Vatcharit Chantajinda, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2:30 pm – 3:00 pm (Room 232)
In 2020, as the government of Thailand implemented a policy to close all schools due to the ongoing pandemic, some conducted their classes online while others needed to rely on Distance Learning Television (DLTV) provided by the government. As part of it, a recorded sixth-grade English class taught by a Thai teacher was televised and attracted negative criticism from several social network sites, especially on her pronunciation, as language teachers have been expected to be good models for learners. The present study qualitatively investigates Thai Twitter users’ public opinions on the teacher’s English pronunciation. Data were collected from replies to a tweet with a short video which captured public attention and provoked criticism. Out of 265 replies, 94 tweets directly criticized the teacher’s pronunciation. Most of them focused on the final sounds of English words which were replaced with another sound and unreleased, e.g., /l/ as [n̚] in school. Having clear pronunciation, i.e., producing all English phonemes correctly, is, therefore, possibly one of the most essential skills that Thai people expect English teachers to possess. Even though there were also some comments on her accent saying that it was hard to understand or not native-like, Thai netizens seemed to primarily focus on having clear English pronunciation instead of attaining a native-like accent. Furthermore, scholars included replacement of English consonants with those in Thai also found in this study as a distinctive feature of ‘Thai English’ (Trakulkasemsuk, 2012; Tuaycharoen, 2003) and language teachers in Thailand embraced it as a localized variety and recognized its existence and validity (Tarry, Ulla, & Lekwilai, 2021). Results suggest that Thai netizens, which might represent Thai people in general, however, only find it acceptable if Thai EFL teachers pronounce English sounds clearly and correctly without such replacement. This reveals that even though Thai English and its features are deemed acceptable for experts and language practitioners, laypeople might have a different set of opinions and beliefs and they expect language teachers assumed to be learners’ models to be knowledgeable of English pronunciation.