Thailand: A school based in the conservative US state of Utha has fired an English language teacher in its Thailand branch for writing on homophones because the proprietor thought ‘homo’ in the word might be construed for “homosexuality.”
“People at this level of English,” Clarke Woodger says of Thai students, “may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”
Thailand remains one of Asia’s most gay-friendly countries with a vibrant socially accepted LGBT community and laws that do not criminalize adult consensual same-sex relations.
Woodger is owner of Nomen Global Language Center who fired Tim Torkildson, the social-media specialist for his private English language learning center in Thailand, immediately after he wrote the blog explaining homophones on the school website.
Homophones are words that sound the same but are different in meanings, origins and often spellings such as their and there through and threw, which and witch.
This is usually taught early on to students learning English as a foreign language especially if their native language does not have such a feature.
Torkildson said he was being fired “for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda,” the sltrib.com reported.
Woodger told him: “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” according to Torkildson’s post on his Facebook page.
Torkildson says he was careful to write a straightforward explanation of homophones because he knew the “homo” part of the word could be politically charged. Nonetheless, the explanation was essential and educational.
Nomen has removed that blog from its website even though a similar explanation of homophones was posted there in 2011.
Woodger says his reaction to Torkildson’s blog has “nothing to do with homosexuality” but only that it can be confusing as Thai students are at basic levels of English and not ready for complicated concepts such as homophones, sltrib.com reported.
Thailand is Asia’s only country that was not colonized by any European power such as the English that colonized most of the continent. Even though English is Thailand’s second language its use and popularity is far less that in former British colonized countries such as Singapore, Malaysia or India.
Nomen is Utah’s largest private English as a Second Language school that caters mostly to foreign students.
Utah, is a conservative US where same-sex relations are only just legal and where a state ban on same-sex marriage was ruled unconstitutional by a district court judge in 2013 but later stayed pending appeal.
However, the Utah “sodomy law” remains in force and can be applied as a misdemeanor and punished for up to six months in jail and up to a US$1,000 fine.