Expat

My Thai is getting better: True or False?

I have avoided combining my first 10 months here with the time since I returned, simply because I thought saying I’ve been here 2 years total sounded bad – for my Thai that is. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself but maybe I should? Shouldn’t I be farther along by now? Hmmm?

But I got to tell you it’s been a successful past few days. (Jinx! I’m jinxing myself! Arrgggg!) First of all, I successfully ordered cooking gas to be delivered to my home. I asked a friend first, what should I say? And he said, “Gas mòt láew” meaning the gas is finished already, I’m out of gas. Because I was thinking I would say I need or want gas. But then I realized that could create confusion, maybe the cooking with gas guys would think I was a new customer?

Thankfully the guy on the other side of the line was familiar with my neighborhood or mòo bâan. So that eliminated the need for directions which I’ve had plenty of painful experience with my ISP (Internet service provider). But then we got into the time of delivery. He wanted to deliver in the evening which wouldn’t work for me but we figured it out! I’m very proud of say.

Then I went for a haircut. You know how you practice what you are going to say before you say it? Well a friend of my suggested that. Like when you order food, you mentally rehearse the words so you sound like you know what you want. Anyway, I realized this way after the fact but I walked right into We’re Za and answered, “dtàt pŏm ka” or I want a haircut. No rehearsing required. No thought really, just reacted.

As I made small talk with the hairdresser, mostly in English because she wanted to practice, I remembered what my Thai tutor said, “Thais love to encourage and compliment.” This got me fired up because I often feel like whenever I speak Thai, I’m showered with, “Your Thai is so good!” pasa Thai dee mâa k! And I’m like, “Yang mâi dee ka.”

The best example was when my friend’s boyfriend and I struck up a conversation while he was waiting for her in the school parking lot. He kept acting “blown away” by my pasa skillz, stumbling backwards in shock, shaking his head and laughing. If he was a cowboy he would have taken off his hat and slapped it against his jeans…

This of course, made me feel good. As was when my tutor told me (after a long break), you have all this vocabulary Lani, you just never use it. He also told my friend, Lani’s Thai is getting better. I guess he keeps thinking of when we first started compared to now. What a special thing to do because as a teacher myself, I need to remember how far my students have come too.

Maybe it’s all exaggerated but I’ve started to accept it. Encouragement is a beautiful thing. Some Americans have a tendency to get riled up over someone’s lack of perfect English, or all these damn immigrants who can’t speak English. If they could experience how encouraging Thais are, maybe they would think twice about putting someone’s efforts down.

When I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, I was moved by the chapter that talked about kids labeled learning disabled versus children treated like geniuses. These were average kids but when you tell a child they are smart, guess what, they have a tendency to believe it.

So I’m probably just the average kid who is told she’s good and starting to finally believe it.

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