Teaching Conversational English to Thai Students
"An alternative approach using Role Play for ESL Students"
Willard Van De Bogart
Nakhon Sawan Rajabhat University
August 27, 2006
The methods developed for teaching conversational English are as varied as the English language itself. This paper outlines an approach based on pronunciation, vocabulary building and a situation specific role play model. The technique developed is based on a learning model that is repetitive in nature, with each lesson having the same structure for presenting the conversational English exercise. A systematic functional approach in presenting English conversation is used with each lesson being situation-language specific. A translation of the English vocabulary into Thai was also incorporated into each lesson plan. This provided the new learner with a quick reference by which to familiarize him/herself with each specific situation of the spoken English. The situation specific role-play model is so structured that it could meet a wide range of learner's needs and levels; be they professional, primary, secondary or college level students. Each specific situation was acted out in the class room, thus developing an acting role play model whereby students would actually be placed in a physical setting where they had to use the language for each specific situation. Introduction:
The most universal need expressed by Thai students wanting to speak English is to be able to learn conversational English. Usually, this desire to learn conversational English is further clarified by Thai students requesting that they do not want to learn grammar, but only how to have a conversation using English. Although this may be the desire of the Thai student the truth is that some understanding of grammar is essential when learning how to have a conversation. I will discuss the use of grammar in this paper after I have reviewed the different role-play formats. Nowadays, as Thailand is beginning to play a more prominent role internationally, learners of languages are realizing the benefits open to those who can speak foreign languages, in particular English and a demand for English proficiency in many institutions is desirable. This demand is not only for basic conversational English, but also for learning English to pass TOEFL examinations, for entrance into English speaking universities, making presentations at symposiums or professional organizations and greeting tourists who are increasingly choosing SE Asia as a preferred destination for vacations. In writing this paper, I draw upon a plethora of experiences teaching English in Thailand to Thai students, both graduate and undergraduate, primary and secondary school level ranging from pathom 1-6 and mattayom 1-6, as well as government officials and employees. I have also taught English for Specific Purposes (ESP) courses for lawyers, doctors and nurses, accountants and many other professional disciplines. The ability to communicate in English is a necessary prerequisite in conducting business on an international level and in diplomatic exchanges. At this juncture, the present writer would like to point out that the majority of Thai students and professionals under his tutelage have not, as yet, had the opportunity or indeed been put in any situation which warranted the need to speak English. However, learning institutions, government agencies, and businesses are being required to raise the level of English proficiency for their students, employees, and staff in order to meet the ever increasing demand for English proficiency to operate effectively and productively as globalization now encompasses Thailand. Consequently, many of the directors, presidents of educational institutions and administrative heads of companies are now responsible for making English more accessible to their subordinates, but are finding themselves at a...
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