romanized transliteration you can never learn the real sounds. It’s only close but not the same.

I wrote about the benefits of learning how to read and write Thai. You can find here: Five Reasons for Learning to Read and Write Thai.

Do you use technology in teaching Thai? If yes, what do you use?

Yes, I also offer lessons on Skype. I use google spreadsheet and online whiteboard as tools. In my classroom, I put all my flashcards on iPad, so I don’t have to carry the cards everywhere and it’s easy to share to my students. Furthermore, I put all my lessons + audio recordings on Dropbox so that my students have access and can download from anywhere.

What are some of the issues unique to a particular nationality in learning Thai that you have observed in your students?

Hmmm…. It seems to be harder to learn Thai for those who come from English speaking countries. Most of them only speak one language and learning your second language is harder than your third.

How do you help your students overcome those issues?

Since I have a good understanding of the English language, I show them how it works in English and how it works in Thai. I explain the similarities and the differences. It usually helps.

In your opinion, how important is learning about Thai culture in helping foreigners learn the language?

I think it’s the other way round, learning the language helps foreigners learn Thai culture. For example, we have many words with ใจ (jai) which means heart in Thai e.g. ใจดี ใจร้าย ใจร้อน ใจเย็น เข้าใจ เปลี่ยนใจ. We use the heart to understand and we (Thai people) would say “change the heart” as opposed to “change the mind”. Because ใจ (jai) is simply THAT important in Thai culture.

How do you assess whether or not your students understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

I give my students an evaluating exam from time to time to see their progress. Sometimes I just ask them if they understand and if they say they do, I ask them to explain back to me.

What do you do when it is obvious that your students do not understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

I explain again but in different ways or give them lots of examples. I always make sure they understand correctly.

How strict are you in respect of tones and/or vowel length?

Strict. All for their good. I correct them every time they say a word wrong, especially a super common word, until they get tired of that and finally remember the tones. I don’t mind doing it over and over.

What are your thoughts about beginners learning and using colloquialisms, slang and/or swear words when they speak Thai?

I always tell them to avoid using slang and swear words that they don’t fully understand. When you are not sure, don’t use it. Because it could offend people.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of teaching Thai?

Answering students questions. My students are from all over the world, with different backgrounds. They ask all sorts of questions related to the Thai language. Some questions you have never thought about before. But as a teacher, you should have a good answer for them. So, I find this challenging. It also determines whether they think you’re a good teacher or not because understanding their questions is important too.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Be patient with yourself but don’t wait until your Thai is perfect to speak Thai. Be comfortable making mistakes because that’s the best way to learn Thai. Try to use it in your daily life even when they speak back to you in English. Take the opportunity and get yourself fully immersed with the language if you’re in Thailand. Finally, practice, practice and practice.

Good luck!

Kannaphat Saelee (Jan),
Study Thai

Thai teacher interview questions…

The download has additional questions for you to pick and choose from – enough for everyone’s liking.

Download: Questions for potential Thai teachers

Watch this space for more Thai teacher interviews.

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