LiBeL Column

In The beginning Was The Word

Columns from The Nation newspaper

You know how Thais just love their gadgets

(If William Caxton could see us now . . .)

You know how Thailand’s future leaders love their gadgets. If you aren’t the proud owner of a Bluetooth-compatable ,WAP enabled, MP3 playing, broadband ready kitchen appliance then , you’re a nobody. It’s only after you’ve rushed out and bought one of these next generation G3 rice cookers that you realize approximately zero features can actually be coaxed into life in the average Bangkokian kitchen. But hey, it looks good and possesses a quality known as ‘high technology’ – two factors that would appear to rate more highly than functionality and practicality in the Thai equivalents of the ‘Which? magazine Best-Buy’ guide.

This preoccupation with all things modern, hip and trendy may be one of the reasons why you seldom see the average Thai reading a book. The definition of ‘book’ that I’m using is:

‘An assortment of pages bound together, which has more words than pictures, discounting school textbooks, train timetables and the rather extensive menus some up-market restaurants go in for – which appear to be designed for the sole purpose of bamboozling Earl n’ Pearl from Hicksville, Tennessee into ordering two thousand baht worth of char grilled rock lobster intestines instead of two meagre servings of American fried rice.’

If you’re new to Thailand, and a tad skeptical at this juncture, about the lack of reading – not the price of a crustacean’s innards, just try asking your class about the last book that they read. Initially you’ll have to explain that you expect them all to use the verb ‘read’ in their replies and not the phrasal verbs ‘look at’ or ‘colour in’. Once you’ve passed this hurdle, try asking them why they read the book. Here’s where the majority, not all because some of the students will be working their way through ‘HarrEE PottUR’, will respond “Because the teacher told us to.” I should mention at this stage that we’re talking about books written in Thai not English.

In a post on an ESL mailing list, a worried mother noted that since her son’s English teacher made reading homework compulsory, both his level of English and concentration span had increased dramatically. Now, her son is hooked on books. So, how about making reading books (either Thai or English) part of a Thai kids daily homework routine?

Errr, no, it’s not going to work. Why? Because this requires the parents to give up half an hour of their free time to listen and help their kids reading. Getting the Isaan maid to listen and help correct the kids isn’t going to help much. P’Lek from the provinces may well have been voted the ‘Pepsi papaya pok-pok Princess of Sakhon Nakhon’ in her dim and distant youth, but that doesn’t make her the ideal foil for an inquiring 6 year old.

What to do? Only one thing for it – drag the humble book in to the brave new ‘hi-tech’ world.

It’s a revolutionary breakthrough in wireless technology, no need for messy connecting cables and no external power source. Using this revolutionary product is so easy even a toddler can do it. Compact and portable, you can use it anywhere: in cars, on planes or even sitting in an armchair by the fire. All these features and yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM!

Take time to check out these great bundled features!

· Handy ‘Browse’ facility. This allows users to move quickly between selected sheets, which can then be instantly optically scanned by themselves. Note that each sheet is dual-sided, which helps to keep production costs to as minimum.

· Need information fast? The practical ‘Index’ program, (not available on all models), pinpoints the exact location of any selected data for instant retrieval.

· Quick and easy, mouse-free navigation. Using a combination of either of the above features and a flick of the finger users can navigate quickly and easily.

Finally, an optional ‘Bookmark’ accessory allows you to return to the exact place where you finished the previous session. Throw away those expensive adapters – ALL models are compatible with bookmarks from manufacturers worldwide.

Here’s how it works:

Each model is constructed of sequentially numbered sheets, constructed from a recyclable, eco-friendly material, which provides for an uninterrupted data flow. These sheets, each capable of holding several thousand bits of data each, are locked securely together in a multi-coloured, custom-fit, protective casing for ease of carriage.

And that’s not all, there’s more!

Coming soon, a programming tool, available in YOUR choice of colours, which can be used in conjunction with all models of Notebook. NEW! Portable Erasable-Nib Composing & Inscribing Language Styluses. (Batteries neither included or needed.)