1. Hi, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Tell us about yourself for a bit first!
สวัสดีค่ะ : Sà-Wàd-Dee Kâ! My name is Supapan (sounds like Superman) but I like people to call me Jiab. Thanks for the opportunity to tell you about my teaching career, courses and website. First of all, let me tell you a little about myself.
I am from Bangkok where I grew up, lived, studied and worked until 2008 when I moved to Brighton in the UK to live with my English partner.
I fell in love with languages when I was young and taught myself English before supporting myself through university. This is when I started tutoring English and Thai languages to help support my studies financially and my passion for teaching began.
2. Okay, tell us about your experience in teaching.
I think I am a teacher from my heart. I started tutoring English to kids and I have been a full time Thai language teacher since I moved to the UK. I also run Thai cooking lessons which another passion of mine.
When I started teaching Thai language, there were limited online resources for adults learning Thai as a second language and many of the materials were not suitable for foreigners. I found the materials available old fashioned, over complicated and poorly written. I therefore enjoyed developing my own materials with an aim to simplify the learning method. I wanted to write something for foreign learners and help them develop the different skills needed to achieve their goals. I have now written nine books on learning Thai, which I have separated into different courses to help different learners; Speak Thai Course, Read & Write Thai Course and Upper intermediate materials.
I have worked very hard to simplify the learning process. My Speak Thai Course and Read & Write Thai course for example are now among the most comprehensive beginner Thai language courses available in the market and they teach Thai in a very logical, easy to follow manner.
I have taught many different types of people of different ages and backgrounds both in person and on Skype. I have experienced many challenges throughout my teaching career. Every learner has different learning abilities, language skills, different aims and interests in learning Thai. I found I have the ability to adapt lessons to suit individuals. My approach to teaching Thai is with an understanding that everyone is different and there is no one size fits all method.
To be successful in learning a language I believe it is all about the understanding. I do not just teach how to say a word or phrase but I help to train my students’ brain to think like a Thai. I like to explain why things are said in a certain way and provide many examples of how it can be said and used. I help my students to develop their understanding and awareness of all aspect about the language as well as culture, customs, personality, manners, perception and other factors that influence the way we speak.
From my teaching experience, I believe the fastest and most effective way to learn a language, especially for a beginner, is to learn with native speakers in order to practise correct pronunciation, receive feedback and understand other factors as mentioned above. With this in mind, I wanted to continue supporting my students when they moved location. With my partner, Tom, we founded Thai Style Language to provide a base for people to learn and teach Thai language using my Thai courses to ensure they have everything they need to learn together and effectively.
I now support a team of freelance Thai teachers in locations across Thailand, the UK, USA and Asia. I am the head teacher and support our team of of teachers and continue to develop supplemental learning materials.
I am a perfectionist and I love to find simple solutions to complicated problems. Teaching is the perfect career for me and also something I want to share and help others to do. My role as a teacher goes far beyond teaching. I have setup a system to help other Thai teachers teach Thai learners effectively and affordably.
3. Can you tell us about your teaching methods/styles. Do you teach over Skype or face to face?
Even though, I am very busy developing materials for our students I still enjoy teaching everyday both in person and online via Skype.
I personally prefer teaching one to one, as I believe a personal learning experience, face to face, helps to better encourage individuals as there is no one size fits all method to learning a language. Learning a language is not an exact science so my teaching methods may change for different learners and personalities.
I also teach small private group classes (2-4 students) for both individuals and corporate clients.
4. What materials do you use for your classes or Skype sessions?
Of course, I use the materials I have developed. My courses provide my learners with everything they need for their learning. Written materials are used to learn with me (or any of our teachers. Self-study homework, audio and video are available to help my students practise in their spare time. My courses are designed using the VAK method (Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic) to help my students develop different skills.
I have found most beginner learners only want to develop some basic spoken Thai; they are not interested in learning how to read and write from day one. My Speak Thai Course is therefore the most popular learning option and includes 3 stages of written materials (30 chapters) and over 20 hours of audio and video. The course is suitable for complete beginners and individuals who already know some Thai and want to improve.
My Read & Write Thai Course (7 stages – 60 chapters) can be introduced to learners any time during their learning experience but preferably after they have developed some basic conversation skills. My Upper-intermediate materials are to be used with a teacher and aim to help learners improve their speaking, reading and writing skills.
Please view some of my example materials click here.
5. Do you emphasize the importance of the Thai script to your students? If so how do you teach it?
I always inform my students that it is important to be literate in Thai if their aim is to be fluent and understand the language profundity.
However, I believe the method to learn a language should be natural, similar to how a child learns a language as they grow up, speak first, read and write later.
If you are a complete beginner who is unfamiliar with language learning it is not only intimidating and also very difficult to be thrown into the deep end and told to learn Thai script. I therefore recommend complete beginners to start gently, learning some basic conversation first in order to understand some of the basics; Thai sounds, tones and the rhythm of Thai language. Once learners are familiar with the basics they will then find it much easier to learn Thai script.
My Speak Thai Course is taught using transliterations and provides a smooth and stress free introduction to learning Thai. The course explains the differences between Thai sounds and other languages with easy to follow explanations. The method helps learners to quickly understand that transliterations are just symbols used to represent sounds that cannot be compared to English. I find this approach is quick for learners to pick up and beginners can get speaking quickly and correctly with help from native speakers.
Students can choose to incorporate reading and writing into their lessons from the beginning however I try not to intimidate or overload students too soon as, you may know, Thai writing and grammar has a lot of complicated tone rules when reading a syllable/word. Introducing these rules too soon can put off even the most enthusiastic learner. I also feel it is advisable for complete beginners to concentrate on one thing at a time, so after completing at least Stage one of my Speak Thai Course, learners will have a basic understanding of Thai and find it much easier to move on to learn Thai script.
Also of note, I have developed a new and modern curriculum for foreign adults to learn Thai script. I do not use the rote learning method that is used to teach kids in Thai elementary schools. Thai grammar is sophisticated yes, but it is not too hard to comprehend and my Read & Write Thai Course simplifies the process and breaks down the learning stages into bite size chunks.
6. Do you give homework to your students? How do you keep students engaged in learning the language?
Yes, self-study and practice is the key to progressing so I have provided LOTS of homework and self-study opportunities.
Each of my courses has been designed into chapters. Each chapter is based on a different topic. The chapters are sectioned to make them easy to follow and each section includes self-study audio and video and homework tasks. I also provide a revision section at the end of each stage (I do not like to use the word ‘exam’ or ‘test’ as most adults do not want to feel they are back at school!). As I said my teaching technique trains my learners’ brains. So, the self-study section in my materials helps students to test their knowledge and what they have learnt in class. The homework also helps learners to analyse the language and the way Thais speak.
The self-study and homework sections in my courses help students to practise the five key skills needed to learn a language;
1. Vocabulary 2. Pronunciation 3. Listening 4. Sentence Structure and Grammar 5. Fluency (personality, attitudes, culture, etc.)
Also, my Learn Thai blog gets updated daily with lots of different learning recourses from videos, audio, articles etc. When you learn a language you should indulge yourself in the language and culture and expose yourself as much as possible. My blog gives learners access to new interesting materials daily.
7. What kind of Thai do you teach? Is it the super polite Thai or do you also teach slang, street language and even rather extreme language as well?
Every learner is different and wants to learn Thai for different reasons; personal, family, business, romance etc. Different social groups speak differently. In order to speak with different Thai people in different situations it is important to understand many different forms of Thai. I therefore cover most language forms and adapt my materials to suit each learner and their goals.
I explain and may introduce bits and pieces of different forms of speech for my students to build awareness of the language but I would not go into too much detail if it’s not relevant to them.
Learners may only learn to speak one form, however it is very important to be aware of other ways of speaking so they do not get lost in real life situations. For example, ten different Thai speakers can say the same sentence in ten different variations.
To teach different forms of Thai, I first teach a formal, grammatically correct sentence. I then explain how to break a sentence down into informal everyday Thai language, omitting words, elisions, contractions etc. I find this method works very well and builds fluency and an understanding of many different forms of Thai.
8. I notice that you live in England? How do you like living abroad? What do you like about it and are there any things you don’t like?
I love living in the UK but the only thing I don’t like is the cold weather! Blurrr!
I love learning new cultures and meeting new people. I have been exposed to many different types of culture throughout my adulthood and traveled to some amazing places. Living abroad is a challenge for any Thai or expat to learn not just about language and culture but also psychologically and how to adapt to a native.
Sometimes, the culture differences can cause misunderstanding. However, I always try to look at the differences as a positive thing, learn something new, be open-minded and be positive. Having awareness of different cultures has helped me greatly in developing my Thai language materials and teaching.
I once used to think like a Thai and speak English like a Thai but after working and living with native English speakers, I have started to think in English and become fluent. With this understanding I am able to better help learners of Thai language to learn effectively; think like a Thai to speak like a Thai.
9. You are an avid rock climber I see. Not afraid of extreme heights?
I wouldn’t say I am avid rock climber but I love keeping myself fit and I love challenges so I find climbing a great fit! I love to do anything that pushes me to the limit of my ability, rock climbing, mountain biking, competitions, etc. Basically, I like any extreme stuff that makes my heart beat!
I believe when pushing yourself to the limit you can learn to solve problems and improve yourself. This can be helpful in everyday life; solving problems at work and thinking outside the box when creating something.
10. What do you see as most important qualities needed for successful learning in your students?
I think if one wants to be successful, you need to be open for a change, keep asking questions and learn from your mistakes. You need determination, patience and effort. Your brain is a muscle so training your mind and practice is the key to progressing.
11. Reverse of above. What do you think most likely to lead to students not succeeding?
Because every language is different, a learner needs to open their mind to new ways of thinking and communicating, often contradicting a way they have been communicating their whole life. As a teacher, I can teach and explain all aspects of the language and how to learn effectively but if a learner does not open their mind or give effort to practise in their own time they wouldn’t succeed.
Also, I would stress the importance of learning with native speakers. Especially Thai language, there are many aspects of the language you need to learn from a native speaker and get direct feedback. Human interaction is very important in learning a language. We can’t learn everything from a book or CD.
12. Any shoutout to the group Farang can Learn Thai?
I would like to give applause and thanks to the founder and moderators who keep this community alive. This group is not only a huge benefit for Thai language learners but also benefit for Thai teachers. Personally, it makes my brain run wild when I see learners asking questions. I am a teacher from the heart so if I could be a little help to anyone, I feel delighted. Basically, this group is keeping me fresh and giving me many ideas for developing materials and teaching students. I love it!
13. Contact – how to, website, fb, youtube, email etc.
If you want to learn more about me and my teaching please check out my website or come and follow me on Facebook and learn some Thai for free!
YouTube : www.youtube.com/ThaiStyleLanguage
Twitter : www.twitter.com/learnthaistyle
Google Plus : https://plus.google.com/+Learnthaistyle
We also did a review of Learn Thai Style and you can find it right here