Teach Abroad - Thailand, Teach Abroad Programs

Trying to Avoid “Tinglish” in the Thai Classroom

by Paul Hoffman, Greenheart Travel Teach Abroad Participant in Thailand

Have you even seen the movie with Adam Sandler and Paz Vega called Spanglish?  I think it’s a better than average movie and Paz Vega is pretty easy on the eyes.  As you know, the title for the movie comes from melding the words Spanish and English and that’s the language that Adam speaks for most of the movie.

Well, I’m introducing a new meld: Tinglish!  It is, of course, a mixture of Thai and English and it’s a language that I told myself during the OEG Orientation back in May that I would never speak.  Well, you know the expression about ‘roads and good intentions’ and all that stuff?  As much as I try to not speak Tinglish in the classroom, it does escape my lips from time to time.  I find myself dropping “unnecessary” words from sentences that I say in English.  I find myself trying to explain a new English word or concept to the students and I use a mixture of Thai and English in the classroom.  Uggggg!

An ‘oh no’ thought or ‘better stop it’ warning or ‘red light’ blinks in my brain every time I speak Tinglish in the classroom.  I am here in Thailand to teach correct English to the students.  I’m here as a native English speaker and the students benefit from that fact.  I’m here to speak English properly so they can hear the correct pronunciations and the correct grammar.  When I speak Tinglish, I’m cheating the students and that’s not good.

I remember a video that was shown during Orientation back in May.  The video was made by a native English teacher at his school – it was a ‘day in the life’ kind of thing and it was good!  It showed us what it was like at school and it gave all of us a little glimpse of what was to come.  There was one scene when the cameraman walked into a class that was being taught by a guy from Iowa (my home state!) and the guy from Iowa said an English “sentence” to his students to introduce them to the cameraman.  I actually winced when he uttered the sentence – it was not at all grammatically correct.  The words he used were English, but the sentence structure was Thai all the way!  Uggggg!

Just last week I was part of a teacher discussion where we debated whether it was proper to use any Thai language words when we are teaching English in the classroom.  Some teachers are fully in the camp that says NO WAY!  They say when we teach English, we should only use English in the classroom.  I have a tendency to agree, even though there are times when it is extremely difficult to not use a Thai word or two while teaching.  My M-1 (7th grade) students are wonderful!  They are a joy to teach, but to be honest, some of them just don’t get it.  Their English skills are not very good at all.  But, I still want to reach them.  I still want to teach them!  So, I find myself using Thai words from time to time so they understand what I’m saying.  Once I use the Thai word for the English word and they get it – then I always use the English word from that point on.

Some people may say this is not right.  But, I made a decision at that moment in the classroom – right or wrong.  We have to make judgement calls on the fly sometimes – and sometimes we have to do things creatively.  Bottom line – I want my kids to “get it’ and when they do and their faces light up, it’s a wonderful feeling!!  Indescribable!!

Now, it’s time for some more “So you know you’re a Thailander” moments:

*You know you are a Thailander when you see psychedelic buses and trucks and you think nothing of it.  (No kidding!  The big buses here are painted with the most vivid colors and wild scenes – it’s amazing!)

*You know you are a Thailander when you see an adult picking their nose in public and you think nothing of it.  (Men, women, at the store, at the restaurant, on the street, when ever, where ever…..)

*You know you are a Thailander when you eat the tail (shell) of a shrimp and you think nothing of it.  (Crunch crunch!  Yum!)

*You know you are a Thailander when you see a person and you have no idea what gender they are and you think nothing of it.

*And finally, you know you are a Thailander when you first look to the right before you cross the street.  (You may have to think about that one for a bit…..  It’s ok if you want to close your eyes and imagine a street corner and turn your head left and right…. ha!)



About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.


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