Matt Smith

Matt Smith's blog on Ajarn.com


The perfect storm

One needs to check the weather before one heads out on an adventure

There was one final story I wanted to relate here, because it was my greatest adventure in Thailand. Or was at least my most memorable experience, at any rate, because it was the closest I have ever come to kicking the bucket.


The root of all evil

A return to the subject of student materials

I think choosing content that encourages students to think in scientific ways facilitates their English language acquisition.


The word farang

What does this strange word really mean?

Many foreigners in Thailand seem to even wear the term Farang as though it were a badge of honor…Thai people will call you it while you walk down the street, your native friends will call you it, and other foreigners even refer to themselves as “Farang.” I do not believe that this term is generally meant to be an insult, this is simply our title in Thai society, and, if we do not like it, there is nothing we can do about it.’


Teaching at my university

What does holding down a university job entail?

if you want to teach university classes like mine, in particularly regard to Thai classes, if they are school leavers they’re really as good a bunch of starters as you could ever hope to get. If you try and teach them in a systematic way, you will encounter difficulties – difficulties that might, at first, be inclined to plunge you into the deepest depths of despair.


Long-tailed Boating

Life on Thailand's waterways

One of my most enjoyable purchases here in Thailand has been my long-tailed boat – ‘ruhr-harng-yao’ in Thai, which means ‘vessel long-tail’, and which by interpreting the term in relation to our own organisation of adjectives and nouns gives us exactly what it is.


On Reading

Is the golden age of reading truly over?

Now we have new communications mediums that, firstly, are more naturally intriguing to the human brain – they offer images, moving, real-time pictures, and sound all at the same time.


CLT again

Establishing a ‘communicative English language teaching environment’

I would say that the practice that most improved any of my classes, by far and away was the practice of walking around the class (particularly in writing classes) and making sure that students were doing the activities, and furthermore knew what they were going to get from them


Culture revisited

A continuing analysis of 'culture'

There is a lot of convenience to the idea that ‘our cultures are very different’. This was never plainer than in the era of (blatant) Western imperialism – I’ve said previously that cultural studies writers speak of ‘orientalism’, which, loosely defined, means disparaging other people because you want to put them to utilitarian purposes.


Culture in the English speaking world

The problems in developing a university culture course

I have in front of me here a Culture in the English Speaking World course book that was written by a person with a European name at another university here in Thailand. It points out a number of supposed differences between Thai and Western culture. It then goes on, basically, to justify the things that Western people do in a positive light, while at the same time casting the contrary behaviour – its Thai parallel – in a very negative light indeed.


Yes, but is it education?

Privately owned media companies as promoters of education

What better way is there of broadcasting one’s message, or of shaping culture, than through an education system – I would say it’s quite plain why, exactly, an English language mass media company would invest considerable sums in creating for itself the image of being an educational entity.


First day on the job

A simple activity for your first day with a new class

If you’re new to the job, and haven’t figured this one out yet, you can start off classes with a new group in confident style every time – the first thing you can do is make a name card.


White or wrong?

The strange fixation that Thai people have with white skin.

If we look at Thailand’s cultural products – that is, when we look at how beauty is represented in the media, in literature, in people’s popular perceptions and so forth – why do we so overwhelmingly see that white skin is thought of as more beautiful? Let's delve into this issue and perhaps find out where exactly the root of the perception lies.


A philosophical dilemma

Should getting a job be given precedence over pursuit of social justice?

I guess the more conservative the society in general, the more left-wingers there are that originate from it that are not in fact left-wingers at all, but who are in fact right-wingers masequerading as left-wingers to make themselves look good.


Trees or the lack thereof

Global warming - something horrible is probably going to happen

You don't need to be a genius to see that if we continue the way we are, then the global warming crisis is going to turn out into something we could never have contemplated. Allow me to stand and look around for a moment.


Further unfurling of the Chinese situation

Cultural observations of Chinese students

I've found out why some of my Chinese students aren't participating in lessons as they should. They've been partying all night and getting drunk and smacked out. The problem is - I'm finding it so hard to tell.


Sick of eating white bread?

ESL theory and the framework it revolves around

To be a teacher you have to have an ontological and epistemological perspective, right? You have to have a grasp of the nature of our universe, and of what knowledge is and how it operates in human terms. Is this not, I mean, one of the most integral platforms from which your practice – course and material design, and methods of instruction and evaluation - will arise?


Teaching the Chinese in Thailand

experiences of teaching an international program

I came back to Thailand from Korea because I far prefer working with Thai students, or because my experiences here were so much nicer. To my surprise,upon my arrival, the university announced it was launching an international program in which there were many students from the south of China. So I'm in Thailand teaching Chinese students. Go figure!


Flea in your ear

tales of being ambushed by the animal kingdom

Whether it's a fearless house gecko or monkeys swinging from the trees, if you live in Thailand, sooner or later the animal kindom will square up to you. Just make sure you're ready for the battle.


Mastering the art of description

Activities that go over well in the classroom

What are some classic language activities that go down well with all types of classes? You'll definitely find something you can use in this list of tried and trusted lesson-fillers.


The burden of being fun

Why many ESL environments are so nightmarish

At its very worst, teaching is the kind of job you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. When the students couldn’t care less about what you have to say, and are determined to just make fun of you, the ESL classroom can literally become a living hell.


If miniskirts were shorter

Modes of dress among Thai female students

As skirts get shorter and blouses get tighter, I find myself siding with the Thai sticks-in-the-mud on this one. What are the reasons for this sudden prudishness?


Did you plan it?

Getting to grips with student compositions

To say that it is sometimes difficult to fix a student's written work is somewhat of an understatement; it would be truer to say that it is an excruciating process, one that is often impossible unless you have the author on hand to provide a bit of interpretation.


Agreeing with Alison Empey

The downsides of teaching in Korea

What exactly is it that I don’t like about Korea, or that made me finally spit the dummy? In as objective tone as I can muster, and in no partcular order, here’s the nature of my gripes.


Phrasebook learning

Is phrasebook learning letting Korean students down?

One of the true beauties of learning another language is the curiosity value of seeing how other peoples string together the concepts the words of their language embody to give meaning to the world in ways we never thought of.


Amateur archaeology in isaarn

Playing 'Indiana Jones' in deepest Isaan

For anyone that has ever thought it would be a thrill to stumble across a hidden treasure, and moreover the most valued possessions of an ancient civilisation, it pays to keep your eyes on the ground; you never know exactly when you’re going to stumble across something genuinely interesting.


The dog and pony show

Demonstration lessons in the Korean public education system

I like the principle of putting on a demonstration lesson and having teachers watch. In my time teaching, one thing I have been short of is the opportunity to see other teachers teach. And you can always learn from other teachers.


Levisiting the plobrems

Problems with pronuncing R and L

Perfect pronunciation in my experience is pretty much the last aspect of a second language to properly fall into place. However there are good reasons why Thai and Korean students should be shown very clearly exactly what they have to do to come up with an unambiguous ‘r’ and ‘l’, and the sort of problems that are going to stand in their way.


Ruminations on curriculum development

advice in regards to developing your own curriculum

How can you develop a curriculum from scratch, with no materials to draw on whatsoever? Having been in this position myself, I might be able to help you out.


Fishing in Isaarn

the dummies guide to fishing in Thailand

Scattered all over Isaan are numerous ‘hoowhy’ (reservoirs) and ‘keu-un’ (lakes) which are not only amazing places to unwind after the tribulations of the classroom, they are simply terrific places to fish. Tight lines!


who speaks English well?

An impossible question to answer

If we compare Thais to Koreans, Japanese or Chinese, who comes out on top in the English language speaking stakes? Well, exactly how easy are these things to judge and what criteria are we going to base our evaluations on?


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