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Thailand’s English proficiency plummets: Survey


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20 hours ago, Thunglom said:

I don't think you fully understand the significance of Latin in today's world.

almost half of the English language is derived from Latin-based words. This means that people from Latin-based languages have a distinct advantage when it comes to learning English as they will recognise a lot of the vocabulary - and of course the script.

Oh I understand. But IMHO just because your home language is not one of the Internationally used Indo-European or Sino-Tibetan languages doesn't mean that you should be held responsible for speaking them to your guests.

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6 minutes ago, jacko45k said:

I do not expect any tourists to be able to speak the language of the country they simply visit. I would expect people of that country, who are employed in tourism, to have some communication ability in some common language..... be it English, or Chinese if that is the demographic they deal with mostly. 

If I go live in another country I should try to learn that country's language. (But I struggle).

I regard myself as fortunate that my language is one commonly used, which make my life easier. 

 

I have always been amused by immigration here... one language they should not need is Thai! 

 

 

 

"I have always been amused by immigration here... one language they should not need is Thai!". 

 

If they didn't speak Thai then they would have to have all the Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan languages spoken at every office!  Good luck with that! 😆

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On 11/27/2021 at 2:20 PM, Mango Bob said:

Maybe we English speaking countries who live in Thailand should try speaking some Thai.  I bet we are worst then the Thais.

Guilty as charged ..... มีความผิดตามข้อกล่าวหา

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On 11/27/2021 at 2:43 PM, CrunchWrapSupreme said:

Where to begin. The low wages for foreign teachers. The low requirements for foreign teachers. Better qualified teachers that wouldn't be attracted by the low wages anyway. The ridiculous visa and paperwork process in getting hired. Then the paperwork that comes in the schools themselves. Ridiculous lesson plans and reports which must be stacked into neat, fat binders, despite having little to do with the education itself. Oh, if only that effort in generating paperwork could actually be devoted to teaching.

 

While the papers may say this and that is being done, students are allowed run amok in the classrooms, taking selfies, playing games, quite often awhile the teachers are away at meetings or sitting in the office, or classes are canceled due to activities. No discipline, no accountability. Copying and cheating. Passing scores which must be given regardless if they do nothing.

 

So there are a few good, devoted teachers and their rare, motivated students, who usually make up less than 20% of a class. They're given the boot out of Thailand after a maximum of 6 years teaching, or less if they've switched schools more often, due to the flawed teaching license waiver system from the Teacher's Council. (Though I heard a new passport might get around this. 😉)

 

Then as usual, they'll try sticking it on the farangs, ignoring how much their system's at fault, and that the majority of English teachers in Thailand happen to be Thai.

It's the education system here .....it's broke ..... from first schooling to University.

 

The student passes at any and all costs ....even with a separate markup exam paper, aided by the teacher to coach the student through the exam paper answers.

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On 11/27/2021 at 12:35 PM, EricTh said:

 

The problem in Thailand  is that the most important criterion for hiring English teacher is that they must be native speakers.

 

Most of these English teachers don't know how to teach English as a second language. Speaking it fluently  is not the same as teaching it well.

 

 

@EricTh  An education system were the students can't fail is one of the major problems, what student is going to bother when they know they will still pass if they do the work or if they don't. it's madness to have a system like that.    just because of their obsession with loss of face

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2 hours ago, David T Pike said:

I suppose that Thai tourists in the USA expect you to speak Thai? No they don't! So we should not expect Thais to speak English either! Learn the language of the country that you are a guest of! 

Good idea then any tourist should do a compulsory 6 week intensive course in Thai and pass an exam' in Thai as a requirement for being issued a visa.

That'll have them coming in their mllions.

Edited by overherebc
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7 hours ago, pomchop said:

There are a lot of retired English speaking ex pats here, many of whom are bored, and would likely be glad to help out as a volunteer English teacher IF IF they didn't need non sense work permits for volunteering to help the kids.  In my experience what the kids really need is more hearing the English language and less studying diagraming sentences as taught by Thai teachers.  I was a volunteer and my task was to speak English only  to the kids and attempt to get them to give it a try.  Most of my kids had never even met/heard a native English speaker in person and amazingly after a while I was able to get most of them to not be so shy and to actually give speaking a try. And a few actually picked it up pretty well.

 

If the Thai govt would treat these expats as a valuable asset and develop a program to encourage them to help and give serious people an incentive of an easy to extend one year visas and no work permit BS I suspect that a few thousand  expats would volunteer a few days a week at their local schools. 

 

What have they or the kids got to lose?  (I know, it could mean a loss of face but get over it for the kids sake.)

Nice dream, shame you  had to wake up 😉

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2 hours ago, berrec said:

It's the education system here .....it's broke ..... from first schooling to University.

 

The student passes at any and all costs ....even with a separate markup exam paper, aided by the teacher to coach the student through the exam paper answers.

Not "to university." - from first schooling until the completion of university - although the level of English teaching at university is at a higher level (usually). 

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On 11/27/2021 at 12:53 PM, Thailand said:

Perhaps they should learn American? 😀

Or perhaps Americans should learn a second language. I recently read that the number of Americans able to speak a second non-English language has risen over the past 10 years from around 8 million to just over 20 million in a population of nearly 350 million.

Seems questionable that Americans speaking a second non-English language would rank higher than Thai speaking English (or any other second language, especially with many Thai of Chinese decent, or at home speaking a local dialect of Thai) in a side-by-side comparison.

Though, not to exclude other seemingly many other mono-lingual countries, a comedian recently quipped that while being fluent in 3 languages is tri-lingual, two-languages is bi-lingual, knowing just one language is British (with all due respect to the UK).

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2 hours ago, overherebc said:

Good idea then any tourist should do a compulsory 6 week intensive course in Thai and pass an exam' in Thai as a requirement for being issued a visa.

That'll have them coming in their mllions.

Mai pen rai...kun pood paasaa anggrit dai mai?

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One point that has not been touched on is the Thai predilection for qualifications over education. This is demonstrated each year at universities, where it becomes abundantly clear that the gradation ceremony is the highlight of the academic year. I experienced this teaching external English courses at a public university in Bangkok, where the requirement to move from one level to the next was simply to have attended at least nine of the twelve lessons of the course. Most students would turn up to exactly nine, but would soon find themselves at a level above their capability. Not to worry, they would muddle through another nine lessons and move on again, clutching the appropriate certificate. Many so called 'advanced' students, with qualifications to match, were really not much better than beginners. 

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3 hours ago, paulikens said:

@EricTh  An education system were the students can't fail is one of the major problems, what student is going to bother when they know they will still pass if they do the work or if they don't. it's madness to have a system like that.    just because of their obsession with loss of face

Yes, the system has flaws but if the teacher were good, he would have made the lesson more interesting so that the students would be more interested to learn.

 

The problem is that most native English speakers teach English as if the students were first language learners.

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26 minutes ago, Stupooey said:

One point that has not been touched on is the Thai predilection for qualifications over education. This is demonstrated each year at universities, where it becomes abundantly clear that the gradation ceremony is the highlight of the academic year. I experienced this teaching external English courses at a public university in Bangkok, where the requirement to move from one level to the next was simply to have attended at least nine of the twelve lessons of the course. Most students would turn up to exactly nine, but would soon find themselves at a level above their capability. Not to worry, they would muddle through another nine lessons and move on again, clutching the appropriate certificate. Many so called 'advanced' students, with qualifications to match, were really not much better than beginners. 

My wife, Thai, has very good english skills, an overseas education as all the family had. One job she had with an expat company was to interview Thai applicants for office positions. All of the  CVs she got presented with had glowing reports of ability in english.

She reckoned 1 from 20 of the applicants could actually hold a short conversation in english. The rest had a few well rehearsed sentences that in most cases had nothing to do with the position they were applying for. 99% had degrees in 'english studies' etc gained here.

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4 hours ago, David T Pike said:

Oh I understand. But IMHO just because your home language is not one of the Internationally used Indo-European or Sino-Tibetan languages doesn't mean that you should be held responsible for speaking them to your guests.

Eh? - Talking about the ease with which different language speakers learn languages.Not implying obligation.

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12 minutes ago, overherebc said:

My wife, Thai, has very good english skills, an overseas education as all the family had. One job she had with an expat company was to interview Thai applicants for office positions. All of the  CVs she got presented with had glowing reports of ability in english.

She reckoned 1 from 20 of the applicants could actually hold a short conversation in english. The rest had a few well rehearsed sentences that in most cases had nothing to do with the position they were applying for. 99% had degrees in 'english studies' etc gained here.

This is normal for many  applicants regardless of nationality.

 

it is also well known that most people grossly overrate their own abilities in foreign languages.

Edited by Thunglom
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On 11/28/2021 at 3:02 PM, thaibook said:

Not sure about you but I am not a country.  I am sure that our Thai would be worse than that of Thais but the article was comparing the proficiency of Thai people taking English exams with that of other foreigners.  

You mean comparing Thais to others in countries where English is not their first language. 

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2 hours ago, Cat Boy said:

Or perhaps Americans should learn a second language. I recently read that the number of Americans able to speak a second non-English language has risen over the past 10 years from around 8 million to just over 20 million in a population of nearly 350 million.

Seems questionable that Americans speaking a second non-English language would rank higher than Thai speaking English (or any other second language, especially with many Thai of Chinese decent, or at home speaking a local dialect of Thai) in a side-by-side comparison.

Though, not to exclude other seemingly many other mono-lingual countries, a comedian recently quipped that while being fluent in 3 languages is tri-lingual, two-languages is bi-lingual, knowing just one language is British (with all due respect to the UK).

Now I'm too lazy to look up the numbers, but in the US there are around 60 million Hispanics, and i would say the majority of us speak English & Spanish. Add in the South Asians who will speak English and Hindi or Bengali, the Chinese and Vietnamese plus all the other immigrant groups.

In the US at least most immigrant families tend to hold on to second languages.

 

So not really sure your 20 million number holds up.

I'm tempted to say that when asked the question, folks don't even consider their second 'native' tongue as a second language

Edited by GinBoy2
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2 hours ago, GinBoy2 said:

Now I'm too lazy to look up the numbers, but in the US there are around 60 million Hispanics, and i would say the majority of us speak English & Spanish. Add in the South Asians who will speak English and Hindi or Bengali, the Chinese and Vietnamese plus all the other immigrant groups.

In the US at least most immigrant families tend to hold on to second languages.

 

So not really sure your 20 million number holds up.

I'm tempted to say that when asked the question, folks don't even consider their second 'native' tongue as a second language

You are correct. I don't know the original source I quoted. Yes, I should have double checked first. I'll update edit if possible the original post.

As of 2018, 67.4 million Americans spoke a second language other than English, out of a then population of 327 million that would make just over 20% or 1 in 5. Apparently it was 1 in 10 as of 1980.

Still, one wonders how that would compare to Thailand, with a strong proviso that many who would claim to speak English in Thailand and even have a university degree in English, cannot hold a simple conversation.

And part of the earlier point made was that many Thai do speak Chinese, though admittedly, as with English, it may well be broken Mandarin or Cantonese, barely learned from a parent and long forgotten.

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1 hour ago, Cat Boy said:

You are correct. I don't know the original source I quoted. Yes, I should have double checked first. I'll update edit if possible the original post.

As of 2018, 67.4 million Americans spoke a second language other than English, out of a then population of 327 million that would make just over 20% or 1 in 5. Apparently it was 1 in 10 as of 1980.

Still, one wonders how that would compare to Thailand, with a strong proviso that many who would claim to speak English in Thailand and even have a university degree in English, cannot hold a simple conversation.

And part of the earlier point made was that many Thai do speak Chinese, though admittedly, as with English, it may well be broken Mandarin or Cantonese, barely learned from a parent and long forgotten.

Did the survey quote a difference in numbers between those who learned a second language and those whose native language was not english but had learned english in USA and did they learn by exposure to english or by taking lessons in english, or both?

Edited by overherebc
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5 hours ago, Thunglom said:

This is normal for many  applicants regardless of nationality.

 

it is also well known that most people grossly overrate their own abilities in foreign languages.

Agreed. The problem here though is that someone can have an official certificate, issued by a respected university, saying that they have an 'advanced' level of English, when all they have done is attend lessons without ever being tested on their ability. 

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9 minutes ago, Stupooey said:

Agreed. The problem here though is that someone can have an official certificate, issued by a respected university, saying that they have an 'advanced' level of English, when all they have done is attend lessons without ever being tested on their ability. 

Well that's very true

 

My son who was born in Singapore obviously spoke and wrote perfect English when we moved to Thailand when he was 11.

 

His 'English' teacher at what was i was told the best International school in Khon Kaen was very well credentialed.

Me and my wife would read the corrections to his homework, and to be honest didn't know whether to laugh or cry it was so bad.

I remember a particular parent evening when he tried to talk to me in English. It was so embarrassingly bad. Eventually to end the misery I just switched to Thai, which I think made him give a sigh of relief, just to end the torture.

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1 hour ago, Stupooey said:

Agreed. The problem here though is that someone can have an official certificate, issued by a respected university, saying that they have an 'advanced' level of English, when all they have done is attend lessons without ever being tested on their ability. 

The best practical qualifications for English proficiency are IELTS, TOEFL and TOIEC. I'm not sure that any of these ae included in the survey.

Did you hear of the TOIEC scandal? That was based in the UK. It resulted in thousands of students losing their education visas.

 

However graft and corruption has a very distinctive nature in Thailand and I came across many adults who have language qualifications that are most probably fraudulent - I would put TOIEC at the top.

I worked in a company for a few years that exported a lot to English speaking countries and suggested that the upper management might take a TOiEC assessment, course and test. The idea was roundly rejected. I realised this was because most of the older and senior Thai executives had TY"OIEC scores that were basically fraudulent and did not want to be exposed. It was obvious there language was very poor and these qualifications had come for years or even decades before. Te younger workers middle management and engineers were all very keen to get a score.

many educational institutions in Thailand issue certificates in all sorts of things including English proficiency. It is very diffi=cult to work out which are worthwhile and which aren't worth the paper they are printed on. 

I've also lectured Thai English Teachers on TOEIC and TOEFL courses and the standard of English really varies widely. How som eve qualified as English teachers is beyond me.

 

Practices at school level ane just hopeless.

One scenario I became aware of was a high school teacher who hasd failed a student on the year as he had hardly attended any classes but was unable to say and understand even the most basic English phrases. Te head of te school ten summoned te EL teacher and said that the student would have to come in over the holidays until he passed .... and that it was te teacher's responsibility to ensure he did. At that point the EL teacher decided to review the exam result and upgrade it to a pass.

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7 hours ago, GinBoy2 said:

Now I'm too lazy to look up the numbers, but in the US there are around 60 million Hispanics, and i would say the majority of us speak English & Spanish. Add in the South Asians who will speak English and Hindi or Bengali, the Chinese and Vietnamese plus all the other immigrant groups.

In the US at least most immigrant families tend to hold on to second languages.

 

So not really sure your 20 million number holds up.

I'm tempted to say that when asked the question, folks don't even consider their second 'native' tongue as a second language

Many Thais speak a second Language or even three or more. – Many speak Thai as a  Ethnologue” says 67% of Thai speakers speak it as a second language, 

 

There are between 51 and 71  indigenous tongues spoken in Thailand, in 5 five main families i.e Austronesian, Hmong-Mien, Thai, Mon-Khmer and Sino-Tibetan

There are a lot of 2-language speakers of many tongues all around the countries borders.

To foreigners, the obvious ones are Khmer and Laos and a large number of Thai people in the South speak Malay.

Many Thais also speak Mandarin or other Chinese dialects as their families do.

I find the Southern dialects particularly hard to understand even after living down there for 2 years.

 

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2 hours ago, Thunglom said:

Many Thais speak a second Language or even three or more. – Many speak Thai as a  Ethnologue” says 67% of Thai speakers speak it as a second language, 

 

There are between 51 and 71  indigenous tongues spoken in Thailand, in 5 five main families i.e Austronesian, Hmong-Mien, Thai, Mon-Khmer and Sino-Tibetan

There are a lot of 2-language speakers of many tongues all around the countries borders.

To foreigners, the obvious ones are Khmer and Laos and a large number of Thai people in the South speak Malay.

Many Thais also speak Mandarin or other Chinese dialects as their families do.

I find the Southern dialects particularly hard to understand even after living down there for 2 years.

 

I think that aligns with my previous point.

 

I spoke English & Spanish from birth, and I have never considered either of  them second languages.

 

Languages I have subsequently learnt in adult life, they are my second languages

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2 hours ago, GinBoy2 said:

I think that aligns with my previous point.

 

I spoke English & Spanish from birth, and I have never considered either of  them second languages.

 

Languages I have subsequently learnt in adult life, they are my second languages

Bilingual ....my mother was Welsh but I'm not bilingual. 

I think you might substitute two languages or multiple languages. There are varying degrees of language acquisition

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On 11/28/2021 at 5:01 PM, ikke1959 said:

I don't know who is responsible for it but the students and the ministry of education for sure. I am teaching kids for 6 years every week in P1 to P^  and every lesson starts with how are I am fine thank you... And when I see them when they are in M1 or 2 and they come to visit the school and I ask them how are you they can not the answer....  If the memory is not working you can't teach them anything. After 240 times repeating the same sentence they are unable..... 

Well, the ignition comes from home and is called education. The ministry of education's job is to provide material and facilities, train, test and hire teachers, set standards and goals. Latter then has to find active resonance at home again. Education happens at home while knowledge is provided by the school. 
In addition to all this, the biggest problem is that the Thai education system is pretty much a carbon copy of the US counterpart. They hammer stuff into the kids heads on a learning-by-heart basis. The Europeans though work on providing the understanding of common sense and where to look up things, i.e. how to get to (whatever) solution. I've lived in both systems and found the central European system (mostly with German-related languages) by far the best. Latter allows then to allow a choice of final education later on. Some teenagers carry on schooling and finish with an university degree or more while 90% are going through an apprenticeship; schooling accompanied with steady practical training. 
This might explain, why research and development as well as basic jobs like bakers, butchers, cooks, painters, carpenters etc. are in general best skilled when finishing an apprenticeship. 

Now, compare a Thai painter, who never ever had the chance to really learn all about painting various materials (wood, concrete etc.) to what an, i.e. Austrian painter after three years of apprenticeship. Comparison is not fair as the Austrian knows much more about paint chemistry, reaction to temperature, humidity and light impact etc. This goes, like a red thread, through the entire system. Basics though is primary and secondary, upon all the rest is based and that's where Thai rank rock bottom.

 

Last not least; it is much easier to take an uneducated electorate for a big ride on the political merry-go-round. Last Thai round in March 2019 resulted in banning a political party which won 6+ million votes AFTER the election. In any other country the election would have been repeated ........ 

Lack of education combined with a rigid old-fashioned "Phuyai" social system - the result is called Thailand 2021! 

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On 11/27/2021 at 2:20 PM, Mango Bob said:

Maybe we English speaking countries who live in Thailand should try speaking some Thai.  I bet we are worst then the Thais.

I was thinking along the same lines. When I arrived here in 2005 I was interested in learning the language. I never became proficient really, the tones were hard to master and I spent more time with fellow expats. I find I have regressed, I rarely speak Thai now. My Thai wife lived in Singapore for six years so we speak english in our home.

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6 minutes ago, ramrod711 said:

I was thinking along the same lines. When I arrived here in 2005 I was interested in learning the language. I never became proficient really, the tones were hard to master and I spent more time with fellow expats. I find I have regressed, I rarely speak Thai now. My Thai wife lived in Singapore for six years so we speak english in our home.

Yes I think many take that route. I even booked Thai lessons and spent a few weeks attending them. Not very impressed, I am a grown adult and was being treated as a child, and felt it was all about getting money off me and even passing me off to the kids who were less capable. Probably do better moving rural where my hand would be forced. 

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