English as a Lingua Franca in ASEAN – A Multilingual Model – Andy Kirkpatrick

Publication Year: 2010
The lingua franca role of English, coupled with its status as the official language of ASEAN, has important implications for language policy and language education. These include the relationship between English, the respective national languages of ASEAN and thousands of local languages. How can the demand for English be balanced against the need for people to acquire their national language and mother tongue? While many will also need a regional lingua franca, they are learning English as the first foreign language from primary school in all ASEAN countries. Might not this early introduction of English threaten local languages and children’s ability to learn? Or can English be introduced and taught in such a way that it can complement local languages rather than replace them? The aim of this book is to explore questions such as these and then make recommendations on language policy and language education for regional policymakers. The book will be important for regional policymakers and language education professionals. It should also benefit language teachers, especially, but by no means exclusively, English language teachers. The book will be of interest to all who are interested in the development of English as an international language and the possible implications of this upon local languages and cultures.

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Can ASEAN achieve economic community?

Kiki Verico, Canberra | Opinion | Mon, December 24 2012, 9:27 AM
The history of regional economic integration in Europe tells us that an economic community is an essential stage prior to achieving a common market (CM).

Economic community begins with the free flow of goods (trade integration) to the free flow of capital (investment integration), then service sector liberalization and the free flow of people.

These are all necessary conditions for a common market. ASEAN is attempting to achieve comprehensive regional economic integration through its economic community scheme, ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015.

ASEAN is in the early stages of regional economic integration, which is in intra regional trade with the role of AFTA (ASEAN Free Trade Area). Although ASEAN intra-regional trade increased from 17.5 percent in 1990 (before the implementation of AFTA) to 24.5 percent in 2009 (after the implementation of AFTA), average ASEAN intra-investment share is still fairly small at around 14 percent of total FDI inflows in ASEAN.

To achieve economic community, ASEAN needs to enhance its trade and investment integration. The EU needs a custom union (CU), but ASEAN does not have a custom union. Yet, an ADBI study on the Asian-wide economic community highlights an attainable option for ASEAN: “Once a region-wide FTA is formed, it may also be easier for Asian Countries to establish a custom union […] as the European Economic Community did in 1968” (ADBI, 2010)

This shows that regional economic organizations in Asia could achieve economic community throughout the “region-wide frameworks”. ASEAN has two two frameworks: the ASEAN Plus and AFTA Plus One. Could these be ways for ASEAN to achieve economic community as the EU did?

There are two essential differences between ASEAN and the EU that explains why ASEAN’s economic integration pattern is dissimilar to the EU’s. But despite the differences, ASEAN could still attain economic community. First, ASEAN economic integration is slightly market-driven, while the EU is government-driven. The fact that ASEAN is market-driven makes it feasible for it to adopt “open regionalism” framework, which widens ASEAN’s economic cooperation to non-member states, whereas the EU’s custom union is an exclusive trade liberalization among its member states.

Second, ASEAN’s decision making process model is bottom-up with an intergovernmentalism mechanism known as soft regionalism, while the EU’s is top-down with a supra national body mechanism known as hard-regionalism. It is believed that the latter model helps accelerate the decision making process in the region. Yet the soft-regionalism model is compatible only with open-regionalism, therefore it is feasible for ASEAN to widen its regional economic cooperation to non-member states.

In Asia, trade creation effects are higher than trade diversion effects (Urata and Okabe, 2007). Trade creation is effective in the enhancement of intra regional investment. Recent data also shows that intra ASEAN investment has demonstrated significant growth, particularly after the Asian economic crises and the implementation of the CEPT in 2003. Since ASEAN’s trade creation is higher than trade diversion, the enlargement of ASEAN’s economic cooperation to non-member states will, in the long-run, increase FDI investment inflows in ASEAN.

Moreover, this will increase the effectiveness of AFTA in attracting FDI inflows. Recently, AFTA has only been effective in enchancing intra regional trade. The combination of AFTA and the enlargement of ASEAN regionalism to non-members using the “ASEAN Plus and AFTA Plus One” will help ASEAN achieve comprehensive trade and investment integration in the economic community.

In addition, this ASEAN-wide regionalism will create a “win-win solution” for the member states, non-member states and the multilateral agreements (WTO). For its member states, regional enlargement under the “ASEAN umbrella” will defunct the complicated direct individual Bilateral FTA (BFTA) among ASEAN’s members and non-members. ASEAN enlargement will also protect ASEAN member states from the “hub-spoke” problem that can emerge when a member state deals directly with non-member states (BFTA). In ASEAN’s case, BFTA also substitutes the role of AFTA in attracting FDI inflows while weakening ASEAN’s intra regional trade. The latter proves that a “noodle-bowl” exists in ASEAN (Verico, 2011).

For non-member states, regional-wide FTA will minimize discriminative action against non-members (Drysdale, 2006; Garnaut, 1994; Yamazawa, 1990). This effect is in line with the main objective of non-dicriminative action among countries (Most Favored Nation), and this confirms that a regional-wide arrangement is complementary to the WTO multilateral agreements (Lamy, 2007).

The world will see that a regional economic organization can achieve economic community through either the utilization of a custom union like the EU or the implementation of regional-wide frameworks such as ASEAN-wide regionalism. The latter will complete the WTO’s main purpose of reducing trade discrimination among countries and shifting the ASEAN economic integration from regional free trade area to regional economic community. Back to my initial question, is it possible for ASEAN to achieve economic community without facing major difficulties?

The writer, who obtained his doctorate from Waseda University in Tokyo, is a researcher at the Institute for Economic and Social Research Faculty of Economics, University of Indonesia (LPEM FEUI).

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Thai doctors must boost English skills

Thai medical graduates ‘must boost English skills’- Bangkok Post – 7 August

” Thai medical graduates need to do better with English if they want to make the most of job opportunities under the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), a medical expert says.

“The quality of our medical education and technical skills are second to none among Southeast Asian countries especially when compared to those of Malaysia and Singapore,” Dr Udom Kachintorn, dean of the faculty of medicine, Mahidol University,
said yesterday.

“The only aspect in which our medical graduates are inferior to their Malaysian and Singaporean counterparts is in English language proficiency,” he said on the sidelines of the “ASEAN Day 2012″ forum organized by the faculty yesterday.

The AEC takes effect in 2015.

Dr Udom said limited English skills could make it hard for Thai medical graduates to compete in the job market with doctors and nurses from other Asean countries, who can communicate more easily with foreign patients.

Since the start of the 2012 academic year, the faculty now requires its first-year medical students to take mandatory English classes as part of the curriculum.

Foreign teachers from Mahidol University’s International College will help evaluate and improve the speaking skills of each student.

Upon graduation, all medical school graduates must obtain a score of 500 on the Toefl or an equivalent of 6 on the IELTS, Dr Udom added.

Thailand’s syllabus does not vary greatly from that of neighbouring countries. However, the faculty has been moving towards adopting a framework called “21st Century Skills” as a guideline for medical students.

The framework is intended to modernize the approach to education worldwide, to better give students the skills they need to succeed as professionals. It started with a group of more than 250 researchers across 60 institutions worldwide.

The criteria for the “21st Century Skills” approach are grouped into into four broad categories _ ways of thinking (creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, decision making), ways of working (communication and collaboration), tools for working (computer literacy and information technology), and skills for living in the world (personality and social responsibility).

Sylvia Reyes, an attache in the cultural section at the Philippines embassy, said the Philippines is actively preparing to join the AEC.

“We have participated in all the meetings, whether they be medical, cultural, or educational,” she said.

All ASEAN countries should benefit from this cooperation, she said. Each country will get the chance to improve their English capabilities as it will be the main medium of communication, Ms Reyes added.

This article has generated quite a bit of comment with many agreeing with the sentiments expressed and those who are vociferously opposed to it. The latter have used the argument that the Thai Government, and therefor the Thai taxpayer, pays for most of the doctors trained at government universities and therefore those doctors will probably end up treating Thai patients who do not speak English. :”

The counter argument of course is that medical tourism is an emerging export industry in Thailand and needs qualified Thai doctors if it is to flourish. Will we end up with a situation where the medical tourism sector is staffed by English-speaking doctors from The Philipines, Singapore and Malaysia?


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English a Barrier to Breaking Into New Markets

ASEAN 2015

Thailand is entering a critical stage as integration into the Asean Economic Community looms closer.  Thai companies are looking to expand into new markets with Thai President Foods the manufacturer of Mama noodles announcing a new plant in Myanmar.  This is in addition to expansion into other markets in the region.
President Suchai Ratanajiajaroen said “We expect to increase the contribution to our business from those international markets from 7-8 per cent currently to more than 10 per cent by 2015 when the Asean Economic Community is fully effective,”
Successful entry into an overseas market is underpinned by the ability to deliver your message to your consumers, staff and suppliers.  Communication mistakes result in hundreds of lost man hours, frustration for individuals and potentially lost business.
One way to ensure a smooth transition into a new market is through skills and specific language training prior to going into a new territory and throughout the process.
It is important to identify the key language functions each department has to complete. It is also critical to identify specific tasks that the individuals have to complete.  This means looking at situations that they are currently using English in and ones that they will potentially have to use English for in the future.
Language specific to their role at work can be taught and practiced prior to encountering it in the real business world.  The same approach can be used with overseas subsidiaries or branches so that there is standardization throughout the company.
Insight English is able to provide training solutions wherever you are located and would be delighted to provide more information about our corporate services.
Call Insight English on 02 638 3311 for more information.

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English-langauge Teacher Training – Assumption Schools in Thailand

English Training Program for  Assumption Schools

As integration into the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC)  in 2015 comes ever closer, more and more schools and universities are preparing for the challenges and opportunities that this brings.  The Assumption group of schools, (Thailand), is already taking significant steps to prepare their staff and students for the changes.

Insight English and Insight Education recently conducted a 10 day training course for the teachers of Assumption Lopburi and Lamnarai.  The English training program ran from May 2nd – 11th with 190 Thai teachers participating.

The course looked at building overall English language capacity for those who took part. The Assumption group of teachers learned how to function in situations that they will encounter in everyday life.  These included meeting foreign visitors, making small talk and talking about their job and school.

The lessons were student-centered and communicative in nature and everyone participated throughout the 10 days.  This active participation resulted in excellent progress in terms of confidence and language use.

Additional coaching was given in how to use the Insight Method in their classroom.  Teachers were instructed in how to use a wider range of speaking activities and how to facilitate role-play and pair work. All this designed to increase the level of student participation and student-talk time in the classroom.

Using the Insight Method assists and enables Thai teachers to become more confident in teaching speaking skills to their students.

An Insight English AEC preparation course can help you meet the challenges and opportunities and can be tailored to meet your needs.

Call 02 638 3311 to receive more information and arrange a free consultation.

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Why English for ASEAN

Why is the ENGLISH language so important in the emergence of the

ASEAN Economic Community?

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) shall be the goal of regional economic integration by 2015. AEC envisages the following key characteristics: (a) a single market and production base, (b) a highly competitive economic region, (c) a region of equitable economic development, and (d) a region fully integrated into the global economy.

The AEC areas of cooperation include human resources development and capacity building; recognition of professional qualifications; closer consultation on macroeconomic and financial policies; trade financing measures; enhanced infrastructure and communications connectivity; development of electronic transactions through e-ASEAN; integrating industries across the region to promote regional sourcing; and enhancing private sector involvement for the building of the AEC. In short, the AEC will transform ASEAN into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour, and freer flow of capital.”

The ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint

When the barriers to trade, investment and development are lifted in 2015 the true importance on the language of trade in the region will emerge. Nations, institutions, industries and individuals that cannot participate in this ASEAN Economic Community will be left behind. Over the past decade countries like Vietnam and Indonesia have spent substantial sums of money in building language and language-teaching capacity. We all know that when it comes to English-language, Malaysia and Singapore are already way ahead of the rest of the ASEAN members. Now is the time to act to ensure that you and your colleagues are ready to take on the challenges on the ASEAN Economic Community launch in 2015.

The INSIGHT GROUP comprising INSIGHT Education Consulting and INSIGHT English is equipped with the experience, expertise and personnel to guide you through the process of language capacity building within your organization. INSIGHT can prepare and deliver customized English language programs in Thailand including; General English, English for Academic Purposes, IELTS, TOEFL and TOEIC preparation and English for Specific Purposes (English for Tourism and Hospitality, English for Business, English for Aviation Studies etc.).

Working together is the key to a successful training program. Insight’s thorough language needs analysis ensures that your course is tailor made to meet your requirements.


Our experienced instructors use highly effective teaching methods that focus on active communication.  This allows personnel at all levels to interact in a wide range of situations relevant to their specific work environment.


We are also able to facilitate teacher-training programs for delivery either in Thailand or off-shore through an extensive network of partner institutions in Australia or the U.K. These programs are of variable duration, customized and cover a diverse range of topics including, but not limited to;

  • Learners and teachers, and the teaching and learning context
  • Language analysis and awareness
  • Language skills: reading, listening, speaking and writing
  • Planning and resources for different teaching
  • Developing teaching skills and professionalism
  • Curriculum Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Methodology – macro-language skills teaching,
  • Methodology – Strategies to improve pronunciation, word stress and intonation
  • Theories of language for particular written purposes and workshop application
  • Classroom language
  • Classroom management
  • Evaluation and assessment

Off-shore program delivery includes air ticketing, visa applications and processing, accommodation and sightseeing.

Call or email Insight now to make an appointment to see one of our advisors.

We will of course be happy to visit you at your location to discuss your language needs in more detail.

Bangkok – T 662 2367222 –

E – greg@insight.in.th – james@insightenglish.com

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