Why it’s So Important for My Thai Students to Learn English
Every day I am reminded how lucky I am to be a native English speaker. English is the world’s second language; it’s universal. I can travel to almost any country and will be able to get by, to some extent, with English. I often take this for granted; in America, you don’t think twice about the language that you speak because everyone around you also speaks it. Traveling, however, and especially working abroad, allows you to be grateful for your language and reminds you that it is a gift. At least it does for me.
I teach English in Thailand to grades 7, 8, 10 and 11. I have a wide variety of skill levels in my classroom with my thai students: some that are just about fluent in English and can carry on intelligent conversations, some in the middle who get by fine, and some who can barely form a sentence. I try to teach to the middle students, incorporating games and activities where all levels can work to their personal potentials. It’s a challenge, but I am always so impressed with my students. I recently asked my 11th graders why learning English is important to them. While I expected most to say that it wasn’t important and they
were forced to take it in school, most actually understood the importance of the language for university, travel and business
purposes. Most countries don’t speak Thai, they agreed, but every country has a few people who can speak English. If they want to get better jobs, be in an international program at university, or make a higher salary, English is an important language to learn.
As my Thai students struggle with English and put forth little effort, I’m reminded of my days studying high school Spanish. I was terrible at the language, always frustrated, and did the bare minimum to get by with a B. I retained a few sentences and random vocabulary words, but I haven’t yet been in a country where my limited skills were necessary. I can sympathize with my students in this way, but Spanish is not English! While English is a difficult language to learn, especially with how different it is from Thai, it holds so much more value in our society. Maybe if I had a specific purpose for learning Spanish, other than the fact that it was a required course, I would have tried harder and done better. It’s why I push my students to recognize their own purpose in my classroom, and realize how lucky they are for the opportunity to learn English at such a young age.