Teaching Thais

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Teaching English in Thailand:
An Uphill Battle
Tipa Thep-Ackrapong

The main purpose of this article is to
give an overview of English language teaching
in Thailand. Firstly, some problems involved in
the teaching of English to Thais are discussed,
and this is followed by an examination of some
of the approaches used here for the teaching of
English. Finally, attempts to tackle problems are

In the first regard, it will be shown that
English and Thai are different at all levels:
pronunciation, word, grammar and text.
Moreover, there are different cultural notions
between the two.

In most cases, pronunciation problems
result from the loss of muscular plasticity in the
mouth of an adult foreign language learner
(Brown, 1987). In other words, it is hard for an
adult language learner to pronounce certain
sounds that are unfamiliar to them. Some

problems are as follows:
1. English phonemes
1.1 Some sounds are difficult for Thai
learners to produce. For example, Thai people
are confused by the sounds /l/ and /r/ as in

rice and lice. For example:
Please give me some fried lice (instead
of fried rice.)
Other sounds are for example:
/t∫/ and /∫/ as in chop and shop.
I want to chop for something (instead of shop.)
1.2 The English final consonant may
be the most difficult part of the word for Thais
to pronounce. For example, Thai final stop
sounds are all unvoiced. Therefore, it is hard for
Thai students to produce a final voiced consonant
such as bed, or bid. The influence of the voiced
final consonant /d/ on the preceding vowel /ε/
and /I/ lengthens the sounds of the vowels.
Thus, some Thai students tend to say bate


Teaching English in Thailand : An Uphill Battle

instead of bed and beat instead of bid. Moreover,
in many cases, final consonant sounds such as /d/
,/s/,/∫//dz/ are changed into an alveolar stop
sound such as /t/ as in English becoming Englit.

In short, some English sounds and
stress patterns are difficult for Thai learners
because adult learners tend to lose the çmuscular
plasticityé in the mouth.

The mispronunciation of English final
consonants may make it difficult for English
native speakers to understand Thai pronunciation.
For example:


Execute me (instead of excuse me.)
1.3 This problem also induces
grammatical errors in English. Thai learners
usually delete the final suffix sound for
example: He go (instead of goes) to work
1.4 Consonant clusters are hard. For
example : closed becomes kote.
2. Stress pattern
2.1 Thais usually give a stress at the
end of an English word. For example, they
stress the final sound of the following: education,
economy, democracy, facility and librarian
2.2 Thais do not shift the stress after
the shift of the suffix to change the part of
speech of a word.
For example: economy and economic, library
and librarian. For Thais, there is no difference
in the stress patterns of the pair. They pronounce
economy and economic, library and librarian
with the same stress pattern.

1. Word formation
The formation of words is different. In
English, many morphemes constitute a word.
For example: boys, boyish. In Thai, polysyllabic
words are usually borrowed from Sanskrit, Pali
or Cambodian because most Thai words are
monosyllabic. Some new words are derived
from compound nouns or compound verbs. For
example: ‚√߇√’¬π †a place for study ‡¥Á°™“¬ child male ´ÿ°´àÕπ a compound verb meaning cover
and hide.
As such, it is difficult for Thai students to retain
English morphemes when they use English.
2. Collocation
Some words cannot co-occur in
English. However, some collocational restrictions
are violated by Thai learners. For example:
*My hair is busy (instead of My hair is messy.)
*I play computer (instead of I work on the
*I closed (opened) the radio (instead of I turned
off (on) the...
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