English Language Learning in the Margins: Toward a Movement to Help Service-industry Workers in Thailand

Hugo Yu-Hsiu Lee
2016 Theory and Practice in Language Studies  
This paper examined the largely unexplored effects of exposure to foreign customers' language (e.g., English) as informal learning for service-industry workers, a pattern common in developing countries where resources to learn English were not widely accessible to lower-status workers in the labor market. It also pointed out the paucity of research on service-industry workers' language development in applied and sociolinguistic literature. This pilot study adopted two analytical tools, the
more » ... cal tools, the magnet of trend's model and the concept of "quadrant," to highlight the English learning opportunities provided for the service-industry workers in a developing country, and explored how the development of their language abilities enabled them to expand and navigate more quadrants. Field visits and qualitative interviews were undertaken to gather data from the sample, consisted of 200 participants. Broad content analysis conventions were deployed to interpret interview data and field notes derived from observations, aimed at combining both emic and etic (interactional) data. The paper reported the role of English-speaking customers as informal tutors to facilitate these workers' English language development. This paper turned to different case studies of exemplar workers who reported following the English-for-customer (EFC) pattern, because they illustrated two themes common across the sample studied. The results revealed that, among these workers, (1) educational background and (2) exposure to English-speaking customers in an informal educational setting may contribute to fostering the learning of English.
doi:10.17507/tpls.0604.01 fatcat:vrke2rd5w5hu3aacozqvjhvecu