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Why are kids failing at learning language?

Discussion of all things related to Thai language. Have a question about grammar, or the origin of something? Post it here!
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PatrickK
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Why are kids failing at learning language?

Sun Sep 21, 2014 8:59 am


This was shot for the กรุณา Karuna Talk to Me show (Episode 33) on Thai's Channel 3 SD and went to air on the 12th of June, 2014.

English subtitles have been included in this clip. If you cannot see them, click the 'CC' button in your player and click 'English'.

For more information and a full transcript of this show, visit http://jcademy.com.

Stuart Jay Raj was asked to discuss whether the ability to learn languages is a 'gift' that some people have and others don't, or whether it's something that everyone has the capacity to do.

Questions covered include -
Given that we are entering into the AEC - ASEAN Economic Community, What languages should we be learning?

Why is it that Thai kids are always ranked last or near last when it comes to learning languages and motivation towards learning?

What can we do to improve how we learn language?

Stuart demonstrates knowledge in Chinese, Indonesian, Malay, Jawi, Thai, Lao, Danish, Hindi, Sanskrit and other languages and shows how this foundation can help leverage the learning of other languages.

For a full transcript and more language resources that cover the information that Stuart was speaking about visit http://jcademy.com


What are your thoughts?

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ReubenA
 
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Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Wed Sep 24, 2014 4:40 am

I remember watching this a while ago.

All most kids get is formal teaching. I don't believe someone can teach you a language -- it takes a hell of a lot of time to learn one to a strong level, and if there's no underlying interest in native media, the culture, or communicating with people.. then you're not going to be motivated to learn and retain what you've learnt. I've noticed a huge correlation with a persons interest in western culture and their level of English.

I've met a fair few Thais that almost exclusively hang out with foreigners for whatever reason. Their English is nearly always pretty good. Which came first? An interest in western culture or their English? I'd bet that it's the former.

I think this is a huge part of the reason why asians, on average, tend to have poor English. Japan, China etcetc I've heard all have the same thing. And then you go to somewhere like Sweden or Netherlands and almost everyone can speak decent English. I don't think it's the education system per se as I don't think Japan's system, for instance, is better/worse than Sweden's -- which gets a lot of blame, but instead it's more a cultural mindset that drives the interest / lack of interest in learning a specific language.

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PatrickK
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Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Sat Sep 27, 2014 2:13 am

It is an interesting discussion to have. While interest plays a role, I'd suggest that the education plays a far bigger role. You think most Swedish, or Dutch are interested in western culture more than say, Thais? I think it is clear that education is the difference.

When you see a country like Thailand, or the US, where their second language education isn't good, you end up with only a small amount of people learning a second language, mostly out of the interest or need (like a family member from another country or living abroad for a period of time). Spanish would be clearly useful in the US, and many people study it for 5+ years in school, yet few actually learn it to fluency. I'd call that an education problem.

farang84
 
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Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Sat Nov 29, 2014 10:35 pm

I can think of several people who prove that education isn't a requirement for speaking a language fluently.

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Tod Daniels
 
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Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Tue Dec 02, 2014 9:49 am

Unfortunately, what Stuart Jay Raj couldn't point out (especially on national t/v to a predominantly thai audience) is that the thai education system is draconian and in need of almost a complete overhaul. In other words the system itself is broken. :o

If anyone has spent any time in a thai classroom observing you'd see right away that the thai education system is a "one-way-street" :oops: . The teacher shows up, lectures, at the end asks if there're any questions, (which there never are :? ) and the class is over..

The reason there isn't more two-way dialog in classes is a multi-faceted answer.
1) thai teachers are given respect just because they're teachers (not necessarily because they're good teachers)
2) a thai student would NEVER raise his hand in class and say, "Umm teacher, I don't quite understand what you just went over, could you go over it again?"

This is because of one reason and one reason alone, FACE (and the thai penchant for giving, saving gaining and not losing it).

If a student asked the above question to a teacher it could result in;
A) the teacher losing face because people might think they didn't teach well
B) the student losing face because other people or the teacher might think they're stupid.

What happens is, you have students putting time into class after class learning things by rote or by having it beaten into their heads a letter at a time, yet no one is actually seeing if the methodology is sound, if the system works. Every government always throws money at education for the wrong reasons, thinking more money will solve the problem. Yet no one will talk about the "elephant in the room" or the real problem thai kids are way behind the curve compared to other often times poorer Asian countries...

Case in point; It is my personal experience that ANY thai under 40 who attended school learned english. In fact most thaiz possess far superior reading and listening comprehension of english than they do speaking it. This is because they didn't learn english via conversation, but by memorizing hundreds of grammar rules. Sheesh, most thaiz I know could run circles around native english speakers in a test based on just english grammar rules, yet would fail dismally in even a relatively simple conversational english test.

However the down side to learning english by grammar is; BEFORE a thai will speak english they have to run every permutation of english grammar past themselves in their heads.. This leads to a HUGE disconnect between thinking and speaking..

I read in a book by Christopher Wright (known as Chris Delivery to the thaiz, a half-thai, half brit who has a great english language school called the Wright Learning Academy) who has written good number of books in thai about learning english that before thais speak they are afraid of 4 things;
1) a thai is afraid that what they say in english won't be understood by the listener
2) a thai is afraid that IF what they said was understood, they won't understand what the person answers back to them
3) before a thai speaks they must go over every grammar rule in their head, (I go-went-gone, eat-ate-eaten, do-did-done).
4) the final reason thaiz won't speak is, they're afraid if they speak wrong they will lose face..
Sad isn't it. :cry:

Anyway, that's my take on it.. Take it for what it's worth, (which would be just my observations)... ;)
Whoever said 'Money can't buy you love or joy' obviously was not making enough money. <- Quote by Gene $immon$ of the rock group KISS

farang84
 
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Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Wed Dec 03, 2014 8:10 am

I think you hit the nail on the head there, Todd.

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PatrickK
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Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:54 am

The reason there isn't more two-way dialog in classes is a multi-faceted answer.
1) thai teachers are given respect just because they're teachers (not necessarily because they're good teachers)
2) a thai student would NEVER raise his hand in class and say, "Umm teacher, I don't quite understand what you just went over, could you go over it again?"

This is because of one reason and one reason alone, FACE (and the thai penchant for giving, saving gaining and not losing it).

If a student asked the above question to a teacher it could result in;
A) the teacher losing face because people might think they didn't teach well
B) the student losing face because other people or the teacher might think they're stupid.

Wow, I was not aware of this, but makes so much sense now that I think about it. I was reading that Thailand per capita does invest quite heavily into education relative to other countries in SEA, but their progress has been very limited. So, if the issue is a cultural one where teachers can't lose their face, how does the issue become resolved? What is being done to solve this? It can't imagine learning nearly as much without being able to ask questions - that seems like where most of the learning is actually done!

Case in point; It is my personal experience that ANY thai under 40 who attended school learned english. In fact most thaiz possess far superior reading and listening comprehension of english than they do speaking it. This is because they didn't learn english via conversation, but by memorizing hundreds of grammar rules. Sheesh, most thaiz I know could run circles around native english speakers in a test based on just english grammar rules, yet would fail dismally in even a relatively simple conversational english test.

This is true for almost anyone who learns a language as a second language. All of my German friends know more about grammar rules and structure than myself (who is native English). Similar in Thailand, Thai's rarely can recognize tones, yet people who learn Thai as a second language tend to know them quite well.

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Tod Daniels
 
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Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Mon Dec 15, 2014 9:19 am

PatrickK wrote:Similar in Thailand, Thai's rarely can recognize tones, yet people who learn Thai as a second language tend to know them quite well.

Interesting comment about the "tones in thai" PatrickK".

It's NOT that thai people can't recognize the differences in the tones of words which to foreign ears sound similar. It's that to thaiz they're completely different words and don't sound even remotely close, as in NOT AT ALL. :o

The thaiz learned to "conjugate" tones or ผันเสียงวรรณยุกต์ by having them beaten into their heads one tone at a time. Thaiz will ALWAYZ conjugate tones as "mid-low-falling-high-rising". Even if a particular syllable can't carry all 5 tones they learned them that way.

If you ask a thai the tone of a particular word watch them. Usually they'll turn slightly away, count off on their fingers and stop on the appropriate tone before telling it to you

Interestingly enough while there are really only 4 tone marks if you ask a thai how many tone marks there are, most older ones will say when they went to school there were definitely FIVE marks! The four real tone marks are ไม้เอก, ไม้โท, ไม้ตรี, ไม้จัตวา. Older thais also count the mark left on their legs by the ไม้เรียว (a wooden switch) which thaiz were beaten with by the teacher for mispronouncing the tone of a word! :shock: :? :(
Whoever said 'Money can't buy you love or joy' obviously was not making enough money. <- Quote by Gene $immon$ of the rock group KISS

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PatrickK
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Re: Why are kids failing at learning language?

Tue Dec 16, 2014 4:38 am

I've asked for tones of words to many different Thais over the last few years, and not a single one was able to consistently get it right. It wasn't until I came to Thailand and started spending more time with people who learned English as a second language that I realized how little I actually know about English, haha.

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