Successful Thai Language Learner: Doug


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Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Doug
Nationality: American
Age range: 50-60
Sex: Male
Location: Bangkok
Profession: Computational linguistics

What is your Thai level: Intermediate/Advanced/Fluent or a combo?


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


What were your reasons for learning Thai?

Living here, wanted to fully engage, then became interested in computational aspects of Thai, and points of intersection with other languages in the region.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?


Yes, arrived 1994.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

Since arrival.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

Began at once.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?


What Thai language learning methods did you try?

AUA conversation, then reading/writing books, followed by U Hawaii grammar, followed by rewriting Noss’s grammar.

Did one method stand out over all others?

AUA approach is most excellent, imho.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

After completing AUA conversation (vocabulary ~ 1,000 words).

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

Only as expected.

What was your first ˇ˝ah hah!ˇ˝ moment?

Realization that Thais could not see extremely fine letter distinctions any better than I, and were reading on the basis of shape / secondary or tertiary letter characteristics, and context.

How do you learn languages?

Practice, practice, practice.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Good ear; vocabulary retention could be better.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That native orthography should be learned immediately (for those in more formal programs), and/or that informal methods work over the long run (for those studying informally).

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Previously studied Chinese 2 years in high school (in Taiwan).

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


Do you have a passion for music?

Sure. (I think the question you need to ask is “do you play a musical instrument?”, or are you not trying to find predictors of ability at learning tonal languages?)

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


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

Use (relatively) formal methods that ensure broad exposure to vocabulary. Don’t neglect grammar. Spend as much time on task as possible.


The Series: 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.

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