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Preparing for an Asean Economic Community in 2015

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Bridging the language & cultural gap with other ASEAN states will require learning more English as well as ASEAN languages. 

English teacher

Photo above of a teacher Guillaume Langlois teaching English at Kunnatee Ruttharam Wittayakom School in Din Daeng district. The school is urging students to speak more English as Thailand prepares for regional integration under the Asean Economic Community (AEC) (Photo: Jetjaras Na Ranong).

See also a Bangkok Post story on an Asean language mobile phone app here.

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Economics
REGIONAL INTEGRATION

Hub, not pubs

English fluency is critical if Thais are to thrive in the wide-open environment of the AEC
8/03/2012
Nanchanok Wongsamuth

'Hey, a farang's on the phone. Can someone take the phone call.

You'll often hear this in offices around Thailand. And it is usually easy to find someone to take the call, as a good number of Thais have learned English and are well versed in Western culture.

But if a call comes in from a neighbouring country, there is often no one around to do the talking. While some countries in Asean may share borders with Thailand, the language and cultural gaps are huge.

This fact will be a real problem in the workplace once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is established in 2015, say experts.

Korrakod Padungjit, a deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries, said it is important for companies to adapt to cross cultural differences.

"Thais don't have an interest in Asean countries. Instead we look towards Japan, China and the West. I think our neighbours are skilled in terms of language, and Thailand has to adapt in order to become a hub," he said. 

"But most of the time we prefer pubs," he joked.

"Body language is important. For instance, touching someone's head may mean something else in another country, but it's offensive in Thailand," said Mr Korrakod, who is also the vice-president of corporate affairs at BlueScope Steel (Thailand) Ltd.

He said his company has a high demand for Malaysian workers, as they can speak Chinese, Malaysian and English.

Meanwhile, with the daily minimum wage set to increase next month, companies are going to have to change. They will have to start using more skilled labour and will have to increase automation.

"Thailand will have problems, as we've been overusing manufacturing labour. We have grown up emphasising labour and don't have much of our own research," said Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, president of the Institute of Future Studies for Development.

He said Thailand has the lowest level of awareness in Southeast Asia. While some countries in the region were dependent on Thailand in the past, it has become too used to having an advantage.

Before, Thailand was the perfect place to conduct business, as it is not a communist country and is conveniently located.

But Thailand has been in decline over the past 40 years, as it lacks good leadership, said Dr Kriengsak.

"If Thailand has a smart and talented leader, then we can definitely survive in the future. The problem lies in a lack of quality in politics. Our country lacks maturity in terms of understanding the world. It's like we're all children fighting with each other all the time," he said, blaming the Thai education system.

Thais like to obtain their degrees just to take pictures, but in actual fact they have no knowledge of the world, he said.

They are supported from kindergarten until work. When they get jobs, they get them through connections, and the result is the "old boy" phenomenon.

In case of problems, they will just phone their dads, said Dr Kriengsak, a senior fellow at Harvard University's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.

(Source: Bangkok Post, Economics, REGIONAL INTEGRATION, Hub, not pubs, English fluency is critical if Thais are to thrive in the wide-open environment of the AEC, 8/03/2012, Nanchanok Wongsamuth, link

Regional Integration Vocabulary

region (noun) - a part of the world with many countries that share things in common
regional (adjective)
integration - bringing together different things into one whole; making the different things work together nicely

regional integration - "a process in which states enter into a regional agreement in order to enhance regional cooperation through regional institutions and rules... Past efforts at regional integration have often focused on removing barriers to free trade in the region, increasing the free movement of people, labour, goods, and capital across national borders, reducing the possibility of regional armed conflict (for example, through Confidence and Security-Building Measures), and adopting cohesive regional stances on policy issues, such as the environment, climate change and migration" (See Wikipedia and also economic integration)

Asean Economic Community (AEC) - the integration of ASEAN countries planned for 2015 (with zero tariffs and free flow of workers between countries)

urging - strongly requesting; asking people strongly to do something
hub - the central or main part of something where there is most activity จุดศูนย์กลาง

Hub, not pubs

fluency - language fluency, fluency in speaking a language, the ability to deliver and receive information quickly and smoothly while talking to  (See Wikipedia)
English fluency - being able to have a smooth and meaningful conversation in English
critical - extremely important because a future situation will be affected by it สำคัญยิ่ง
thrive - do well and be successful and strong
environment - the conditions and influences that affect how people live and work; the affect the activities they do 
wide-open environment of the AEC - meaning: reduced rules and restrictions on what can be done in other countries under the AEC

English fluency is critical if Thais are to thrive in the wide-open environment of the AEC

take the phone call
take the call
on the phone -
a person who phoned and is on the phone
no one around to do the talking

'Hey, a farang's on the phone. Can someone take the phone call.

culture (noun) - the ways of behaving, beliefs and ideas of a group of people or society (See Wikipedia)
cultural (adjective)  
Western culture - the cultures of Europe, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc which originate in Europe and share a lot in common (See Wikipedia)

well versed - know well; know a lot about this subject
well versed in Western culture

You'll often hear this in offices around Thailand. And it is usually easy to find someone to take the call, as a good number of Thais have learned English and are well versed in Western culture.

share - to have or use something at the same time as someone else ใช้ร่วมกัน
share borders - have the same borders
share borders with Thailand - have the same border with Thailand (neighboring country)
gap -
big differences between two things
cultural gaps -
differences between cultures
language gaps -
differences between languages
cultural gaps are huge -
big differences between languages

But if a call comes in from a neighbouring country, there is often no one around to do the talking. While some countries in Asean may share borders with Thailand, the language and cultural gaps are huge.

workplace - the place where a person works (an office or a factory, for example)
established - created

This fact will be a real problem in the workplace once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) is established in 2015, say experts.

adapt - change to meet new situation; to change something to suit different conditions or uses ทำให้เหมาะ, ทำให้เข้ากับ, ปรับ
cross-cultural - between cultures (See Wikipedia)
cross-cultural differences - differences between cultures (See Wikipedia on intercultural communication)

Korrakod Padungjit, a deputy secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries, said it is important for companies to adapt to cross cultural differences.

interest - a feeling of wanting to know about something or become part of some activity ความสนใจ
Thais don't have an interest in Asean countries
in terms of - measured by
skilled in terms of language

"Thais don't have an interest in Asean countries. Instead we look towards Japan, China and the West. I think our neighbours are skilled in terms of language, and Thailand has to adapt in order to become a hub," he said.   "But most of the time we prefer pubs," he joked.

body language - "the meaning of "body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously...Body language may provide clues as to the attitude or state of mind of a person. For example, it may indicate aggression, attentiveness, boredom, relaxed state, pleasure, amusement, and intoxication, among many other cues" (See Wikipedia)

touching someone's head - "...touching someone on the head may be considered rude. It is also considered rude to place one's feet at a level above someone else's head, especially if that person is of higher social standing. This is because the Thai people consider the foot to be the dirtiest and lowliest part of the body, and the head the most respected and highest part of the body. This also influences how Thais sit when on the ground—their feet always pointing away from others, tucked to the side or behind them. Pointing at or touching something with the feet is also considered rude" (See Wikipedia)

offensive
- when someone does something that makes you feel bad and hurt ซึ่งทำให้ไม่พอใจ, ที่ทำให้ขุ่นเคือง,  น่ารังเกียจ

"Body language is important. For instance, touching someone's head may mean something else in another country, but it's offensive in Thailand," said Mr Korrakod, who is also the vice-president of corporate affairs at BlueScope Steel (Thailand) Ltd.

demand - the need and desire to buy goods and services by households and businesses
high demand
wage - an amount of money that you earn for working, usually according to how many hours or days you work each week or month ค่าจ้าง
daily minimum wage
automation - machines and robots doing the work of humans

He said his company has a high demand for Malaysian workers, as they can speak Chinese, Malaysian and English.  Meanwhile, with the daily minimum wage set to increase next month, companies are going to have to change. They will have to start using more skilled labour and will have to increase automation.  "Thailand will have problems, as we've been overusing manufacturing labour. We have grown up emphasising labour and don't have much of our own research," said Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, president of the Institute of Future Studies for Development.

awareness - the state of knowing about something การรับรู้, การทราบ
dependent - needing the help of another person to live and survive; needing the support of something or someone in order to continue existing or operating ต้องอาศัย
advantage - a condition giving a greater chance of success ความได้เปรียบ

He said Thailand has the lowest level of awareness in Southeast Asia. While some countries in the region were dependent on Thailand in the past, it has become too used to having an advantage.

conduct - to do something in an organised way; to carry out
communist - a form of government in which the state operates under a one-party system and declares allegiance to; the political system and philosophy based on the writings of Karl Marx (See Wikipedia)

Before, Thailand was the perfect place to conduct business, as it is not a communist country and is conveniently located.  But Thailand has been in decline over the past 40 years, as it lacks good leadership, said Dr Kriengsak.

talented - very good at something ความสามารถพิเศษ having a natural ability to be good at something, especially without being taught ซึ่งมีพรสวรรค์
survive - to continue to exist and live, still alive and not dead อยู่รอด สืบต่อไปได้ รอดพ้น  มีชีวิตรอด to manage to deal with something difficult or unpleasant รอดไปได้
lack - does not have ขาดแคลน
maturity - the length of the life of an asset

"If Thailand has a smart and talented leader, then we can definitely survive in the future. The problem lies in a lack of quality in politics. Our country lacks maturity in terms of understanding the world. It's like we're all children fighting with each other all the time," he said, blaming the Thai education system.

degrees - college degree that a student gets when they graduate from university or college
actual - real; existing in fact จริง
kindergarten - the first year that very young children attend (See Wikipedia)
connections - people that you know who have some power and can help you in some way if needed
phenomenon - something that exists and can be seen, felt, tasted, etc., especially something which is unusual or interesting ปรากฏการณ์
the old boy phenomenon - Same as "old boy's network"
old boy's network -
network of social and business connections among powerful and rich people who went to the same school  (See Wikipedia)
fellow - a member of some academic or professional organization, an academic or professional affiliation 

Thais like to obtain their degrees just to take pictures, but in actual fact they have no knowledge of the world, he said. They are supported from kindergarten until work. When they get jobs, they get them through connections, and the result is the "old boy" phenomenon. In case of problems, they will just phone their dads, said Dr Kriengsak, a senior fellow at Harvard University's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.

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