DSCF0208 Last August, when I wrapped up my volunteer English teaching at Bangkhonthiinai School in Samut Songkhram province, I provided each of the students with a business card containing my contact information, encouraging them to write.

The next few months were very silent.

Then, Khruu Somchai introduced the sixth graders to the mismatched computers in the school’s computer lab.  Shortly thereafter, I started receiving emails from some of the sixth graders. 

At first, they were in Thai.

พวกเราคิดถึงคุณครูมากๆคะ ถ้ามีโอกาศกรุณาส่งกลับมาด้วยนะคะ (ส่งเป็นภาษาไทยนะคะ)

We miss teacher very much.  If you have an opportunity, please write back. (Write in Thai, please.) 

And other messages like that.


Since my computer doesn’t have Thai on it (and since it is my employer’s computer, the Windows disk that I need to install the Thai language capabilities is in Houston, Texas) I have to use a virtual Thai keyboard.  That makes for some really slow typing on my part.

Finally, I sent the following message to the sixth graders:  Translations in italics, below.


ถ้าหนูอยากจะฝึกเขียนภาษาอังกฤษ หนูควรจะเขียน e-mail ให้ครูเป็นภาษาอังกฤษ เขียนผิดก็ได้ครูอ่านรู้เรื่อง เหมือนกับเด็กฝึกหัดเดินต้องมีล้มบ้าง แต่ก็จะเดินเก่งได้ในที่สุด  เหมือนกับหนูที่ต้องฝึกเขียนอังกฤษบอยๆ ครูเชื่อว่าหนูจะต้องเก่งแน่นอน


So from now on, I will write to you in English.  And you can practice writing English to me, too.


Best regards,


Teacher Chris

I hope that you will continue practice writing English [after you graduate].  If you want to practice writing English, you should write your emails to me in English.  Even if you write incorrectly I will still understand.  Just like a child practicing walking must sometimes fall but will walk well in the end so, too, you must pracice writing English regularly.  I believe that you will certainly become good [at writing].


Of the three sixth graders to whom I sent that message, one has stopped writing, one has continued writing in Thai, and a third – the class president – is actually making an effort to include some English.  Here’s a sample:

how  are you way teacher  com on  school one ครั้ง because we
 go out from
Bang khonteenai school we

It is kind of funny how she ran out of English and switched to Thai.  The first Thai word is “time”.  To encourage her, my responses have been a combination of correcting her English, encouraging her (in English) to continue practicing, and then adding a little bit of news in Thai so she doesn’t get overwhelmed by an entire email in English. 

A week ago, my email inbox showed messages from two new students: the fifth graders are now in the computer lab, too!  One of them pre-emptively explained that she wants to write in English but isn’t ready yet.

Curiously, only the girls seem to be interested in writing the emails.  None from the boys.  I sent an email response to the pair of fifth graders and asked whether the boys were scared of computers or the girls are just more clever.  Nothing like a little bit of a rivalry.


11 thoughts on “

  1. @ToyPetFishes – Even better, they just use a different title, “Teacher”.  That way, I sound really professional, considering I was just a volunteer.  Plus in writing they also add the polite prefix, “Khun” and suffix, “ka”.

  2. I am so glad the students are finally writing to you. I have found over the years that if I want my students to write to me I use very simple phrases and no contractions when writing to them. I also try to avoid complicated tenses. Rivalry between boys and girls is always a good thing.

  3. This entry made me smile. I taught English to French elementary school students a few years ago and received similar messages from my students after I left. Like your students, mine wrote first in their native language, and when I suggested that they try writing in English, only two girls continued their correspondence. And my students, too, called me “Teacher.” “Maîtresse” is the female form of the word in French. It does make one sound professional, doesn’t it?

  4. That is so precious.  Well ofcourse girls are more into the ‘now’ of things Chris! They want to get ahead of the boys always. But I am glad that you are keeping their interests going. Keep it up.  Teachers do it best.

  5. @curry69curry – If you have Thai installed on your computer and have the stickers on the keys so you know where everything is, it isn’t that bad.  But the virtual Thai keyboard online is a real challenge unless you have a magnifying glass to see the characters!

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