With his own unique style and a fresh, fearless approach to language learning and teaching, Kanatip ‘LoukGolf’ Soonthornrak is inspiring large numbers of Thai learners of English through YouTube, television, and at his own language school. In Part One of this two-part interview we caught up with the founder of Angkriz and LoukGolf’s English Room to find out how it all began and what drives LoukGolf’s ongoing passion for teaching English.
LoukGolf, for those who may not have heard of you or seen your talk show, can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do?
My name is Kanatip Soonthornrak. You can simply call me LG, which is short for LoukGolf. My nickname means ‘golf ball’ in English. My parents gave me this nickname due to my round head as a baby. Every Thai has a nickname. We use our real names for official occasions. Kanatip means ‘leader’.
I am a full-time English tutor based in Bangkok. I founded my language school in 2009. I am also an intermittent talk show host, a logophile, a gay son, a queer brother, a good friend, a loyal boyfriend and a student of the world.
Your talk show is filmed in Thailand, but you and your guests chat mainly in English. Where did the idea come from?
I started LoukGolf’s English Room four years ago because I wanted to teach English free of charge. English and education changed my life. I want to share my tips, my journey and my thoughts on my show, hoping that millions of Thais will find learning English less frightening.
I want to show people that once you think of English as a tool to help you communicate, you can speak English with anyone. It’s undeniable that the vast majority of Thais aren’t good at English. This universal language is sometimes viewed as a form of superiority or inferiority. Some people use English to look down on or to mock others. Some are used to making fun of those who are trying to speak clearly. I want this rotten circle to stop, and that is why I am dedicated to making this show.
Besides, not everyone gets a chance to speak English with native speakers. Most of the time, students end up having to converse in English with their Thai peers. The objective of my show is to make people realise that they can speak English with anyone, if they want to.
Is communicating in English ever a problem for your guests?
The show now has over 200 episodes. All my guests know that they have to speak as much English as they can on the show, so most of them will turn up well-prepared.
I must admit that they have different levels of English, but one thing they have in common is the courage to give it a go. That is why the show is so popular, I think.
People get to see all these big-name celebrities make mistakes and laugh at themselves. The viewers get to learn from all these tiny mistakes, which I find very valuable. Even I make mistakes on the show. We always tell people that making mistakes is inevitable when it comes to learning a second language. However, we also tell them that mistakes are to be learnt from, not repeated.
In addition to your show, you’re also the founder of ‘Angkriz’. Can you explain the concept behind this, and your role in it?
Angkriz means English in Thai. One of my students came up with this name. I bought it right away. It’s the kind of name that makes people curious. Everyone I met asked me why I named my school Angkriz. I love it when people ask ‘why?’.
The school’s motto is ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. We make the school so cosy and safe for the students. Once they are with me they know that they are allowed to be themselves. It’s a safe place for them. It’s the kind of language school that didn’t exist when I was young. So I had to create it!
Angkriz believes that a good attitude plus passion equals limitless knowledge. I am the main teacher and the face of Angkriz.
Where to find LoukGolf
LoukGolf often makes use of the online Cambridge Dictionary in his classes and on his TV talk show. You can find LoukGolf’s talk show on YouTube on the GMM25Thailand channel, or by searching for ‘Loukgolf’s English Room’. Follow LoukGolf on Twitter @LoukgolfLG, Instagram @loukgolflg, Facebook @lgandfriends and on the hashtag #EnglishRoomTVCambridge. Part Two of this interview will be published on 14th May.