This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…
Name: Loic Herel
Profession: Guest Service Supervisor
What is your Thai level?
Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?
I can speak street Thai and professional Thai as I need to work with Thai people. I understand basics Issan and north dialect.
What were your reasons for learning Thai?
I love Asia and its culture, when I arrived to Thailand for my first visit (I was 15), I fell in love with the country and the language.
Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?
I arrived in September 2007.
How long have you been a student of the Thai language?
I began to study Thai since 2005. All by myself as in France there was no accessible school to learn.
Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?
I remember that the 2 years before I went to Thailand to stay there, I studied Thai little by little every day.
Did you stick to a regular study schedule?
No, it was up to me. It was more like introducing Thai into my daily life. Mostly vocabulary.
What Thai language learning methods did you try?
I listened to a lot of music and I tried to translate the lyric at first. A lot of materials are from the internet, and also I wrote a diary in Thai. After I had arrived Thailand, I surrounded myself with Thai people and my ultimate weapon was a three-way dictionary (FR EN TH).
Did one method stand out over all others?
Yes, being with Thai people. But the real trick must come from you. You need to be motivated and never stop.
How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?
At the very beginning, it took me 3 days to learn the alphabet, after what I could study all by myself cause I could practice reading anything, and get familiar to Thai language.
Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?
No, it is very similar to western reading. I mean that reading is from left to right, and I found out that usually a Thai consonant equals an English consonant.
What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?
It was when I mixed up a whole sentence because in Thai you can easily swap two words but it still has a meaning. The very first time was when I was playing Thai Hungman. I was to discover a Thai dish. Instead of answering Kuay Tiaow Mhoo Nam Tok, I firmly said (And I was so sure of myself) Kuay Tiaow Mhoo Tok Nam, which means “Noodles with Pork Falling into the Water”. Everybody was rolling on the floor.
How do you learn languages?
The first thing is that I learn the alphabet right away. Reading and writing is important to me as it helps to further learn by yourself. I think I wouldn’t be this good is I couldn’t read Thai. Then I will try to listen as much as I can with movie, songs, and mostly friends.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
One strength is that I think directly in Thai before talking. It comes very naturally. However, while saying long sentences, I often mispronounce some words because my brain cannot process both thinking and talking in the long run. Another strength is that I am very good are imitating while people speak, this is how I acquired the Thai accent.
What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?
Foreigners often think as Thai as one of the most difficult language because it is a tonal language, and many foreigners just cannot get the tones right and just cannot make the difference. But actually if you concentrate enough, it is very easy to make the difference.
Can you make your way around any other languages?
I have been learning German and Japanese, but I just cannot make it work like Thai. It is because I don’t apply my own method to these languages maybe because of a lack of time.
Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?
Yes, German, and I always mixed up the two. I just couldn’t think in German without having some Thai intruding my thoughts, and vice versa.
What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?
Having a Father language helps a lot; a person who will be your Personal Assistant, who teaches you and corrects your mistakes, someone who understands what you say even if nobody gets it. Please try to forget everything you know about your mother tongue, and be embraced by the whole new principles of Thai language. Be like them, Talk like them, Be with them, imitate them. Hammer your brain everyday with Thai words.
The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…
The entire series is hosted on this page: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.
If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.