Interview: Jeff is Getting By in Thai

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Jeff is getting by in Thai…

Name: Jeff

Nationality: USA

Age range: 30

Sex: Male

Location: Bangkok

What is your Thai level?

Hard to say. It depends on the subject matter being discussed, but for regular day-to-day dealings, I would put myself squarely in “intermediate.”

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

I’d say I can at least get the gist of at least 70% of what’s being said.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, professional Thai, or a mix?

I speak polite Thai with some working knowledge of slang and Isan.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?


It’s annoying to live in a country and not know the language.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

About one month before I moved to Thailand.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

Everyday is a lesson – but specifically studying Thai – maybe about 2 hours per day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

Not at all. I think this is one reason I’m not taking part in the successful Thai learners series.

What Thai language learning methods are you using (resources needed)?

I am reading and studying vocabulary from a couple books written in Thai.

Does one method stand out over all others?

I only know the self-study and immersion method. Having someone constantly correct me is rather discouraging. I prefer to learn from my mistakes (i.e. notice Thais saying the word differently than I am and working to mimic them).

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes, of course. I got into reading and writing almost as soon as I landed.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I wouldn’t say difficult – just time consuming (it took me about 3 months of 3-5 hours per day to get comfortable with reading and writing in Thai).

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

I’ve been using Thai from the first day. It’s a matter of politeness and convenience.

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

I think everyone could understand สวัสดีครับ right away ☺

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I don’t get embarrassed from making mistakes. I like a good laugh.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That tonal languages are some sort of insurmountable obstacle.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Going out with Thai friends and realizing at the end that I was fully engaged in the conversation we were having that lasted well over three hours.

How do you learn languages?

I like to study grammar and get a basis of vocabulary down while doing grammar drills. Then it’s just about using what I know and adding more vocab.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are that I am quite good at learning grammar and I’m able to think in whatever language I’m learning. My weakness would be my own laziness. I really should be at a very advanced level for how long I’ve lived here.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Yes. I am fluent in German and also speak French as well as some Spanish and Norwegian.

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Sometimes when I’m speaking German, a Thai word will creep up to my lips.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

With natives in their own countries, I have used German, Hungarian, Thai, Lao, and Tagalog.

Are you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

Yes, I’m concentrating on Tagalog and also working on getting at least a rudimentary knowledge of Lao and Burmese and mixing a bit of Norwegian in there.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

I have been in Thailand for about 5 ½ years.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?


Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument

I love music and used to play violin.

What learning advice would you give to other students of the Thai language?

There is a direct correlation between effort and result.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

Keep on trucking.

Getting by in Thai…

Thank you Jeff, Terry, Dan, Tod, Snap, Talen and Greg. And for others out there – if you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember the clincher: the idea for the series is interview those getting by as well as regenerate an interest in learning Thai.

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