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On Teaching English

Posted By Amy Ferguson on 26 May 2015
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The feeling of joy one gets when a student understands something cannot be overestimated. When you see the light in their eyes as they give a correct answer, it all becomes worthwhile. Thai students seem to excel at writing and copying down words, yet have a difficult time speaking what they know and making conversation. So, many of us like to teach in a way that gets them speaking out loud confidently.

Learning another language requires skill but also opens the mind. Studies have been done on how people think differently depending on what language they are using. Learning a world language like English enables people to communicate with others across the globe and learn about different perspectives and experiences. When Thai people learn English, they are able to interact with foreigners visiting here or to travel abroad more easily, and may become employed in a higher paying job because of this knowledge. Many Thai people, including monks, ask us for English classes. That is how I started teaching two community classes at different temples.

Currently I am trying to teach one of my classes of young children to learn to read. We are going over and over vocabulary words which they write, read, speak, and hear. We have been reading children’s books and learning new words. Nothing excites me like writing a new vocab word on the board and hearing one of them look at the letters and read it out loud!

On the other end of the spectrum, in my adult class of Buddhist nuns (Bhikkhunis), they can read many words. They have built up an impressive vocabulary, and some have studied for as long as 10 years. But without a forum to discuss and use them, they lack confidence in making conversation. Bhikkhunis who are fluent and comfortable speaking English are able to teach foreigners about mindfulness, enlightenment, the Eightfold Path, and others of the Buddha’s teachings. It is exciting to teach students who may one day be able to hold such important conversations!

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