This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Introducing Luca and his language learning method…
Luca Lampariello is an Italian polyglot who speaks 9 languages: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, and Portuguese.
Chinese is his latest language project, and learning to speak Thai is a real possibility!
When Luca was barely in his teens (13), he began studying languages on his own. As his experience grew, he came to the conclusion that there is no one best way to learn a foreign language, but there are some universal principles. And handy for us, he believes that the principles should be shared with others desiring to learn a foreign language.
If you are looking a good way to learn Thai online, check out ThaiPod101. Although their courses are not free, they are cheap, effective, and can quickly teach you conversational Thai. All ExpatDen readers get a 25% discount using this link.
Using these basic principles in his self-study, over the years a simple language learning method evolved.
Full circle: Target language (source files) => Native language => Target language
This method enabled him to acquire languages with ease. Ok, it is still a work in progress, but what method isn’t?
To talk with other language learners, Luca joined YouTube. You can find his informative videos on his YouTube channel at poliglotta80.
And YouTube is where I found both Luca and his method.
Excited about the possibilities, I contacted Luca to get the finer details on how his method would mesh with learning Thai. And as you will soon see, it works quite well. So well in fact, that we decided to work together to remix the script from his videos to fit a post format. Two posts, actually.
And that is what you will find in the coming information. Luca’s method, but with a focus on Thai language learners.
I now hand you over to Luca…
An easy way to learn foreign languages…
While learning a foreign language is not an easy task, it is not as difficult as it seems. I called one of my videos An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages, because I was inspired by the title of a book that made a serious impact in my life: An Easy Way to Stop Smoking.
Being able to quit smoking is generally perceived as difficult. The book literally dismantled the reasons why one smokes, and then rendered the quitting of cigarettes quite easy.
The idea is this: In order to be able to do something easier than first imagined, one has to be shown how to do that very same thing, only simply. This works for languages too, although it takes more of an effort.
My language learning method…
- The timeframe of my method is: Quality, then quantity.
- The method is based upon a strategy of: Often, natural, and sà-nùk.
- The strategy consists of: Listen, read, repeat, translate, and then translate back.
Studying languages with quality and quantity:
From the very beginning, put quality time into your studies. The quality aspect makes the difference between an excellent and a mediocre outcome. Put quality into your studies for the first 8 months to 1 year. After that period of time, add an additional ingredient for a solid language acquisition: Quantity.
Quality: What is more powerful than absorbing content? Preparing and training your brain to receive that very same content, that’s what. And if you put the time into absorbing the sounds of your target language, your brain becomes plastic towards that language.
Quantity: Listening and reading become more effective once you’ve built a decent vocabulary. And if you acquire a stable of useful words, you are more likely to understand, enjoy, and learn from books, blogs, articles, and podcasts.
My method uses three basic principles:
Often: The first principle is to work on a daily basis. Or, at the very least, 5 days a week. No gigantic amount of work is required either. For the first 3 months, 1 hour a day of study is preferred. Later on you can cut it down to 30 minutes.
Please note that it is more effective to learn a little bit each day, than to cram for 2 long days each week. Trust me. And after a mere 6 months, you will be astounded at your progress.
Natural: The second principle is to learn in a natural way, as natural as possible. The natural way of getting into the fabric of a language doesn’t bother with the heavy tomes of grammar.
It is not that grammar books are not useful. But, given the heaviness of the subject, a strong focus on grammar has a tendency to discourage language learners.
In the first stages of the learning process, it is more fruitful to concentrate on the spoken language by listening to as much dialogue as possible. During this time, write down, in your own words, the bare basics of grammar. No more.
Sà-nùk: The third principle is very Thai: Sà-nùk (สนุก means ‘fun’ in Thai). This principle focuses on making your language learning experience entertaining, not stressful.
It is important to inject a bit of sà-nùk into your lesson plan, so here are a few suggestions:
- Create simple games with the lessons.
- If on a Mac, copy the vocab into aTypeTrainer4Mac.
- Learn a handful of Thai songs each month.
- Laugh at hilarious Thai commercials on YouTube.
- Partner with another Thai language learner.
- Challenge your partner to a Thai language competition.
- At each milestone, treat yourself to something lusciously sinful.
There will be times when you feel frustrated because you can’t recall something you worked on a few days ago. When this happens, allow yourself to relax. Remind yourself that soon enough, those very same worries will seem ridiculously easy.
One other important note: Even if it takes you 8-9 months to finish your chosen Thai course, don’t worry. The faster one learns a language, the faster one forgets. So don’t learn in haste. Remember that quality is much more efficient than quantity.
A few more tips before we move on…
Rather than surfing the Internet in search of multiple Thai language courses, concentrate on one set of materials. This is exactly what I do with the Assimil and Teach Yourself series (more about this later).
The Internet is an incredible tool for learning languages, but it also turns a fair number of people into passive learners. What I suggest is to become an active learner by sticking with good material at the exclusion of all others.
And only after you’ve acquired a core of language knowledge, do you head back to the Internet. Because it is at that point that the Internet will become an amazing means to improve your linguistic knowledge.
But until then, please don’t be tempted away by yet another language course. And another. And another.
A delicate subject to talk about is pronunciation. With some effort, even taking into account linguistic inclinations and ear, I personally believe that most language learners can reach a good pronunciation level.
What I want to point out though, is that it is extremely important to listen to the sounds from the early stages of your learning. And being tonal, this is especially true with the Thai language.
It is not just a matter of listening, but also being able to reproduce the sounds correctly through the proper positioning of your mouth and tongue.
Getting the assistance of a native speaker will accelerate the process of acquiring and reproducing sounds correctly.
Proper pronunciation consists of two main phases:
- Pronouncing single words correctly.
- Getting the correct intonation of a whole sentence.
Thai learners are lucky in that there is an excellent product available: Improving Your Thai Pronunciation, by Benjawan Poomsan Becker.
Thai script, transliteration, writing vrs typing:
I personally use MS Word for my foreign language studies. But, given transliteration and the Thai script, you might very well prefer to handwrite your homework.
If you are going the typing route, WLT has a post explaining how to type in Thai (PC typing resources are included): Thai Typing Tutors: aTypeTrainer4Mac
The beautiful Thai alphabet stumps many students, while challenging others. Taking this into account, you can choose to go through the method either way: Thai script or Thai transliteration.
If you are unfamiliar with Thai transliteration styles, visit thai-language.com to get a look at some that are available.
And for those of you desiring to get a jump on the Thai alphabet, 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet is the ticket. You can also study the Thai alphabet via one of the many language sites in WLT’s Learn Thai for FREE resources page (but don’t lose yourself in there!)
Please note: In An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two, I will explain (in detail), the strategy of my method.