Thai Students Learning Burmese Language

By The Irrawaddy 16 August 2012

Burma’s return to the international community is prompting its Southeast Asian neighbors to prepare for an economic renaissance by learning the national language.

A raft of reforms undertaken by President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government has led to an easing of international trade sanctions, and the potential business boom has heralded a refocusing on Burmese as a regional language of importance.

Satreephuket School on the resort island of Phuket in Thailand’s south has been providing Burmese language classes to its high-school students, reported Thai state broadcaster MCOT on Wednesday. Secondary students have been joining Burmese language classes as parents wake up to the newfound upward mobility of their western neighbor.

“In 2015, we have to be a part of the AEC [Asean Economic Community]. So we should learn other Asean languages. As the program is a success, this year we have a full class of students attending the [Burmese language] course, from only half a class last year,” the school’s Deputy Director Nattawat Pathairatanaserani Nattawut told MCOT.

Burmese as a foreign language was added to the school’s curriculum last year, in addition to English and Chinese. Students get to practice reading, writing and speaking skills with a native teacher in two lively classes per week.

Meanwhile, The Irrawaddy reported last week that Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna (RMUTL), in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, will soon sign a Memorandum of Understand (MoU) with Burma’s Department of Higher Education (Lower Myanmar) with the aim of exchanging educational programs.

“After the student exchange, we will recruit Burmese students to come over to our university to help teach English and Burmese language to our students,” said RMUTL President Chaiyong Eurviriyanukul. “We will also send our students to universities in Myanmar to share the Thai language. This idea will help to create better connections for both sides.”

The AEC will come into force in 2015 and the region’s languages are predicted to grow in importance especially considering the current economic slowdown in Europe and the United States.