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What Level Of Speaking And Writing Thai Are You At?

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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