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How Thai learners learn COVID-19 related terms during the Coronavirus Pandemic

How Thai learners learn COVID-19 related terms during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Undeniably, the Coronavirus Pandemic has changed our lives since 2020, it affects how we live, work, learn and interact with each other. Something that can be readily noticed is the use of English words related to COVID-19 mixing in the advertising media such as news, press conferences, and billboard ads including social media websites. After noticing the changes, I have a few questions about COVID-19 related terms and Thai learners. The questions are 1) do Thai learners really learn all those terms from the advertising media? 2) Do teachers still need to explain them again and how? 3) Are there any errors related to terms they use? This article will not only show those words and phrases related COVID-19 mixing in the advertising media in Thailand but it shows how Thai learners learn them including some errors they made while using them.
In Thailand there are a few terms related COVID-19 which have been used noticeably in advertising media and people including Thai learners learn and use in their daily lives correctly and incorrectly. The first term that we cannot avoid seeing in most of advertising media is “Social distancing”. This term means ‘keeping space between each other or increasing the amount of physical separation between people to help prevent the spread of a disease’. As “social distancing” also becomes a campaign launching by the Government around the world to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, people are absolutely familiar with the term. Actually in Thailand, they have Thai term as “social distancing” but media and people always use this term instead.
Thai news agency
Source: Thai news agency
At first, it’s hard enough for adults to truly understand social distancing and why it’s so important nowadays, it’s even harder for Thai learners especially kids to understand it. I have noticed that at school teachers always use verbal and a visual class signal for kids to show that they are too close to each other. They also have a COVID-19 Social Distancing Signs around schools. It might be a big new term for Thai learners to learn but it is not hard for them to remember and use in a context.
The second popular term is “WFH” or “Working from home”. As social distancing measures include closing schools, cancelling mass gatherings, and encouraging people to stay six feet (2 meters) in response to the spread of the virus; therefore, we all need to “WFH”, which means “work being done remotely including virtual meetings and e-learning. At the beginning I have noticed from the social media that after Thai learners heard this term and they tried to use it; nevertheless, they were mixing between “work at home” and “work for home”. They might not understand the term clearly or they are not sure whether it really is right in grammar. As a teacher, I explained this specific term to them. However, after the media use them a lot more, they become familiar with the term and always use instead of Thai word.

CCSA Facebook
Source: CCSA Facebook
The third term is “lockdown”, which means an emergency measure imposed by a government that prevents people from leaving a region and staying home in an attempt to control the pandemic. Thai learners start using this term a lot in social media such as Facebook and twitter as there is no equivalent words to use as “lock down” in Thai Language. In the daily press conference, while CCSA spokesman explains this situation and the measure of the government, the word “lock down” usually come up. This word is different from the word “quarantine”, we have Thai word for it and people use both “quarantine” and Thai word”.

The fourth term is “Face shield” which means a protection clear mask but it may be used in addition to a mask. In 2020, when schools nationwide reopened too many teachers were wearing face shields instead of masks while teaching in class. Teachers and students wore those face shields to school till the health experts says face shields may be used in some circumstances but those face shields do very little to protect anyone from anything. Since then they rarely use face shield in class. Anyway, at least Thai learners have learnt a new term and be able to use it. Not only face shield, there are a few more words they learnt such as “alcohol gel” and “thermometer scan” (they usually use the word “gel alcohol” and “scan thermometer like other Thai words, it is the exact opposite in English, where adjectives are placed before the noun they describe). They also use other equipment like old ballot boxes as partitions, they also called them “partition”. (See picture). In the case I think Thai learners learnt to use those terms since they need to use them in their daily lives.
Source: Reuters

UNICEF Thailand

Source: UNICEF Thailand

You might have a question “how about the important word like mask, don’t they need to use in English?” In Thai language we have Thai word for “mask” and in advertising media, they usually use Thai word; however, there are some Thai learners using the English word.
The last term is “hospital”. This is a new word. The word is from “hospital” and “hotel”. Thai Hotels Association has proposed “hospitels” as a temporary hospital for Covid-19 infection patient as the government needed more space for the growing number of patient that require treatment or at least observation. As I have some chances asking a few Thai learners the first time they hear this word. All of them say, they always have a question like “is it correct?” or “is it a hospital?”, teachers of course need to describe this new term to them as through social media and online learning class.
Well, these are just a few terms I have noticed Thai learners gained by themselves from the advertising media around and used in schools, in their daily lives and in social media. As an English teachers, I feel at least they learnt something from a bad situation, not just wearing a mask, washing their hands and praying for an end to the pandemic.

Associate Professor Sita Yiemkuntitavorn, Ph.D.
Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, Thailand
*Corresponding author: sita_1383@hotmail.com