Like it or not, the English language has gone from strength to strength over the last sixty years. The increase in interest in English has led to people across the globe wanting to learn English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English as a Second Language (ESL), or English for Specific Purposes (ESP) and the ways in which English is learnt have changed. One of the possible ways to learn is Content Based Instruction (CBI), which is defined as “The teaching of content or information in the language being learned with little or no direct of explicit effort to teaching the language separately from the content being taught” (Kranhnke 1987, 65). CBI is an effective way of learning both the language and the content, and English should be the only language that the natural sciences, mathematics, and computer sciences are taught in within Thailand due to the benefits that the students will receive, the benefits that mankind will reap from the sharing of ideas, and because it is logical due to the lexis used within these fields.
A student learning English using CBI is given an advantage over a student who has learnt the aforementioned subject. This advantage can be viewed as being both educational, and occupational. By using English as the medium, the sheer wealth of resources available to the student is far greater than those resources that use Thai as the medium. However, it can be argued that a student will gain more from resources that are written in his or her first language. Initially, this may be true. However, after repeated and regular exposure, especially during the critical period, as described in the critical-age hypothesis by linguist Eric Lenneberg, a student will be sufficient in English to get the most out of the resources supplied. In terms of occupational advantages, students would have a broader scope and a multitude of jobs to consider, not only within these fields but also all those that require fluency in English, both within and outside of Thailand, whereas if students did not use CBI for mathematics and the sciences, their choice would be limited to those jobs that do not stipulate that proficiency in English is required. However, there are always going to be some students who are instructed in Thai, yet are proficient in English due to learning it as a separate subject. This is a valid point, but the idiom ‘kill two birds with one stone’ immediately springs to mind.
The next reason for having CBI lies not within Thailand, but elsewhere around the globe. They say that great minds think alike and it has been common for scholar and intellectuals to take previous ideas and develop them. This, however, is not possible for those that wish to learn from and adapt research, theories, articles, and journals that are written in Thai. The key to unlocking this problem is to have all instruction in English. There may be some overzealous nationalists who are not too keen on the idea of replacing Thai with English, but there is no need for them to worry. Thais are a proud people and there is no danger of the language dying, or becoming less popular just because it makes sense for certain subjects to be taught using a global language.
And finally, it comes down to common sense. Common sense, due to the fact that the lexis used for these subjects is heavily-laden with English. A perusal of any Thai dictionary will show that there are many loan words from English that relate to the sciences. So, naturally it would be practical for the instruction to be in English. Also, when considering the lexis used when the instruction is in Thai, one has to think of how it is detrimental to students’ learning English that use the Thai pronunciation of the loan words.
It is only logical that subjects such as mathematics, natural sciences, and computer sciences be taught using CBI with English as the medium due to educational and occupational benefits that it allows the students. There are also the benefits that the world as a whole receives with ideas being freely shared and not restricted by a language that is not known by many people outside of Thailand. Furthermore, one needs to consider the lexis used within these fields. To conclude, time should also be taken to consider the Thai pronunciation of these English loan words, and special consideration should be taken for the thousands of ESL teachers who have had to bang their heads against a brick wall whilst screaming that the primary stress for the word ‘computer’ is on the second syllable and not the third.
Crystal, David. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Krahnke, Karl. “Approaches to Syllabus design for Foreign Language Teaching.” Krahnke, Karl.
Approaches to Syllabus design for Foreign Language Teaching. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics, 1987. 65.
S, Johnson Jacqueline and Newport Elissa L. “Critical Period Effects in Second Language
Learning: The influence of the Maturational State on the Acquisition of English as a Second Language.” Cognitive Psychology 21 (1989): 60-99.