Sam Thompson

Teaching corporate classes

Mixing it with the suits


When I first came to Thailand, my intention was to eventually teach in corporate environments; I've always enjoyed public speaking, and I've given business presentations on several occasions before leaving the USA with great success. Bangkok is constantly attracting more and more international companies, and with English taking the role of the primary business communication language, it makes sense to me to try to edge my way in.

A few weeks ago, an opportunity finally presented itself through my part-time language school to teach two evenings per week at an engineering firm in the Ekkamai area. I jumped on the chance, and I must say: I'm so glad I did! My original thinking was that these classes would be more serious than the Mathayom-level science classes I currently teach; it is a business environment, after all, complete with suits and ties. I also expected, at least to some degree, to have students with at least basic English proficiency to work with. Both of these assumptions were wrong, and I'm happy to say that I'm glad!

For starters, just like in most environments in Thailand, the corporate setting I'm teaching in is far more relaxed than I'm used to from the USA and even Germany. Sure, people may be dressed in business casual, but the prevailing relaxed attitude typical of Thais and Thailand shows even in dress shoes.

Next, my students approach the class with a genuine interest to learn English. This may be due to the fact that they're "on the clock" during my 6:00-8:00 p.m. classes with them two days per week, but I'm still happy to have intrigued students. Their knowledge of English varies greatly. I have a few students (generally out of 10-12 total) who have a very good grasp of English, and can carry on a basic conversation. I also have several students on the opposite end of the spectrum that cannot even read a basic sentence. Even so, the group I have seems to like helping one another along, and they all seem to have a blast giggling at their attempts to learn. That's always a good sign!

I'm lucky to be working for a great language school that provides the basic lessons and ideas for activities, but I generally use those as guidelines and let the class take our discussions wherever they like. The class is, after all, for them, so it only makes sense. Even though the class's age range is between probably 25-50, they all still love to play games just as much as my Mathayom students. In fact, I could argue that they like to do so more! One class, because I noticed they were having issues pronouncing basic numbers correctly, I taught them how to play "Go Fish." You would have think they just learned rocket science; they love it!

All in all, I'd have to say that teaching corporate classes has become my favorite work activity. Sure, I love teaching in a high school, but there's only so much you can do within their set curriculum. The corporate classes give you a chance not only to interact on a somewhat higher level with students (due to their age primarily), but also something different. Government schools can get a bit monotonous, day after day, but corporate classes typically have a different feel to each one.

You also can't beat the fact that the pay is far better, plus you may get lucky like me and get an environment on the 25th floor of a business building with great views of the city. Sure, it makes for two long days a week (8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at a government school, then 6:00-8:00 p.m. straight after), but all in all, I'd say the whole experience is extremely positive.

While I like the stability of a paycheck that typically comes with a government school, it sure will be hard to resist moving entirely into the corporate teaching realm as my time teaching in Thailand carries on.




Comments

Ysabella: I am working through a language school which provides some of the material from in-house, but I use a large amount of things I research myself based on things the class wants to learn and things I think would be useful to them to know after talking with them and discovering their English levels. I've found the best things for my particular group regarded telephone conversations in business settings, describing office activities, training potential new employees to do jobs (thereby describing existing employees' own jobs), and Western business practices.

I also spend a good deal of time having them practice their R/L/V and other pronunciations, because while those of us living in Thailand are used to the common mispronunciations, other business people that they may encounter outside of Thailand may not understand them.

And @Somchai, don't fret: I used "go fish" a whopping two times in class, and I can honestly say it was one of the more productive games the students played. It forced them to practice pronouncing numbers and questions, and more importantly, I forced them to do their "small talk" and jokes to one another during the game in English. Will this work for every class? No. But it did work for mine quite well, and I feel that the activity was in no way a waste of time.

By Sam, Chatuchak, Bangkok (3rd April 2013)

I would love to know what materials you are using. I am teaching 2 coprorate classes, one beginner - games and things to get them to understand and speak more, one more Intermediate, using the Market Leader series and the 3rd a Business writing course. I was told by another teacher to try the Company to Company book. The first class was great since then, they are bored and I have no idea what to teach them as no one is telling me what they want/need to learn, any advice?

By Ysabella, BKK (2nd April 2013)

Somchai:

Your own educational system wastes your time and money far worse than we foreigners ever could. The Thai government spends a pretty high percentage of its GDP on education, but certainly does not have much to show for it in international educational standing. Thais definitely deserve better.

Also, the "go home, farangs" attitude is the sure sign of a closed mind. Closed minds are incapable of improving on themselves and have no interest in growing beyond their current limits. So while I agree with you that clown teachers aren't helping Thais learn real English, I'd appreciate it if you realize that:

a) all farang teachers aren't like this

b) some Thai teachers can be guilty of this as well (oh, yes, I've definitely seen this!)

c) there are many, many reasons (cultural, linguistic, institutional, and motivational) for Thai difficulty in learning English and low performance compared to other ESL learners. It's a complex problem, and it can't be fixed overnight, but it can be fixed

You're sick of clown farang teachers? I understand. But I'm even more sick of people in ANY country blaming foreigners for their own difficulties, whether it's at the personal or national level.

By Matthew, Chiang Rai (28th March 2013)

700 baht an hour to play go fish playing games is the reason thais learn nothing anyone that has learned a language knows that it is a long arduos boring journey .Go home farangs ye are just wasting our time.

By somchai, bangkok (20th March 2013)

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