Bangkok post> Jobs > Career guide

Prayut launches free app to help students with everyday English

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has introduced the first version of Echo English, a mobile application intended for Thais to practise their English with native speakers.

Gen Prayut said the Education Ministry was responsible for creating the app, which he hopes will boost English competency so Thais can compete in the Asean Economic Community.

He said Thais will face tougher competition in the labour market in the newly established regional bloc.

"We made this app because we want Thais to practise speaking English. Do not fear farang because they are ready to understand us," Gen Prayut said.

The premier said most schools focus on teaching English grammar, with the learning largely bookish and repetitive, leaving students unprepared when having to communicate in more practical situations.

Gen Prayut said the best ways for Thais to improve their English is watching movies in English, reading English books and speaking the language as often as possible until they get used to it.

"I admit I am not good at English but I try to speak it. When I travel overseas, I have an interpreter to help me because the language must be correct.

"Though my wife is an English language teacher and she has taught me, I speak very little of the language," he said.

Education Minister Dapong Ratanasuwan said Echo English, a free app, is played like a game and has multiple choice questions.

He said it will help Thais learn conversational English.

He added that there are four versions of the app; the first version, launched Tuesday at Government House, is designed for the general public.

The version is available to download on Android devices and will be available on Apple devices by the end of this month.

He said there are currently about 40 English lessons, which by the end of this month will expand to about 200 and will allow 20,000 users to play simultaneously.

"Learning English is crucial to professional development of the workforce.

"Our goal is to give everyone access to linguistic education for free," he said.

Gen Dapong said the second, third and fourth versions of the app are in the process of development. The second version will be designed for students and teachers.

The next one will be designed for various professions such as people in the tourism industry, engineers and technicians, while the last version will be for government officials, he added.

Apirada Khomawat, an English teacher at Baan Sang-Ngon in Ubon Rachathani, said using a mobile application to help teach English in classes would make lessons more enjoyable for teacher and students alike.

"English teaching in Thailand at present only focuses on teaching grammar and vocabulary which students have to use in exams, so pupils care only about grades and cannot use English in real-life situations," she said.