5. Results and analysis
5.2 Open-ended questions
5.2.4 The participants’ other thoughts on the English language
126.96.36.199 Question 12: Do you have any additional comments regarding the English language?
Overall, most of the replies to this question were simply “no”. However, the participants that did reply seemed to have a lot to say.
61 In many responses, English was mentioned as important because of work and communication. It could also be deduced that strong skills in the language were seen as a necessity:
“English is the language everyone uses for communication and one must know how to use it correctly.” (MSW11)
In relation to this, a reoccurring theme in the replies was the participants’ concern for their own language skills. Many wrote that they would like to know English better and the language should be used more in order for them to improve their skills. Some respondents wrote that English should be taught more in school and used every day in order to be more exposed to the language:
“If we would really like to speak English well, then the language should be used in everyday life and not just in school.” (MS22)
“English should be taught more than now, so that we would learn to speak it better and we would understand more.” (MSW44)
An issue that emerged from the responses was the difficulty of English. A few of the participants wrote that they find English difficult due to there being a lot of rules which they cannot remember. Fear was mentioned as an issue that hinders learning. Currently, studying English is considered difficult:
“I would like studying English to be easier than now and I wish I would understand it better.” (MSW16)
Grammar and rules are a hindrance to some participants. They can feel overwhelmed with the syntax of a language that is very different from their own or from any other language they know. This participant exemplifies this view on difficulty:
“English is difficult, because there are a lot of rules and grammar and I can’t remember them all.” (SS4)
62 The amount of exposure the students receive in school is not considered to be enough in order to become proficient in the language. The language should be used every day in order to learn:
“If English is just used in ASEAN you don’t learn it, needs to be used daily to learn it.”
“We should practice English more so we could use it better in real situations. This way we would get more courage to speak it more than we do now.” (WW27)
Learning language that is useful outside of the school environment was also mentioned.
Students requested real-life situations. The fear of speaking incorrectly is an issue that hinders learning:
“I know how to speak English but because a lot of people are afraid of speaking incorrectly they don’t dare to speak at all.” (WW50)
“We must have more courage to express ourselves and we need to practice independently all the time.” (SS47)
A few of the participants discussed the teaching of English. According to one respondent, the solution to the level of English would be to use native speakers:
“Should use native teachers, so we would learn to speak clearly and would learn the right accent in order to communicate correctly with foreigners.” (SS16)
This respondent reflects some of the ideology of CLT (section 2.3.3).
Some of them considered the issue with learning the language to be the teachers and the methods used. On average, over 16% of the respondents disagreed with the statement: “The Thai English teachers at the school that I go to are expert and knowledgeable.” (see section 5.1.1). The responses to this item could indicate that some students feel that the teachers are not competent enough.
63 This could be seen in some of the replies to this final question. Some of the participants consider the issue of difficulty to be caused by the teachers:
“English is a language that is not difficult, but Thai teachers make it difficult so children don’t want to learn it.” (WW37)
“Teaching methods in Thailand make learning English difficult. Teachers only teach from books but don’t teach everyday language.” (WR7)
“Where do you find a teacher that would not make English boring and difficult? It would be easy to understand and one could use it in everyday situations. If the teacher teaches in a motivational manner, children would enjoy studying English more.”
“I would like Thais to improve on the “fear issue” and that they would communicate in English more than currently because Thai students mainly think studying is just learning verb tenses and this causes a lot of them not to like studying English. I would like English to be studied for real life use and not just for a test. Conversations should be practiced more and it is a bad learning situation for students if they are taught to fear. We should open up more in teaching.” (WW31)
The current methods seem to focus on teaching grammar, which the students tend to feel is both boring as well as difficult. It is challenging to maintain motivation when a subject is felt to be overwhelming. If the content of teaching was kept at a level that the students could understand easily and could put to real-life use quickly, the students would probably feel more motivated as their skills would improve more rapidly. In addition, if the students feel the language is difficult they become easily discouraged from using it. They could feel that if they have not mastered the correct way of using English they should not use it at all. When students are afraid to make mistakes, they do not dare to try and this leads to slower development in their skills.
Although there were not so many replies to this question, the issue of the difficulty of grammar could be seen previously in section 5.1.4. The statement divided the participants quite evenly, but a slightly larger group disagreed with English being easy. Thus, more than half of the respondents see English grammar as difficult.
64 The criticism towards English teaching methods is relevant and it could indicate that schools still tend to use teacher-centered, behaviorist models. This reflects the findings of Prapaisit (2004), Chayarathee & Waugh (2006) and Prapaisit de Segovia (2009). It is evident that teaching methods have an impact on the learning of a language and reforms in education are essential if the overall level of English is to be improved.
If one considers the different aspects of attitudes (Laine 1987: 10-12), it can be seen that there are varying attitudes towards different aspects among the participants of this study as well. The attitudes towards the target language are mainly positive, but there are indications that the attitudes toward the teacher and the course are less so.