Postgraduate Use of English at Dhurakij Pundit University/Literature Review

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This chapter reviews the literature on the following topics:

  • The Use of English in Thailand
  • The Use of English within the Thai Academic Communities
  • Characteristics of English Use Among the Thai Academics
  • Literature on the Use of English among members of the Thai Academic Communities


Unlike Singapore or Malaysia, English in Thailand is not a second language; it has been taught as a foreign language since its inception. Standard Thai has been and still is the most important language in the Thai society. Thai students have been taught English as a foreign language. There are other foreign languages such as French, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, among others. Lately, Chinese has become the second most popular foreign language among Thai learners.[Citation needed here.]

In Thailand, English has also been perceived as being a global language. English as a global language is more than just a language for global communication. In many countries, English has become a status symbol (Phillipson, 1992). Like in many other countries, the ability to speak or use English well in Thailand is seen as a means to enhance one’s social status.

As English has become a global language, including its role as a language for academic purposes, coupled with the globalization of Thailand, Thai academics, in addition to good knowledge of Sanskritized Thai, are required to know and use English well. Indeed, having sound English ability is one of the most important requirements for most Thai academics.

Nowadays, it is observable that English has permeated into all fabrics of the Thai society and culture, as evidenced by the greater amount of English words mixed with Thai words or phrases in Thai media (Kapper, 1992).

Among the Thai academics, English is recognized as an academic language. In addition to utilizing the knowledge borrowed from the literature written in English, Thai academics generally use English words or terms in their communities. Loanwords (including loan-tranlated words or calques) have been used as a common practice.


Like academics elsewhere, Thai academics, have been using English for verious purposes. In fact, they have been relying on knowledge and research findings from the West, especially the English-speaking cultures such as the US, Australia, and the UK. Being able to use English for utilitarian purposes, in addition to having excellent knowledge and skills of Sanskritized Thai, has been recognized as an almost indispensable requirement for one’s role as a Thai academic.

Albeit well-annecdoted, research on the use of English by Thai academics is still in its infancy. This study was probably the first attempt to investigate their English use, perceived problems in the use, their coping ability, and their needs of support.


The use of English as an L2 among the Thai academics has been influenced by the Thai language and culture, resulting in its unique characteristics.

The use of English among the Thai academics has been documented as having salient characteristics in five distinctive areas: (1) pronunciation, (2) the use of loanwords, (3) the practice of code-switching/mixing, (4) names and titles, and (5) rhetorical conventions,


A study of English ability, English use problems, and the need of English among 239 Thai graduate students found that, in general, their proficiency level was low. However, theeirs needs to use English in their study were high. Most of them admitted that their language background was insufficient to handle the demand of English.

Sriwilai Polmanee and Panida Sinsuwan conducted a study to find out about the needs and problems of the graduate students in two program: the Thai language and the Ebglish language programs. Their results showed that the students of the two programs were similar in their needs of the English language. Both of them recognized the fact that the learning of English was important in the study at the graduate level. Both of them differed in their problems of the language skills.

Wutinat Chirapan (1987) conducted a survey and found that among the four skills, reading was the skills that the graduate students needed the most.

Chirapan (1987) carried out an investigation with graduate students at Mahidol University about the needs, wants problems and instructor expectations in the academic use of English. The respondents included graduate students and lecturers in three main disciplines; Life Science, Physical Science and Applied Linguistics. Questionnaires were distributed to 154 graduate students and 71 lecturers. The finding indicated that the all four skills were necessary. Moreover, it was found that Life Science students needed to use English in a wider range of activities than other students did.

Naparath Dhithiwattana (BE 2539) investigated and compared the frequency and the pattern of mixing English in Thai by lecturers of different disciplines at Kasetsart University and to study the relationship between their attitudes and behaviors of code-mixing. With regard to the lecturers' attitudes toward code-mixing, it was found that their attitudes did not always correspond to their code-mixing behaviors; eight out of the sampled fifteen people had correspondence of attitude and behavior of mixing English in Thai. In other words, they had code-mixed even when they themselves said it was inappropriate.

A survey conducted by Pinyosunun (2005) found that one of the major causes of English language problems was the lack of opportunities for Thai postgraduate students to use the language. The survey also noted that most students said they overcame problems in using English in an international program by self-learning.