Jakkrit “Tom” Yompayorm, aka “Kru Tom Kum Thai”, 28, is a Thai language Twitter sensation, gathering over 90,000 followers after being crowned the Sunthorn Phu fan quiz winner from the famous knowledge-enhancing TV show, Fan Pan Tae. Since then, he’s been dishing out grammatical corrections for the common Thai language mistakes netizens make on social networks. BK met up with him to discuss Thai education and the value it places on the study of our language.
What are your thoughts on social media’s impact on language?
Languages are always evolving. The Thai language used on Facebook or Twitter isn’t what’s traditionally called pa sar wi but (corrupted language). It has a purpose. But it’s important to know exactly when and where to use formal or informal speech.
What sparked your own interest in language studies?
Since a young age, I’ve always loved Thai literature and still find it very pleasurable to read. That paved the way for my interest in Thai language. While I was a university student, I also had the chance to tutor high school students in Thai language studies—every time I had to teach, it made me happy. That’s why I chose to become a teacher.
The Thai education system receives a lot of criticism. What do you think needs to be fixed?
Teachers. They are low paid and that means very few people actually want to dedicate themselves to teaching. It may sound blunt but it’s true. It’s the fundamental problem at the heart of our education system. Teachers’ duties are also not just limited to teaching; they’re expected to run the school’s clerical errands, so don’t have enough time to prepare proper lesson plans. If the job was more highly paid, we would have many more highly-qualified people interested in becoming teachers.
How do you encourage students to be interested in the study of Thai language?
The Ministry of Education should encourage students to read Thai literature, but not just because it “promotes Thainess” or is “worth reading,” but because Thai literature is entertaining and thought-provoking in its own right. Young Thais shouldn’t feel like studying Thai literature is something they’re obliged to do.
What are you doing to promote your message?
I want to host and self-produce a Thai language-teaching TV show. Many foreigners from around the world are interested in learning Thai. I want to be part of a movement that builds interest in our language, both locally and internationally.