Interpretive Reading for Thai Students
Interpretative reading can be defined as the analysis of literary texts and subsequent enunciation of those texts. It is also sometimes called dramatic reading and relies on the reader’s voice to convey the emotion, drama and imagery of a narrative without actually acting it out. A good interpretative reader must possess a number of vocal skills such as the ability to control vocal tone, volume, pace and inflection to accurately communicate meaning and build drama. In addition to clear articulation and correct pronunciation, which are paramount to the audience’s understanding, the reader must have an in depth understanding of the text in order to produce a meaningful interpretation of it. In other words the narrator needs to be able to know the characters, imagine their backgrounds and feel their emotions to be believable.
Good interpretive reading is a difficult skill even for native speakers to master and takes preparation and plenty of practice; however, for a student in the Thai education system faces a number of distinct disadvantages in becoming a proficient interpretative reader. To begin with the languages of Thai and English are very different. We have different stress patterns on words and there are sounds in English which don’t exist in Thai, both of which make clear pronunciation challenging for students and although many Thai schools now employ native speaking English teachers who are able to model correct pronunciation and natural rhythm, lots of Thai students lack confidence and have little opportunity to practice English outside of their classroom. In addition, English uses intonation to convey different meanings and emotions whereas Thai uses a fixed tone for each word so it is often hard for a Thai student to express emotions like sarcasm or disbelief through inflection even when they recognize the need to do so. Another barrier for many Thai students, aside from the enunciation, is actually understanding the text well enough to interpret it. This depends upon, not only the student’s knowledge of English language and ability to follow the plot but also on previous personal, educational and cultural experience that influence the way the narrative is interpreted. A student lacking exposure to western culture and a deeper understanding of the social norms, stereotypes and cultural issues surrounding a text might struggle with a credible portrayal of characters and personation. These factors coupled with a general lack of focus on key reading skills leave Thai students at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to dramatic reading abilities. So, how do we assess the state of Thai interpretive reading? Do we take into account the many disadvantages that Thai students face in learning to read expressively and if so what criteria is it fair to judge them on? After some research into the rubric schools overseas use to evaluate students’ interpretive reading skills we decided to base our assessment on the following criteria:-
Pace. The speed at which a reader speaks, increasing speed creates drama and intensity.
Pause. The lingering of the voice on, before or after a word for dramatic effect.
Volume. Adds emphasis or fullness of tone. It can be used with other forms of emphasis to exaggerate emphasis.
Melody. The wave-like change in voice pitch depends on the reader recognizing the relative importance of words in the text.
Inflection. The bending of the voice from the main pitch up or down.
Personation. The reader’s interpretation of the character.
Pitch. The degree of highness or lowness to a tone adds more subtle emphasis.
Confidence. How comfortable is the speaker with reading aloud the text.
The readers pace, volume and use of pause are techniques that can be used to emphasize mood or add drama but in the case of a non native speaker an overly loud or quiet reading could be due to nervousness and a pause or change in...
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