Wednesday, December 21, 2011

6.5 Random Musings

1. What you do now? Shoot, I mean...what are you doing now?
I am beginning to notice the longer that I teach English, the worse my own English is becoming. It has become such a habit to speak in the simplest manner to convey understanding to my students and Thai friends/co-workers, that I often find myself omitting verbs or tenses. While this is usually done purposefully in certain situations, I have caught myself unintentionally speaking improperly many times.

2. Slow down everyone, you're moving too fast!
I've always been a very fast-paced walker. Perhaps because of my short stature, I feel as if I need to compensate. My father and I always naturally walk 300 yards ahead of my slow-paced sister and mother. My friends constantly have to remind me to "stop running!" The first two months of being here, I had no patience for walking behind the painfully slow Thai locals. For such small people, they manage to take up the entire sidewalk, making it impossible to pass.

No one is ever in a rush here. Nothing, and I mean nothing, starts on time. My 50-minute class periods are never actually that long. Students (and teachers) are always 10-25 minutes late. The class schedule seems to be a mere suggestion. This is commonly referred to as "Thai" time. A Thai co-worker told me they say "Farang time" (foreigner time) for a strict appointment.

After nearly three months here, I find myself moving slower, happy to walk at a comfortable pace behind the natives. And you know what? Life is so much more enjoyable when are aren't in a rush all the time! I actually have time to look around, enjoy my surroundings and appreciate life a bit more. What is the rush anyway? Why is everyone in the Western world always running around everywhere?

3. Stop laughing at me!
A native English speaker will probably never pronounce Thai correctly. I've never had a knack for languages, but this tonal language is a whole new ball game. There are 5 tones in the Thai language, meaning that each "word" can have 5 different, unrelated meanings depending on the tone. For example, mai can mean: silk, wood, burn, new, and not depending on the tone - which sound all too similar to my ears! Mai in the beginning of a sentance is the negative, while mai at the end of a sentance signals a question (no?). Also, a few Thai and English letters have a different sounds that don't exist in one another's alphabets. While Thais may laugh at how farangs pronounce words, they sound just as silly to me when they use their 'r' and "l" interchangeably. In Thai, there is a throat-produced "ng" sounding letter that is that does not exist in English, and seems impossible for a farang to say properly. While most Thais will laugh at farang's pronunciation of Thai, my students also find amusement in the way I pronounce English words. When I said the American brand "Blackberry," you'd have thought I was a stand-up comedian! Thai names are very long and complex, so they are all given a nickname, often a simple English word such as "Ball","Milk" or "Ice". They get a kick out of hearing how I say these names, while I stand there puzzled because they are the ones distorting pronunciation! These are English words and letters! I am saying it correctly, you are all wrong! Stop laughing at me!

4. A Jew in Thailand during Christmas
I am full on teaching Christmas this week. My students would not have been able to handle the concept of Hannukah too, unfortunately. At least with Christmas, it is vaguely familiar to some. Hearing a class of 40-50 Thai students singing Christmas carols really is a kick! Between having "Jingle Bells" constantly stuck in my head, watching "Muppets Christmas Carol" & "Scrooged," shopping for my 'Secret Santas', and preparing for the Christmas dinner feast - I have never in my life had so much Christmas spirit!

5. English is it
Before I came here, I was hesitant about teaching English. I felt as if coming to a foreign country and imposing my language seemed imperialistic. But, I have come to really appreciate the importance of the English language. The world needs a language to communicate with one another, and the fact of the matter is that language has become English. Most of us born into the English language do not realize how lucky we are for that. The opportunities we have solely based on that fact that we speak English are seemingly endless. I am delighted by the motivated students that are able to grasp the importance of learning English and put in the extra effort.

Sadly, the majority of the unmotivated, ill-disciplined student body do not care to learn English. I do not wish to impose my language on anyone that does not want to learn; these students can live fulfilling lives without this knowledge. What I do find unfortunate is that these young children and adults can not comprehend how or why English is important. As much as the Thai teachers & school director tell them to take advantage of this opportunity to study with a native English speaker, the students must ultimately decide for themselves if they want to learn. Many of them don't understand the concept of the world other than Thailand, and therefore, they cannot see the doors that could be opened for them with a little effort. A student's parents plays a huge role in their motivation; students who come from parents that know a little English (or at least stress to their children the importance of the language) are more driven to learn. I am living in Thailand now, and I do not expect everyone to speak English. I respect the culture and language here, so I am trying to learn as much as I can. But, when it comes to communicating with the outside world, English really is it.

6. It's a Small World After All
The other night, my friend rang me from Laos where he was on a visa run (a part of life for many expats living in Thailand). He was at a bar with a girl who graduated from my class at Ithaca College, also from the Park School of Communications. He put her on the phone, although we don't know each other, we know mutual people. As small as Ithaca College is, I was always told you find alum wherever you are, and now I believe it. On a side note, next week, I too will have to go on a visa run, just to cross the border in Cambodia & re-enter Thailand until my work permit is processed.

6.5. Corporal Punishment
I call this 6.5 because I am adding this after I posted the first 6, after witnessing a Thai student in the office getting beaten with a stick by a teacher. This is a common, almost daily occurrence. In fact, I have often witnessed teachers have all of their students line up single-file to get a whip on their bum one at a time for misbehaving or not doing the assignment collectively. I cannot help but cringe when I see this. This is a practice that I am trying, but struggling, to understand. One Thai teacher, Pee-Toom explained it to me that she does this because she cares. Unlike in much of the Western world, beating is an acceptable practice for parents to discipline their children here. Likewise, it is acceptable in the schools because teachers ... care? Still pondering this one.

At the Sriracha FC vs Bangkok United Football game! 
Bull encounter from my trip to the northeast; Suwannaphum, Roi Et

1 comment:

Alicia Messing said...

Great blog post. I'm so glad that you're enjoying your time there. Let us know if you ever want to visit Hong Kong. If we're not around you can always stay in our apartment (for free of course)......