Connect with us


Phuket Opinion: English language skills in urgent need of honest assessment

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: The results of last week’s online readers’ poll indicate stark differences in perception among foreigners and Thais about the level of English-language proficiency among local people working in the tourism industry.

Most people who identified themselves as Thai thought these skills were good or excellent, while tourists and local foreign residents rated them quite poorly.

[See story, page 8, current issue of the Phuket Gazette. Digital subscribers click here to download the full newspaper.]

Although the number of native English-speaking tourists who visit Phuket every year is not growing at the same rate as those who speak Russian and Chinese, few would argue that English will not remain the most important medium of communication in the tourism industry for the foreseeable future.

Going back decades, the mainstream Thai education system has consistently failed to produce graduates with sufficient skills to effectively communicate in English.

The sad reality is that in most government schools in the Kingdom, Thai teachers of English language themsleves lack real communication skills in the language they are assigned to teach. The result is that in the classroom Thai language remains the medium of English-language instruction, with incorrect pronunciation and word-meaning errors passed along from one generation to the next, supported on a daily basis by similar errors in the mass media.

Fortunately, our increasingly cosmopolitan island is home to a variety of privately-run schools that offer genuine alternatives. These start with nurseries and kindergartens that offer parents a way to expose their children to English, as spoken by native speakers, as early as possible, which is of course an essential building block for future proficiency.

But the prevailing mediocrity in the English-language skills of the vast majority of Thais looks set to remain where it has languished for decades: unchanged and unchangeable, other than among the rich.

With the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) integration scheme just two years away, this inequitable status quo is one Thailand can no longer afford to suffer – and distributing tablet computers to six-year-olds is not the answer.

As to the poll results, it could be that a well developed Thai sense of nationalism and ‘false positive’ reinforcement of the country’s English-language skills have conspired to create the gap in Thai vs foreign perceptions. But if recognition of a problem is the first step toward its solution, then it is certainly to be hoped that that step will come soon.


Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forums
🔔 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join YouTube for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Koh Samui1 hour ago

Surat Thani announces new Covid-19 measures for Samui Plus

Thailand4 hours ago

His Majesty the King donates 2.8 billion baht in Covid-19 aid

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 hours ago

Covid UPDATE Provinces: 14,260 new infections, 119 deaths

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 hours ago

Vaccination registration open for foreign residents over 60 in Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

Autopsy results for woman who died after mixing vaccines

Coronavirus (Covid-19)11 hours ago

Covid UPDATE Saturday: 14,260 new infections, news briefs

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand16 hours ago

Department head predicts Covid-19 could last up to another year

World18 hours ago

Swedish prison hostage situation resolved with pizza

Thailand19 hours ago

Minister: Foreigners, migrant workers are cared for amid Covid-19

Coronavirus (Covid-19)24 hours ago

“Withhold Intubation” for certain older Thammasat Hospital patients

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Bang Sue vaccination centre open for expats 60+, under must wait

Coronavirus News & Updates1 day ago

“Covid-19” deaths said to cause crematorium in Bangkok to partially collapse

Thailand1 day ago

Nakhon Sawan farmers make large profits growing fingerroot as Covid cure

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Leaked document: military arranging private Moderna vaccines

Thailand1 day ago

Nakhon Si Thammarat arrest drug suspect hiding in jar

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism5 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism5 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand7 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8