This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…
Name: Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj
Nationality: Fijian Indian / Australian
Age range: 30-40
Location: Anywhere and Everywhere
Profession: TV Host / Cross Cultural Business Consultant
Web: Stu Jay Raj
stujaystujay’s YouTube Channel
Note: As this is the final post of a three part interview, some of the questions below have already been answered in more detail. If you haven’t had the pleasure, please take the time to read them too.
- Monday: Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part One
- Wednesday: Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part Two
Stu Jay Raj interview…
What is your Thai level?
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Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?
Professional when I’m working, street Thai on the street and Isaan when I’m in Isaan.
What were your reasons for learning Thai?
Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?
Yes – arrived in 1999 permanently. I’m a permanent resident – though just set my family up in Australia. I travel back and forth.
How long have you been a student of the Thai language?
Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?
Did you stick to a regular study schedule?
It was my life.
What Thai language learning methods did you try?
Let the language consume me.
Did one method stand out over all others?
‘Method’ was living my life in Thai.
How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?
Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?
What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?
Realising that the sound / writing system and tone rules are based on the Indic Sound System / Map of the mouth.
How do you learn languages?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Strengths – have passion about languages.
- Weakness – when learning, get obsessed by whatever it is I’m learning and won’t let it go until I can conquer it.
What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?
Just because there are 40 odd consonants that it’s ‘hard to learn’. … oh, and that ‘tones are difficult’.
Can you make your way around any other languages?
Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?
Yes – always learning languages simultaneously.
You have both programming abilities and a passion for music. Do you see either as having a connection to learning languages?
They are all just using different tools to render a meaning.
What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?
Don’t compare apples with oranges. Thai is not English… However, just because it looks different, doesn’t mean that there aren’t similarities. Up to 60% of Modern Thai has roots in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an Indo-European language as is English. There are some amazing similarities that are ‘masked’ through the ‘different look’ of the language. Once you start to scratch the surface a little you’ll realize that the things that you thought were difficult – writing, tones etc, aren’t that difficult at all. They’re just different.
Don’t be put off learning Thai just because you’ve had a bad experience with Thai teachers. Just like many native speakers of English, many Thais don’t have a deep understanding of their own language.
When learners of Thai ask a question like:
‘Why are there 3 consonant classes?’
‘Why does the high tone actually rise?’
the response is normally something like:
‘There are 3 consonant classes – High, Middle and Low. The High class has ‘x’ number of letters, the middle class has ‘x’ number of letters etc etc.
‘you are a Farang, you don’t need to know that’.
The fact is that for most of them, they’ve never learned ‘why’ themselves.
One good formula is to have several different people that you learn from. Learn something ‘advanced’ from one of them. Something that a normal learner wouldn’t normally know. After that, go and try it out by just dropping it into a conversation with another Thai that you consult with. They will be impressed and think that your level is higher than what it really is. Then ask them to teach you something new. Keep rotating around your ‘Thai Consultants’ with new terms, new words and slang until your proficiency catches up with their perceived proficiency for you. It’s a great way to get past the ‘farang’ Thai that farang get taught and sound more native-like, not to mention keep motivated and positive about learning after each positive impression you make.
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.