KunMatt

What Level Of Speaking And Writing Thai Are You At?

119 posts in this topic

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(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.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(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.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@ 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!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

ID: 24   Posted (edited)

Would one of the mods please make this a sticky?

(or pinned = whatever it's called)

Edited by desi

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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
1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not too bothered by the ones who insist on speaking Engrish at me because I make a sweeping judgement that they're generally the kind of person I wouldn't like anyway. There's one in the small town I stay in, who runs a large shop, is relatively well off and obviously thinks of himself as some sort of a local celebrity. He always greets me with this ridiculous "hello how are you thank you I am fine" then looks slightly disappointed when I walk past his shop without buying something. The last time I went in there to buy something he insisted on showing me every article he had for sale ("like this you? no? very goose") Basically his problem is he knows just enough to be a prick, he worked in Bangkok many years ago so is keen to show off how fluent he is in English, and lives in eternal hope that here, 6 hours from Bangkok in most rural Isan, some millionaire is going to be teaching English or visiting his "wife" from Pattaya, and in the market to buy the entire contents of his convenience store. It's a conversation I can do without. On the other hand sometimes speaking English with intermediate Thais can be helpful with sentence construction as they inevitably carry over Thai sentence construction. :"You go where" would be the most obvious example, "shirt colour red" "I am not fine" etc etc

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Would one of the mods please make this a sticky?

(or pinned = whatever it's called)

Great thread, great idea. Now pinned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, i just read that thread from the start and it's quite long already. Anyhoo, here's my tuppence worth.

1. What level are you at?

I'm above beginner, but i don't really know how to classify it. I can hold a conversation in Central Thai, but those dialects really throw me. Living in a small town in Nakorn Sri Thammarat province makes life difficult as everyone speaks really fast southern Thai here. It's ok when i'm one on one, as the ones who can will speak Central Thai but other than that i can just be sitting recognizing the occasional word or phrase if we're in a group. I think i have an understandable accent, as i can conduct basic business on the phone and don't usually get questioned on being farang. I have been told a couple of times, from different people, that i sound like someone from Ratchaburi, although i don't know if that is some special joke that Thais have for people with dodgy accents. :lol: There is still a lot i don't know, and i get stuck easily on subjects that i don't have an interest in and therefore don't know any vocabulary.

2. Can you read and write Thai?

I can read and write, my reading is better than my writing because i do it more often. I will sometimes sit and watch TV, the soap operas i can follow, not every word mind but i know what's going on. The news is something i've been watching more of lately and i'll sometimes read the rolling script at the bottom for as long as i can before it disappears and then i'll start again. They have different speeds and the Channel 3 one is the only one i can keep up with. My problem is motivation, i learn at my own pace which is quite often slow :D. My hand writing is that of a primary school kid, but it's legible which is the main thing. My typing is a bit better than my writing, but sometimes i get confused and go to hit H when i mean to type ห, or M when i meant ม. I guess i'm making the sound in my head and getting mixed up. My spelling is much better than it used to be, but i still find myself looking up words that i know already but just want to be sure. The predictive text on the phone is good for that though. I'm reading my first book from another topic ฉันคืออารี่ and it's going slowly but my excuse is that i'm studying for teacher exams at the moment. :ph34r:

3. How long have you been learning for?

5 years

4. How did you learn?

Self taught, there have been a great number of helpful locals who have helped me over the years, so it's not been all by myself. I had an old phrase book that had the alphabet in it but no corresponding sounds, so i sat down with someone and got them to say the letters and i wrote down what i heard. I don't recommend that as i had to tweak quite a lot over time to get it right, but i think i'm almost there. The tones were the most difficult part for me but once i was over that stumbling block it made a massive difference in being understood. The rest i learned from books, the internet and asking people.

5. What other languages could you speak before Thai?

English and Glaswegian both fluently. I used to speak basic conversational French and Spanish, but i have no use for them at the moment and they've withered away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After somebody suggested it on here I've starting using the Anki system of flash cards and so far it has greatly improved my vocab, reading and tuning my ears just after a couple of days. I find this method much better than trying to learn from a book. Even using the Anki flash cards for the Thai for Beginner's book I have is much easier than using the book itself.

Thanks to RickBradford for pointing this system out for me.

However one thing I'm having a hard time with is determining "falling" tones - sometimes I'm certain they are rising even, but I'm trying not to get frustrated with it and just put more time and effort in. Highs, rising, low and mid tones are ok and I can get them right about 90% of the time without seeing the word but the falling tones are killing me. I guess I just need to tune my ears in more and it will come later after more experience.

I'm not sure how long you are supposed to spend with this system or how many reviews to do each day. I spent 4 hours on the first day alone as my eagerness got the better of me, it's surely better to pace yourself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After somebody suggested it on here I've starting using the Anki system of flash cards and so far it has greatly improved my vocab, reading and tuning my ears just after a couple of days. I find this method much better than trying to learn from a book. Even using the Anki flash cards for the Thai for Beginner's book I have is much easier than using the book itself.

Thanks to RickBradford for pointing this system out for me.

However one thing I'm having a hard time with is determining "falling" tones - sometimes I'm certain they are rising even, but I'm trying not to get frustrated with it and just put more time and effort in. Highs, rising, low and mid tones are ok and I can get them right about 90% of the time without seeing the word but the falling tones are killing me. I guess I just need to tune my ears in more and it will come later after more experience.

I'm not sure how long you are supposed to spend with this system or how many reviews to do each day. I spent 4 hours on the first day alone as my eagerness got the better of me, it's surely better to pace yourself.

It sounds like you're still in the early stages of learning tones.....don't get frustrated/give up! Here are two sites that you can use to test your ability to determine tones (add the http://www:)

seasite.niu.edu:85/thai/selfassessment/module1/tones_FS.htm

thai-language.com/id/798459

Of all my Thai lessons, the early stages of learning tones (reading/listening) was the most brain intensive activity I think I've ever done. I'm not a brain surgeon, but I'd guess that the area that helps you determine the tone is a different area than the area that helps you determine what it is you're hearing (as in the sound of the consonants/vowels). 30 minutes of tone practice with my teacher left me mentally drained......but in a short enough time, it all came together and almost becomes second nature. Stick with it.

I don't know if you're using audio with your anki flashcards.....it adds another dimension to your flashcards. You can easily record dictionary words from sources like thai-language.com into an anki card. Even if you don't understand the meaning of the word, you can use the cards to test your ability to determine tones.

Good luck!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

BANGKOK 27 July 2017 03:41
Sponsors