Pidgin English

Trip Start Nov 02, 2006
Trip End Jun 21, 2007

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Nantawan would be the perfect place for a study about the development of language. 

The students here are beautiful.  I feel so blessed to be able to converse with my students.  There is one girl, Memee, that looks for me every morning so that we can talk about her life.  She is just six years old and has been placed in ESL, yet she has a vast vocabulary which she uses if prompted.  Many of the other students also have the ability to say a large number of things and yet, the grammar that they use is not English-based.

Let me back up.  While they are in pre-K they are exposed to Thai, Chinese and English through (preferably) native speakers, although the inability of the school to provide a consistent and fair workplace causes the turnover rate to be extremely high.  If the students are lucky they will grasp at least the basic components of the English language. The students at my current school are forced to speak English throughout the day once they enter kindergarten. This is done because the school is looking to receive it's international accreditation so that the Director and financial backers can raise the tuition.  So the students try to piece English words together so that they aren't yelled at (or hit) by the staff, but they fall back on the grammar structure of Thai.  "Where are you going, Teacher?" turns into "Teacher go where?" 

Many of the faculty will simply respond to the children's' questions rather than correcting what they have said first.  This leads the students to believe that they aren't making any mistakes.  Compounding this problem is the fact that the faculty is dominated by Filipino teachers, to whom English is the second language.  Although they have a firm grasp of English, the fine points are lost to them.  All to often I find myself having to correct them during a tutoring session with students.  Then there are the native English speakers who have spent too much time in Thailand and find it appropriate to speak BROKEN ENGLISH during class.  How are the children ever supposed to learn the correct way to say things if they aren't exposed to it?  So the students continue to speak their broken-English, being corrected on a rare occasion and being correctly corrected even less. 

It is no wonder they have created something so unique. 

Now one may step back and awe at the resourcefulness of the students.  And it is amazing that they can communicate with one another and with native speakers and be understood.  From the standpoint of a teacher, however, it is a nightmare. 
It is maddening to spend an hour going through a basic grammar lesson, such as the correct usage of "and' and 'or', only to have them exit the classroom and begin making the same mistakes.  They can have written twenty sentences using the correct format for "wh"-questions, but when they ask to go to the bathroom it is back to "Toilet can I, teacher?"  I do not think that the students are in the situation because they aren't trying, the school just expects too much too soon. 

If anyone out there is doing a graduate dissertation and would like to know the address, let me know :-)

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