I am setting off for Thailand for three reasons:
- Earn a TEFL Instructor Certificate
- Learn the Thai language
- Experience deeply all that Southeast Asia has to offer
Over the years, I’ve come in contact with many people all over the world that want to learn to speak English. I want to learn their language, they want to practice or learn mine. Many times, the native speakers’ desires win the day. I’m always eager to help and love teaching as much as I love learning.
I’ve volunteered in children’s schools teaching English, and while I know my efforts are nominally valuable, it is not structured or well-thought out…there are professionals who design such programs, right? It could be better and should be better. So, I’ve decided to become a TELF-certified instructor.
TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language (or Teaching English in a Foreign Land). Its a program I’ve come to know a bit from the outside and I respect it. Now it’s something that I want to get intimate with…the idea of teaching a foreign language without using ANY of the student’s native language is intriguing and a far cry from how I learned Spanish in high school.
There are lots of reasons to get a TEFL certificate. Perhaps the most popular is that it is a virtually world-wide accepted work visa (of sorts). Young adults fresh from university often pursue this path as a means of facilitating travel and romantic adventures around the globe. This tends to be the thrust of every TEFL school’s marketing campaign…”work anywhere in the world!”
For me, the reason is a bit more simple, to make a difference in lives in the places I am going to be exploring anyway. I don’t know if I will ever do this formally (in some academic institution) or merely as volunteer work wherever I may find myself and the need.
One of the reasons I am writing this blog is to share the experiences of the classroom and curriculum with anyone else who might be interested in pursuing a TEFL certificate. So, contained herein will be my perceptions of the material, EnTrust TEFL (the training company I’ve selected in Thailand), and the process. I hope this is helpful to others and open myself to any questions or comments from readers.
I recently heard that the Thai language is one of the toughest languages to learn for a westerner. THAT sounds like a challenge! In fact, it swayed my decision to relocate to Thailand as much as anything else. So, I’m enrolling in a Thai Language school and diving in.
I went out and bought a Thai Language book and CD to try to get a jump on this project. As I see it, there are three main hurdles:
- a new character set – the Thai “alphabet” has 44 consonants, 28 vowel forms, and four ‘tone marks’ (more on that in a minute). To see an example of the Thai script, check this out
- no punctuation or spacing – there are no commas, semi-colons, periods, etc to guide your reading experience. Oh yeah, and there are no spaces between the words either, so a paragraph looks like 700 characters strung together…apparently it takes experience to ‘recognize’ patterns and word forms to know when one ends and another starts.
- unique tonal qualities – tone marks differentiate words and potentially dramatically different meanings based on normal/hard/soft/rising/falling intonation. Here is an example from a Berlitz Thai Phrasebook: kar = to dangle, kàr = galanga (a cooking spice), kâr = to kill, kár = to trade, and kăr = a leg. Imagine trying to trade a dangling goat leg in spice market…?! Now imagine a New Yorker trying to do it.
Anyway, I am looking forward to the challenge and I intend this blog to chronicle that journey as well. I hope it is equally useful to someone out there.
I’ve lived in many locations in North America, Central America, Europe, and India. But, I’ve never lived in Southeast Asia before. I’ve always been attracted to the region and am excited to experience it more deeply. I tend to wander a great deal, so this site will also be a travelogue. For more on the reasons behind my selection of Thailand as a home base, read my Why Thailand page.
I hope the readers get something for their time here, whether that is about the process of teaching english to non-english speakers or whether something is gleaned about other cultures and languages or even if its just entertainment and laughter. We live in a very small, very crowded world – the more we experience and learn about it, the better off we all are.
In closing, if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, recommendations on awesome eats, things to do, please do not be shy.
All the best,