a story about bad grammar and non-existent punctuation and my TEFL adventures
When our students make mistakes in English, it can either be laughable (my mother is in the chicken), embarrassing (b*tch vs beach) or incomprehensible (say what?). However, being familiar with their first language can help us be predictors of problems and think about how to deal with them. While this is by no means a comprehensive list, what follows are some of the more noticeable issues Thai learners of English have, probably because of interference from their L1.
When looking at Thai, the first obvious difference is the alphabet: สวัสดี ค่ะ. Thai and English use different alphabets, which adds another dimension of difficulty to learning English for Thai-speakers. We all had to learn how to write the Roman alphabet, hours spent tracing shapes between lines. Thai-speakers have to do that twice. Respect.
Pronunciation can also a issue. One noticeable issue is the final ‘l’ in an English word. In Thai, a letter changes sound depending on its position in a word. An ‘l’ (or rather, the Thai equivalent) at the beginning of a word is pronounced as /l/, but if it’s at the end of the word it’s pronounced as /n/. So, Thai boys like ‘footbon’ rather than ‘football’.
Grammatically, verb forms in Thai do not show a difference between first and third person, or between past and present. Instead, markers are used to indicate person and tense. Essentially, just adding in a word can transform a Thai sentence from
I write a letter.
She writes a letter.
She wrote a letter.
Add to this the fact that in Thai you can drop the subject, and there are no articles and a Thai student might produce:
I write letter.
She write letter.
Yesterday she write letter.
Not as random as it may at first seem.
MED magazine, Issue 37