I see teaching as a two-step activity. The first
one, which takes place at the beginning of
the process, is to help students gain a good
foundational knowledge in the subject. After
students have acquired certain basic essential
principles in the subject, they should be
encouraged to use that knowledge to acquire
further knowledge through the process of critical
thinking, analysing, formulating theories,
testing, reformulating and retesting, until a
final conclusion is made, with an awareness
that the results can always be falsified later by
various factors. In short, learning is a lifelong
process, and my teaching revolves around this
In language learning, the most important task
for students is to master the basic grammar at
the beginning of the course. By grammar I mean
the whole system of a language, not only syntax.
This process can be painful when grammar is
taught unnaturally. In my class, students will be
reminded that a natural language first evolves as
a spoken language and its written form is only
invented later. They will also be reminded that
changes in a language are constant, and only
dead languages do not change.
I believe in teaching a foreign language by
imitating how we learn our first language.
Generally, a child will start speaking when s/he
is over twelve months old. What the child does
before that is to collect linguistic data, process
and formulate it. When the child feels ready,
s/he will test the formula by starting to speak.
The reactions from and interactions with the
audience give the child the needed feedback to
improve the formula or grammar.
In my class, students are provided with controlled
linguistic data because of the limited time they
have in a class. Since Thai is a tonal language, it
is important that students pronounce each sound
perfectly. The acquisition of the sound system
of a language may not require any critical
thinking, yet it is the most basic principle that
one needs to acquire before performing any
I believe in doing everything with passion.
I want students to come to each class with
enthusiasm, expecting to learn something new.
But how do we sustain students’ enthusiasm
when all we do at the beginning is keep trying
to get all the sounds right over and over again?
My strategy in teaching the mundane phase
of language learning is to make the exercises
humorous. Laughing together and laughing at
one’s own mistakes help students loosen up and
break the ice in class. Humour also helps make
the class warm, relaxed and fun.
Gradually, as students master the fundamentals
of the language, they start to process the
selected data, analyse it and form grammatical
rules automatically. This process is highly
important because it is purely a mental activity.
Grammar rules are not given to students; it is
the students’ task to derive them on their own.
I see my responsibility at NUS as educating
students in all aspects of their lives. Thus in
teaching them the Thai language, I also teach
students the learning strategy that I believe in.
I do not spoon-feed my students as I respect
them as human beings who can think, analyse,
theorise and experiment.
In higher-level Thai Studies modules, where
students are adequately fluent in the language,
the contents of what they are to read, watch
and listen are all important in helping students
learn about Thai history, literature, sociology,
anthropology, pop culture and so on. It is in these
modules that students are stimulated to think and
analyse what the authentic teaching materials
present. The various activities in the modules
encourage students to use their creativity and
Thus it is apparent that students will not be able
to achieve much in advanced modules if they
do not have a firm foundation in the language
and are not trained to be mentally alert since
the first module. I believe that this teaching
strategy is not unique to any field or subject. It is
a universal strategy that not only gives students
knowledge but also plays an important role in
human development. Today’s fast-changing world
needs people who are creative, knowledgeable,
morally sound and capable of thinking critically.
My teaching philosophy is to develop such a