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June 2016: Monthly Achievement Report: New Mahoot English Classes

By Holly Jones 1 month ago

The village of Huay Pakoot is an indigenous Karen Hill Tribe in Northern Thailand, renowned throughout the country for their knowledge of elephants. The language that is predominantly spoken within the village is pakinyaw, although a lot of the younger generations do speak, read and write Thai after being taught this at school.

Our Ma-hout Suwit in his frst English class

Typically, the tradition of being a mahout is a skill that has been passed down from generation to generation and knowledge that is only acquired through practice. As a result of these traditions, the majority of our mahouts left school around the age of 12, usually upon completing primary school, to help care for their families’ elephants in tourist camps; therefore gaining an inadequate education.

As the GVI project has been running here for nearly six years, most of the mahouts have managed to absorb a fair amount of English vocabulary from volunteers, however they do not usually feel confident enough to put this knowledge into practice.

Our youngest ma-hout Towie studying hard.

Whilst we have successfully been running a bi-weekly English class with some of our older mahouts for the past few years, we have never managed to consistently get the younger mahouts to partake in these classes. Over the last month we have trialed a new location for a new mahout English class, in the hope that the younger mahouts would feel more comfortable and under less pressure with fewer people attending.

The class has been working really well so far with three mahouts (Towie, Suwit, Root) regularly turning up for lessons twice a week. When new volunteers arrive on project we have a 5 day lesson plan for them to learn Pakinyaw. We have also been doing this with the mahouts but in reverse, so they can understand the same basics that volunteers are being taught and will hopefully encourage them to communicate with them during hikes. Ensuring that the mahouts can communicate effectively using English is vital for the future of the project.