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The Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), offered by the University of Cambridge (ESOL Examinations), is run in over 120 centers around the world and it is considered by many authorities as the most important form of training in the TELF (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) industry. Between 30th of August and 24th of September 2004 I attended the Cambridge CELTA course at English and Computer College (ECC) from Bangkok.
Cambridge ESOL is a not-for-profit department of the University of Cambridge. It is part of the Cambridge Assessment Group, Europe’s largest assessment agency. Cambridge Assessment was established in 1858 as the University of Cambridge local Examinations Syndicate (UCLESS). Cambridge ESOL provides exams and tests covering a large range of subjects and levels with more than 8 million assessments taken every year in over 150 countries. English and Computer College was established in 1990 and is the largest private language school from Thailand, with more than 50 branches spread all over the country. It runs a wide variety of courses from general conversation and grammar to specialized test preparation. It also provides pre-service and in-service teacher training programs for native and non-native speakers of English.
During the CELTA course that I attended, the trainers exposed the students (most of them teachers of English themselves) to the principles of effective teaching while the students acquired a range of practical skills for teaching English to adult learners. The course included theory sessions, teaching practice with real students, observation of experienced teachers and completion of a range of practically focused written assignments. The present paper was built upon one of these assignments. It is a case study of a Thai young woman who was a student in my CELTA teaching practice lessons. The paper focuses on the learner in the learning context and identifies specific problems and recommends ways of dealing with the language problems that the interviewed student encountered . The paper ends with the rationale for the recommended activities and an overall conclusion.
2. Profile of the learner
The student I chose to observe and interview was Miss P.R. Her nickname is Nun, and she comes from Thailand. She was 24 years old at the time of the interview in 2004 and graduated from Busayarat Commercial School from Bangkok, with a degree in Computers in 1998. She had been studying English ever since primary school, when she was taught the basics of the English language. In high school, her English teachers focused mainly on vocabulary work, and during her university studies she had a few classes of English every week. She had been studying English by herself and had taken different language courses intensively since 2003. She joined the CELTA English classes at English Computer College in Bangkok on the 30th of August 2004. She attended all the classes, joining her 15 classmates five times a week.
Miss P.R. had an outgoing personality. She was always willing to take part in the activities that the teachers prepared for the CELTA English lesson at ECC. The materials used by the teachers during the lessons varied, ranging from visual aids to worksheets, tape recorders, books, and game boards. Each lesson she took part in different writing, reading, listening, or speaking activities, but she also played fun games.
When asked, she said that she believed the focus of the English lessons was mainly on speaking skills. She considered the lessons at ECC relaxed, and the students had and wanted to have a lot of fun. She felt that the foreign teachers were friendly and that they all had interesting personalities, which were reflected in their teaching styles. She noticed that the teachers have different accents too. She confessed that some of the teachers talked too fast, and sometimes she had to translate or explain the activities to her classmates.
In her opinion, a good teacher should be kind and listen to all the students in the class. She would like teachers to pay more attention to the weak students and have in mind the fact that Thai students are shy and do not like to express their personal feelings. She thought it was a good idea for the teachers to ³force them [the students] to speak´ if they [the students] were reluctant to speak up in English.
One of the main reasons why she was so outspoken was the fact that she had the chance to speak English outside the classroom with other foreigners too. Her educational background and her motivation were also important factors that built up her confidence.
3. Specific problems
Her nationality was also important in her English learning context due to the fact that Thais have a specific mind set regarding languages. During my observations and interview I had noticed that she made frequent mistakes in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary.