June 2017
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David Perrodin, Eastern Asia University, Bangkok, Thailand

I have been a part of primary, secondary, and tertiary education in Thailand for nearly a decade. In the early days of my tenure, I worked with a remarkable university professor who would regularly tell her English majors that “English is your profession.” One day, I asked her to explain the point of this statement.

She said that the majority of Thai learners, English majors included, seem to view learning English as simply another subject, or even sometimes as a burden. She continued, saying that, on the contrary, English must be considered as a tool that can be used to open up greater opportunities for the learners. So now, in every English class, my English major learners hear me say, “English is your profession.”

Thai learners, particularly at the tertiary level, have been exposed to many years of English being forced upon them. I have found that learning English is daunting to most Thai learners because they associate learning how to communicate in English with only learning English grammar. No wonder there is some apprehension to learn English.

So when the learners sit in my classes, the first thing we have to overcome is their negative attitude toward English. My classrooms tend to be safe spaces filled with open discussion, without condemnation of the learner for any grammar mistakes or errors made in English. My learners quickly realize that learning English should be enjoyable, not a burden.

You see, Thai learners have other English classes and other teachers who focus on English grammar, so why should I add to their misery? I want my learners to have a comfortable learning environment where they can come to appreciate English. Often other professors remark that every time they pass by my room, there is always laughter coming from the learners. Then they ask me, jokingly, if I am teaching English...

Several learners came to me recently at the end of term and said that at the beginning of the term they hated learning English, but now they love learning English. You see my fellow educators; learners must view "English as their profession," and not "English as a burden.”

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