5 Tips for Teaching English in Thailand

Posted by claudio on January 10, 2011 in Teaching in Thailand |

Teaching English in Thailand

Teaching English in Thailand is a uniquely rewarding way for native English speakers to make a living in Thailand. Here are five tips to help you enjoy your job even more and gain respect from your Thai peers and your students:

Understand Thai Culture

This is not just a tip from me, but a requirement by the Teacher’s Council of Thailand for anybody who wants to teach in a Thai school. Thai culture is quite different from Western culture. Knowing a thing or two about Thai culture will not only help you build rapport with your students and Thai colleagues, it will also help you minimize the risk of putting your foot in your mouth. Get informed about the monarchy, religion, customs, and general beliefs. There is a lot of information available online and the mandatory 20-hour Culture course will ensure that you have a basic understanding of Thai culture. My previous post “The Culture of Thailand” may serve as a starting point.

Plan Your Lessons Well

This one is especially important for people without much experience teaching in Thailand yet.  It is recommended to print out a lesson plan, including a board layout for your planned topic, even if you are a seasoned teacher. Your Thai colleagues highly appreciate it because you appear well prepared and they can learn from your lessons at a different level. You also will make it easy for any teacher who may need to substitute for you, since they know exactly what you intended to teach your students. Your lesson plan doesn’t have to be a literary work; a few simple bullet points outlining the topic and aim of your lesson, the new vocabulary taught, and the exercises and games used to reinforce the material will do the trick.

Dress Appropriately

In Thailand, people care a lot about looks and this is especially important for a teacher.  Teachers are held in very high respect and not dressing appropriately will have a negative impact on that perception. I have seen teachers coming to work with old, torn pants, which were held together at the seams with safety pins. No kidding! I have seen female teachers entering a classroom in pink plastic flip-flops as if they were on a vacation. They didn’t look professional and guess what? They had more trouble managing the classroom as their peers who were dressed appropriately.

Have a look at my previous post “Dress Code for Teachers in Thailand“, which describes what is considered appropriate clothing for English teachers in Thailand.

Do Not Speak Thai in the Classroom

Some teachers keep insisting that they need to speak Thai in the classroom to explain some concepts as it would take too long trying to do it without the use of Thai. I respectfully disagree for several reasons:

  • Students need to use different muscles in the brain to understand something without translation.
  • If you are in the need of explaining something and can’t do it with pictures, drawings, and realia, you most likely are teaching something too complex and above the students’ comprehension level.
  • Unless you’re speaking Thai perfectly, you will most likely make a fool of yourself with wrong pronunciation and perhaps even wrong usage of some words. Students will at the least laugh at you (even if just silently) and at worst will be confused about what exactly you are trying to explain to them.

If you struggle with the idea of not using any Thai in the classroom, imagine how you would teach a room full of mixed nationalities. There is no way you could speak all of the languages present and would have to find a way to convey the meaning of words without translation. It may require a bit more planning to prepare flash cards with images and drawings or to find real objects to bring to the classroom, but will be worth the effort. The end result will be a more interesting and entertaining lesson, which will lead to a higher retention of your taught material..

Make it FUN!

This one is a no-brainer. You will capture and keep the attention of your students when you make your lessons fun. It seems very easy to entertain students in a typical Thai classroom. They love the slapstick variety of humor and a few funny gestures and facial expressions will get you a long way. If you use flash cards, put one of them upside down in the stack. To you and me, this may not be all that funny, but watch the reaction of your students when you get to that flash cards. They will laugh, point, and shout at you, prompting you to take a look at your card. It’s all good though, because at that moment, you have the attention of your students and as a result, they usually learn the word on that flash card instantly.


  • Yongyuth says:

    The recent beating of a transgender individual in the media highlights the problems facing transgender individuals. The world might be educated by studying how Thailand views and treats transgender individuals. In Thai we call them Katoeys which is translated into Ladyboy in English. I have pioneered the recognition of Ladyboy rights at Uttaradit University in Thailand and look forward to educating people about Thai ladyboys and networking with international ladyboys. As Dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Uttaradit University I am in a unique position to practice what I preach. I have been a leader in recruiting Ladyboys into my faculty where I have learned about their aspirations and their fears. They are very beautiful, just like real women, and Thailand consistently produces the winner of the international Ladyboy competitions throughout the world. I hope this blog helps to dispel some myths about Ladyboys and helps to create an international dialogue.

    • QueenReign says:

      Hello Ma\’am

      Good day!

      I was reading this article and saw you comment and I really do admire your advocacy for us transgenders. I am from Philippines and it is very tough here for us good thing there are jobs here like in BPO where we can practice our right to have a decent job.

      I am so interested in working in Thailand and living there as well. I was in Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Surat Thani and Bangkok last year and all I can say is Thailand has the nicest people on earth and has the richest culture.

      I have a transgender friend too there who works as an English teacher. I would love to find my career path in Thailand and I hope I can rely on you.

      I look forward to hearing from you.

      Kindest regards from the Philippines,



  • Claudio says:

    Thanks for your comment, Yongyuth. Transgender individuals are a big part of Thai culture indeed. I am very happy to see how they are treated more fairly in Thailand than many other places, and I applaud your work of educating people. Your blog is fascinating and I wish you good luck and lots of success helping the world to better understand the “third gender”.

  • Hi Yongyuth,

    Thanks for your imformative and inspring posts.

    I want to be you some day.

    All my love,

    Batty Dom

  • Daliah M. says:


    I’m thrilled to read your comments as they really mean something to me. I am a 31 y/o post-op transsexual living in the United States. I am returning to Thailand because I fell in love with this country. I currently have a Bachelor’s degree and will be taking a TESOL course in order to teach English. I am a bit concerned as to wether or not I will have difficulty landing a job. I know some Thai schools are working towards making ladyboys’ learning experience safer. I do wonder if you know of any transgender teachers or staff members working in other Thai schools? I would really appreciate your input and advise on the matter. My email is listed above but I will incorporate it in this message as well.

    Truely yours

    Daliah Morris


  • Claudio says:

    I can understand your love for Thailand, Daliah. It is one of the most open-minded societies when it comes to transgender individuals. I’m not sure about your chances as a teacher. So far, I have not yet encountered transgender teachers, although each class I’ve seen (especially from high school level up) has usually a few transgender students.

    Even though you may not yet be ready to move to Thailand and start working immediately, my recommendation would be to start applying for some jobs you find online (www.ajarn.com is a good starting point). The purpose of these job applications wouldn’t be to land a job, but rather to test the waters and see what kind of responses you’re getting.

    It is possible that the results of such an exercise may be discouraging, but don’t give up on your dream. There are many ways that I can imagine for you to make a good living in Thailand. The first that comes to mind is to teach English privately or in a language institute, rather than at a school level. I imagine that you could make a decent living by targeting the ladyboy community with an English program.

    I wish you good luck in making your dreams come true!

    • Daliah M. says:


      Thank you for your prompt response! I know there will be challenges abroad, in the same way there are challenges here in the U.S. I am determined to find a way and make it work. I have started researching organizations and private language schools and came across some organizations with English programs for Transgender individuals. I think I will explore this option more in depth! Nonetheless, I will still try other venues and see what response I receive. Thank you again for your advice and positive feedback!

      Daliah M.

  • Robb says:

    My partner and I have been invited to teach English in Thailand this upcoming year. My partner is a pre-op transgender MtF, and She is smoking hot as a woman! But, because of her job here in the states she has to work and appear as a male.

    Here is my question,,, should she keep this to herself until she has her teaching job in Thailand and then come out? What will be the reaction? Or, should she reveal that she plans to complete her transformation before her interview?

    • Claudio says:

      I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer, Robb. It all depends on the specific situation. If your partner is coming out after accepting a job offer, the school might feel that they were mislead. If your partner is coming out before, it may not even result in a job offer. Tricky, to say the least. Perhaps one course of action could be to accept the offer, gauge the situation, and only come out if there is a high degree of certainty that this is a wise move. Otherwise your partner may be better off continuing to appear as a male while searching for a better opportunity to facilitate a coming out.

      Again, I feel I don’t have a satisfying answer… perhaps a specific blog dealing with transgender issues in Thailand may be a better place to turn to than a blog dedicated to teaching in Thailand. ;-)

  • Ron says:

    I was curious what you might think of my predicament. I teach kindergarten (3-4 years old). I can speak nearly fluent Thai. I rarely use this in the classroom but sometimes feel that if I didn’t the class would be lost. I have 30+ students in each classroom. Many times there is not a Thai teacher there to assist. When I have a student ask me an important question how should I respond if he/she doesn’t understand? I usually ask the students to translate for me. If they get it wrong then I have to translate to Thai myself. What do you think I should do? Thanks

  • Ron says:

    Thanks for the quick reply.

  • steve says:

    We had a guy at our school that used to teach in Thai. Apart from his awful pronunciation(rattling his thai off at warp speed to give the impression of fluency) most kids were just confused. Use Thai but very sparingly!

  • KK says:

    Just to give a new tip for people still in Thailand during these hard times. Be clear with the school or Uni that hires you directly when and how you will get paid the first 3 months, as some of them will try to avoid informing you that new teachers won’t get full salary before the third month or so.

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