Expat

Learning Thai “ah-ha!” moment

I just figured something out. Now before we hark the herald angels sing, I should say, this idea is relatively fresh and new.

But I’m so excited that I have to write about it.

I was in Thailand for about 10 months then I left for Ecuador, and then I returned. And I’ve been back for a year now. I’ve taken Thai classes at Payap University and AUA Chiang Mai. Currently I am working with a tutor. Sometimes a friend joins us and other times it’s just me and Dtum.

All of my learning Thai experiences have been invaluable and it’s been a serpentine road up the mountain. Needless to say, I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been enthusiastic. I’ve been studious and I’ve been lazy. I’ve been overwhelmed and I’ve taken it one foot hold at a time.  I’ve acquired spotty dog vocabulary and very little grammatical structure.

It’s embarassing because I’m part Thai! I don’t really know why my mom didn’t teach my brother and I, and there is nothing I can do about it now! Yes it is a shame. But this is where I am at! Sometimes I am patient with myself and the process and other times I look at all the worksheets, books and resources I have collected and want to start a burn pile.

Maybe I’m not good at learning  languages but I’m not really into excuses. It’s hard not to compare myself to my friends whose Thai has steadily progressed. Their circumstances are different and have obviously worked well for them but what about folks like me? I didn’t have a home stay, work with Thai employees, a Thai wife, a desire to hang out in bars, a second language already under my flotation device or a lot of free time.

I studied, worked and went to class. I’m just your average Nam. What’s interesting is when I did have more free time I did study a lot but I hadn’t mastered the tones and I was too terrified/embarrased to practice with the locals. Now that I have less time, I can hear the tones much better and I’m much more fearless in my practicing.

There is a lot of material out there on how to learn Thai faster, better, etc and I’ve been around the buffet sampling ideas and trying new methods but nothing has ever stuck for very long. So my Thai can be very good or very bad, depending. So I’m going to try the Oprah method and announce, I’m going on a diet.

In case you didn’t know, my dream is to be a published and successful writer. (see average Nam) I knew that my love for words has helped me remember a lot of Thai vocabulary but it wasn’t until I read Josh’s Blog that “things” started to make sense.

Basically I took Josh’s idea, improve your Thai with a journal and made it my own. You see, I’ve been journaling since I was 14 years old. So it seems natural then for me to work on my Thai through a medium that I do everyday! This idea takes my love for words and my need to work on sentence structure and combines it into one beautiful hero’s journey.

I’m so excited. It makes sense to learn another language through the medium you love, through the subject you are passionate about, be it food, shopping, music, history or in my case, writing. Maybe my enthusiasm will be short-livid and my announcement too soon but I have too much fight left in me to give up.

(Plus I’m very cute…and highly suseptible to awesomeness. I just like to take my time, that’s all! Umm-hhhmmmmm.)

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10 thoughts on “Learning Thai “ah-ha!” moment

  1. I've been reading your blog for a while and enjoy. This post about learning Thai is relevant to my own desire to learn the language. How did you like the AUA courses? Did you learn the Thai alphabet before trying the reading/speaking?I have a Thai girlfriend and when I get back to Bangkok (next week) she will help me with the tones, etc., but I will also do something more structured through a language school and tutors. I am also a regular journal writer so Josh's idea strikes me as a good way to go as well.Keep up the good work.

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  2. Thanks Alaska Dave!All courses whether they are at AUA or not, I think have to do with the teacher's style (is it compatible with you?) and the other students in the class.The alphabet came after reading/speaking…which is how we naturally learn so this makes sense to do it this way but I'm sure there are pundits out there that would argue otherwise.Good luck w/ Thai. Since writing this post, I've gotten positive feedback from my teacher….so I'm still excited and happy about my progress.Thanks again.

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  3. Lani, journaling is a brilliant way to learn Thai. It's also 'mostly' stress free (there's no one to catch us out but us :-DSo a thanks from me goes to Josh too!

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  4. Hey Cat, yeah I write to practice and then Dtum looks at it to check for structure which is what I need the most help with. I feel like this could have also been a “uh-duh” moment…I mean, I write everyday, why didn't I figure this out before????????????

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  5. I really relate to your struggle to learn your “native” language. Although my parents did teach me Chinese, I wouldn't say I'm fluent and I can't read or write it nor do I have a big desire to go in that direction rather than just trying to improve my speech. But whenever I don't understand something that's said to me, I feel embarrassed…the excuse that I grew up in the States just won't fly, I'm still Chinese.I don't think I'm someone who has ever “loved” learning languages, I just do it as necessary for traveling, usually. Nor am I good or bad…just decidedly average. So I can pick up words and remember them easily, and know random words in a wide variety of languages, but when it comes to having a real conversation–understanding how to string it all together, even with imperfect grammar– I'm still stuck with Chinese and English after all this time.Even after learning French through high school and then studying in Paris for a summer. Even after a month of Spanish lessons in Quito and loads of Latin-American traveling and Spanish lessons again (in America) for 10 months. Even after a year of having Burmese bits and bobs drilled into me at the restaurants and shops of Mae Sot.So you can just imagine how poor my Thai is, in this sort of non-Thai Thai town.

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  6. Hey Nancy,Just think how big your brain is from studying all these languages!!! I was in Ecuador too! What a small world it is…if you are ever in CM we should meet!Thanks for reading. Cheerio!

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  7. But does your brain shrink again when you forget all the basics of speaking the language other than random vocab words? It's so frustrating when I KNOW I should know how to say something but it's just slipped out.I think unless you're particularly adept at languages, your age when you try to learn a new one might be the biggest factor. Which may be why I can still speak Chinese even without much chance to practice, and can string together a bit of French (although still embarrassingly little) but every other new language flows right out the brain hole.I met a lot of students in Cuenca…was just traveling through but it seemed to be a very popular place for learning. Beautiful place, but I hated being pelted with water balloons well in advance of Carnaval.I'll be in Chiang Mai next week for my org's exhibition! We'll be at Sangdee Gallery Wednesday night and I'll still be there at least one more day after.http://www.borderlinecollective.org/2011/10/divisions-art-from-the-thai-burma-border/

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