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Beliefs about language learning and teaching approaches of pre-service EFL teachers in Thailand

Vibulphol, Jutarat
Scope and Method of Study: To investigate Thai pre-service EFL teachers' beliefs about language learning during their practice teaching and the relationships between their beliefs and teaching approaches, two study phases were conducted. In the survey phase, forty-two pre-service EFL teachers from two universities in Thailand completed a modified, Thai version of the BALLI (Beliefs about Language Learning Inventory) before and after their practice teaching. Four surveyed participants were selected for the qualitative study phase. Each was interviewed twice and observed five or six times. Data from surveys, interviews, and observations were used to examine the four pre-service teachers' beliefs about language learning and the relationships between their beliefs and their teaching approaches.
Findings and Conclusions: The survey findings reveal most Thai pre-service EFL teachers shared similar beliefs about language learning and most beliefs did not change much after their practice teaching. The majority reported that: foreign language aptitude existed and they had the aptitude but everyone had the potential to learn foreign languages; English was a medium difficulty language that anyone could learn to speak well within five years and some skills were more difficult than others; learning grammar rules, vocabulary, and cultural knowledge was important and language immersion was beneficial but learning how to translate from Thai was unnecessary; practice was important as was accuracy; and English was important for both integrative and instrumental reasons. Three reported beliefs showed significant changes after practice teaching: more participants reported beliefs in their own foreign language aptitude; fewer participants reported their concerns about correct pronunciation; and fewer participants believed that English was important for higher education. From the qualitative study phase, relationships between teaching approaches in regard to focusing on form or meaning and three beliefs: self efficacy, the importance of grammar, and the difficulty of English skills were found. In addition, some beliefs did not appear to influence language learning when they conflicted with others or when the learning circumstances did not accommodate. Lastly, some inconsistency was found among the three data sources raising questions about the validity and/or applicability of some BALLI items, such as those concerning translation and time required to study English.