Tim Ferris: How to Learn a Language in Three Months

Can you learn a language in three months?… When revamping WLT I discovered several timestamped posts the never saw the light...

Tim Ferris: How to Learn a Language in Three Months

So You Want to Learn a Language

The Mother of all Language Learning Resources… When I started researching on the Internet for Thai learning resources, I found more than a...

So You Want to Learn a Language

The Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary Update

The Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary Update… I’ve been known to bug Chris Pirazzi about this and that software...

The Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary Update
Tim Ferris: How to Learn a Language in Three Months

Tim Ferris: How to Learn a Language in Three Months

Can you learn a language in three months?… When revamping WLT I discovered several timestamped posts the never saw the light of day (WP gremlins working overtime). This is one. Gotta love this guy. Tim Ferris’ post, How to Learn Any Language in Three Months gets into wonky theories for learning languages. If you remember, […]

So You Want to Learn a Language

So You Want to Learn a Language

The Mother of all Language Learning Resources… When I started researching on the Internet for Thai learning resources, I found more than a few sites with broken links. So instead of collecting sites with resources, I created a page of my own and called it Learn Thai for FREE. After all these years it continues […]

Thai Language Thai Culture: Fluency Practice Through Symbols

Thai Language Thai Culture: Fluency Practice Through Symbols

Language as Symbols… We start with an idea in our heads. In order to get this idea into another person’s head we use the magic of language. When we use language we turn the idea in our heads into a symbol, a symbolic noise that our mouths make that we usually call “words”. The other […]

To Learn the Thai Language You Gotta Learn Thai Culture!

To Learn the Thai Language You Gotta Learn Thai Culture!

To Learn the Thai Language You Gotta Learn Thai Culture!… I want to state this now and for the record that after studying Thai for 7+ years: If you don’t understand Thai culture, you will NEVER EVER understand the nuances of the the language. Period. End of story. I know that’s a 180 degree flip-flop […]

Thai Language Thai Culture: The Why? Series

Thai Language Thai Culture: The Why? Series

Thai Language Thai Culture: Book Review – The Why? Series… To many people, the search for the holy grail of learning to read Thai is finding a book that fulfils a number of requirements. It is at the appropriate reading level for the learner. It is written in straight forward language, and if possible, more […]

Thai Language School Review: Duke Thai Language School

Thai Language School Review: Duke Thai Language School

First, a bit of a ramble about Union schools… Preamble: I haven’t written any reviews in quite awhile. Mostly because there are so few schools coming into the “teach Thai to adult foreigners” niche market. In addition, my somewhat skewed opinion about what I call “Union Clone” schools is too well known. Don’t get me […]

A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

Paul’s Quest to Fluency… A little over a month ago Paul Garrigan launched his quest to become fluent in the Thai language. Impressed with the obvious dedication shown, Stu Jay Raj (jcademy.com) took Paul under his wing: 6 Months to Thai Fluency – Paul Garrigan Week One – Thai Bites. From day one I was […]

Taking Private Lessons? Who Should Your Teacher Be?

Taking Private Lessons? Who Should Your Teacher Be?

Taking Private Lessons? Who Should Your Teacher Be?… After noticing a survey that declared that Swedes are the best learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), Catherine asked me for my perspective on why Swedes are so successful. Though there are many points to consider, one aspect of EFL in Sweden and other countries […]

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ruth Curtis

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ruth Curtis

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners… Name: Ruth Curtis Nationality: American Age range: 62 Sex: Female Location: Bangkok Thailand Profession: Missionary [church planter] currently work together with my husband in personnel management for Thailand field member care of OMF Intl. What is your Thai level? Fluent nearly native: speaking, reading, writing, typing, teaching. Do you speak […]

Successful Thai Language Learner: Michel Boismard

Successful Thai Language Learner: Michel Boismard

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners… Name: Michel Boismard Nationality: French Age range: 67 Sex: Male Location: Thailand What is your Thai level? My Thai level is advanced. I learnt some rudiments on my 2nd visit in 1983 (1st in 1979) but really took off in 1987 where I was lucky to stay in a Thai […]

Housecleaning: Apologies for the Mess

Housecleaning: Apologies for the Mess

You have my apologies… Over a month ago I started housecleaning on WLT and I thought I’d be done by now. Apologies. I should have warned you sooner. The site is over six years old and there’s 600 plus posts to make right. This is my to-do list so far: Remove dead links. Remove links […]

Please Help STOP the Grand Palace SCAMS

Please Help STOP the Grand Palace SCAMS

Please help STOP the Grand Palace SCAMS… The Grand Palace complex in Bangkok is stunning. For most tourists to Thailand, it’s a must on their list of places to see in this country. But because of the scams, too many go home without experiencing the inspiring beauty of the glorious Thai buildings decked out in […]

In Search of a Thai Clock

In Search of a Thai Clock

In Search of a Thai Clock… This week I got it into my head that I just had to have a Thai clock. I didn’t want anything fancy, but I did want a clock I could use for years, preferably in wood, but I’d take a metal of some sort. I started looking in an […]

Amazing Thailand: ThailandOnly SongkranThailand?

Amazing Thailand: ThailandOnly SongkranThailand?

Amazing Thailand: ThailandOnly SongkranThailand?… I don’t know what to think about the Songkran marketing push from TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand): Amazing Thailand: #ThailandOnly #SongkranThailand. Google+ Community Official Community from Tourism Authority of Thailand ร่วมแชร์ภาพสงกรานต์ทั่วไทย ด้วย #SongkranThailand #ThailandOnly Official Community from Tourism Authority of Thailand Share Songkran Festival of Thailand to the world with #SongkranThailand […]

Tim Ferris: How to Learn a Language in Three Months

Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions

Can you learn a language in three months?…

When revamping WLT I discovered several timestamped posts the never saw the light of day (WP gremlins working overtime). This is one.

Gotta love this guy. Tim Ferris’ post, How to Learn Any Language in Three Months gets into wonky theories for learning languages. If you remember, back a few years I wrote about his previous advice in Thai Sentence Deconstruction. It received mixed comments.

Just my opinion… In learning Thai, if you work hard, three months is barely enough time to attain a smattering of a vocabulary, start using simple sentences, and get your ears used to Thai tones (but your mouth might take longer to catch up).

Btw: If you want to see what real motivation looks like, read Paul Garrigan’s series: My Quest to Speak Fluent Thai in Six Months

Anyway, to help out Tim’s theory I’ve matched available Thai resources with his advice.

Tim’s three months promise boiled down to a few key points…

1) Choose learning methods and study materials that interest you.

As Nils mentioned in Learning Styles and Language Learning, mixing and matching learning styles just might suit you best. And for Thai study materials, the huge amount of Thai resources I compiled to go along with tips from David Mansaray and Robert Bigler in How to Learn a Language in a Foreign Country should be enough to get your whistle wet.

2) Start out with the most common 100 words (spoken and written).

This is an idea I stand behind, which is why I created a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary series: Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List and A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases and UPDATED: Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List. Choosing the top 100 Thai words is not an exact science but I had fun trying (and I’m not done yet).

3) Once you are comfortable with sentence structure, start adding more words.

This is yet another subject covered on WLT in the post Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions. That’s a lot of words.

So here’s a question for you. What do you think of Tim’s claim that you can learn a language in three months? How about six months even? Or two years? Which reminds me, there’s a post on learning Thai in two years waiting to be set free…

Of course, there are many variables to learning a language – available time, motivation, brain space, prior experience with learning languages, decent study materials even.

And if everything was on your side, how much could you realistically accomplish?

Do you have questions about the quirks of the Thai language?
Send them over and we’ll do our best.

So You Want to Learn a Language

Learn a language

The Mother of all Language Learning Resources…

When I started researching on the Internet for Thai learning resources, I found more than a few sites with broken links. So instead of collecting sites with resources, I created a page of my own and called it Learn Thai for FREE.

After all these years it continues to be a work in process, but the point is that I can lay my hands on links I found ages ago.

Awhile back I came across So you want to learn a language, a treasure trove of language learning links. I have most (but not all) of the Thai resources covered on WLT.

For Thai, go straight to >> Specific languages >> Thai.

The rest (like Italian) are going to take me a good long while to wade through.

Do you have questions about the quirks of the Thai language?
Send them over and we’ll do our best.

The Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary Update

Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary 2.0

The Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary Update…

I’ve been known to bug Chris Pirazzi about this and that software and lately it’s been about his progress with a brand spanking new TalkingThai phrasebook, as well as the update to Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary. Only just yesterday I received a positive reply to both. Excellent.

I’ll go into detail about the TalkingThai phrasebook in a later post, but for now, in the hands of the Apple gods is the latest update to the Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary.

Chris Pirazzi: Apple’s iOS 8.x “upgrades” came as a nasty surprise that broke many apps (not to mention making phone calls!). No wonder why, after an initial rush to upgrade, customer adoption of iOS 8 is slower than any recent iOS version.

In the case of the Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary from Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand, iOS 8 bugs took away access to key functionality that we have now restored in a free 1.8 app update just submitted to Apple. The features affected include “Find Words Inside,” “Real-World Fonts,” “Explain Spelling,” “Google Thai Word,” and “Clear History,” as well as the Paiboon Thai Script and Thai Sound custom keyboards. This app update also sports a new iOS 7/8 visual style, adds full-screen support on iPhone 5/6/6+, and fixes some rare reported app hangs. Now we are all waiting for Apple to approve our app update (a rather arbitrary process that can take days to weeks) and then you will see an update show in the App Store app on your device.

We’d also like everyone to know that we are nearing completion of a massive 2.0 upgrade to your dictionary app that has been more than two years in the making. This upcoming free 2.0 upgrade will include thousands of new Thai words suggested by users, thousands of complete, ready-to-use customizable phrases divided into 200+ practical categories like “Hotel,” “Ordering Food,” “Renting a Place,” and “Price Haggling,” a “Favorites” feature that lets you save and organize words and phrases you are learning, full-text search that lets you find words in the middle of phrases, and a complete rewrite of the internals of the app that will allow us to issue more frequent cross-platform upgrades in the future. Our first step will be to release a standalone phrasebook-only app, then fold all of its features and vocabulary into your dictionary app as a free 2.0 upgrade.

Thanks Chris. So to clarify, first out will be the Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary 1.8 update, followed by the Talking Thai Phrasebook 1.0. And finally, the Thai–English–Thai Dictionary 2.0 super update which will include the Talking Thai Phrasebook. If you feel you can’t wait, go ahead and purchase the phrasebook (we can always use the support).

The Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary just keeps on getting better. Students of the Thai language are extremely lucky in that they have access to such a top-notch dictionary. When I went to source an iOS app dictionary for Italian, none I found came even close in quality. We are indeed spoilt.

Do you have questions about the quirks of the Thai language?
Send them over and we’ll do our best.

Thai Language Thai Culture: Fluency Practice Through Symbols

Thai Language

Language as Symbols…

We start with an idea in our heads. In order to get this idea into another person’s head we use the magic of language. When we use language we turn the idea in our heads into a symbol, a symbolic noise that our mouths make that we usually call “words”. The other person catches these “words” with their ears at which point their brains interpret them. If they are using the same set of audio symbols as we use (i.e. the same language) then the idea which was in our heads, or at least an approximation of it, is now in the listening person’s head. I have always thought that was pretty magical.

With this idea of language being symbols I wanted to try and use symbols in teaching my English conversation classes at Chiang Mai University. It worked quite well and I later turned the idea into a formal paper that was presented at the 1980 International TESOL Convention called “Symbol Stories”.

When the questions recently started coming up on the Facebook group “Farang Learn Thai” about developing fluency in Thai I thought about how using symbols is a great way to practice getting an idea from our heads, using vocabulary and grammar we already know, and turning it into a fluent utterance.

The following are a few examples of how a teacher of Thai, or even someone learning Thai on their own, can use symbols to help create complete sentences from ideas that are in the learners’ heads.

There will be no “listen and repeat” here and no grammar lessons. All the language that you will be creating will come from your own heads. This will be just a way to put stuff you already know into fluently spoken words and sentences.

The symbol stories method is not used to teach new vocabulary (although you may look stuff up that you would like to say) nor is it for teaching grammar, word order, or sentence structure. That should be done with a teacher and/or in a classroom. Symbols will allow you to combine all the stuff you already know and help you to put it all together into fluent coherent Thai.

Note that this method can be used with learners at any level, whether you have a vocabulary of only a few dozen words, or you are an advanced learner.

Defining our symbols…

Let’s start with the symbol below.

Thai Language

I’ll ask you to give me a word (in reality an audio symbol) for what you see. In this case, the symbol looks like a person to me. People words are nouns. Since we are talking about the Thai language, all the nouns we come up with should be in Thai.

Look at the symbol and think of a Thai word (not a word in your native language). This should get you started thinking in the target language.

I’ll start with some Thai words that I think of when I see the above symbol.

คน /kon/ – person
ผู้ชาย /pûu-​chaai/ – man, boy
ผู้หญิง /pûu-​yǐng/ – woman, girl
ฉัน /chǎn/ – I
ดิฉัน /dì-chǎn/ – I
ผม pǒm – I

Then we can get fancier.

มนุษย์ /má-nút/ – human
ครู /kruu/ – teacher
ตำรวจ /dtam-​rùuat/ – policeman
คุณพ่อ /kun-​pôr/ – father
คุณแม่ /kun-​mâe/ – mother

And of course the symbol below could be the plural of all the above.

Thai Language

เพื่อน /pêuan/ – friend, friends
นักเรียน /nák-​rian/ – student, students

At this point the learner can come up with more words depending on his/her Thai vocabulary. If you have an idea in your head, and you know the Thai word for it, then it will work.

If you have an idea and don’t know the Thai word for it, use that magic of a dictionary to find one that works for you. For instance, you have the idea that the symbol represents “President Obama”. This will be a great opportunity to add the word “president” to your vocabulary in a meaningful way.

ประธานาธิบดี Obama /bprà-taa-​naa-​tí-​bor-​dee Obama/ – President Obama

Thai LanguageNow that we have a noun, let’s try adding a verb.

What comes into your mind seeing this symbol? Here are a few I think of.

ไป /bpai/ – go
เดิน (ไป) /dern (bpai)/ – walk
วิ่ง (ไป) /wîng (bpai)/ – run
เดินทาง (ไป) /dern-​taang (bpai) / – travelled (to)
กลับ (จาก) /glàp (jàak)/ – return (from)

Turning symbols for verbs into Thai is easier than with other languages since we don’t need to worry about tense or person.

Tense:

ไป /bpai/ – go, went, will go, has gone

Person:

ไป /bpai/ – go, goes, has gone, have gone

I am sure you can come up with some more.

Now for a destination symbol.

Thai Language

What do you see? Here is what I see.
บ้าน /bâan/ – house, home
โรงเรียน /rohng-​rian/ – school
ตลาด /dtà-làat/ – market

Or something more fancy.

บ้านเพื่อน /bâan pêuan / – my friend’s house
ตลาดนัด /dtà-làat nát/ – farmers’ market
ทำเนียบขาว /tam-​nîap-​kǎao/ – The White House

Forming Sentences…

Thai LanguageNow let’s put this together into a more complete idea. Look at the symbols below and tell me in Thai what ideas come into your head. Use the symbol meanings we have listed above to build your Thai sentence. Then try some new ideas from symbol meanings that you come up with on your own.

Here are a few examples using the above Thai words.

คน ไป ตลาด
kon bpai dtà-làat
The person went to the market.

ครู วิ่งไป บ้านเพื่อน
kroo wing bpai bâan pêuan
The teacher ran to her friend’s house.

ประธานาธิบดี Obama เดินทางไป ทำเนียบขาว
/bprà-taa-naa-tí-bor-dee Obama dern taang bpai tam-nîap kăao/
President Obama travelled to the White House.

And depending on your level of Thai you can expand the sentences.

ผม กลับ บ้าน
pŏm glàp bâan
I returned home.

ผม จะ กลับ บ้าน
pŏm jà glàp bâan
I will return home.

ผม กลับ บ้าน แล้ว
pŏm glàp bâan láew
I have already returned home.

Asking Questions…

Thai LanguageMost of our time spent studying a language is used making statements. Less time is usually spent in learning to ask questions. If we look at a statement as basically an answer to a question then we can use our symbols to help us produce questions.

All we have to do is add a symbol we are all familiar with to our set. Use the question patterns that you are already familiar with.

Now we can generate questions from our symbols.

คุณแม่ไปไหน
kun-mâe bpai năi
Where did Mom go? or Where are you going, Mom?

คุณแม่ไปตลาดมั้ย
kun-mâe bpai dtà-làat máai
Did Mom go to the market? or Mom, do you want to go to the market?

คุณแม่กลับจากตลาดหรือยัง
kun-mâe gulp jàak dtà-làat rĕu yang
Did Mom return from the market yet? or Has Mom returned from the market yet?

And the final step in fluency is to develop both parts of a question and answer dialog.

A: คุณแม่ไปไหน
kun-mâe bpai năi
Where did Mom go?

B: คุณแม่ไปตลาด
kun-mâe bpai dtà-làat
Mom went to the market.

A: คุณแม่กลับจากตลาดหรือยัง
kun-mâe glàp jàak dtà-làat rĕu yang
Did Mom return from the market yet?

B: คุณแม่กลับจากตลาดแล้ว
kun-mâe glàp jàak dtà-làat láew
Mom returned from the market already.

Now let’s see what you come up with.

I think you will find that at the end of this exercise if you have used the Thai you already know you will have created a number of Thai sentences rather fluently, and mostly without errors.

Create your own Symbol Stories…

Thai LanguageHere are three more symbol sentences. See what you can come up with. If you want to have a bit more fun leave a comment with your results (in written Thai or phonetic transcription).

And when you have done that then try adding the final symbol.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand
Thai Vocabulary in the News

Do you have questions about the quirks of the Thai language?
Send them over and we’ll do our best.