Intensive English for Thai teachers. Can it work?

Intensive English for Thai teachers. Can it work?

Deputy Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin has hired a British adverser to set up the
Deputy Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin has hired a British adverser to set up the "train the trainer" English language course for teachers, starting next March. (NANCHANOK WONGSAMUTH)

British Council English specialists will soon be training 500 Thai teachers for six weeks. I know from experience that an immersive language training programme can work, but it requires the right environment and commitment.

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Intensive English for Thai teachers. Can it work?

A story by Dumrongkiat Mala in today's Bangkok Post reports that the Education Ministry plans in March to kick off its first six-week "train-the-trainer" programme for 500 Thai teachers to teach English in state-run schools. 

Deputy Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin, who oversees the programme, said Tuesday the teachers will be trained by 50 British Council English specialists.

"The 500 teachers will live in what we call an immersive environment for six weeks, speaking only English.

I have some experience in an immersive "train the trainees" programme myself, having learned Thai in such a programme way back in 1968. I can say, for the most part, it can work. 

I was one of about 100 Peace Corps volunteers who did our Thai-language training in Hilo on the big island of Hawaii. We had twenty Thai teachers and for about two months we had five hours of classes a day, with a different teacher for each class.

We also lived with our teachers, so we had regular access to them outside of class and those, including myself, who took advantage of this learned a great deal. We were able to communicate with few difficulties when we arrived in Thailand. I remember one of the first things we did in Bangkok was to hire a tuk-tuk and visit the sites we had been talking about in our Thai-language dialogs – "Rong raem Erawan" was one of them I remember.

We only had one-week of "Thai-only" training where we were taken to the deep and gorgeous Waipio valley outside Hilo. For many volunteers, "Thai-only" lasted about 15 minutes. This is going to be a challenge for the participants and trainers in the programme here in Thailand.

Hi'ilawe waterfall at the back of the Waipio Valley, Hawaii. For many of my group who spent a week here, "Thai only" lasted about 15 minutes PAUL HIRST, Wikimedia Commons

When groups of Americans, even language trainees, get together, they speak English and that (speaking Thai) is likely to be the case for Thai teachers here too. The problem can be minimised, however, if both the trainers and trainees have a commitment to learn and the trainers make themselves accessible at all times.

We actually had a small group of us who spoke only Thai for the full week and, hopefully, the group will be bigger here.

One big advantage the Thai teachers will have is that, unlike my group, they are not beginners.

"These 500 teachers do have some training, said Dr Teerakiat. "They are already qualified teachers, so we do not start from zero. All we have to do is to give them additional tools and motivate them."

"They will learn from 50 top trainers who are all native speakers to boost their confidence in speaking English," Dr Teerakiat said.

What the 500 teachers will learn can be divided into two key areas, said Michael Selby, an adviser to Dr Teerakiat.

They must learn ways to improve their conversational English, and learn new English-teaching techniques that will help promote a higher level of student engagement.

Asked whether the six-week training course would be enough to improve the abilities of Thai English teachers, Mr Selby said he was confident the course was long enough to change the teachers' teaching style.

He was also confident the teachers would be fluent in conversational English in six weeks.

Includes information from the story by Dumrongkiat Mala which you can see in full here:

Learn from listening

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  • access: having the opportunity to meet/talk to someone - มีโอกาสพบ
  • accessible: easy to talk to and to get to know - ที่สนิทได้ง่าย
  • additional: more; more than was first mentioned or is usual - ที่เพิ่มขึ้น
  • advantage: a condition giving a greater chance of success - ความได้เปรียบ
  • adviser (noun): a person who gives advice, especially somebody who knows a lot about a particular subject - ที่ปรึกษา
  • boost: to increase - เพิ่ม
  • case: a particular situation or a situation of a particular type - กรณี, เหตุการณ์, สถานการณ์
  • challenge: something that needs a lot of skill, energy, and determination to deal with or achieve - สิ่งที่ท้าทาย, การท้าทาย
  • commitment: willing to give your time and energy to something that you believe in; a promise or firm decision to do something - การให้คำมั่นสัญญา, การให้คำมั่น, การมอบความไว้วางใจ
  • confidence: being certain of your abilities or of having trust in people, plans, or the future - ความมั่นใจ
  • confident: certain; having trust in people, plans, or the future - มั่นใจ
  • deputy: a person whose rank is immediately below that of the leader of an organisation - รอง
  • engagement: being involved in something - การพัวพันอยู่กับ
  • environment: a place, including all the physical conditions that affect it - สภาพแวดล้อม, สิ่งแวดล้อม
  • fluent: able to speak, read or write a language, especially a foreign language, easily and well - คล่อง, พูดหรือเขียนได้อย่างคล่องแคล่ว
  • gorgeous: very beautiful and attractive - โอ่อ่า, หรูหรา, สง่างาม
  • great deal (idiom): much; a lot of something - มาก
  • hire: to pay someone to work for you - จ้าง
  • immersive (adj): causing someone to be completely involved in something - หมกมุ่น, มุ่งมั่น
  • improve: to make better - ทำให้ดีขึ้น
  • key: most important - ที่สำคัญ
  • kick off: to begin an event; to launch - เริ่มต้น, เริ่มทำ
  • last: to continue for a particular length of time - กินเวลา
  • minimise: to reduce something harmful or unpleasant to the smallest amount or degree - ลดให้เหลือน้อยที่สุด
  • minister: a member of the cabinet, the group of government ministers who make and approve government policy - รัฐมนตรี
  • motivate: to cause to (want to) do something - ทำให้มีแรงจูงใจ
  • native speaker: someone who has spoken a particular language since they were a baby, rather than having learnt it as a child or adult - เจ้าของภาษา
  • oversee (verb): (past form: oversaw) to watch or organise a job or an activity to make certain that it is being done correctly - คุมงาน,ควบคุม
  • participant: someone who takes part in something - ผู้เข้าร่วม
  • qualified (adj): able to do something, because you have the knowledge, skill, or experience that is needed - มีคุณวุฒิเหมาะสม, มีคุณสมบัติ
  • regular (adj): done or happening often, especially with the same time and space in between each activity and the next - เป็นประจำ, เสมอๆ
  • specialist: a person who is an expert in a particular area of work or study - ผู้ชำนาญเฉพาะทาง
  • state: government - รัฐบาล
  • take advantage: to use the good things in a situation - ใช้เป็นประโยชน์, เอาเปรียบ
  • technique: a method of doing something using a special skill that you have developed - เทคนิค, กลวิธี (เฉพาะด้าน)
  • tool (noun): a thing that helps you to do your job or to achieve something - เครื่องมือ
  • trainee: a person who is learning and practising the skills of a particular job - ผู้ได้รับการฝึกหัด, ผู้ฝึกงาน
  • valley: an area of low land between hills or mountains, often with a river flowing through it; the land that a river flows through - หุบเขา, ห้วย
  • volunteer (noun): someone who is not paid for the work that they do; someone who does something willingly without being required to - อาสาสมัคร
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