Looks like we’ve got our work cut out; Thailand come out bottom of the pile for English proficiency

A global survey conducted by EF Education First ranked Thailand at number 55 out of 60 countries for English language proficiency.  Looks like us EFL teachers have a lot more work to do to help them to play catch up!

I knew that Thailand wouldn’t fare well, maybe around the middle, but bottom six?  Followed only by Panama, Kazhakstan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq?  Fantastic, this is who Thailand share their English level with:-

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OK, so I know Borat is fictional… but, still – for the lol’s.

Considering the high level of tourism and the approach of the formation of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations), whose official language is English, Thailand will need to pull their finger out and up their English game pretty sharpish.

The world is becoming a smaller place, where being proficient in English is key to success.  Thailand has spent a long time trying to protect its culture, ways of life and its people – but has that been at the cost of falling behind the rest of the globe?

Malaysia, which is literally less than an hour from where I sit typing this right now, ranked 12th.  I could drive there right now and be able to fully converse with the guy selling me coffee!  Not that I expect or even want to do that in Thailand, but it’s insane that within such a short distance there can be such a massive difference, and it’s all down to education and more importantly, general attitude to needing (and wanting) to learn English.

So many of my students haven’t even realised the importance of English yet, and so they don’t want to learn.  But then again, when they are probably going to take over their father’s rubber plantation and stay living in their little town where English isn’t seen or heard other than for a few lessons a week with the token farang teacher, do they really need to learn it?

Before we force feed the language down their necks, we need to encourage the students to come to their own conclusions about why English is important to them, if it is at all.

Click here to read the full article that brought this to my attention.  And here for the full survey results.

Adjusting to living in a Thai house

Adjusting to life in a Thai home.

When I first came over to Thailand I was placed in a job in Hat Yai with a fellow TEFL Heaven trainee.  The go-to option for accommodation were single rooms in an apartment block for 4500฿ a piece.  We decided to club our money together and rented a 2 bed apartment with a living room, kitchen diner and plenty of space instead, for 10,000฿.  We had AC, hot water, laundry service, security… it was an easy adjustment, if any, from life in the UK.

Muang Thong Mansion

Once Tom had come out to Thailand and we decided to extend our stay, him and I moved out of the city and into a Thai house.  It was closer to our school, and we were ready for a more Thai way of life; plus the whole big house was only going to cost us 4500฿ between the two of us so we would be saving money.  Now it was time for the adjustments!  No AC, no hot water, no furniture.  No being on the fourth floor and therefore removed from the creepy crawlies on the ground.  Cockroaches, spiders, snakes, even scorpions were now our housemates.  At first I used to freak out, but I have got a lot better – I even dealt with a cockroach without shouting for Tom the other day – Mother, you should be proud of me!  Many Thai homes don’t really have furniture like we would at home – cushions in a circle on the floor around a mat tend to be the norm, so we did just that.

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Our lovely Thai home

Not having AC wasn’t too difficult as the house is all tiled and has big rooms that stay shady most of the day.  We bought a couple of fans and there was no problem – in fact, using fan only stopped me waking up each morning with a blocked nose and we saved a BOMB on the electricity bills (in the apartment with 3 of us it was coming to almost 3000฿ – the AC in the kitchen was a massive industrial beast – and now we usually spend around 500฿ which is around a 10GBP for the MONTH).

What took a lot of getting used to (and I will admit that I definitely still struggle with this at times) was the cold water situation.  Our water comes straight from a well and sits in a water tank until we use it.  It feels a lot fresher but you still can’t drink it because of the nasty things that lurk in the tank.  This water sits in the tank and warms up with the sun if it isn’t used – meaning that when you jump into the shower on a hot afternoon, actually wanting that cool, refreshing temperature, it is lukewarm.  And at night, or if it’s rainy and cloudy, when you wouldn’t mind a lukewarm shower to warm you up a bit, it is freezing!  Sometimes I just resort to boiling some water and taking a bucket in with me to do a bit of a warm bucket/cold shower combo wash, which seems to do the trick.

Luckily we have western toilets and one of them is fully plumbed in so we don’t have to deal with using a squat toilet (not that they are that bad, but sometimes a proper toilet is needed on occasion!).  If you ever find yourself faced with a squat-or-hold-it situation, check out this funny but actually informative post.

©Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures and Arkom (Kwang) Sriyaprom, 2009. All rights reserved
©Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures and Arkom (Kwang) Sriyaprom, 2009. All rights reserved

So here you are, enjoying Thailand for all that it has to offer. You’re walking around in a Thai part of town, or maybe you’re on a long trek, when you realize – oh no! – that pad graprow you had for lunch was a little too spicy. You need a toilet, and you need one right now. There’s no time to get back to your comfy western-style hotel with that familiar looking toilet.

You ask someone near you “Hawng naam yu tee nai?” because you’ve done your homework, and you know that’s how you say “Where is the bathroom?” in Thai. They point you towards a sign that says “ห้องน้ำ” or “สุขา” and you take off running.

You open the door, but – oh my Buddha! – it’s a squatter (cue ominous music). “Now is NOT the time!” you think. But then you take a deep breath, and remember to just follow a few simple steps.

©Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures and Arkom (Kwang) Sriyaprom, 2009. All rights reserved

Click here for the full article – with illustrations!  It’s brilliant.

I’m so glad that we moved out of the city and into our own Thai home.  We can now spend the afternoons lazing away in the hammock in the front yard rather than watching cable TV in the harsh AC, sat on an awful leatherette sofa.  And I can still sit down to pee!

NaBloPoMo – another month, another challenge

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No sooner had I prooudly displayed my badge for achieving the Ultimate Blogger Challenge and another challenge sucks me in…

NaBloPoMo – National Blog Posting Month, brought to us by BlogHer The challenge?  Post every day for the month of November.  No particular theme but if you get stuck there is a ist of prompts and questions for each day.

I’m going to continue blogging about Thailand, teaching and me but I’m gonna try and keep up this posting every day for another month.  Apologies in advance if you’re getting fed up with me!  At least this month I’m back in Thailand so there will always be something weird and wonderful to post about.

If you are interested in taking part in the challenge you need to sign up before 5th November.  This looks like it might be the biggest group challenge out there, so get involved if you can!

Photo of the day: Thai spirit house

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Most houses and businesses in Thailand have a buddhist shrine in place, many of which are in the form of a spirit house outside the home.  The spirit house is a place of shelter for the bad spirits that would otherwise be in your home.  Offerings of food and drink (often red fanta I have noticed) are made often to appease the spirits and the ritual of burning incense and candles to attract the spirits’ attention.  Prayers and wishes can be made as part of this ritual.  Buddhists believe that by making rituals, prayers and offerings, spirits can be kept at bay and a better life can be lead both now and in the next life.

There are some really beautiful spirit houses lining the streets and they make an especially lovely sight in the peace of the night.  The example above is one I see every day but last night it had been freshly decorated and so I grabbed a picture with the new camera.

Happy spiritual Sunday everyone!  (No, that’s not going to become a weekly feature, don’t worry!)