The Importance of the Mother and Second Languages

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The Thai language is the mother tongue of Thai people. Most people, however, do not realize the significance of their mother tongue compared to other foreign languages. English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean languages have become very popular among Thai students. Some students study Chinese, Japanese or Korean courses because they are fond of foreign superstars. There are other reasons, for example job opportunities. The Thai subject is just as important for the preparation for university admission. It is true that a second or a third language is advantageous for their future career, however Thai students should not leave their mother language or feel no pride in being Thai.

At present, both teachers and students still encounter many problems in teaching and learning Thai. According to Rattana Lucharit (2546), it has been found that Thai language proficiency of students in primary and secondary school during 2539-2544 B.E. evaluated by the Ministry of Education was unsatisfactory. Students did not pay enough attention to study the Thai subject. They cannot speak, read, and write Thai correctly because their basic knowledge of Thai, for instance basic reading, basic writing, is weak. Besides, they cannot apply the Thai subject to use in their daily life, they use Thai language inappropriately, they do not realize the value of Thai literature, and they also lack critical thinking abilities. These problems affect students' education in higher levels. As for the problems with teachers, Sumalee Thammahon (2549: www.edinno.net/view_inno_fulltext.php, retrieved on 14 Feb 2008) states that there are not enough teachers, because each teacher will have other duties, for instance general affairs, statement affairs etc. As such, they cannot fully devote themselves to teaching. The consequence is that students do not learn properly, and each student's ability is different. While some teachers teach the same content, each student might not receive knowledge at the same level. The other problem

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that Pannee Pongda (http://www.bandontong.th.gs/web-b/andontong/DUMMY/r4.doc, retrieved on 14 Feb 2008: para1) has indicated, is the lack of Thai language specialists at schools. Administration of teaching Thai process is not continuous. Therefore, learning and teaching the Thai subject has failed. Apart from the problems mentioned above, (http://www.swu.ac.th/HRHday/st_diss.html, retrieved on 14 Feb. 2008: para 3) there are some general problems, such as an academic administration problem, a curriculum problem, and a textbook problem. The researcher thinks that an appropriate solution should be identified and implemented as soon as possible. A survey of students' motivation and attitude towards learning Thai is the first step to abate these problems.

Boontin Autthakorn (2547, cited in Juntarat Anansantiporn, 2548: 3), the former Director of the Department of Teacher Education and the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, gives his opinion about using Thai in daily life. He states that teaching and learning Thai is very important for Thai people. Learning Thai is the key to understanding and learning any knowledge in social life. The Thai subject, he adds, is more important than science, mathematics or any other subject, however it is the subject which may not receive much attention.

Pongthai Musikapong (2544) gives his opinion about Thai usage problems. He concludes that some people have problems with speaking and writing Thai. When they work in an official circumstance, for example, they give a project presentation, order an assignment, draft a letter or write a summary of data analysis. Students lack motivation for practising the Thai subject appropriately. They do not know Thai structure enough and social change may cause these problems, too. This is not just a weakness of individuals, but can also affect the whole society.

There are many factors influencing students' learning achievements. Some

of those are the attitude and motivation of students towards language learning. Mary Holihan(2007:http://www.linguaguide.com/articles/27/1/Motivation-in-language-learning/page1.html, retrieved on 29 Jan 2008) says that attitude is everything. Having a positive attitude towards learning one language, she says, is an internal motivator that will fuel your desire to learn a language effectively. Similarly as in the article of Orwig(1999:http://www.sil.org/lingualinks/LANGUAGELEARNING/LanguageLearningPrinciples/contents.htm, retrieved on 29 Jan. 2008) who identifies issues about language learning. She states that learners' attitudes affect motivation. The more positive you feel about the speakers of a language, the more motivation you will have to learn it. If you want to communicate with native speakers you will be more motivated to learn. Also, Spaulding (1992) states that good students are motivated. Nevertheless, many students, both male and female, lack motivation to learn. Also, Nada Salem Abisamra (2009: http://nadabs.tripod.com/motivation/#4, retrieved on 29 Jan 2008) indicated that girls are known to acquire languages faster than boys. Hence, their motivation would be higher.

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In Thailand, students do not explore their competence completely and that is seen as being the main problem. In the article by Grossnickle and Thiel (1988) they say that teachers, parents, and administrators report that a lack of student motivation is a major cause of learning failure. Current research on school and teacher effectiveness indicates that the influence of teachers' own attitude, motivation, expectations, and viewpoint regarding their role in student motivation is a key factor in student achievement. We know motivation is important. Similarly, Walberg and Uguroglu (1980 cited in Wlodkowski, 1985:3) state when there is no motivation to learn, there is no learning.

Two years ago, the researcher was a Thai training teacher at Prapathom Witthayalai School and found some problems about learning and teaching Thai. From my experience, many students do not have enough interest in their mother tongue. They lack motivation in learning Thai and it affects not only their capability to study Thai, but also their Thai usage in daily life.

Students do not realize the importance of the Thai subject compared with other subjects. Some students give their opinion about learning Thai that it is not necessary to learn the Thai subject deeply because they can use Thai well and are able to communicate effectively in their mother tongue. But this is not true; lots of students still misspell many words. Many times they write a report by using those terms used to chat on the internet, or do not understand some Thai basic words even when they are Matthayom 3 students. For example, one student writes [คับ] /kháp/ instead of [ครับ] /khráp/, [โกด] /kò:t/ instead of [โกรธ] /krò:t/, and he accepts he remembers this from internet usage. This is a clear example of mis-use of thai cluster-words.

Because of the issues identified above, the researcher is interested in undertaking a study on the motivation and attitudes of Thai students towards the Thai language. In this study, the Pra Pathom Witthayalai school represents the sample group, because it is a school of province. It has many students, both of male and female, from different backgrounds. This study will answer the question: Why do Thai students have many problems using in their first language? If the researcher knows students' attitude and motivation towards learning the Thai language, then the researcher can help develop Thai teaching methods and Thai subject curriculum to help solve problem.

1.2 Purposes of the Study

In this study, there are three specific purposes to investigate students' motivation and attitude.

1. To investigate students' motivation towards the Thai subject.

2. To study students' attitudes towards the Thai subject.

3. To analyze the factors influencing students' motivation and attitudes.

1.3 Expected Outcomes of the Study

1. To understand the motivation towards the Thai subject of students in Mathayom Suksa 3, Prapathom Witthayalai school.

2. To know the attitude towards the Thai subject of students in

Mathayom Suksa 3, Prapathom Witthayalai school.

3. To know the factors that influence students' motivation and attitudes

towards the Thai subject.

4. To assist Thai teachers and curriculum developers analyze and use the

results of the study for their teaching, and may develop the Thai subject curriculum appropriately.

1.4 Scopes of the Study

The scope of study is as follows:

1. Population: Students in Mathayom Suksa 3, Prapathom Witthayalai

school, Nakorn Pathom in the first semester of 2551. There are 14 rooms,816 students.

2. Sample group: Students in Mathayom 3, Prapathom Witthayalai school,

Nakorn Pathom in the first semester of 2551. There are 274 students; 152 male students, and 122 female students.

3. The factors considered include the personality of teachers, teaching aids,

teaching methods, Thai content, the importance of Thai, the usefulness of Thai, and the role of Thai which influenced students' motivation and attitudes.

1.5 Hypotheses of the Study

In this study, the researcher suggests the following two hypotheses.

1. Female students have a higher motivation and positive attitude than male

students.

2. Students who have higher motivation and positive attitudes in the Thai

subject receive higher grades than students who have less motivation and attitude.