The people of Thailand are some of the heaviest users of plastic bags. And it is showing. You can see discarded plastic bags pretty much everywhere: in the cities, in the country, on beaches, and in rivers and the sea. It’s almost an unwritten rule that whenever you buy something in Thailand, you’ll get it in a plastic bag.
A Big User of Plastic Bags – 7-Eleven
Take 7/11 for example. This is one very successful business in Thailand. At this moment, there are roughly 6,500 7/11 stores in Thailand, about the same number that you find in the United States. The predicted growth will put this number above 7,000 stores by 2013.
Now, let’s assume each of these 7/11 stores conducts 1 transaction per minute. This is a very conservative guess. If you’ve ever been to Thailand, you probably noticed that there are some stores with 3 or more points of sale, each doing about 2 transactions every minute. But lets stay with an average of 1 transaction per store for simplicity’s sake. That would be 60 transactions per hour and 1,440 transactions per day. In a year, that total comes to 525,600 transactions. Now multiply this number to count in all 7,000 stores and you’ll get 3,679,200,000 transactions per year.
That’s 3.7 billion (!) transactions per year. That’s certainly great news for 7/11, but hardly for the environment. You see, the staff at 7/11 automatically puts your purchase into a plastic bag, even if you just buy a can of soda or a pack of chewing gum. They automatically reach for the dreaded plastic bag, unless you tell them that you don’t want one. In my very conservative calculation, that’s almost 3.7 billion plastic bags! Chances are, the number of plastic bags used by 7/11 is several-fold though.
While researching for this post, I found a rather informative Prezi online. Seems I’m not the only one that views 7/11 as a big source of the problem, while at the same time thinking they could use their power to initiate change on a large scale.
Don’t hold your breath while waiting for a giant like 7/11 to proactively tackle the problem though. Start on a small level; start with you. Whenever you go shopping, (not just at 7/11, but also in your local market) tell the clerk behind the counter “Mai ao thung” (ไม่ เอา ถุง) and you will save the environment from one more plastic bag floating around.
What do you think about the excessive use of plastic bags in Thailand? Join the discussion below.
Although I’m a firm believer that you should not speak Thai in the classroom, I do recommend studying the Thai language and become proficient in it. Being able to converse in Thai will not only help you to get around the country with ease and better understand the local culture, it will also help you to build deeper rapport with your Thai peers at school.
There are many ways to learn Thai: formal classes, regularly meeting with a private teacher in person or on Skype, making Thai friends who do not speak English, self-study with books and audio programs, and increasingly on the internet. This post focuses on a few of the mostly free resources available online.
This is by far my favorite online destination to immerse myself in the study of the Thai language. The frequency and quality of posts is unmatched, resulting in the most comprehensive collection of resources and tips that will make learning the Thai language easy and fun. The author, Catherine Wentworth, is an expat living in Bangkok and an avid student of the Thai language. She is known as @WomenLearnThai on Twitter and also has a Facebook Page. I highly recommend to connect with Cat on either or both of these social media sites to not miss any of her frequent blog posts. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the RSS feed of the blog.
Although the full course is subscription based, there are enough free lessons on the site that warrants listing them here. When I first learned about this site, I’ve consumed all the free content available, and then subscribed to the paid course for a few months. Each lesson is structured in a logical format. Phrases are displayed in English, Thai script, and transliterated. My only gripe with the program is the method of transliteration used, which is a moot point as soon as you have some understanding of Thai script. The authors of this program also have a Facebook page and can be found on Twitter as @thaipodcast.
On first glance, the Thai Alphabet looks complicated and you may think it will take weeks or even months to learn. Once you get into it, however, you realize that it is an alphabet just like the one you once learned. There’s no magic to it and it can be learned relatively quickly. When I learned it, the program 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet didn’t exist yet. Unfortunately. It would have saved me so much time.
Although this program is not free, the cost is very low and it is so powerful that I added it to this list of online resources.
Mod is an experienced Thai language teacher that offers one-on-one lessons, either in person or via Skype. Naturally, those are paid lessons, however, she is very active on Facebook, where she offers free language tips and readily answers any question you may have. She also has a YouTube channel with short video clips teaching a range of subjects in an upbeat and humorous way and can be found on Twitter.
The classes at AUA are taught using a rather unique approach. It’s based on listening and watching. All of it is centered in experiences, similar to when we learn our mother tongue. Observe, absorb, and start to make meaning of the words you hear. I’ve attended several classes at AUA’s school in Bangkok and found their approach refreshing and effective. Watch the videos and judge for yourself. You can also find AUA on Twitter and Facebook.
Although the heart of this site is an online English-Thai dictionary (the one I use most often), their lessons section offers a wide range of topics, ranging from basic conversation all the way to reading and writing. I especially like the reading exercises, which includes more than 50 short stories to practice your reading comprehension. And if you want to learn how to type on a Thai keyboard, check out the Thai Typing Tutor Game.
There are numerous other useful destinations online to learn Thai, including FSI Thai Language Course, the program used by American diplomats before moving to Thailand, and Spoken Thai, a collection of video and audio clips that will teach you many new words and sentences.
I hope that these resources will help you to learn Thai in the comfort of your home. Do you have some favorite sites that I didn’t include in this post? Please feel free to list them in the comments.
The Nation reported yesterday that Thailand has set aside a budget of 100 million baht to send 1,137 teachers abroad to brush up their English. The chosen teachers will have an opportunity to attend English training in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. Each will get about 100,000 baht to pay for expenses while staying in the foreign country, but they do have to pay for their own airfare.
On first glance, this may look like bad news for foreign English teachers in Thailand. Are they doing this to make the Thai teachers more proficient and thus position them to replace the foreign English teachers at their school? I don’t think so. To get Thai teachers to the level of a native English speaker would require much more than 100,000 baht and one month of training abroad. I rather read this article as good news for foreign English teachers. It shows that Thailand is starting to take English more seriously to prepare its citizens for the upcoming ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
The article also mentions an initiative to provide a 30-hour English language course to people in other occupations, provide a monthly budget of 10,000 baht for schools to hire foreign English teachers, and ease the regulations concerning the need for licenses for foreign teachers. To me, this news article looks very positive. These new initiatives will most likely provide expanded opportunities for foreign English teachers in Thailand. What are your thoughts?
The first time I visited Thailand was 30 years ago. I was just a teenager. I immediately fell in love with this country, its people, food, and weather. After a few days of exploring Bangkok, we went to Pattaya to visit an old friend of our family from Switzerland. He introduced us to Father Ray, an American priest, who had built an orphanage. It was still relatively small at that time. Father Ray proudly showed us the orphanage, which consisted of a few bungalows for the children, a vegetable garden, and even a small rabbit farm. I couldn’t help but seriously like this man, especially when he gifted me one of the rabbits.
Fast forward to 2012. Although Father Ray has died in 2003, his work lives on. The Father Ray Foundation has grown tremendously during the last three decades. It now takes care of about 850 orphaned, abused, and disadvantaged children and students with disabilities. One of its projects is the School for the Blind in Pattaya on Naklua Road, Soi 16. I visit this school a few times each year at special occasions to sponsor lunch or dinner, bring snacks, and spend some time with the students.
Yesterday was my girlfriend’s birthday and we therefore stopped by to visit the children during their dinner. As always, it was a touching experience. Check out the all photos from this special day.
If you would like to visit or make a donation to this school, or any other project run by the Father Ray Foundation, check out their website.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) recently launched a new website with a collection of mobile applications for the most common smartphones and tablets.
Although the applications have been developed mainly for tourists, they will most likely be appreciated by foreign English teachers in Thailand as well — as long as you either have an iPhone/iPad, an Android device, a Blackberry, or a Nokia smartphone. Some applications are available for several different devices while some applications are only available for a specific platform.
Some of my favorite applications I have downloaded for my iPhone include:
- Amazing Thailand, which provides useful information about the most common destinations in the country, lists events, provides shopping tips, and explains the most popular dishes in the Thai cuisine. There are also versions of Amazing Thailand for Phuket, Chiang Mai, Blissful Honeymoon, and Golf Paradise.
- Top 50 Amazing Experiences in Thailand provides great ideas for places to see and things to do while in Thailand: the Hall of Opium in the Golden Triangle Park, the National Elephant Institute, and the whitewater rafting tours in Kaeng Hin Phoeng. If you ever wonder what to do during a long weekend, this app will come to the rescue.
- Speak Thai is a personal translator with over 2,500 words that helps you communicate with Thai people anywhere and anytime. Useful sentences are grouped in nine categories, including shopping, travel, eating out, and leisure & sports. Each of the terms and sentences is shown in English, Thai, and transliterated Thai, as well as spoken to ensure you will get the pronunciation right.
If you have a smartphone, head over to TAT’s mobile applications site.
As an English teacher, you are probably as sensitive about silly grammar mistakes as I am. I cringe whenever I see people use there when they mean their or your when they mean you’re. How about you?
Copyblogger posted a great infographic that lists the 15 most common grammar goofs. Perhaps you can use it in one of your next lessons to make sure your students know the differences?
Which grammar mistake makes you cringe the most? Let me know in the comments below.