1. Creating a single market and production base
2. Establishing a highly competitive economic region
3. Ensuring a region of equitable economic development
4. Becoming a region fully integrated into the global economy
All of which are to be orchestrated in their common business language: English.
Because of this, the demand for English language teachers in the region is huge. P'Om is constantly giving extra tuition sessions and I tutor a three year old for two hours a week after school. Her parents watch over her eagerly as she mispronounces words, and jabbers away in Thai to me and I'm often embarrassed at how little progress seems to be made.
I've also found that the students sometimes struggle to understand my pronunciation of words, which when repeated by P'Om in Thainglish (Thai-English) the students understand perfectly. I can't help thinking that while I am a useful aid to help with the students fluency in spoken English, understanding Thainglish will probably be a greater asset for them in years to come.
The same thoughts are touched upon by Poranee Deerajviset a lecturer at Khon Kaen University, who notes how important non-verbal communication (facial gestures and body language) is when communicating effectively cross culturally. Using facial expressions and positive body language in the classroom can have transformative effects on how your students react to your teaching; I rely on them constantly, mostly to reassure P'Om and P'Jim that I am happy or to emphasis that I don't understand something. A lot can be lost in translation and a smile or a frown can say a lot more than a dodgily pronounced Thai sentence.
Back in 2014 the British Council celebrated their 80th anniversary with the 80 moments that shaped the world. Number 11 is the spread of the English language. Snippets of English crop up everywhere incredibly popular on t-shirts, adverts and splattered throughout schools. Sometimes it makes perfect sense, sometimes less so, and so Thainglish becomes even more embedded.
It's late and everyone's tired. P'Jim heads to the shops to find some sweet treats and I blow up some balloons for five minutes of volleyball before the colouring begins again. "Speak English!" they chorus as I jump for the ball. I am constantly in awe of their dedication to learning, particularly when it comes to English and forever grateful for such keen students. I wonder, as P'Jim returns and they settle back down to their evening's work, by the 100th anniversary of the British Council how many of these children will be speaking English and how successful will the ASEAN community prove to be.