Young man passes on his love of English in the classroom

The ability to speak English is increasingly important in Laos because the country is building stronger links with the outside world, upon which it is dependent for development.
But few people in Laos speak English compared to other Asean countries, says Thipphavanh Keopanyaseng, who is a linguist and can speak English, French and Japanese.

Mr Thipphavanh Keopanyaseng teaches a class.

Thipphavanh, 32, developed a love for foreign languages at secondary school and today is the director of the Romeo English Academy which has been operating in Vientiane for the past 10 years.
Thipphavanh attended Chulalongkorn Univerisity in Bangkok, Thailand, where he studied economics to begin with but then switched to a course in English public speaking.
He then taught at the Laos-Singapore College, taking classes in general and business English for almost two years.
Following that he explored teaching opportunities in Vientiane, where he taught at various schools and English centres.
Then in 2009 he opened his own school which offers classes in the morning, afternoon and evenings, both on weekdays and at weekends.
To begin with, he focused on adult learners who had studied English in the past or used the language in their work but had not done so for a while, but after two years he found he didn’t have many students.
So he changed tack and began offering classes for anyone over the age of 13, teaching at various levels depending on the ability and prior education of the students.
He created a course called English Structure, in which he taught basic English up to advanced level in ways that taught students to speak and write the language in a practical and realistic way.
Thipphavanh also teaches business English as this suits the needs of many of his students who work in offices or are businesspeople.
Many of his students are university graduates but they don’t know how to write a CV, a letter of application for a job, or ordinary letters and emails, so his school also offers a class that teaches these skills.
Many people teach English part time but Thipphavanh works full time, both on weekdays and at weekends.
He says he doesn’t do this for fun, to make money or make a business out of it but sincerely wants to help people learn English, as he recognises its importance in today’s world.
Laos is working more closely with other countries by holding exchange training courses, with staff and students going overseas. And more and more people from other countries are coming to Laos, so there are problems if people here can’t speak good English, as this is the main language of communication.
Thipphavanh has also created his own textbook to meet the needs of his students.
After 11 years of teaching, Thipphavanh and his colleagues are still struggling to overcome the challenges they face, noting that top of the list is the fact that many students don’t pay enough attention in class.
”What I have found to be the biggest problem, ever since I was a student myself, is that people aren’t really interested in what they’re studying. They all want to speak English well but they don’t really practice or study hard,” Thipphavanh said.
“And quite often students don’t understand something but they won’t ask for an explanation. So we have to encourage them to show off and have the courage to talk more.”
Thipphavanh still wants to improve his teaching skills and is currently looking for an opportunity to take part in an overseas programme that would enable him to both learn and teach.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update January 22, 2019)


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