Figure 1. Study environment in the Thai Language for International Students class
When talking about living in Thailand for foreigners, one thing which comes into our minds is: how will we comfortably conduct daily communication with locals. Indeed, being in the middle of the Thai society, to be able to speak some Thai – whether someone wants it or not – has been an unwritten custom.
To accommodate such need, last February, the International College opened “Thai Language for International Students”, a class designed for international students from KMITL who are interested in learning Thai language and culture.
Thai Language for International Students, as an initiative from the Dean of the International College, is an annual program which opens in every semester since the academic year 2015/2016. This year, the course is given every Tuesday and Thursday from 16.30 until 18.30, at IC03 room, 55th Anniversary building KMITL. In total, there are 20 classes (10 weeks) of study, from 12th February to 7th May 2019.
On 21st February 2019, I personally had the opportunity to interview Ms. Napalai Meela (Ajarn Aom), the appointed teacher for this class. She is currently an active lecturer at Faculty of Liberal Arts KMITL, English major, teaching English for specific purposes, e.g. English for Hotel/Tourism and English reading skill.
KMITL international students from nations around the world are taking or have taken this class. The majority come from Southeast Asian countries, such as Myanmar and Cambodia, while some are from India, China, Nigeria etc. There are also exchange students from European countries (Belgium, Portugal and Czech Republic).
In this class, students are trained to master basic Thai for their survival in Thailand in terms of communication.
Combining all four linguistic aspects (speaking, reading, writing and listening) together, this course mainly focuses only on speaking and listening aspects. Early lessons cover about Thai phonetics (consonants, vowels, tones), and how to pronounce basic Thai alphabets. Over the subsequent weeks, students learn Thai sentences and expressions in various theme of language situations.
Besides spoken lectures, there are materials for students to read and practice their Thai. Additionally, this course caters students’ specific curiosities: they can ask the teacher about anything they would like to know about Thai language and culture. While there is no grading, test nor examination in this course, the teacher would ask each student to say some sentences and expressions they have learned in the session such that they would remember the lessons better.
Some local Thai students also get benefit from this course. The students, mostly are studying in English major, are invited to accompany international students in learning Thai. So, not only they can help the foreigners practice their Thai, but also, they can train their English and gain international connections.
In a separate event, Ms. Napalai Meela commented about learning Thai, noting that Thai language is, undoubtedly, not easy to master. Thai has plenty of unique sounds which do not exist in most foreigners’ native languages and is nothing short of orthographical irregularities. Yet, she believes that such challenges become simpler if learners can determine the scope of their need for Thai in their lives.Finally, Ms. Napalai Meela will always try her best to support the students and teach anything that the students need, so that the lessons can meet their expectations. She also wishes her students in “Thai Languages for International Students”, and expatriates in general, not to give up on learning Thai. She hopes that students would enjoy this great chance to acquire Thai as their extra language.
Written by Damian Satya Wibowo, student in B.Eng. In Software Engineering, International College, KMITL.
Interviewee: Ms. Napalai Meela, course teacher and a lecturer at Faculty of Liberal Arts, KMITL.