This one is for you, the blog readers. It’s a chance for you to air your language-learning grievances and get some community involvement. As we reach the end of 2011 and head into the New Year (supposedly our last on the planet if you listen to the Tin Foil Hat Brigade) we usually spend an inordinate amount of time trying to think of new ways to torture ourselves to do things vastly different than the previous year.
Instead of trying to inspire you to come up with a list of language goals for the upcoming year, what I would like to hear from you is what you struggle with most. What gives you the most problems and causes you the most headaches?
If you’re wondering why I’ve been a bit quiet here on LTMS lately, it’s not for a lack of motivation. Quite honestly, I just haven’t thought that now was a good time to be writing about the language while the country has been struggling with a very serious crisis.
And no, I’m not talking about Occupy Wall Street, the idiots in the GOP trying to send the middle class back to the Stone Age, or the banks milking us for every last cent we have.
No, I’m talking about my second home. Just in case you aren’t aware, the central region of Thailand has been in the midst of crisis for several weeks now dealing with uncontrollable flooding.
Everybody has needs. Everybody has “would likes.”
In English, we typically would just say “I want…” or “I need…” and leave it at that.
When you look at Thai language books, dictionaries, or travel phrasebooks you will often see the word ต้องการ /dtɔ̂ng gaan/ to express “would like.” For example:
/pǒm dtɔ̂ng-gaan sʉ́ʉ rót/
(I “would like” buy car)
I would like to buy a car.
This is pretty straightforward and easy to understand.
The problem is, this isn’t really correct…
Just when you think you might be done with a word, it pops up on you again. In Part 2 (and don’t forget about Part 1) I thought I had covered all of the ground that ได้ /dâi/ has to offer; we learned about “can/be able to,” ”might be able to,” and a bunch of expressions.
But alas there is at least one more, and coverage of this very important utility word would be incomplete if not mentioned.
My wife and I recently took a trip to see friends and family, which required a long car drive. The CD player wasn’t working, so we decided to spend some time working on my Thai language skills. She first gave me a few travel-related vocabulary words, quizzed me on them, and then told me to make up some sentences using the new words and related to our current travels.
I did pretty well for about a hour before I started to hit the brain overload level. (Practicing Thai while trying to navigate through multiple states using a GPS is not the easiest thing in the world, just so you know.) When we got finished our practice session I was feeling rather confident. I had done pretty well, had been luckily able to memorize the 20 or so vocabulary words my wife threw out at me, and I could finally speak some sentences that didn’t sound like a four year-old was speaking.
And then my wife said to me, “You should keep a journal.”
Some people suggest that the best way to learn a language is by listening, similar to the way a child learns a language: listening first, then mimicking and speaking, then reading, and then writing. There are many within the language-learning community who think listening above all is the best method. There are even a few who proffer that when taking on a new language you should do nothing but listen for upwards of 300 hours first, and then start to think about speaking, reading, and writing.
Me? I didn’t start that way, but many of the people I currently study with did and their speaking skills are much better than mine. Our teacher always tells us to “sing a song, sing a song.” I can relate to that notion since I’m a musician, and yet I find myself listening a lot less than analyzing and memorizing.
When I read an article called Learn Any Language By Treating it as Music in which the profiled polyglot — Susanna Zaraysky — suggests that we should put down the word and tone charts and lists and just listen the same way we listen to music, my interest piqued. Can I make more progress by doing less book work and more active listening?
Every time I hang out with my friend N’Chang I end up learning tons and tons of cool stuff.
We have all heard interesting stories about twins. Feeling each other’s feelings while hundreds of miles away, being able to answer each other’s sentences, etc. There is definitely something very interesting about the lives of twins.
While spending some time with N’Chang recently, I learned that Thai culture has a very interesting perspective on twins and how they are perceived in the family and social pecking order.
One of the most important aspects of Thai culture is understanding and recognizing the levels of status amongst Thai people. How you talk, how you act around, and certainly how you greet someone is all predicated on where that person fits in the age and social order compared to you.
Many Thai travel books will have a paragraph or two talking about ไหว้ /wâi/ — the way in which Thai people respectfully greet and thank others. I find, however, that the books stop way short of providing accurate information on the proper way to perform a ไหว้ to someone else.
Thai culture, like many Asian cultures, is all about status. Junior, senior, older, younger… it’s all part of a well-developed pecking order used to help maintain both respect and politeness. In this post I delve a bit deeper, beyond what the typical book or website is inclined to tell you, and hopefully shed some light on the right way to do it depending on the situation.
As you probably know, I have been running a contest over the course of the past two weeks to win free copies of Paiboon Publishing’s Thai for Beginners iPhone app. The contest ended last night and I’m happy to be able to announce the winners.
So let’s click on through and see who the lucky winners are, shall we?
Just because it’s summer and school is out of session doesn’t mean you have to stop learning, right? Or, should I say it doesn’t mean you should stop learning. As the sunny days creep along we tend to come up with many reasons for not being diligent and practicing our Thai.
Yes, it’s hard. I know. Believe me, I know. I have plenty of other things I should (or would like to) be doing other than studying. But sometimes ya just gotta bite the bullet and do the work.
So, to try and keep us all on track and focused, I’ve included a very simple quiz to test your knowledge of the Thai consonants.