Hi, thank you for agreeing to do this interview.Tell us about yourself for a bit!
It’s my pleasure to be interviewed here. My name is Mia, my profile name is Kruu Mia. I’m a Thai teacher. I’m also the manager and student-teacher coordinator of learn2speakthai online Thai language school.
Okay, first of all, tell us about your experience in teaching.
I started to teach Thai eight years ago when I was in the States. When I moved back to Thailand, some of my students wanted to continue learning therefore I started to teach online and it has become my full time job ever since. Since then I have grown from solo teacher to a school with four teachers.
Over the past eight years, I have developed my repertoire of skills and approaches that have been so successful and not restricted to one approach received during formal training. I am therefore comfortable teaching students at all levels and with varying needs.
Can you tell us about your teaching methods/styles. Do you teach over Skype or face to face?
My teaching style is my student’s style. I learn to adapt to each student and I think that is my style to be flexible, interactive and fun. I have a tendency to read facial expressions well, I know when students start to get bored so I switch the subject or material. When students’ motivation drops I will do my best to bring it right back on track. I want my students to be inspired to do more than speak the language. I try to provide the context of Thai culture and traditions, and this seems to add to students’ interest level and motivation. I teach mostly online and I enjoy every second of it. Teaching online gives me freedom, flexibility and I can create a more comfortable environment for the student, because we are both relaxed and in our homes.
What materials do you use for your classes?
Depends on the student’s objective and style of learning. I have a lot of material to choose from either our own or from other sources. My top preference is “Everyday Thai for beginners” by Wiworn Kesavatana-Dohrs. This book is my favorite because it’s only in Thai and English. It’s best for beginners who want to learn to read Thai along with conversation. My next favorite is “Thai for beginners” by Benjawan Poomsan Becker. The book is in Thai, English and transliteration Thai, best for beginners who want to start with basic conversation. I like this book because it slowly introduces a little bit of Thai consonants and vowels at a time, this way students don’t feel overwhelmed. For visual learners, I have a great item called “Beginning Thai” by Ratraykha Rittisorn. The book use images a to create memory hooks. As some of you may know, I’m also publishing Maanii books on my website, learn2speakthai. At school growing up I studied Thai with the Maanii books. The series was written for Thai children so they are easy for anyone to follow. They repeat letters and sounds frequently enough for a person to begin solidifying them in memory and the vocabulary appears repeatedly. The books also contain many useful facts about Thai culture and tradition to learn from. I use Maanii books as one choice of supplementary materials when students first learn to read Thai and switch to different materials when they have acquired basic reading. If students enjoy the books they can continue reading in their free time. I believe that teaching is an art form and the material are just a tool. Teachers should be able to make a great lessons out of any material.
Do you emphasize the importance of the Thai script to your students? If so how do you teach it?
Student come to us with many reasons to learn Thai and my job is to recommend the methods and material to suit their individual needs. I strongly believe that one of the best ways to learn Thai is to learn Thai script and I do my best to make sure they know the downside of transliteration. However, for some students who want to learn Thai for their trip to Thailand, it’s convenient and beneficial for them to focus only on conversational Thai. The reason I offer a free initial consultation is to get to know their objectives and provide the best method, materials and experienced teacher to accommodate their goal and learning style. At learn2speakthai, unless requested by students, we don’t start out teaching 100% Thai script. Students first need to feel the rhythm of conversational Thai, tune in their ears and built up their confidence. That means they need to speak and listen, transliteration systems are confusing as well all know BUT student often need to rely on that in the beginning. Just make sure to not remember the way it’s written but the way it’s pronounced. I always tell them to write it the way it sounds right to them as long as when they speak it correctly, I’m satisfied.
Gradually, they will learn and know more Thai consonants and vowels and eventually be able to read. For example, with one student I might start with 2-3 letters and a couple of long vowels to see how they do. Often I notice that when a student can actually read a Thai word they are very pleased, and they seem to be motivated to learn a lot more. I skip over uncommonly used consonants and vowels in the beginning as well. It can be demotivating to see all at once.
My favorite lesson is always the first one, I love love love to see the students eyes shining when they realize that they can read กา อา ตา. A small step but big accomplishment and motivation.
Do you give homework to your students? How do you keep students engaged in learning the language?
I do, depends on their learning style and how much time they have. Homework must go well with the student’s life style and interest. Like anything in life, practice make perfect and when you enjoy practicing it’s no longer called homework but a hobby.
To keep students engaged in learning is to know what their interest are. I then use current news, TV advertising or short video clips that suit the subjects they gravitate to as a learning supplement in class. Interaction in class is also important, I sometime instruct the student in Thai to go get something from around their house. This technique works quite well, especially with online learning as moving around stimulates they student’s memory.
It depends on the student’s knowledge in Thai. I always teach students levels of politeness in Thai language. And as with any language, words are appropriate in certain situations but not others. Slang is taught when related to subjects. For example, I teach ใช่ไหม ใช่มั้ย ใช่มะ or even ชิมิ these all mean “is that right? “is that so” but used in different situations and circumstances.
I do teach a small bit of profanity words because students need to be aware that certain words when pronounced wrongly could end up insulting someone eg ไอ mid tome means cough ไอ้ falling tone can turn a name into an insult by being put in front of it.
What do you see as most important qualities needed for successful learning in your students?
Passion and motivation: In my experience passion and motivation are the qualities one should have not only learning language but learning anything in life. Those are the qualities I usually see in successful Thai language learners. There will be ups and downs along the way but as long as you keep moving on, you are already half way there. Successful language learning is linked to the learner’s passion.
Curiosity: Curiosity will keep your passion and motivation alive, a learner who is keen about Thai culture and Thai way of life are often more successful in their Thai language studies. My course and podcast project are a great source to help you get in touch with Thai culture and its people.
Know thyself: Successful learners know their preferences, their strengths and weaknesses, and effectively utilize strengths and compensate for weaknesses.
Hard work: Hard work will always pay off. I’ve noticed how many successful have seen many students treat learning Thai as a second or even the first job. Setting time for learning just for 15-30 mins a day without any disturbance, while paying close attention to quality not quantity. They will succeed in their studies.
Reverse of above. What do you think most likely to lead to students not succeeding?
Sometimes less is more : Sometime eager students try to take on too much, too many materials, and get overwhelmed. They do better if they keep it simple and stick to one or two resources for a while, especially the very beginning. Part of our job is to guide them on the careful selection of materials.
Some students are a little shy about using their new skills : I want to say “don’t be shy” really! Speak as much as you can. Thai people know you are learning and they are friendly people and will want to help and laugh with you. The same apply to Thais who are learning English, as they are too shy to speak as well. I advise my students to find a friendly environment to practice Thai conversation and for them to tell everyone that you are learning and to please point out any mistakes you make. Practicing Thai language will be fun and rewarding if you treat mistakes as a learning opportunity.
Contact – how to, website, fb, youtube, email etc.
Visit my website: http://www.learn2speakthai.net/
Subscribe to my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/learn2speakthai
Join my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/learn2speakthai?ref=hl
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/
Become my G+ circle: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+
Here is the list of my learning materials
Maanii books: http://ressources.learn2speakthai.net/
Thai proverbs: http://ressources.learn2speakthai.net/learn-thai-proverbs/
Language and cultural podcast: http://ressources.learn2speakthai.net/thaigirltalk/
Anything else to add? Any last words? 🙂
Well, all that talk about teaching reminds me how much I have loved being a teacher all these years. Most of my friends and students know I have been gradually moving away from one on one teaching toward building our language school, LEARN2SPEAKTHAI.
This is an exciting new phase for us. I’m going to stay as involved as ever, but more as an organizer and coordinator of our school. Partly so I can focus more on creating learning materials for our students and hopefully it will become printed book one day. This way, I’m still being a teacher who reaches out on a larger scale and sharing learning materials to everyone who wants to learn Thai.
I will always be a teacher at heart, but now I partly rely on the superb faculty we are building. We already have four excellent teachers on staff. They all have many years experience in teaching Thai, we share a lot of our skills, learning materials and learn from each other.
My goal, and my absolute commitment, is to make LEARN2SPEAKTHAI the first choice language school in Thailand, a place where students from around the world can learn from top teachers who respect their learning style and have the resources to help then learn our beautiful language quickly and easily.