KunMatt

What Level Of Speaking And Writing Thai Are You At?

118 posts in this topic

ID: 2   Posted (edited)

1. What level are you at?

I am at beginner level. Meaning I can deal with taxi drivers, police and waitresses but I can't participate in business meetings or study some course that is run in Thai.

2. Can you read and write Thai?

Yes, just finished learning the alphabet and all regular and irregular grammar rules so I can read and correctly pronounce stuff but I don't necessary have the vocabulary to make sense of it yet.

3. How long have you been learning for?

Casually / passively: 3 years. Active, formal training: 10 weeks.

4. How did you learn?

I have been here a few years and picked up some street Thai and vocab. on the street. I have tried some Thai language schools around Sukhumvit but none of them worked for me. Finally I ended up at some sort of boot camp at Chulalongkorn University and that really did it for me. 10 weeks full-time and you will start to read and write.

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

English, intermediate German, lousy Spanish.

Edited by KoreaElte
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ID: 3   Posted (edited)

1. What level are you at?

Relatively fluent, able to interpret in most situations (not simultaneous), working translator (into English), doing some ongoing study.

2. Can you read and write Thai?

Yes (the reality, of course, is more nuanced than a 'yes' or 'no' answer allows)

3. How long have you been learning for?

17 years

4. How did you learn?

Total immersion 10 months. Self-study and contact with Thais (overseas) since. This year, commenced some personalised study with University instructor.

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

Native language (English) only.

In response to your worries, my view is that Thai is not inherently harder than, say, Mandarin. The overall grammar, tonal aspects and so on are very similar. If you then consider the huge burden of learning the Chinese writing system, I think the end result is that Thai is a little easier. I lived in Northeast China for a similar time (about 10 months) and tried about as hard to learn Mandarin as I had Thai. I didn't get quite as far in the same time, despite having the benefit of having already learned another tonal Asian language. In my own case I would put any differences in rate of aquisition down to the writing system, my level of immersion and difference in age (about 6 years older).

From what you've written, I think you already realise that level of immersion is your main determinant of progress. Age may or may not also be a factor.

If it would truly mean as much to you as you have indicated to learn Thai, my advice is to do whatever it takes to avoid English for 6-12 months, at least to the greatest extent possible in your situation. Ideally, pair this period of immersion with some formal instruction. Given your apparent facility for language learning in general, I'm confident you will see great improvement. If you can arrange "total immersion", there is no reason why you should not be getting by entirely in Thai after 6 months or so. Of course, there will still be plenty of learning left to do after that...

All the best.

Edited by aanon
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1. What level are you at?

I'm fluent, I guess. That is, I don't miss many words in many situations.

2. Can you read and write Thai?

I can read, albeit slowly. I can write but I can't spell so my writing tends to send Thais into spasms of uncontrolled laughter.

3. How long have you been learning for?

An embarrassingly long time. Began Thai language school at DLI in Monterrey in 1964 (!!!!!!) In my defense, I spent most of the intervening decades in the States.

4. How did you learn?

Language school initially. But immersion is the key. Have to be in situations that force you to stretch, stretch, stretch. From what I've heard of China, English isn't widely spoken. In Bangkok, especially if you stick to the 'main drags', English is very widely spoken and this is a big disadvantage for learning the language. Upcountry is far better. If you had a choice, a central province town would be ideal because you could listen in on other people's conversations in Thai instead of Issan (Lao).

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

Spanish, which I took up and put down a few times in my life. Romance languages are many, many times easier for a native English speaker than are Asian languages. Cognates are plentiful (in both French and Spanish). The conceptual frameworks are virtually identical (although English has simplified its grammar more than has either French or Spanish).

Overall advice--be patient. Don't be intimidated. I agree with an earlier poster who noted that there isn't any conceptual difference between Mandarin and Thai. Both are monosyllabic, tonal, don't decline verbs (or other parts of speech), don't have gender identities in nouns, don't have tense in verbs, etc. And, God knows, writing Thai, even with the vagaries of spelling, is a complete piece of cake compared to the horrors of Chinese ideographs! Relax and be confident. You will get this language. The thing that is an absolute obstacle for some Westerners is tone deafness. But if you were tone deaf you would have never had any luck with Mandarin, so that cannot be your problem.

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Interesting replies so far, it definitely gives me some hope. Looks like people learning for 3 years can get a decent grasp on Thai, hopefully that will apply to me too.

I agree that with the similarities between Thai and Chinese languages you would think if I could do one then I could learn another in the same way but for some reason I am having a much harder time with Thai. In China I could learn a new sentence every day and from that I would know 5 or 6 new words and more sentence structure which I could build on, I was almost learning new vocab exponentially. In Thai it just doesn't seem to work that way for me, I'm lucky to really learn a few words a week. In China I would look up a word one time and I can still remember it to this day. I managed to easily associate whatever that word meant to the real world so when I hear that word I can picture what it meant and vice-versa. In Thai the words just don't seem to represent the meaning for me in the same way, if that makes sense.

Definitely I love that Thai has an alphabet and script and not a bunch of hieroglyphics. Being able to read menus and signs and names makes things much easier and gives me a lot more out of being in Thailand than I could ever get out of China, in a way it makes me feel like not such a tourist when I can read everything around me.

And you're right, it's all about immersion. That's how I learned Mandarin by living in an non-English speaker town and maybe that's the difference here; in BKK my reading skills improve cuz I'm surrounded by signs, in Isaan I learn more vocab because I'm forced to speak Thai. I will be spending much more time in Isaan soon so maybe some things will start to click, it's just a shame that they don't speak Thai 24/7 there.

I would definitely like to get some replies from the fluent and literate mods on this forum... :)

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ID: 8   Posted (edited)

Hi Matt, not sure if you want to hear from 'the less fluent' :) but hey, I'll chip in anyway :)

1. What level are you at?

Beginner mostly with some intermediate tendencies, I would say. :) I can form some sentences, I understand more than I can speak ( I believe that's fairly normal in language acquisition) I can hear and reproduce tones quite accurately. I thought I'd have a lot more trouble with that than I actually did!

My accent, or more accurately my ability to pronounce Thai sounds that differ from those my English mouth is accustomed to, I believe, is reasonably good.

2. Can you read and write Thai?

A little reading. I find I can read and pronounce words and have progressed from the 'sounding out every word' thing to being able to recognise whole words and skip through some sentences quite quickly.

I have some facebook friends who are Thai and reading their posts is very helpful. I reply, when I can, in Thai script. I use Thai2English to translate quite often, increasingly just to check that I'm right, which is quite encouraging. I need a Thai keyboard as I don't know where the letters are! :lol:

Writing? Like a 5 year old! :lol: Can't spell worth a dam_n, but can write my name and a few words. When I stayed with my g/f last (I'm currently in London which makes every aspect of learning Thai so much harder) her daughters would come home from school and start their homework, so I joined in. I found that very very useful.

3. How long have you been learning for?

I would say I've been making a concentrated effort for about 10 months. I do some learning every day. Self-teaching has, I imagine, all kinds of weaknesses, sometimes I'm too lazy, too busy with work, don't have a clear idea of how I should be progressing etc.

But after I made myself learn the consonants and vowels by rote, I found it started to open up for me a little and gave me some confidence.

4. How did you learn?

I started with 'Thai for beginners' and my step-daughters school books. My g/f speaks English, she's self-taught as well, but I try to inject some Thai into the proceedings as well. If she doesn't know the English term or word for something, she'll tell me the Thai and I'll look it up (Thai2English, for me was a godsend too! I have the downloadable version on my PC) Then I'll try and put it into a sentence, she laughs, then says it properly and I repeat it. Now we have what may be annoying for some to listen to, which is a mixture of Thai and Engrish (sorry I just like the way Tod Daniels uses the word 'Engrish' :) ) But I don't care as we talk on the phone and it's helped me to advance my learning.

I have also just got Thai for Intermediate learners, which is stretching me nicely :)

Where she lives (Chaing Saen right on the border with Laos in Chiang Rai province) they speak a bewildering mixture of Northern Thai, Laos, and Central Thai (from the schools mainly) and I would sit, smiling, as most of the conversation flew over my head. When people talk to me, they do make the effort to speak Central Thai, which is nice. I found that when I went back to Bangkok I could understand a lot more of what people said and could interact better.

I come up against 'walls' quite frequently and become disheartened, but I keep going and hopefully will be able to do the 'total immersion' method next year. I do find now that when I occasionally hear Thai people speaking in London, that I can get the gist of what they're saying. Which can be quite amusing when they're on the 'phone on the bus and assume that no-one understands them :)

Oh and this forum has helped me considerably too!

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

Engrish (native)

Some French (enough to argue with the electricity company about my bills!)

A little German (shaky grammar but can hold a basic conversation)

All of the above with passable pronunciation (maybe not in Engrish!)

Like Tod's this was along post, but unlike Tod, I'm not sorry :P:D

Edited by bifftastic
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Hi Matt, not sure if you want to hear from 'the less fluent' :) but hey, I'll chip in anyway :)

<snip>

Like Tod's this was along post, but unlike Tod, I'm not sorry :P:D

Good stuff Biff your Thai aptitude level is very encouraging to hear, especially if you've only been at it for 10 months, good work mate!. I think you are where I would be if I put in a lot more effort and work which is very motivational for me and I'm sure other beginners who read this.

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ID: 10   Posted (edited)

Thanks Matt. I'm going to get to test out exactly what my 'aptitude level' really is in just over 3 weeks time when I land in Bangkok.

I'm still not overly confident and get quite frustrated with myself fairly often!

I recently read somewhere (I'll fish out the link in a minute) that in order to be reasonably conversant in another language, you need about 15,000 words! That really put me off :lol: the same article also mentioned that if learning a language from the same 'family' as your own, like English speaker learning French for instance, you would already be familiar with about 5 or 6,000.

When in Thailand, I do what I often used to do with French and German, learn to say 'I don't know how to say this in Thai...' and try to use whatever words I do know to make myself understood, with that, and what Tod has referred to as 'the language dance' ie. getting the Thai person you're speaking to to be ready to hear (often pretty mangled) Thai coming out of a foreigner's mouth (a few niceties, 'how are you?' 'it's hot today isn't it?' 'your child/dog/monkey/lizard etc. is really cute') can reduce the amount of 'blank stare + hah?' interactions you have with Thai people and increase your understandability, and therefore confidence, no end.

I'm really impressed that you learned Chinese and it must be very frustrating for you to be kind of 'stuck' with Thai.

I was having a conversation with an English/Chinese friend of mine at work, he was interested in my Thai language learning so I was explaining the little I do know about it to him, showing him the alphabet and some of the tones and different words/sentence order etc. he speaks Cantonese at home and, if it's any consolation to you, he said he thought Thai was very difficult! And he has some Thai friends as well! :)

Oh another thing I find quite helpful, I have quite a lot of Thai music on my phone and expose myself to it for about 2 hours a day on the way to and from work, I know it doesn't help with the tones and that the language used in songs is often very flowery but I find it helps to add some immersion in a far off land!

Good luck and I'm sure you'll be fine :)

Long post again from me...meh! :D

Edit; here's that link http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/increase-your-thai-vocabulary-word-brain-clickthai-vocabulary-trainer/

Edited by bifftastic
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1. What level are you at?

The most difficult question in the world. I'll give it a go. I've been following the Thai school cirriculum and am stuck in ป.๔ ....but I've stalled out because of a teacher transition more than anything. I study here in the States and so teacher transition is a reality. Here are other markers that I use to assess how I am doing....whenever I am in Thailand I speak only Thai the entire time. I don't use a dictionary anymore because I can usually understand unfamiliar words in context...or just ask what was said. I love watching Thai lakorn (w/o subtitle) and understand everything just fine (thanks to the over simplistic plots)....but certainly I don't understand each and every word used. When I was in Thailand last, I went back to my original high school (from an exchange program in 1989) and gave a speech/lecture in Thai for about an hour. I was using basic Thai and speaking about something that I know very well, though. For all of the things that I know about or have control of the conversation, no problems at all... but it does get difficult when someone calls with new news. I have to ask a lot of quesitons.

2. Can you read and write Thai?

Yes. It is quite easy once one takes the time to learn it. Each week in my class at the local temple, we practice reverse translations. We get a text that has both Thai and English. We cover the Thai and try to translate from the English. It is hard and I don't often get word for word, but I'm pretty close -- getting closer each week. My reading and writing is starting to outpace my speaking and listening. Since I'm not in Thailand, I don't have a lot of opportunities to speak. (not like immersion in the country, certainly)

3. How long have you been learning for?

I'm always embarrased by this question. I first went to Thailand 22 years ago and so I should be pretty good by now....but, of course, there were many years over the time where I did little to no studying. About 7 years ago, I got more serious and have made studying Thai much more part of my daily routine.

4. How did you learn?

Any way I could?? I have a Thai family that I write to and speak to regularly. I love Thai lakorn. I read Thai gossip magazines regularly. I study at my local Thai temple. Flash cards, flash cards, flash cards. Every book that I can get my hands on (Benjawan, etc.) and also Thai school books. I've completed ป.๑- ป.๓ in Thai, Science, Health, Social Studies, Technology/Career, and Islam. I'm now in ป.๔ in my second Thai language book and am stalled out a bit. I love reading twitter of Thai celebrities (Thai language in short doses) and also reading Andrew Biggs on Twitter as he explains the differences between English and Thai so well. I have a Thai book on my nightstand...and read every night before bed. My Thai friends and family are all on facebook so I write to them every day. While at work, I keep Thai radio or Thai tv going on in the background. I do everything I can to have Thai be a part of my regular routine. What I need to do more of is focused studying...rather than playing (Did watching Dan and Beam tour Japan on vcd today really count as studying????)

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

Jack of all trades, master of none. I love language (and travel) so over the years I have had formal schooling in: Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Arabic, Farsi, Mandarin, and Italian. Can I speak anything? Nope.... except Spanish, which I studied pretty extensively. Whenever I go to use Spanish, though...Thai comes out.

I'm off to Thailand again in two months (I only get to go about once every 2 years)...so I am very excited and have this sense that I have to learn everything I can in the next two months so that everyone can see an improvement when I arrrive. Keep your fingers crossed!

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ID: 12   Posted (edited)

There are more than a handful of members on this forum who have reached a highly impressive level of fluency in written Thai (myself not included). I suspect that they have not answered your post out of modesty. Go back and read through some old posts and you'll see who they are.

There's no way to tell how fluent other members are in spoken Thai unless they give some sort of link to a video, or recording of themselves engaged in a discussion.

Edited by Groongthep

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There are more than a handful of members on this forum who have reached a highly impressive level of fluency in written Thai (myself not included). I suspect that they have not answered your post out of modesty. Go back and read through some old posts and you'll see who they are.

There's no way to tell how fluent other members are in spoken Thai unless they give some sort of link to a video, or recording of themselves engaged in a discussion.

I'm not sure what your thesis is, but perhaps you could take time to answer the questions, too. We're all here to learn from each other.

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ID: 14   Posted (edited)

There are more than a handful of members on this forum who have reached a highly impressive level of fluency in written Thai (myself not included). I suspect that they have not answered your post out of modesty. Go back and read through some old posts and you'll see who they are.

There's no way to tell how fluent other members are in spoken Thai unless they give some sort of link to a video, or recording of themselves engaged in a discussion.

I'm not sure what your thesis is, but perhaps you could take time to answer the questions, too. We're all here to learn from each other.

Joosesis,

Sorry if my answer came off as sounding a bit blunt. That was not my intention and I certainly did not intend to offend you.

My point or thesis was simply that the people who you really want to hear from (i.e. those who have reached a very high level of fluency) have not responded to your questions (except perhaps aanon). I would suspect that we could all learn the most from those who have learned the most themselves.

I've picked up from following this thread for several years that those who are most proficient in Thai are the ones who have studied the language formally at the university level. There are of course, some who are quite good who have learned outside college programs but I think they are in the minority. I cannot be sure but I would suspect that those uni grads who are most fluent would feel somewhat uncomfortable detailing their abilities when it is obvious to those who read their blogs written in Thai and hear them doing interviews in Thai on local TV and radio that they really know the language about as well as any foreigner is going to know it without having been born here.

That having been said, I will answer your questions as best I can.

1.) What level are you at?

As you yourself said it's difficult to answer this one but if I had to, I would put myself somewhere in the upper intermediate level. I too use facebook to communicate with my many Thai friends and use the text function on my Thai mobile phone daily when I'm in Thailand. Since common everyday speech is used in both those mediums I find it much easier than writing anything formal like a business letter. In fact, I've never written a formal letter or report in Thai because I have never really had the need to do so. If I need something done in Thai I will either speak to the person face to face or call them on the telephone. My speaking ability far exceeds my reading and especially my written ability. Since nearly all of my written Thai communication is done with a keyboard my Thai handwriting is quite bad and probably looks to most Thais like the writing of a young child. As I said before however I can converse comfortably in Thai on just about everything that I know anything about. Since I concentrated on speaking long before learning to read and write I often hear from Thais that my pronunciation is very good (ผมพูดชัด). I am seldom misunderstood. I think there are many on this forum who insist that you must learn to read and write either at the same time you learn to speak or even before it, otherwise your pronunciation will be very poor. I believe that I am living proof that is not necessarily true.

2.) Can you read and write Thai?

Yes, as described above I can write (type) Thai reasonably well in everyday language. I can read at probably a ป.๔ or ๕ level. I can read all of Benjawan Becker's books as well as Wiworn Kesavatana-Dohrs' "Everyday Thai for Beginners" with relative ease. I found the latter especially good BTW because it has no phonetic Thai to English transliteration. I can also read most all advertisements and announcements without any problem. Newspaper articles are harder due to the more formal language and depending on the subject. They nearly always require me to use a dictionary for at least several words or phrases. I could use a lot of improvement on my newspaper reading.

3.) How long have you been learning for?

On and off for over 20 years. I first visited Thailand in the late 1980s. At that time the FSI and AUA courses where about the only comprehensive materials on the market so that's what I used. In those days when Thais heard foreigners speaking even a little Thai they would stop and stare in amazement, not like today when many foreigners speak Thai well. I no longer spend as much time on learning as I did in the past because I have already reached a level to where I function well on an everyday basis. That doesn't mean I wish I spoke and understood better, it's just that it's not as important as it used to be.

4.) How did you learn?

Almost entirely on my own. Like someone else said, I bought just about every Thai instruction book that came out over the years. Even if they were elementary phrasebooks there was usually some new vocabulary in them that was new to me. I also made it a point to try to completely stop using English when in Thailand. This was impossible at first of course, but it quickly became easier and easier. Later, once I learned to speak reasonably well I started going to AUA on Rachadamri Road in Bangkok. This improved my comprehension greatly as they use the language acquisition (listen only) method. I did not take their reading and writing courses but did buy the books and half-assed studied them on my own. I have had no real formal instruction in reading and writing Thai. I have picked that up on my own using children’s school books and some other made for the foreigner material.

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

I took 2 years of college level Spanish at university and lived near the Mexican border in the US for a number of years. At one time I could converse in Spanish fairly well but it is true that "If you don't use it you lose it" and now can speak and understand only very little.

Edited by Groongthep

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ID: 15   Posted (edited)

I think that this topic is for everyone and not just for the people who you really want to hear it from. Fluent people, not so fluent people, intermediate people, beginners I wanna hear it from everyone :)

Thats why the Original poster wrote

So, for anyone who is learning Thai or is fluent,

I guess :)

Edit:

Oh and I DID enjoy reading your list and I DO agree with you that there are some really fluent Thai speakers out there who write blogs and what not and don't know that this topic exists or don't bother to post here, but what does it matter really. There will always be people who are better in something than others because of skills/time spend but that cannot really stop people from posting into threads like this and tell people where exactly they stand as a learner of the Thai language. It is also useful for intermediate learners to catch up with other intermediate learners and beginners to catch up with other beginners right? :) I could add a dozen of intermediate learners to my msn due to threads like this and start pumping :P

Edited by FireInTheSky

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1. What level are you at?

I would say intermediate. Simple conversations, talk around a problem, but I wouldn't trust myself to do business in Thai for any serious stakes, and I wouldn't be able to hold my own in a discussion between native speakers.

2. Can you read and write Thai?

Road signs, number plates, menus, adverts. A short sentence

. I can spot all the letters but do sometimes struggle with how they hang together.

3. How long have you been learning for?

2 years.

4. How did you learn?

No formal training. I lived in Isan for one year teaching English and learned by necessity.

I have lived in Bangkok for one year and learned more because I wanted to. Not at as fast a rate as I learned when I lived up country but I would say I have learned more thoroughly. The subtleties of tones, classifiers etc which I previously just learned word-by-word as needed, I have actually started to consciously listen for and mentally note while talking.

This has been massively helped by two good friends who are perfectly bi-lingual and able (sometimes even willing) to answer my rather naive questions with an explanation that made sense to a native English speaker. I find many Thais, even those who speak reasonable English, will stop at the simplest explanation that circumvents the problem rather than explain anything in depth.

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

Native English speaker, and fairly basic French which has all but disappeared. Smattering of Greek, Spanish and Italian.

On the confidence thing, I think with Thai it's important to really act the part. Because it's a tonal language, you can't get away with uncertainly muttering something to yourself - watch exactly how a Thai person says what you want to say and say the whole thing, as per, body movements and all. It feels funny but it really is necessary. A beer or two helps enourmously with this.

When I do get into a beat-myself-up mood and feel that I haven't got anywhere, I tell myself that I'm not bad for a two year old.

I would say don't get into thinking it's a difficult language. 60 something million Thais speak it fluently, so it's no more difficult than any other language, it's just that it's completely different from English in all sorts of strange ways that European languages are not. I don't know much about Mandarin so couldn't really comment.

I might take formal classes one day, but I still believe there is no substitute for raw hours of practice, and I try and strike up at least a couple of conversations every day, and learn something from them.

Go and spend a few weeks at your girlfriend's place up in Isan and I bet you will pick up tons. Bangkok makes it too easy to be lazy, and sometimes you have to make a real effort to find someone you can reasonably have a conversation with. You will learn Laos, but this can help too. Once you spot the differences it's easier to remember how the language hangs together, I find. To take a simple example, if you're used to listening for "man/bor" it's not too much of a leap to listen for "chai/mai" when you come back to the city.

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4. How did you learn?

No formal training. I lived in Isan for one year teaching English and learned by necessity.

I have lived in Bangkok for one year and learned more because I wanted to. Not at as fast a rate as I learned when I lived up country but I would say I have learned more thoroughly. The subtleties of tones, classifiers etc which I previously just learned word-by-word as needed, I have actually started to consciously listen for and mentally note while talking.

This has been massively helped by two good friends who are perfectly bi-lingual and able (sometimes even willing) to answer my rather naive questions with an explanation that made sense to a native English speaker. I find many Thais, even those who speak reasonable English, will stop at the simplest explanation that circumvents the problem rather than explain anything in depth.

Yeah, my girlfriend is the worst teacher in the world and has been of no help whatsoever. Whenever she asks me about an English word I will break it down for her and explain how the word is constructed, explain the origins or similarities to other words and give her examples of it's use, and whether it's a word worth using in everyday conversation.

When I ask her about a Thai word I always get the same reply: "it just is". For example, when I asked about พัดลม "Pat lom" (a fan), I guessed that the two words would mean something seperately but when I asked what they meant she says they just mean "fan". If she had explained that พัด means "propel/propellor" (I think) and ลม means "wind" then I could have learnt 3 new words at once.

I can remember words and sentences better when I understand why, and not just what. This is why I think it would be good to go to formal lessons or even a language club if I can find one in BKK.

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It is also useful for intermediate learners to catch up with other intermediate learners and beginners to catch up with other beginners right? :) I could add a dozen of intermediate learners to my msn due to threads like this and start pumping :P

Sorry, I read this several times and still can't figure out what you mean. Could you explain a bit more. Thanks.

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ID: 19   Posted (edited)

It is also useful for intermediate learners to catch up with other intermediate learners and beginners to catch up with other beginners right? :) I could add a dozen of intermediate learners to my msn due to threads like this and start pumping :P

Sorry, I read this several times and still can't figure out what you mean. Could you explain a bit more. Thanks.

It is fairly simple and I am sorry if I wasn't clear. I basically say these kind of topics are also useful to see who is an intermediate learner (as a intermediate learner myself per example) so I could toss them a private message, perhaps ask for their msn and see what they pick up in daily life and swap knowledge on comparable and equal levels. To find learners who are on your level to share knowledge. Yes you can learn a lot more from people who are mega fluent but I am just saying that this topic is just for everbody who reads it and feels like it, to fill in a form so other people can see what kind of level they have and how they got there, That's what the original poster meant by "people who are learners of the thai language or are fluent". We are all learners of the thai language but only a select few of us are fluent. We all want to get there though and need all the help we can get and I know for sure that I know a lot of stuff that other intermediate learners don't know and I am also very sure that other intermediate learners know a whole bunch that I am unaware of. Learning together online could be a powerful tool and spotting equal level learners could be pretty useful too :) Wall of text but thats it basically.You can learn from anyone as a learner of a language (since everyone picks up different stuff from different situations) not just from those who are super fluent even though they are your rolemodels and master Yoda's.

Edited by FireInTheSky

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It is fairly simple and I am sorry if I wasn't clear. I basically say these kind of topics are also useful to see who is an intermediate learner (as a intermediate learner myself per example) so I could toss them a private message, perhaps ask for their msn and see what they pick up in daily life and swap knowledge on comparable and equal levels. To find learners who are on your level to share knowledge. Yes you can learn a lot more from people who are mega fluent but I am just saying that this topic is just for everbody who reads it and feels like it, to fill in a form so other people can see what kind of level they have and how they got there, That's what the original poster meant by "people who are learners of the thai language or are fluent". We are all learners of the thai language but only a select few of us are fluent. We all want to get there though and need all the help we can get and I know for sure that I know a lot of stuff that other intermediate learners don't know and I am also very sure that other intermediate learners know a whole bunch that I am unaware of. Learning together online could be a powerful tool and spotting equal level learners could be pretty useful too :) Wall of text but thats it basically.You can learn from anyone as a learner of a language (since everyone picks up different stuff from different situations) not just from those who are super fluent even though they are your rolemodels and master Yoda's.

OK, now I understand and yes, it does make sense.

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(long post warning)

UKMatt,

I was a bit surprised by your original post describing your difficulties learning Thai as:

1) You have learnt foreign languages before, and so you know what the procedure is

2) You have encountered a tonal language before, and so that fundamental aspect of Thai is not new to you.

Might I suggest that: You have shown a facility in learning languages in the past, and you may be feeling some pressure to learn Thai in order to communicate with your new family. This has led you to over-estimate the speed at which you can master Thai, and hence have become disappointed with your progress, thus adding to the pressure you are putting on yourself?

Let me illustrate with an experience of my own. In my teens and 20s, I successfully learnt French, Swedish, and Greek (the latter to near-fluency in 3 months). When I arrived in Vietnam, I was expecting to master the language in short order, and I quickly became very discouraged by my lack of progress.

Eventually I sat back and rationally worked out the genuine reasons why Vietnamese was hard for me. The reasons were:

1) Vietnamese were not used to hearing Westerners attempt their language, and so my pronunciation had to be 98% right or they wouldn't get it, and their expressions of bafflement were very off-putting.

2) They would be expecting me to speak English, so I had to construct a sentence of at least 10 words before they would retune their ear to the fact I was speaking Vietnamese.

3) They all wanted to talk English (for reasons related to their attitude towards foreigners), and so were discouraging to my efforts to speak Vietnamese.

4) There were few resources available for learning the language.

This certainly brought me down to earth. I began to describe myself as someone who thought he was a linguist before he went to Vietnam.

Finally, I decided to master the bits of the language which were absent of any discouragement, and focused my attention on understanding the newspapers, and building up my vocabulary through patient dictionary work. Almost by osmosis, I became a reasonable Vietnamese speaker, but it was a tough slog.

On all the counts above, Thai is easier by a factor of 4 or 5.

I would suggest some things to get you going (from what you say, motivation is not going to be a problem for you)

1) Start working on your vocabulary with a flash card program. You will see some threads here about a free program called Anki, and there is another good one called Mnemosyne.

2) This will not only help with vocabulary, but with reading skill as well. When you can read Thai easily, everything from a bus trip to walking down the streeet is a free learning experience.

3) Figure out what your interests are and start reading about them in the daily newspapers. I am a sports fan, so used to spend an hour a day poring over the back pages of the Daily News (the one with the vermilion headlines). As your Thai reading improves, the subjects you can read about snowballs.

4) Listen to Thai radio or TV News every day (I should avoid the soaps and the 'boing' show comedies for a while). This way you get to hear the words (or more accurately, the gaps between the words), and as your vocabulary increases, the words will become clearer.

Above all, don't pile pressure on yourself (it never helps) and don't get discouraged.

Perhaps I was lucky in learning Vietnamese before I tackled Thai, which I find much easier, not least because the majority of Thais I meet expect me to speak Thai, rather than trying to wrench the conversation into English, which was always the case in Vietnam.

To sum up, I think you are probably much better at Thai than your original post would suggest, and it is largely your feeling that you should be so much better than you are which is giving you distress.

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(long post warning)

UKMatt,

I was a bit surprised by your original post describing your difficulties learning Thai as:

1) You have learnt foreign languages before, and so you know what the procedure is

2) You have encountered a tonal language before, and so that fundamental aspect of Thai is not new to you.

Might I suggest that: You have shown a facility in learning languages in the past, and you may be feeling some pressure to learn Thai in order to communicate with your new family. This has led you to over-estimate the speed at which you can master Thai, and hence have become disappointed with your progress, thus adding to the pressure you are putting on yourself?

That's very perceptive and exactly right. Apart planning to live in my gf's hometown soon and spending a lot of time with her family, I also have a new born baby so I have a very vested interest in learning Thai well and as quickly as possible. Another story from ThaiVisa sticks with me of a farang with 3 Thai children and he could not communicate the simplest Thai words with them. I vow to never be like that. I also see farangs sitting with their wives and children in restaurants and totally detached from the conversation everyone is having in Thai. I also never want to be in that situation with my family. Lastly, I hate seeing farangs in bars who have been here for years and know about 5 three syllable Thai expressions and they use them over and over showing off like they are fluent in Thai (like saying "som nom naa" 5 times a minute). Again, I want to distance myself from people like that as much and as soon as possible, so the pressure and my expectations are huge.

The replies in here so far have been more than helpful and I intend to start using the advice given out as soon as I can.

PS. I love the Thai "boing" comedies!! It's about the only Thai TV I enjoy. I find Mum Jok Mok's show entertaining and I like the other shows with the usual actors that work on his show. However I cannot bear Thai soaps for more than a few minutes without getting really annoyed.

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@ Rickbradford

I really like your post and I do agree. Well put! And very cool that you tackled Vietnamese. It is one of my goals in live too :P

I wanna add that even some Thai people don't expect foreigners to speak Thai with them and some Thai people have never even spoken with foreigners so yeah with Thai you also need to have a near perfect accent depending on who you talk with and where you live or are. (Wanna add that for Asian languages I put much more time in my pronunciation than I ever did with English, Yeah I do sound like a dork in English but it is way more forgiving it seems :) )

Further on in the big cities many Thai will keep speaking back in English (but not all of them) even if you insist in speaking Thai with them which might discourage learners of the Thai language indeed. Some people will never speak Thai with you for some reason (even if you พูดชัดๆ) and what I think (i haven't encountered too many of those thank god) is a good solution is to just keep the conversation short, speak English and just move on to other people who you can speak Thai with :P Some people won't ever speak Thai back to any Farang and if you wanna speak with Thai to learn Thai this is a waste of time.

Always remember: Effective communication should come from both sides, speaker and listener alike.

Ps: I use mnemosyne to add phrases to, but the advantage of Anki are the downloadable premade Decks I guess.

And Ps2: MattUK I am also with Rick on this one that you are prolly better than you make it sound in your Original post. I once was in your position that I felt frustrated with learning Thai, that nobody was helping me, nobody was speaking Thai to me and everyone was just way ahead of me etc etc. I found my fun back when I started to mass read books (I still read zillions of books every week) and felt like my understanding, pronunciation etc got a boost from that. 2 years later I am where I am now. Nowhere near fluent, but learning everyday and having tons of fun with it. On my way to "getting there". I think everyone will get downswings when learning an Asian language once in a while. Those who really want to do it, just do it and crawl out of the pit. So will you. With time passing by you will become better and better and better and better.

Just do it, do the time, have fun with it and keep yourself exposed to the thailanguage be it by books, movies, music or just being there :) Good luck and more importantly: HAVE FUN!

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ID: 24   Posted (edited)

Would one of the mods please make this a sticky?

(or pinned = whatever it's called)

Edited by desi

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ID: 25   Posted (edited)

While some of this overly long post may veer from time to time off the actual topic of this thread, still perhaps readers may find it of value. (If not, just P/M a Mod to delete it, no harm, no foul :D )

<SNIP>I wanna add that even some Thai people don't expect foreigners to speak Thai with them and some Thai people have never even spoken with foreigners so yeah with Thai you also need to have a near perfect accent depending on who you talk with and where you live or are.<SNIP>

I have to agree with part of this and disagree with part of it too. I agree a LOT of Thais don't expect foreigners to be able to speak much more than "2-word-touist-thai" or even worse "horse-peak" (you figure that one out :whistling: ).

It is my experience after watching TONZ of foreigner/Thai interactions outside the tourist areas; when a Thai see a foreigner approaching they're apprehensive, they're uncomfortable in the fact that they might hafta speak English and more importantly they don't know you can speak something resembling Thai. This makes Thais 'switch' their ears into what I call "listening for engrish" mode. Then when you walk up and bust out with your Thai, they don't understand you. It's got nothing to do with the fact you're speaking Thai with a foreign accent.

Believe me, no matter what you think or how many compliments you've gotten from these totally over complimentary people about your Thai language ability; every single foreigner here speaks Thai with an accent which Thais can identify right away as foreign. Sheesh, Thais can pick out another native Thai speaker's accent even when they're speaking Bangkokian Thai, and are accurate at picking where that person comes from usually down to the province! Don't think for even a second they can't tell right off youre NOT a native Thai speaker..:lol:

The real reason they didn't understand you is because they saw you as a foreigner, made a judgment call that you most likely can't speak Thai (given the HUGE numbers of foreigners here who don't) and instead they were listening for English. So when you spoke Thai they didn't hear ANY English words and couldn't understand what you said.

I've NEVER EVER had a problem speaking with and being understood by a 'strange Thai' (one I've never met before B) ), even up-country in a "one buffalo village". Rather than just approaching 'em and asking in Thai what ever it is I wanna know, I do what I mentioned on the forum before and what I call "the-thai-language-dance".

What is the 'thai-language-dance'? It's where you approach a strange Thai and say stuff IN Thai like; "Hello, how are you?", "I'm a foreigner, but I can speak Thai." "Can you understand me?" Other mindless and equally meaningless pleasantries can be exchanged before you jump into the topic of what you really want.

I've found slightly self-deprecating stuff plays well with Thais and can 'break the ice', which is why I always tell them I speak with a strange accent. I use the words พูดไทยสำเนียงแปลก ๆ, just because no Thai would ever say it about their English skills and for me it denotes a very peculiar, very unusual or very strange accent when speaking Thai. You'd be surprised after I've spoken with a Thai a while they'll correct me and say, "You don't speak Thai with a strange accent but with a foreign one." To me that's an accomplishment. :)

My spoken Thai is about as far from a Thai accent as you can imagine; yet IF I do the 'thai-language-dance' first, without fail the Thai I'm tryin' to talk to CAN understand me and WILL speak to me in Thai. Sometimes these conversations go far past just the information I was seeking from them, and are quite interesting in their own right.

<SNIP>Some people will never speak Thai with you for some reason (even if you พูดชัดๆ) and what I think (i haven't encountered too many of those thank god) is a good solution is to just keep the conversation short, speak English and just move on to other people who you can speak Thai with :P Some people won't ever speak Thai back to any Farang and if you wanna speak with Thai to learn Thai this is a waste of time.<SNIP>

Yes, sadly there is a particular demographic of Thais here (which I've had the misfortune to run into now and again :bah: ). They simply refuses to either 'understand' my spoken Thai or speak to me in Thai. I dislike that sort of person with a passion :annoyed: ! I always try to end our engrish only conversations by saying in Thai something that comes across condescendingly as; "It'd have been better if we spoke in Thai because you're English isn't as good as you think it is."

These are things I've adopted and work for me, so they might or might not work for you.

I'm perfectly contented to be an American who happens to be able to speak something which passes for Thai (with an American accent) ;).

Edited by tod-daniels
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BANGKOK 28 March 2017 15:08
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