This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Getting by in Thai…
Age range: 30
Location: London, UK
Profession: Supermarket assistant
What is your Thai level?
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What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?
Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, professional Thai, or a mix?
I’d say quite formal.
What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?
I wanted to learn Japanese in my teen years as I was in love with mangas and animes, but I was never applied myself. When I moved to London I met many people that were able to speak 3 or 4 languages and I always find it fascinating; that made me want to learn languages again.
However, it wasn’t until I started training in Muay Thai and organised a trip to Thailand with some of my friends that I decided to pick up Thai. I loved it, and I continued to study it.
When did you become a student of the Thai language?
September 2013, a couple of months before my first trip to Thailand.
How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?
About 20 to 30 minutes a day.
Do you stick to a regular study schedule?
I try to. Having a regular schedule is one of the most important practice to do when study a language.
What Thai language learning methods are you using (resources needed)?
I tried many methods. Originally I had a private teacher, then I moved to some iPhone Apps and flashcards, and recently spaced repetition sentences in audio format.
Does one method stand out over all others?
Yes and no. Languages are too complex and one method cannot cover all the various aspects. There are all sorts of skills that are needed to be trained: listening, speaking, reading. However, I’d say spaced repetitions of both vocabulary and sentences is the most helpful.
Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?
I made a choice to focus on reading and writing from the beginning. In fact I can read and write better than I can converse. I thought that would be extremely helpful to chat on the internet and look up words on the dictionary.
If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?
Thai is particularly difficult when comes to their writing system. There are a lot of rules and a lot of exceptions, but reading per se is not about remembering all these rules, is about recognising words and remember its pronunciation. It’s a memory game.
How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?
Although I’m quite shy when I try speak Thai, when I went to Thailand I was quite eager to take my Thai for a spin, and having friends that do not speak English helps a lot!
How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?
Not too long really. Common phrases such as “did you eat yet?” are not too difficult to learn and you can use them every day.
What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?
I don’t recall any, but I’m sure I made a fool of myself at times.
What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?
I suppose for westerners would be the writing system, but probably tones even more.
What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?
When I was reading signs around Thailand.
How do you learn languages?
I learn vocabulary and phrases with flashcards and audio material.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- My weakness is that I still thinking English before I speak Thai.
- Reading is definitely my strength.
Can you make your way around any other languages?
Considering that I’m Italian and now I’m fluent in English I think I can. 🙂
Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?
Yes, because languages evolved in different ways especially between Asia and Europe and you can notice similarities and differences. Sometimes you can see how culture is tied in with the language.
How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?
Unfortunately I don’t travel a lot. Thailand was my first experience.
Are you learning another language at the same time as Thai?
I recently started with Mandarin Chinese.
Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?
I lived there only for two months, but it was really a long holiday.
Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?
I’m not a programmer by profession although I majored in Software Engineering. Yes I have programming experience.
Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument
I used to play the bass guitar back in Italy, but after I moved to London in 2007 I stopped completely.
What learning advice would you give to other students of the Thai language?
Set some goals. Make a realistic daily/weekly schedule to learn vocabulary. It doesn’t matter if you can’t stick to it at times, just do your best.
What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?
Increase vocabulary and converse more.
Getting by in Thai…
If you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember: the whole idea for this series is interview those who are either new to studying Thai or renewing their interest in learning Thai. It’s all good!