My 30 Day Thai Language Trial: Week Two

New Years resolution

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Week two of my 30 day Thai language trial…

Don't Break the ChainThe more I note the lack of sleep in the weekly reviews of my trial, the more I am getting pissed off.

Insomnia has been a part of my life since my toddler days and I usually work around it. I ignore it if I can. Sometimes I back off from plans. Sometimes I soldier on shagged out. Sometimes I howl at the frustration of it all.

Today, while writing this out, I’m in full howl mode.

Because now that I really really want to ramp up my Thai, it is coming to me just how invasive this lack of sleeping is.

I guess that is what happens when something has been a part of your life for a long time. Until you force yourself to face it, you try and pretend that it does not exist. And yeah. I do know how insane that sounds.


If you have never suffered from insomnia, please let me try and explain…

Insomnia is a lot like a bad internet connection. You have work to do. You have deadline. But until that connection works, you are totally stuffed. You are left clicking CONNECT! CONNECT! CONNECT! It sucks. Totally. But if you live where the connection is always bad, you deal. Because you have to.

Ok. I’m done ranting.

New language learning stuff…

A new addition to my language learning / sleep inducing arsenal are the Creative Aurvana in-ear performance earphones.

The earbuds to my iPod/iPhone earphones were in tatters, and since Thailand is not big on keeping parts in stock (and I was desperate) Aurvana was chosen from my local iStore. I wore the earplugs Thursday night and getting to sleep was a breeze. Friday was not as successful, but you can’t blame external happenings on earplugs (the bed was restless).

If you are interested, please note that the Aurvana earplugs are miserable for walking. I took them to Central on Friday and the cord noise was awful. No matter, being stationary is what I need them for.

The earbuds fit so snug, they block out the TV and most sharp noises that tend to irritate. When I compared Aurvana with the JVC HANC250 (high-grade noise canceling headphones), I’d say they come pretty close.

The earphones are small, so there is no additional noise found with large headphones brushing against whatever (sofa pillows, cord, etc).

Note: If they had been available, I would have gone for the Zen Aurvana (active noise canceling) version instead.

Friday, January 8 (day eight)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

I was more relaxed on Friday. I am guessing it is because I learned a fairly useful lesson last week. That if I do not get to my studies right away, I will. Eventually. I am committed.

Needing to spend my morning running about the city, I settled into typing conversations in the afternoon. In the evening I listened, read, and repeated Thai conversations.

Saturday, January 9 (day nine)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

Face it. I have not been awake enough to go straight to my original goal of studying before emails. But to keep ahead of the game, I started typing future conversations instead. This also gets a fair bit of listening in because I am finding mistakes in my Thai materials = the need to listen over and over again. Typing, and then reading while I listen to the audio, catches these mistakes. It also ties the written Thai in with the audio.

On and off, Saturday was spent getting my Thai materials just so.

As the days go on, I find myself leaving my set objectives – listen, read, and repeat – to the end of the night. I am a bit worried that it won’t be conducive for learning Thai as I am not a night person. But. Shrug. I am not always a morning person either.

Sunday, January 10 (day ten)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

Throughout the day on Sunday I typed, listened, and read. Even though my studies were spread out, it was a productive day.

Monday, January 11 (day eleven)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

After playing around with Luca’s method for almost two weeks, I decided to switch around my materials. Sort of like, midstream, I know. The reason? Because the audio files I am using do not have smooth conversations that jig with me. They are a compilation of this and that, so there is not enough flow. And I want flow.

I started my morning by translating six chosen Thai conversations into English (this included listening, typing, and reading). In the afternoon I had a two hour Thai lesson. I closed down the evening by running through three of the six conversations. I’m on a roll.

Suggested materials: Luca uses Assimil (btw – the Thai audio is great). But you can use pretty much any Thai conversations from course materials. Just be sure to pick conversations that suit your level, and especially your temperament (something I discovered these past weeks). If your audio comes with a mix (English, conversations, and exercises), using Audacity, just copy what you need to create a dedicated audio.

Tuesday, January 12 (day twelve)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

I’m finally getting into stride on my daily lessons. No, my sleep has not improved, just… softened (the sure sign of resignation… mine).

Instead of forcing myself to study for a set length of time, I study for a long as I feel like. As long as it is fun, interesting, and chuffable. If I have do not have at least an hour clocked during the day, I make up the time in the evening.

Just a couple of days ago I believed that my brain was not geared to study at night. But now I know that I was sooooooooooooooo wrong. It’s nice being wrong.

In the morning I tidied up the six dialogues (adding notes on colloquial and idiomatic Thai, formatting, etc). I then practiced for awhile. In the evening I listened some more. And instead of praying for sports to come on, I watched TV and practiced handwriting conversations by memory. Yeah, I confess. I did peek! The act of doing something without a computer was a nice change.

About my writing… My handwriting in English can be horrid (and sometimes surprises me, but mostly not) so I am not expecting my writing in Thai script to be any less messy. When I learned how to write Thai script last year, I adjusted the free style from Reading Thai is Fun by James Neal. I went this route because the precise writing demanded by Thai teachers cramps my hands. Besides, my aim during the 30 days is to tidy up my freestyle but not make a big deal over it. The spelling is the key.

Now, about my spelling… it is cacca in both English and Thai. I depend on spell checkers for English but I’m making an effort for Thai. For now.

Wednesday, January 13 (day thirteen)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat. Translate the second Thai dialogue into English.

Wednesday is the maid’s day. I call it the maid’s day (possessive) because she takes control of my life for this one day. Gung loves to send me out grocery shopping, even though I try to resist (I hate shopping and will often wait until my fridge is naked before going at it again).

There are even items that Gung now gets herself. Sigh. WHERE are my women shopping genes?

All through the morning Gung will come waggling items at me, telling me how many we need and when. Around nine or ten I sometimes give in, and off I go.

Both my iPod and iPhone are loaded down with Thai lessons, but I forgot to take either on my shopping excursion. My bad. To make up for it, while pretending to nap in the afternoon I listened to Thai conversations recorded with mellow music. It was restful to drift in and out while hearing soft snippets of Thai in and out both ears. It also masked the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

I revamped my materials so I’m back to translating a new dialogue one. For some reason, it going faster this round. Using smoother materials is my guess.

Thursday, January 14 (day fourteen)…

Goal: Review.

Today I went through the three new lessons. A full hour straight through. The reason? I slept last night and the night before too. YEAH! Hopefully there will be no more putting the salt and pepper in the fridge and the house keys in the dishwasher. Hopefully, there will be no more forgetting my iPod on outings. Hopefully, my brain will soak in lessons easier.

Personal observation: When I am overtired, I make a lot of mistakes translating Thai. Sometimes I am hours into using the wrong bits before I notice. Using Luca’s method, I am catching the mistakes earlier. I am reinforcing the correct information from the start.

Tips from week two…

TIP 1: When you are first getting used to a dialogue, drag it into iTunes and loop it. That way, you can lean back, close your eyes, and just listen. You can also print out the dialogue to read along with iTunes. I started reading along on my computer, but when the page needs to scroll I lose my place. I study three dialogues at a time this way. If I am really tired, I will listen to one dialogue on its own.

TIP 2: If you come across a dialogue with a sentence that is too difficult for you (too long, too fast), pull the audio into Audacity. Then select just that one sentence and keep hitting the green arrow to repeat. You can also zoom into the dialogue and select a smaller area. Slowing down the speed is also possible (effect >> change speed >> percentage change). Audacity is great for parroting tones too. Select your word or sentence, hit the green button, and say the dialogue at the same time. Keep hitting that green button. Like Shadowing, your ears will pick up where your tones are wrong (especially if you use decent earphones/earbuds).

TIP 3: To practice translating the dialogue into English, drag it into iTunes and loop it. With your eyes closed, translate into English as it goes.

My 30 day Thai language trial…

Ah, before I forget. If you are reading about my 30 day trial for the first time, please visit these posts:

11 thoughts on “My 30 Day Thai Language Trial: Week Two”

  1. you certainly have the right idea all work and no play makes jack a dull boy
    getting out of Bangkok with your friend and driver makes for fun days for sure there must be dozens of possible places of interest on the outskirts of Bangkok
    you sound like you have a dam good life down there
    issan is also a great place to drive i love the overland routes on the old red din roads its a lot different to the rolling hills of west Yorkshire but anyday out away from work does it for me
    regards John
    .-= john hopes you will read…issan blog updates =-.

  2. Getting out for the weekends or even during the week is an excellent plan. Last year I decided that this year was all mine, so I’ll head out of BKK once a week when I can. We recently did the tattoo temple (and this week is a surprise).

    My Thai teacher and I are wonderful friends so we grab our favourite taxi driver and off we go on adventures.

    And you really do need three people for a long outing as two are not enough to do justice to the fabulous lunches. We were down to two last week and Khun Pissout was bursting at the seams! Normally they have great fun deciding who gets the tail and who gets the head, he was left with both while I wandered off taking photos.

    West Yorkshire looks absolutely amazing, and Stoodley Pike is a must see. I have driven through but I usually hang out around Devon way. Some of the scenery higher up is similar, but not quite.

  3. get yourself some fresh air at the weekends Bangkok can not be good for the lungs long term the first time i arrived in Thailand was directly from Kathmandu Nepal after spending 6 months in India Himalayas and Nepal if i was to recommend a place to kick back it would be leh in ladakh india
    on the roof of a two story guest house a beautiful vista across the valley desert and mountain.s of which i climbed twice stock kangri
    6132 mt not the highest peak but one of the best views i have come across
    sorry i went of course then just dreaming of being there again
    one day for sure
    P’s check out west Yorkshire in the UK my home town any time we don’t have mountains but the dales are beautiful
    regards john
    .-= john hopes you will read…Freemasonry and stoodley pike west yorkshire =-.

  4. John, congrats! I also slept last night (but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I feel like a new women. Heh 🙂

    Walking outdoors is a great tip. And I will do just that when I get back to the UK or around to the Queen’s park (car fumes along BKK streets are not for me).

  5. well since my last post i slept sound and feel like a new man
    there are some advantages to being tired you slow down which at times can be useful
    working at full speed for long periods can not be good for us in general
    well keep on bloging and i hope the course is a great success
    catharine i also enjoy the outdoors and a good walk is always the best way to blow of the cobwebs
    regards John
    .-= john hopes you will read…ban dung issan Thailand my favourite videos =-.

  6. Ah John. My heart goes out to you. The sofa and me are close companions too. And yes, not getting enough sleep can totally change a person’s demeanor. I go from laughing and dancing through my days (I laugh a lot), to blurry eyes and a mouth struggling to smile. I too avoid people (where I can) when the cycle is in full swing as it is not me.

    The 30 days trial is one of the best things I’ve done for myself (as far as learning Thai goes).

    Even with the best intentions to learn Thai (like having this blog) whenever the insomnia hit I would lose momentum. Each time, I had to start over with a fresh lot of enthusiasm. It takes a lot of energy. Especially for someone continuously scraping themselves off the floor. Eventually, I let myself coast.

    And that is where the 30 days came in. Coasting, I needed to find another way. I just didn’t realise that I would start my 30 days on an insomniac high (silly me). I thought I had time to get the schedule second nature. But (shrug) life is like that.

  7. iam reading this sat on my sofa total shagged out myself sleep is something i need to get if i don’t get a good nights sleep you dont wont to be around me
    this 30 day course sounds interesting but is it possible to take it all in with all the othere stuff going on in are lives
    i would try it myself if i could have total peace and quiet for a month fat chance of that so i.l give it a miss until i get some
    r and r
    .-= john hopes you will read…money and new year expat udon thani issan =-.

  8. Martyn, why are you so tired in the UK? Is is all the overtime you do? Or working late at night? When I’m in the UK, the cool weather energises me. I can walk for hours. Even better, I walk after lunch, which is when I am most awake. Scotland was great for taking off on foot. Especially in the wintertime when the bright blue skies were so fluffy with white clouds.

    ‘I actually socialized, I talked and talked to people I didn’t even know’

    That is so me. In the west, I can disappear into myself for long stretches at a time. Thailand is a sure cure as walking around smiling and laughing with people is addictive. I love that about Thailand.

  9. Catherine I know you are right about alcohol not being the cure, remedy isn’t even quite right. I’ve felt tired for years, hell I can even remember the time I walked into my local bar about three years ago and felt really awake. I actually socialized, I talked and talked to people I didn’t even know. Fond memories but ones nowadays I hold onto inside my shell. I’ve never really felt totally awake since. If I don’t feel tired I feel abnormal, but like you posted, you kind of accept it as the norm.

    Thailand is my exception. In your adopted country I feel wide awake and vibrant, barring a heavy dose of the juice. I ain’t no insomniac but I sure could do with eight hours solid sleep, but hey, that’s eight hours of a wonderful country I’d be missing.I think you’ve got to separate the positives from the negatives.

    How about trying six bottles of Beer Chang. Call it one for the road.

  10. Martyn, except for the lack of sleep, the 30 day trial is working a treat. I no longer let myself slack off from my lessons, so I guess that I’m now addicted to putting that cross on my calendar each day.

    Just like English, you will find bad Thai spelling all over the Internet. Then throw in slang, idioms… thank goodness for dictionaries and Thai teachers!

    I owe my teacher a lot because she has not given up on me. Whatever is needed to keep me going (like switching to reading instead of conversation when I’m tired), she’s game for. Because I was so fed up with not sleeping last night, we were talking about it today and the word mentor came up. It fits. She guides me.

    Alcohol do not work for long (it can bite you in the butt) so I try and keep it for a last ditch effort. I have a system I work through, with alcohol being added only if too many days of not sleeping are back to back, and only if it is in a certain sequence. Like, I cannot use it to get to sleep twice in one month. When I had serious insomnia years ago I learned the rough lesson of what works and what does not. And what to be leery of. Alcohol is at the top of my list.

    Jogging in Bangkok? Being tired out from exercise does work sometimes (but not always and never on a Monday). That is why I bought an Airwalker (I don’t do gyms).

    Hah! I’d love to bury my head in nine inches of snow right about now 😉

  11. Catherine you do seem to have got your day off to a bad start. I would say you must have got out of the bed on the wrong side but that would seem rather inappropriate. Pissed off and shagged out….I guess well used words of any insomniac.

    Your determination to conquer the Thai language is admirable especially with your disturbed sleep patterns but then again as you write like the surfer with the bad net connection you’re used to it. I’d still think attaching the word admirable is suitable.

    Your 30 day language trial appears to be going quite well despite the frustrations you feel at times. I’m sure the remaining days will see even speedier improvement.

    I read the post with great interest as I thought what a well written piece and then you smacked me senseless with the following….’Now, about my spelling…it is cacca in both English and Thai.’…to use your Friday morning conversational tone, that scared the living shit out of me. I had never thought about reading Thai which had spelling mistakes included, that’s frightening…..Trying to read badly spelled Thai or coming face to face with a Cobra….. that could be the moment to get the 10 baht coin out and give it a spin.

    Back to your insomnia. Have you tried downing five large bottles of Beer Chang, it works for me. How about a bit of jogging or joining a local gym, hasn’t worked for me because I ain’t tried it. I slept three hours last night but I’ll admit after returning from the pub yesterday afternoon I did crash out for four hours. I also have the advantage of being able to open my backdoor and bury my head in nine inches of snow, that wakes you up a treat. I wish you sweet dreams and best wishes.


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