Hi, thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Tell us about yourself for a bit!
Thank you for your interest in interviewing me. My name is Yuki Tachaya. I am 100% Thai with Chinese ancestry, born and raised up in Bangkok, Thailand. I graduated from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University with English major. After that, I went abroad to Japan to study second language acquisition and language teaching as a research student at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies on a Japanese Government Scholarship.
I’ve always been passionate about foreign languages and one of my goals in life is to become a polyglot. I believe that language is a tool of communication, not a subject to study. I focus more on practical usage of a language, rather than its rules and theories, although I do give importance to both. I started out my career as an English instructor to Thai students but I came to teach Thai instead because people who learn Thai often have a goal of becoming a user of the language, not to just score high in tests and that makes me feel more motivated to teach.
I consider myself quite a successful language learner and I want to make the most out of my knowledge, ability and experiences by guiding others to become successful as well. In 2011, I also authored a book teaching Thai people “how to learn” English while remaining in Thailand and become successful, sharing the techniques I used to self-study foreign languages outside of classroom. It was widely sold at bookstores all over Thailand and is still currently available for purchase on online Thai bookstores and my website.
Okay, first of all, tell us about your experience in teaching.
Right after graduation, I worked as a personal tutor at a well-known English institute in Bangkok. After that, I also worked in the academic department at another famous English tutorial school, helping produce teaching materials, textbooks and tests. Meanwhile, I was giving one-on-one Thai lessons to non-Thais. And teaching Thai is the only thing I have carried on doing until today, as I discovered it was what I enjoy doing the most. At present, I work as a professional private Thai teacher, giving tailored lessons to suit each student’s needs and goals, while providing unique resources for learning and practicing Thai on my website: www.pickup-thai.com.
Can you tell us about your teaching methods/styles. Do you teach over Skype or face to face?
I always make sure that I teach my students things that are practical. Thai language is really tricky as there are not so many explicit grammar rules like in western languages and thus, the lessons on the textbooks, especially for beginners, are often simplified and clear explanation is not provided. Some of the things taught in textbooks sound unnatural while some of them aren’t even used in real life. I think it is very important to learn what’s really used and not learn to say things that Thai people don’t say.
One thing I am not afraid to teach is all the extra particles or structures that are very unique in the Thai language and don’t exist in English or most other languages. When I teach my students, I don’t simplify things only to avoid having to explain about all those unique terms and expressions we have. If that’s how the Thai people talk, that’s what I’m going to teach them.
I do provide classes both in person and on Skype, as well as my sister, khru Miki Chidchaya, who works with me on www.pickup-thai.com. We teach “authentic” conversation and Thai writing system both face-to-face AND on Skype! Many students have successfully learned how to read and write through Skype lessons. It works just about as well as in-person lessons.
Everything I provide my students and Thai learners who come pick up Thai from my website is based on my own experience of being a language learner. I have learned English, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Chinese, all as foreign languages so I have quite a rich language learning experience and I understand very well what learners need and look for. I always put myself in the learners’ shoes and try to provide them with lessons and resources that are hard to find or hardly mentioned in textbooks, yet, beneficial. I give them what I myself would want if I were a Thai learner.
What materials do you use for your classes?
For beginner level, I stick to textbooks because the students need solid fundamental knowledge but I make sure I give them clear explanation on tricky things textbooks avoid explaining and correct what the textbooks teach wrong, meaning that I won’t let them use expressions that Thai people don’t use in real life. Most importantly, I always focus on real conversation practice and translation test. I generally test my students on the content they’ve learned because what’s the point of learning all the rules and words but not being able to make a sentence out of them?
For students that already have a good amount of vocabulary and know how to make sentences, I’ll work with them to help expand knowledge and train their conversational skills by exposing them to the real usage of the Thai language and encouraging them to apply what they know to communicate. I focus on skill-based practices as I think it is extremely important and is the most effective way to learn because it allows them to apply all the knowledge and skills they have into practice.
If they need to focus on speaking, I’ll have them do a monologue or a presentation on a topic that I or they choose and after they are finished, I will correct all the mistakes and show them the correct and natural way to express those things. Or we’ll do a real-life conversation, an interview, a role play or we play games that require language skills. This way, not only will they get to learn how to express themselves the way Thai people actually do and practice their listening and comprehension skills, but they will also remember the new words that come up in the lessons very easily as they always come with a context. I believe that learning from a context is the best way to learn because it helps you remember.
If they need to focus on reading practice, then we will read together using real-life resources such as internet articles, topics from forums, personal blogs, novels, news or even Facebook quotes or jokes, based on their interest. Generally, I’ll have them read out loud to check their Thai script reading skills as well as their pronunciation. Then, I will have them translate each sentence to me so that I can see if they understand correctly, if not, I’ll correct their mistakes. I’ll also explain new words and expressions and help them understand the story. Most importantly, no matter which approach I use, I always try my best to make learning Thai a fun experience for my students!
One thing I mentioned in my book is that if you want to be successful in language learning, use textbooks as supplementary resources and use real-life materials written or spoken in the target language as your main resources. People tend to do the opposite and learn more slowly. So, if a new student comes to me and I find out that he can hold a conversation in Thai, whether he’s fluent or not, I’ll go ahead and do real-life practices with him or opt for real-life materials because he would learn more and faster that way. With that being said, my lessons are highly flexible.
For students that are fond of textbooks and would prefer to stick to structured lessons, I’ll also do my best to accommodate their preference because I am aware that each individual person has a different method in which he learns the best. Moreover, I always listen to what my students need, first of all, so each class with each student is different from each other.
Do you emphasize the importance of the Thai script to your students? If so how do you teach it?
I always recommend students who have studying Thai as their long-term goal to learn how to read and write the Thai script because it is the only way you can actually learn and understand the language in a deeper level. I believe that self-study outside of the classroom is one of the most important factors that help students become successful in language studying and since nearly every real-life learning material is provided in Thai script, it is that vital to know how to read and write. However, for students who take Thai lessons for the purpose of travelling and simply want to be able to get by during their short trip and do not have any plan to continue studying after their trip, I’d recommend using transliteration as it takes time to learn the Thai script and learning how to speak is much more essential in this case.
Usually, people that learn Thai tend to have the need to be able to speak quickly so even with students that want to learn the Thai alphabet, I don’t wait until they know all the characters to teach them how to speak. I like to use the book “Thai for Beginners” by khun Benjawan to teach the Thai writing system because the book introduces each consonant class with its tone rules at a time and I think it is really effective to learn that way. It is systematic and organized. Also, in every lesson, the students get to learn a bit of both conversation and writing.
Do you give homework to your students? How do you keep students engaged in learning the language?
My favorite homework for beginner students is to ask them to review all the content they have learned before we meet again and then, in the next class, I will test them. When you’re just starting to learn a new language, one of the most important things is to memorize vocabulary and sentence structures. I expect my students to try to review and memorize as much as they can but I don’t expect them to remember every single thing because as they get exposed to the language more, they will see the same useful words again and again and they will remember them naturally. I don’t mind repeating either. Language is all about repetition. However, it is important to review. If you don’t review what you’ve learned at all, it’s just going to take more time to move on.
Sometimes, it could happen that students are very busy and really don’t have time to review or in other words, studying Thai is not their priority, then, we will review together in the class. It also works but they will go at a slower pace. I love when the students do their part and I do my part.
My favorite homework to give to intermediate and upper level students is for them to go self-study from other resources, take notes and ask me questions about things they don’t understand while they’re practicing by themselves. Getting exposed to the language as much as possible is the ultimate key to success in language learning.
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?
I teach all registers of Thai to my students but always with a warning! They need to know the polite terms to start with, especially the beginners, but I always teach them everything that is practical as I previously stated above, so I teach them everything they need to know: slang, chat language, teen language, vulgar words, you name it.
What do you see as most important qualities needed for successful learning in your students?
Passion, motivation and dedication to studying Thai. If the student is self-driven, success is guaranteed. No teachers can make you succeed in learning a language. When it comes to studying a language, the only person that can make you successful is you yourself. How many people are there who are married to a partner who speaks a different language and still don’t speak that language after years and years of marriage? As long as you’re self-motivated, you don’t need to have a Thai wife to succeed in learning Thai, all you need is yourself. Teachers make you learn faster because they will guide you to the correct path to work your way through success and help you grasp things better than if you would just self-study, but without real practice, you will never really be able to use the language fluently.
Reverse of above. What do you think most likely to lead to students not succeeding?
Lack of motivation 🙂
Contact – how to, website, fb, youtube, email etc.
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Official Website: http://www.pickup-thai.com
Youtube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/pickupthai
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pickupthai
My book: http://www.b2s.co.th/products_detail.php?proid=16431
or order from me and get a free bookmark!
(for people both living inside and outside of Thailand)
Anything else to add? Any last words?
Anyone can learn any language. For some, it takes shorter time to succeed, for others, it might take longer time but as long as you don’t give up, you will definitely be successful one day! If anyone who can read Thai or want to practice reading Thai, is interested in learning the techniques and methods I used to learn English and become a fluent user at young age without ever leaving Thailand, I’d recommend he or she read my book. I used informal language and included a lot of jokes and slang words so this would be another good resource to learn colloquial Thai terms and expressions! Last but not least, this book can also be a perfect gift to help your girlfriend learn English too! Please check out my website for more information: www.pickup-thai.com Thanks for reading until the end 🙂