Now that each and every one of us are finding ourselves in this absolutely unprecedented and inescapable situation, it’s more important than ever for us to maintain a healthy routine to get us through the tunnel and out the other side.
Choosing to either continue studying with our Thai language schools in the new online format, or opting to start as a new student brings immense benefits not just to those of us stuck at home, but also for the Thai language schools and teachers who depend on business continuity to earn a living.
Transitioning to the online platform is the way forward through these dark times, we need to stick together and soldier on at a social distance to ensure as much continuity to our days as possible and to ensure the very survival of our Thai language schools and with it, the jobs of our teachers.
As a current regular student of Duke Language School in Sukhumvit Soi 13, I will be referring to this school in examples, but this article is geared towards supporting all Thai language schools in Bangkok.
1. Maintain Your Sense of Normality by Following a Routine
With the majority of us reaching a month of confinement to our homes in Bangkok and elsewhere, many would agree that the key to getting through the day has been to follow a routine of some description. Getting up in the morning, exercising, working if we are able to and taking our online Thai language classes. The experts all seem to agree that the best way to move forward in this situation is to approximate the safe aspects of normal life as best we can and to maintain a busy schedule.
This is true in different ways depending on the number of people we are sharing a space with during this period of isolation. For those of us on our own, it is important in order to keep ourselves as free from loneliness and boredom as possible. On the other hand, for those of us staying in close quarters with our families or flatmates, it is important to maintain that sense of order that comes with routine so as best to keep chaos and cabin fever at bay. Perhaps encouraging someone else living with you to join a class together, or even someone you miss socialising with who is isolated somewhere else and looking for such an activity can help to achieve this.
With all this in mind, continuing on to the next stage of our learning is an excellent way to maintain a sense of normalcy. For those at Duke Language School, I particularly recommend taking the morning session as it provides an excellent incentive to get up in good time and get ready to start the day in a productive way. It certainly has been encouraging me to shave in the morning and put myself together as if it was a normal day. On an oddly apt lighter side, taking classes is a great way to distinguish between weekdays and weekends, something that I know many of us are finding increasingly difficult to differentiate between!
2. Learn Thai from the Comfort of Your Home
First and foremost, the primary advantage and entire reason for learning Thai online is the personal safety of ourselves, those around us, our Thai teachers, medical workers and society as a whole. For those essential reasons, for those of us who prefer taking physical classes and don’t like the idea of studying online, the unfortunate reality is that this is now the only option to continue with almost everything in our lives. However, there are many benefits to this.
For those who haven’t yet transitioned to the online classes with Duke Language School, the lessons still follow the same format as those taught in the classroom. As I am only currently familiar with the new format at Duke, I can only assume that the same is true for other schools as well. Classes are taught via the remote conferencing application Zoom and with a much quicker and smoother connection than many of the traditional chat apps like Skype or FaceTime, lessons are a very straightforward affair. The lack of lag time when talking greatly reduces the all too familiar awkwardness and speaking over one another that we normally associate with such tools and lessons flow very easily. We can see and hear our Thai teacher very easily and clearly as well as the rest of our classmates.
There are even some benefits to the new format that improve upon the classroom experience. Students are able to view the teacher’s computer screen, therefore it is possible to use slides, PowerPoint presentations and all kinds of computer programmes to complement the regular materials.
On the student side, we also have the option of muting our mics whenever we need to and with an HDMI lead, we can connect our device to the TV for the big screen experience. We have the luxury of studying from home, something we should be taking full advantage of.
3. Beat the Commute and Overcome the Physical Barrier
As unintuitive as this may initially sound being unable to physically attend our school to study Thai, the new online format has actually broken the restraints of our current physical locations. This means that we no longer actually have to be in Bangkok to be able to study Thai at a reputable institution… we don’t even need to be in Thailand to take an online Thai language class. This of course means that those who have returned to their own countries, whether or not they intend to return in the future, can take advantage of the new format to continue to learn Thai and to maintain their bond with the country during their hiatus. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection, an internet-ready device and a basic knowledge of time zones.
If you know someone who’s planning to come out to Thailand when all this insanity is over, why not suggest to them that they can sign up to study Thai from Bangkok ahead of time whilst they have more of it? During my previous semester at Duke Language School, I even found that I could follow the class on my phone from immigration at Chaeng Wattana, with the option to mute my mic and turn off my camera where appropriate, which kept me occupied as I passed those frustrating hours, waiting out in the atrium as far away from everyone else as I could get!
4. Enjoy Social Interaction at a Safe Distance
For many of us, social distancing involves a complete or near complete withdrawal from our face-to-face social circles, which can be difficult and an additional source of stress for those of us unaccustomed to it.
Continuing our online Thai classes is an excellent source of daily interaction with both our Thai teachers and our course mates. As the same high quality materials and lesson plans are used as would be used in the classroom, there are still the same levels of interaction and most of the same games and activities where possible.
This is particularly important for those of us isolating alone, and if we balance it properly, we can maintain as full an online social life as we need through a balance of Thai classes and contact with our loved ones in Bangkok and around the world. This is certainly the socially responsible thing to do, minimising the risk of getting infected, and just as importantly, the risk of infecting others around us.
As people, we are an adaptable bunch, and switching to the new online format is something we can easily adapt to. Many of us have already made the switch following the abrupt change last month. By continuing on this platform, we are helping to both fill that social void in our isolation, and at the same time we are supporting our Thai teachers when they need it the most!
5. Take Advantage of the Opportunity for Self-Improvement
With much more free time to spend and fill than we’re used to, we have two core choices in how we spend it. We can choose to stagnate and find mindless ways to pass the time, or we can approach it with a more forward-thinking and wiser attitude as an opportunity to increase our skill sets and capacities. Excellent ways to achieve this include reading instructional books and taking online skills courses, such as the online Thai language classes offered by Thai language schools in Bangkok, including Duke.
Those of us who remember the hard times during the 2008 financial crash will remember the wisdom of using the time to improve our prospects in preparation for the end of the crisis, to make ourselves smarter and endow ourselves with more skills to propel us forward when the time permitted it. This is exactly the strategy we should be adopting in these uncertain times to make the best of a terrible situation. If we wait to resume our Thai language classes once the schools reopen, we will be left behind.
What’s more, our schools may no longer be operating if too many of us abandon them, opting to weather the storm before continuing. This terrible scenario would result in many people, mostly our Thai teachers, losing their jobs and their income in the face of unparalleled financial turmoil. As a current student who is blessed enough to have a stable income, this is one of my core motivations to continue with Duke. None of these teachers, as with those of any other school, deserve to have to face this scenario.
6. Protect Your ED Visa and Safeguard Your Residence Status
For those of us on an ED visa, continuing with our classes on a regular basis is somewhat of a requirement already. However, deciding to take a pause for a month or two in anticipation of re-joining the classroom-based lessons may be to shoot ourselves in the foot. If a significant enough number of students decide to do so, combined with the expected drop in student numbers due to current difficulties and the complete suspension of new arrivals into the country, our Thai schools may be forced to close down, thus rendering our visas null and void, obliging us to leave the country as soon as the borders reopen and preventing us from studying Thai with our school of choice in the future, on top of the hardship it would cause our teachers.
I’m sure there are many among us who are feeling more than a little anxious about the understandable uncertainty from the department of immigration regarding both the smooth continuation of our stay here in Thailand (particularly with so many borders closed), and our ability to avoid being blacklisted, thus negatively impacting our future in the country, in the event that we are unable to follow the proper regulations for whatever reasons. By ensuring that we continue to take our Thai classes online with our respective schools, we will be doing our part to ensure that we are in the best position to prevent this.
7. Help Small Businesses However You Can
We are all well aware of the devastating economic fallout that this crisis is causing to many millions around the world. Those of us who are able to work from home are the lucky ones, and thankfully for the time being, this includes many of the Thai teachers at schools like Duke. However, this is only possible if there are students for them to teach. In order for this situation to be sustainable, for teachers to keep their jobs and for schools to continue to exist, we as students need to step up where we can to support our schools and help to protect those jobs and livelihoods. For those of us in a more fortunate position to ride out the lockdown and seeking a way to help the people around us and to help local businesses stay afloat, continuing to study Thai online and encouraging others to do the same is one of the best ways to help!
Alongside paying more than we need to our food vendors and service providers, sticking with our Thai language school (whichever one that may be!) through these difficult times will help protect the ability of our Thai teachers and their families to stay afloat financially too. We must look out for one another and help those around us in whatever ways we can.
8. Cushion the Harsh Reality of an Uncertain Future
As uncomfortable as it may be to contemplate, it is important to consider the reality that as foreigners living in Thailand, we never know when we may need to clearly communicate, and with the current pandemic building around us, there may come a time when this ability could make a significant difference in how we are able to function in scenarios where we, or someone around us, need medical treatment or any other important service in the coming months.
Not knowing how long the current situation will last and what will happen in the future, it is a wise course of action to ensure that we are as well-equipped for any eventuality as we can be. As with most other aspects of life, preparation and taking sensible steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones is paramount. With any luck, the vast majority of us will be able to pass through this extremely unusual period without taking too much damage, but it is still important to plan for all potential scenarios, and sticking with our Thai classes online is an excellent way to help ensure this.
As we are all aware at this point, migrating to online platforms has now become the norm for all kinds of communications and transactions, whether you are having a work meeting, you are teaching your own students or checking in on friends and family. In almost all cases, this is not an optional switch, this is the new reality, and continuing with our Thai classes online is no exception.
I sincerely wish all the best to all students and Thai teachers in Bangkok and further afield, and to all of your families and friends. We will get through this by sticking together and supporting one another in any ways we can.