What Makes a Good Thai Teacher?…
Welcome to the fifth post in the Thai Teacher Interview series. If you missed it, Yuki Tachaya (PickUp Thai Podcasts) was the first Thai teacher interview, the second Kannaphat Saelee (Jan), the third Waan Waan (Learn Thai with Waan Waan), and the forth was Kruu Cherry (Rian Thai Kruu Cherry).
Note: At the end of each interview you can download the interview questions to ask Thai teachers of your own choosing.
Interviewing Thai Teacher: Jang…
Name: Phonphailin Ketprayoon
Professional Name: Jang
Age Range: 30-35
Website: in progress
Facebook: Learn Thai the Easy Way
YouTube: Learn Thai with Jang
How long have you been teaching Thai to foreigners?
10 years. I have been teaching Thai to foreigners since 2008.
What made you want to teach Thai?
After I graduated from the university, my first job was staff in a high school and I needed to assist teachers including foreigner teachers with school papers. At that time, I had a chance to use my English to explain things and also taught them Thai words to use in daily life. Since then I felt that it was interesting and useful if I could help foreigners to be able to use Thai, so they could live and work here more easily. Then I decided to start working as a Thai teacher at language schools.
What motivates you to continue teaching Thai?
Watching my students speak in Thai with Thai people, using the language to communicate in their daily lives. After years of teaching, I know this job is what I am happy to do.
What qualifications do you have to teach the Thai language?
I have a Bachelor of Arts with Thai major and English minor from Silapakorn University.
What student age brackets do you teach?
The youngest student I have taught was a 5-year-old girl and the oldest one was 77 years old. (Never too late to learn!)
What nationalities have you taught?
My students are from various countries from all over the world! For example: USA, Australia, UK, Brazil, Canada, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Korea, China, Japanese, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, India, Vietnam and Myanmar!
What percentage of your students are beginner, intermediate, advanced?
70% beginner, 20% intermediate and 10% advanced.
Apart from Thai, what other languages do you use to teach Thai?
Mostly English and some Japanese for very basic words. Anyway, all of my Japanese students can speak English.
What is your level of proficiency in those languages?
Very good in English.
Is your teaching approach more teacher centered or student centered?
It’s mixed, but 80% student centered. As I mostly deliver one-to-one lessons, I focus on what my students need. The students and I always discuss what they want and need to learn.
What are some of your favorite teaching methods?
I show students Thai structures with examples first so they can start creating their own sentences. I encourage them to speak Thai as much as possible, so they can use the structures they have just learnt.
What is your philosophy regarding the four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing?
To learn languages naturally you need to listen to natives first, to learn how they pronounce words. And then you can start imitating those sounds. When you feel more comfortable speaking and know more vocabulary you can then start reading and writing more easily, because you can guess what it means. Also, if you have correct pronunciation, you will be able spell words more easily.
Do you prepare your own materials to give to your students?
Yes. I prepare my own materials to fit individual students. I also create free Thai learning sources on social media: Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and blogs.
If yes, what system of transliteration do you use?
I use Paiboon as it is easy to understand, in my opinion.
In your experience what, if any, are the shortcomings of that system?
There are some symbols that do not exist in English and some look the same as English spellings but they are pronounced differently. These cause a little confusion to learners at the beginning, but I found it easier than other books I have read so far.
What your thoughts about the use of transliteration in teaching Thai?
It causes confusion to the learners because different books use different systems. If you are willing to learn survival Thai, it is fine to start from transliteration. But if you want to be serious and have a good understanding of the Thai language, I think it is better to learn the Thai alphabet.
In your opinion, how important is reading and writing Thai in helping foreigners learn the language?
As I mentioned above different books use different systems, so you will get confused and might not be able to pronounce words correctly as there are some sounds that don’t compare to English. Then learning Thai scripts will help you to pronounce words correctly and have better communication with Thai people as not every Thai can read the symbols in the books.
Ideally, when should foreigners start to learn how to read and write Thai?
If you plan to live in Thailand long-term, you should start learning Thai alphabet earlier rather than later. You cannot avoid Thai script because you will see it every single day and everywhere. Anyway, some of my students gave up learning Thai script as they thought it was too difficult. My suggestion is you can start with the transliteration first until you feel more comfortable communicating in Thai, then start learning how to read and write. It is a good feeling when you finally read and write the words you know in Thai and you will become proud of yourself.
Do you teach in a classroom, venue(s) determined by your student(s), or via Skype?
My lessons are both in person and online via Skype. The in-person lessons can be held at coffee shops or students’ places as agreed.
What do you believe is the hardest subject matter to teach in the Thai language?
It depends on where the students are from. I think tones are very difficult for most of students who are not used to tonal languages. It takes time to practice and learn from mistakes as well. Also, some ending particles are difficult as you cannot find a direct translation in English (but some of them compare to Japanese).
How do you assess whether or not your students understand what you are saying and/or teaching?
As every student of mine needs to interact with me in lessons, so I can check if they understand me or not. For example, I will ask them questions in Thai and request them to answer, or they make sentences using vocabulary or patterns they have just learnt. Also, I assign exercises and homework after the lessons, so I can check then correct any mistakes and make a decision whether I teach the next topic or review the last one.
What do you do when it is obvious that your students do not understand what you are saying and/or teaching?
I will repeat that topic and make sure my students understand it. I will give new examples or explanations until they completely understand.
Ideally, when should an absolute beginner begin to speak Thai?
Right away! At least they should know some basic words like “Hello”, “Thank you” and “Sorry”. It does not have to be anything complicated.
How do you get your students to use Thai?
At the beginning of the lessons, I would simply ask them in Thai what they did yesterday or at weekends. Then they need to tell their stories in Thai. It is a good opportunity to use words and patterns they learnt in previous lessons to form their sentences. If there are words that they have not learnt yet, we will take the opportunity to learn new words as well.
How strict are you in respect of tones and/or vowel length?
I am strict but in a friendly way. I will give examples how tones and vowel length affect meanings. It can cause bad words, funny situations or misunderstandings. This will help students to become aware of their pronunciation. If I hear mistakes, I will correct them and also give funny tricks to remember tones or vowel length better as I believe that humour sticks in our minds longer.
What are some of the pronunciation problems unique to a particular nationality in learning Thai that you have observed in your students?
Most of my Chinese students cannot pronounce “ง”, “น” or “ม” they pronounce in “ล” instead (Also “ง”, “ป” and “ต” in general students). I need to show them how to form their mouth to pronounce those sounds correctly.
What are your thoughts about beginners learning and using colloquialisms, slang and/or swear words when they speak Thai?
If those colloquialisms and slang are commonly used among Thais, I think it is okay to use them. Anyway, you should know proper words as well because not everybody understands all slang. As for swear words, I think they are good to know, but not to use. I am also a language learner, so I know how exciting it is to learn something bad sometimes. To be honest, I also learn swear words and bad words in English, but I do not use them. I do not think it is nice manners to say rude words to other people.
What are your thoughts about beginners using ภาษาวิบัติ or ‘social media Thai’?
As long as they know the real meanings and spellings, I think it is okay. It is something funny to giggle about with friends. You must know when is a good time to use those ภาษาวิบัติ, and when you need to use a formal Thai. It is another way of learning.
In respect of standards, what are the general expectations you have of your students?
I expect my students to be able to communicate in Thai and spend their daily lives with less problems. They should be able to express what they would or would not like and have a good relation with Thai people.
What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?
Don’t be scared of making mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes all the time. You can laugh and learn from them. Then you can try to have small talk with street venders, taxi drivers, or your Thai friends every day. You can find good learning sources on the Internet to practice Thai as well. You can make your own flash cards or download applications for your mobile phone to learn new words on the way to work or return home. It will turn your boring time in traffic to a fun learning time!
Learn Thai the Easy WayThai 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.