Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thailand's English "Crisis"

by AJ

There is a lot in the Thai news these days about English language education. Apparently Thai students average TOEFL scores were lowest in SE Asia. So, in typical politician fashion, the Prime Minister has decided to revamp English education immediately (which means it will be exactly the same ten years from now).

Of course the politicians are idiots, but the news has generated some excellent letters to the editor in The Nation. Today included another suggestion for pleasurable reading material.... the author suggested that English language manga comics would be a great tool- and I agree.

Thai kids love manga... especially the boys. They read Thai translations of Japanese comics and also home-grown comics. So, rather than force Oxford/Longman textbooks down their throats... why not invest in a library of graded English manga? Thats something they'd like to read... especially if there were plenty of levels to choose from and a wide variety of titles and genres (with appeal to both boys and girls).

Even better, why not offer these manga with enclosed audio CDs... with a native speaker reading the story? Grammar and vocab could be slipped in stealthily, without drawing attention to them. New words could have the Thai meaning written above them. In fact, Japanese manga do something similar. When new or difficult kanji (characters) appear in the story, the hiragana (alphabet) pronunciation is written next to it. Thus, readers don't have to pause to use a dictionary or check a glossary... they just keep on reading.

Classroom time could be split between
1. Manga: listening to required manga Cds, reading required manga, discussing the stories.

2. TPR Storytelling... excellent way for teachers to introduce (unobtrusively) new grammar and vocab and get lots of repitition in a meaningful context.

3. Free Reading: Students pick from a library of manga, graded readers, simplified literature, etc.....

4. Free Listening: As above but students pick from a sample of CDs or MP3 files which mirror the print selections.

5. At higher levels- Movies: Again mirroring the print and audio selections (ie. The Harry Potter movies with English subtitles).

Many Thai students study English for 8-12 years with grammar-translation-analysis methods and still cant communicate. 8-12 years of the above approach would be far superior and would guarantee communicative competence for all students who completed the program.

What's more, such a program does not place a heavy burden on Thai (non-native) English teachers. With a well stocked library of books, audiofiles, manga (with CDs), and TPR Stories they could provide comprehensible input for their students quite easily (most of it from authentic materials featuring native speakers).

But instead Im sure the poor Thai students will get more of the same: more boring (and expensive) textbooks, more boring and expensive "language tapes", more memorization, more drills, more (extremely expensive) computer games/programs. Ugh.