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Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Six: Learn and Love the Thai Language

รู้รักภาษาไทย: Cat Cartoons…

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

ผู้บรรยาย: ตอน กีฬา – สิงโต
Narrator: Episode – ‘Sing-dtoh’.

เก้าแต้ม: สีสวาด มาดูสารคดีเรื่องนี้ซี่(สิ) มีสัตว์อะไรเยอะแยะเชียว
Kao Taem: Si Sawat, come watch this documentary! There are so many different animals in it.

วิเชียรมาศ: มีญาติเราด้วย มาดูซี่(สิ)
Wi-chian maat: Our relatives are in it too. Come watch!

สีสวาด: สิงโตแท้ ๆ ไม่ใช่แมวอย่างเราซัก(สัก)หน่อย
Si Sawat: Real ‘Sing-dtoh’-s are not cats like us at all.

วิเชียรมาศ: สิงโตตัวใหญ่ก็จริง แต่เป็นสัตว์เลี้ยงลูกด้วยนมจำพวกเดียวกับพวกเรานั่นแหละ
Wi-chian maat: It’s true that a ‘Sing-dtoh’ is large but it’s a mammal that is in the same family as us.

เก้าแต้ม: ว่าแต่ สิงโต เนี่ยะ(นี่อ่ะ) เค้า(เขา)เรียกกันย่อ ๆ ว่า สิงห์ ใช่มั้ย(ไหม)ล่ะ แล้ว สิงโต กับ สิงห์ เขียนเหมือนกันมั้ย(ไหม)
Kao Taem: This ‘Sing-dtoh’ that we’re talking about, is called ‘Sing’ in short, right? So are ‘Sing-dtoh’ and ‘Sing’ written the same way?

สีสวาด: ไม่เหมือนกันจ้ะ สิงโต ไม่มี ห หีบ กับ ไม้ทัณฑฆาต แต่ สิงห์ จะมี ห หีบ กับ ไม้ทัณฑฆาต ด้วย
Si Sawat: Not in the same way. There’s no ‘Hor heep’ and ‘Maai tan-ta-kaat’ in ‘Sing-dtoh’ however there’s a ‘Hor heep’ and a ‘Maai tan-ta-kaat’ in ‘Sing’.

ผู้บรรยาย: สิงโต เป็นชื่อสัตว์เลี้ยงลูกด้วยนม มีขนาดใหญ่ ส่วน สิงห์ เป็นสัตว์ในนิยายที่ดุร้าย
Narrator: ‘Sing-dtoh’ is the name of a type of large mammal whereas the ‘Sing’ is a fierce mythical creature.

แมวทั้งสามตัว: แล้วพบกันใหม่นะครับบบ (ครับ)
All Three Cats: See you again next time!

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

Comments…

A ‘Sing-dtoh’ (สิงโต) is a lion, as in a large wild animal of the cat family with yellowish-brown fur that lives in Africa and southern Asia.

‘Sing’ (สิงห์) is a name believed to have originated from the Hindu word ‘Singh’ which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Simha’ which means lion. In western astrology, it can be viewed in the same context as the zodiac sign of Leo. (Adapted from: Singha)

A ‘Maai tan-ta-kaat’ (ไม้ทัณฑฆาต), which literally means ‘killing as punishment’, is placed above a consonant (or in some cases more than one consonants) to mark it as silent and not to be pronounced (basically ‘killing’ its sound). A consonant together with a ‘Maai tan-ta-kaat’ (ไม้ทัณฑฆาต) is called a ‘Gaa-ran’ (การันต์). The RSD definition of ‘Gaa-ran’ (การันต์) points out that there is a ‘Gaa-ran’ (การันต์) in the word itself, that is ต์.

‘Sing’ (สิงห์) is also the name of a very popular Thai beer produced by Boon Rawd Brewery. As explained above, as there is a ‘Gaa-ran’ (การันต์) in the word, i.e. ห์, it is not supposed to be pronounced. The Romanized name used by Boon Rawd Brewery however is ‘Singha’ (probably influenced by Thai spelling conventions) so many foreigners end up mispronouncing the word ‘Sing’ (สิงห์) by sounding out ‘ha’ at the end of it.

PDF Downloads…

Below is a pdf download (created by Catherine) to help with your studies. It has Thai script, transliteration, and English.

Download: Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Six: Conversation

The Cat Cartoon Series…

Original transcript and translation provided by Sean Harley. Transliterations via T2E (thai2english.com).

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Thai Time: Using Pronouns Like a Pro (Part 2: What Should I Call ‘You’)

Bingo Lingo

Using pronouns like a pro…

In the previous post, Using Pronouns Like a Pro Part 1 (which was yonks ago—I apologise!), I introduced you to the world of Thai personal pronouns. We also broke the first person pronouns into factors and inspected the usage of each word. Now, in this post, we’ll talk about how to use the second person pronoun ‘you’.

คุณ /kun/
Person: 2nd
Sex: Both
Formality: Yes
Respectful: –
Polite: Yes
Familiar: No

This word is a pair word for both ผม /pǒm/ and ดิฉัน /dichán/, and is perhaps the only word beginners use to address every Thai person, but over time you might want to change this word to something more familiar and less formal to your listeners. Now, learners need to be aware that while it is true that this word is polite, it is NOT respectful (NB: not respectful doesn’t mean disrespectful); คุณ is not okay to use with people of higher prestige or authority. If you perceive your listeners to have higher prestige or authority status than you, call them by their appropriate title instead (we will discuss social status later on in this post.)

When to use: With most people. Strangers, service providers, people you have a professional relationship with.

When not to use: Probably not with close friends or with friends you want to get close to, also with people of higher social status.

Paired pronoun: ผม /pǒm/, ดิฉัน /dichán/

เธอ /ter/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: –

เธอ /ter/ is a paired word with ฉัน /chán/ — it is considered a default ‘you’ pronoun and you’ll hear this word used a lot in songs and literature. This word is popular amongst Thais when used cross-gender; female calling male and male calling female. This word is considered ‘non-respectful’ (different from disrespectful) and should not be used with people of higher social status.

When to use: Talking to friends of the opposite sex around the same age or younger.

When not to use: When you need to be extremely polite. Certainly not with people of higher social status, such as doctors, monks, university professors. People you don’t know well.

Paired pronoun: ฉัน /chán/

นาย /naai/
Person: 2nd
Sex: Male
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: –

นาย /naai/ is cute. It originally meant ‘lord’ but now means ‘Mr.’ or ‘boss’ in contemporary Thai. When it is used as a 2nd person pronoun, it can be used to call any male listener of the same age with any level of familiarity. However, you might want to change this pronoun to something more personal later on as you and that male person get closer. In addition, this word can be used in lieu of เธอ /ter/ as they share the same hierarchical attributes, but only if the listener is male, of course.

When to use: your listener is around your age, same social status, and is a man!

When not to use: anyone who does not fit the criteria above.

Paired pronoun:

เรา /rao/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: –
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: Somewhat

What? เรา /rao/ can mean you?? Yes, it can! Older people use this word to call someone around their child’s age in an endearing tone e.g. พ่อแม่เราอยู่ที่ไหน? /pôr-mâe rao yùu tîinǎi?/ “Where are your parents?”. Aw. However, as a 2nd person pronoun it is a little condescending, because by calling someone with this word you treat them like a little kid, which in some cases is dismissive of their social status, so be careful who you’re ‘rao’-ing because he or she might turn out to be a university professor or a high-rank police officer, and they will hate it, and hate you in the process.

When to use: Talking to kids or someone your child’s age.

When not to use: When that ‘kid’ has achieved more than you have.

มึง /mueng/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: HELL NO
Respectful: HELL NO
Polite: HELL NO Familiar: VERY *VULGAR*

This word is the paired pronoun of กู /guu/ and it is chosen for the same context of use. Only use with very close friends. Do not use with strangers as it will provoke them. You mustn’t use it in the presence of a respected audience. And all that jazz.

When to use: Very limited use. With close friends (only when they initiate it, and only when respected individuals are not around).

When not to use: When you’re not sure you can get out of it alive.

Paired pronoun: กู /guu/

เอ็ง /eng/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: VERY *VULGAR*

It is the paired pronoun of ข้า /kâa/ and is similar to มึง /mueng/ above; this one is also considered vulgar, although it is nowhere near as vulgar as มึง /mueng/. Just like the pronoun ข้า /kâa/, เอ็ง /eng/ sounds quite archaic for the 21st century. Its implication is that the speaker is of an older generation or that he or she comes from quite a remote part of Thailand.

When to use: Never? Unless you’re writing a Thai epic novel.

When not to use: When you’re not writing a Thai epic novel.

Paired pronoun: ข้า /kâa/

แก /gae/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: Yes
*SEMI-VULGAR*

This word has a similar context of use as มึง /mueng/ and เอ็ง /eng/ but is much less vulgar. It is used both by male and female to refer to someone close and around their age. It is perfect amongst friends of considerable intimacy. It’s not really that impolite but still should be reserved for friends you know very well. Use with caution.

When to use: Friends your age or slightly younger. Probably best to wait until they initiate it first.

When not to use: Older people and strangers.

Paired pronoun: (in some cases) ฉัน /chán/

ท่าน /tâan/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: VERY
Respectful: VERY
Polite: VERY
Familiar: HELL NO
*SEMI-FROZEN REGISTER*

This pronoun is an over-the-top respectful pronoun used mostly by service providers when speaking to valued customers, by subordinates when speaking to a person of a much higher level of authority, to people of great prestige, by public speakers addressing the audience, or in written language. This word is hardly heard in spoken language so when you do hear it, you know there’s a real V.I.P. in the room!

When to use: With V.I.P. or in formal settings

When not to use: most of the time, unless you want to be sarcastic

ลื้อ /lúe/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: Yes
*CHINESE ORIGIN*

This word comes from the Teochew word 汝 [lɨ˥˨] (you). This word is used mainly by people of Teochew ancestry and is still commonly used amongst Thai families of Chinese descent. Not recommended for learners, just like อั๊ว /úa’/

When to use: When you’re Chinese-Thai.

When not to use: When you’re not Chinese-Thai.

Paired pronoun: อั๊ว /úa’/

ตัวเอง /dtua-eeng/
Person: 2nd
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: No
Respectful: –
Polite: –
Familiar: Yes
*LOVERSPEAK*

This word essentially means “self” and is paired with the 1st person pronoun เค้า /káo/ “I” which essentially means “he, she” …yes, whoever came up with this utterly confusing idea must have been wasted on Ya Dong or something. Just like the 1st person pronoun เค้า /káo/, this word is generally used by young females to call their best friends or boyfriend and in my opinion should not be picked up by learners of Thai, especially if you’re male, because it sounds incredibly effeminate and obnoxious! But that’s just my opinion.

When to use: Should you use this word? No. At least save it for when talking to your boyfriend/girlfriend only.

When not to use: Need I say more?

Paired pronoun: เค้า /káo/

Prestige, authority, seniority—because we’re better than (the pronoun) ‘you’…

Thailand is characterised by, despite what some Thais desperately try to tell you, social hierarchy. Where you stand in society can affect how people address you. Those who have a higher social status must be addressed with respect by those of lower status. And in many cases, even the polite pronoun คุณ /kun/ may not be polite enough, as I will explain.

From my experience of having been hearing many non-native speakers of Thai preferring to stick to polite pronouns such as คุณ /kun/, thinking they would always sound nice and never offend anyone if they use polite pronouns all the time. Was that a true statement? No. Not at all. A couple of years back while I was still doing my Master’s course, one of my professors told the class that foreign students at our university irritate her when they speak Thai to her because they address her as คุณ /kun/!

Why did a seemingly polite word such as คุณ /kun/ manage to offend my easy-going professor? The reason is that in Thailand, people with high prestige such as educators or doctors must be treated with respect. While คุณ /kun/ is a “polite” word, it is neutral in terms of “respectfulness”. By calling her คุณ /kun/, those students unknowingly dragged her down to their ‘level’. My professor said she understood that they knew no better and she could look over their faux pas, but she felt compelled to switch to English because she didn’t want to be called คุณ /kun/ repeatedly by students. There goes their opportunity to practice Thai, just because of one pronoun.

So how should they have addressed her? In the next section I will explain about the first—and perhaps the most prominent agent that dictates the way Thai people address each other: social status. Where you rank in the hierarchy is determined by a complex set of many different factors, but in this article we’ll consider only the three most important ones, in their respective priority order: prestige, authority, and seniority.

Prestige is usually decided by profession or personal achievement. Examples of people with high prestige are educators (teachers and lecturers), doctors and medical practitioners (dentists and surgeons), high-ranking military officers, politicians, people with a high academic degree (Ph.D. and above), or even respected astrologers, etc. Normally you address them by their title first, and if you want, stick their name after it. For example:

ครูอาทิตย์ /kruu Arthit/ “Teacher Arthit”
อาจารย์สุดาพร /aajaan Sudaporn/ “Professor Sudaporn”
(คุณ*)หมอพรทิพย์ /(kun*) mǒr Pornthip/ “Doctor Pornthip” (medical doctor)
(ท่าน)นายกสมชาย /(tâan) naayók Somchai/ “Mr. Prime Minister Somchai”
(ท่าน)พลเอกประยุทธ์ /(tâan) pon-èek Prayuth/ “General Prayuth”
ด็อกเตอร์อมรา /dórk-dtêr Amara/ “Doctor Amara” (PhD)
อาจารย์ลักษณ์ /aajaan Lak/, หมอลักษณ์ /mǒr Lak/ (title for astrologers)

*Note that the word คุณ /kun/ is this case doesn’t mean “you” but a polite title like “Mr.” or “Ms.”

People with high prestige must be addressed by their profession, field of expertise, or the title that gives them the prestige they possess, rather than by pronouns like คุณ /kun/, which may be viewed as disrespectful to their status.

Authority is usually decided by who has more power or a higher rank, such as a relationship between employer vs employee, boss vs subordinate, police or government officer vs civilian, etc.

People with higher authority are generally addressed by their position or by using polite pronouns (in most cases without their name):

ท่านประธาน /tâan bprataan/ “CEO”
เจ้านาย /jâonaai/ “Boss” (literally “master”)
หัวหน้า /hǔanâa/, บอส /bórt/ “Boss”
ผ.อ. /pǒr-or/ “Dean” (of a university, hospital, etc.)
คุณตำรวจ /kun dtamrùat/ “(Police) officer”

Except your bosses or direct superiors, you can use the word คุณ /kun/ with people of high authority, but be aware that using any disrespectful or impolite pronouns with them is a direct challenge to their power. Respect my authoritah!

Seniority plays a very important role when addressing people. In the Thai language, kinship terms are often used instead of pronouns to show respect to older people while creating solidarity; by addressing people as if they were your own relatives, you create a casual, friendly atmosphere. For instance, when visiting your Thai friend or partner’s parents, they may ask you to call them แม่ /mâe/ “Mum” or พ่อ /pôr/ “Dad” instead of คุณ /kun/ which sounds too formal and distant.

If your addressee is a relative of your friend or partner, you can just address them in the same way that your friend or partner does. For strangers and acquaintances, you can still use kinship terms to address them as well. In this case, age is crucial. Speakers must estimate the age of an addressee to determine his/her generation and choose an appropriate kinship term.

พี่… /pîi…/ (lit. older brother or sister)
for calling someone who may be slightly older than you

(คุณ)น้า… /(kun) náa…/ (lit. mother’s younger sibling)
for calling someone who’s younger than your parents but couldn’t be your parents’ child

(คุณ)ป้า… /(kun) bpâa…/ (lit. parents’ older sister)
for calling a female older than your parents, but couldn’t be their mother

(คุณ)ลุง… /(kun) lung…/ (lit. parents’ older brother)
for calling a male older than your parents, but couldn’t be their father

(คุณ)ยาย… /(kun) yaai…/ (lit. mother’s mother)
for calling a female who’s around your grandmother’s age

(คุณ)ตา… /(kun) dtaa…/ (lit. mother’s father)
for calling a male who’s around your grandfather’s age

You can just use these kinship terms by themselves or stick the person’s name afterwards like พี่ติ๊ก /pîi dtík/. Older people automatically assume respect from younger people. By default, you have to address them with respectful kinship terms. Avoid using คุณ /kun…/ (except in formal situations) because it will drive a social wedge between you and them.

Now, you may have a question like “What if I am a university professor talking to an older fruit seller? Who’s higher in the hierarchy?” In a “status dilemma” such as this, just remember that prestige takes precedence over authority, and authority takes precedence over seniority, so if you’re a teacher which is a prestigious status, you automatically rank higher than older people who do not have the prestige over you. In this case, the fruit seller will have to (assuming he or she knows you’re a teacher) address you as ครูจอห์น /kruu John/ or อาจารย์ลอร่า /Aajaan Laura/. However, both of you can engage in what I call “mutually respectful entitling”; you can also call him or her with a title of seniority such as น้า /náa/ ป้า /bpâa/ or ลุง /lung/ while he or she calls you with a title of prestige like ครู /kruu/ or อาจารย์ /aajaan/.

Does that seem a bit too hard to digest? I’ll leave you to have a respite for now. Don’t shy away from re-reading this article again if you feel that you still haven’t quite fully grasped the idea. In my next and the last post regarding pronouns, Thai Time: Using pronouns like a pro (Part 3: To ‘He/She’ or Not to ‘He/She’, That is the Question) we will discuss how to use 3rd person pronouns, and whether using pronouns is important at all! I promise I won’t wait a year this time!

Until next time (soon)!

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Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Five: Learn and Love the Thai Language

รู้รักภาษาไทย: Cat Cartoons…

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

ผู้บรรยาย: ตอน กีฬา – เถ้าแก่
Narrator: Episode 65 – ‘Tao-gae’.

เก้าแต้ม: พี่เก่งเค้า(เขา)จะไปไหนหลอ(หรือ)สีสวาด แต่งตัวหล่อเชียว
Kao Taem: Where is Pee Geng going, Si Sawat? All dressed up and looking good.

สีสวาด: ไปงานหมั้นจ้ะ คุณพ่อพี่เก่งเป็นเถ้าแก่ด้วยนะ
Si Sawat: He’s going to an engagement ceremony. Pee Geng’s father is the ‘Tao-gae’.

เก้าแต้ม: เถ้าแก่ คือ อะไรหลอ(หรือ)
Kao Taem: What is ‘Tao-gae’?

วิเชียรมาศ: ความจริง คำว่า เถ้าแก่ ใช้กันมานานแล้วนะ หมายถึง ผู้ใหญ่ที่เป็นประธานในการสู่ขอผู้หญิงมาแต่งงานด้วย
Wi-chian maat: Truth is, the word ‘Tao-gae’ has been in use for a long time. It means ‘(a) senior who is the head in respect of asking for a woman’s hand in marriage’.

สีสวาด: และก็ใช้เรียกผู้ชายจีนที่มีฐานะดีเป็นเจ้าของกิจการว่า เถ้าแก่ ด้วย แต่เดี่ยว(เดี๋ยว)นี้ คนที่เป็นเจ้าของกิจการไม่ต้องแก่ก็ได้นะ และไม่ต้องเป็นคนจีนก็เรียกว่า เถ้าแก่ ได้
Si Sawat: And a Chinese man who has a good station in life and is the owner of a business is also called a ‘Tao-gae’. But nowadays a person who’s the owner of a business does not necessarily have to be old nor Chinese, to be called a ‘Tao-gae’, you know?!

วิเชียรมาศ: ใช่ แต่จะบอกให้นะ คำว่า เถ้าแก่ ที่กำลังคุยกันอยู่เนี่ยะ(นี่อ่ะ)เค้า(เขา)ใช้ ถ ถุง น้า(นะ)
Wi-chian maat: That’s true! But let me tell you something. The word ‘Tao-gae’ that we’re talking about now, is spelled with a ‘Tor tung’, OK?!

ผู้บรรยาย: เถ้าแก่ หมายถึง ผู้ใหญ่ที่เป็นประธานการสู่ขอหรือการหมั้น อีกความหมายหนึ่งก็คือ ผู้ชายที่เป็นเจ้าของกิจการ
Narrator: ‘Tao-gae’ means ‘(a) senior who is the head in asking a woman to marry or to get engaged. Another meaning is ‘(a) man who is the owner of a business’.

แมวทั้งสามตัว: แล้วพบกันใหม่นะครับบบ (ครับ)
All Three Cats: See you again next time!

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

Comments…

‘Tao-gae’ (เถ้าแก่) is a loan word from Chinese Teochew dialect which basically means ‘master’, as in the head of a family or house. As this concept of ‘master’ is uncommon in Thailand however, most Thai people use the word ‘Tao-gae’ to refer to a ‘boss’.

‘Tao-gae noi’ (เถ้าแก่น้อย), the name of a popular seaweed flavored snack sold in Thailand, basically means ‘(a) young boss’.

PDF Downloads…

Below is a pdf download (created by Catherine) to help with your studies. It has Thai script, transliteration, and English.

Download: Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Five: Conversation

The Cat Cartoon Series…

Original transcript and translation provided by Sean Harley. Transliterations via T2E (thai2english.com).

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Index: Successful Thai Language Interview Compilation

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

The First Fifty Successful Thai Language Learners…

Well, that’s a wrap. For now anyway. Below are the first 50 interviews in the Successful Thai Language Learners series. My thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute.

Just to let you know … I’m slowly making inroads into the second 50 interviews. So far there are 28 – that leaves only 22 to go. When the magic 100 interviews has been reached I’ll create an ebook to share.

If you’d like to be a part of the series please contact me.

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Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Four: Learn and Love the Thai Language

รู้รักภาษาไทย: Cat Cartoons…

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

ผู้บรรยาย: ตอน คำที่เข้าคู่กัน
Narrator: Episode – Words that rhyme.

วิเชียรมาศ: นกบินฉวัดเฉวียน
แวะเวียนกระซุบกระซิบ
หนอนคลานกระดุบกระดิบ
ดุกดิกกระซิกกระซี้
Wi-chian maat: ‘Nok bin cha-wat-cha-wian’
‘Wae wian gra-sup-gra-sip’
‘Non klaan gra-dup-gra-dip’
‘Duk-dik gra-sik-gra-see’

สวัสดีจ้ะเก้าแต้ม หน้าตายิ้มแย้มอารมณ์ดีจริงน้า(นะ)
Greetings, Kao Taem! You’ve got a big smile on your face and you’re in such a good mood!

เก้าแต้ม: เพลงเพราะจัง ใครแต่งน่ะ
Kao Taem: Such a melodious song! Who wrote it?

วิเชียรมาศ: เพลงนี้ชั้น(ฉัน)แต่งเองน้า(นะ)แต่ยังไม่จบ ชั้น(ฉัน)คิดคำอ่านแล้วมันมีเสียงข้างท้ายเหมือนสะบัดเสียงน่ะ
Wi-chian maat: I wrote this song myself, but it’s not finished. I’ve come up with some words but they do not rhyme.

เก้าแต้ม: ไหน เธอร้องให้ฟังอีกทีซิ
Kao Taem: Is that so?! Sing it again for me.

วิเชียรมาศ: ได้เลย ฟังน้า(นะ)
นกบินฉวัดเฉวียน
แวะเวียนกระซุบกระซิบ
หนอนคลานกระดุบกระดิบ
ดุกดิกกระซิกกระซี้
Wi-chian maat: Can do! Listen up.
‘Nok bin cha-wat-cha-wian’
‘Wae wian gra-sup-gra-sip’
‘Nok klaan gra-dup-gra-dip’
‘Duk-dik gra-sik-gra-see’

ผู้บรรยาย: คำบางคำเป็นคำคู่ที่มีเสียงไพเราะ และมีจังหวะที่ชวนให้สนุก เช่น ฉวัดเฉวียน กระซุบกระซิบ กระดุบกระดิบ กระซิกกระซี้
Narrator: Some words go together and rhyme melodiously, with a rhythm that’s fun.
‘Cha-wat-cha-wian’
‘Gra-sup-gra-sip’
‘Gra-dup-gra-dip’
‘Gra-sik-gra-see’

แมวทั้งสามตัว: แล้วพบกันใหม่นะครับบบ (ครับ)
All Three Cats: See you again next time!

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

PDF Downloads…

Below is a pdf download (created by Catherine) to help with your studies. It has Thai script, transliteration, and English.

Download: Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Four: Conversation

The Cat Cartoon Series…

Original transcript and translation provided by Sean Harley. Transliterations via T2E (thai2english.com).

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Interview Compilation: What Advice Would You Give to Students of the Thai Language?

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

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

This has got to be my favourite question in this series. As the advice given is many and varied, I won’t even attempt to summarise.

Aaron Handel

Aaron Handel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: You can learn to speak Thai. You don’t need to be a genius. You do need perseverance. For some, it helps to have a good teacher. Others learn with CDs and a good book. If you want to start by learning to write, all I can say is good luck! If you want to start by learning to speak, you will need a book with transliteration (Thai written with English letters or symbols). The transliteration must have tone marks. You must have sound that follows the book. There are many books to choose from. Frankly, I think it’s beneficial to have several books for learning Thai. You might prefer one transliteration system over another. Whatever tools you use, you will need to break the tonal barrier. It simply cannot be avoided. Put some effort into tone pronunciation right from the start.

Not everyone learns in the same way. Learn at your own pace. Seek quality, not quantity. Remember, the turtle reaches the finish line before the rabbit.

Dtòw mah tĕung sên chai gàwn gràdtàai
เต่า มา ถึง เส้น ชัย ก่อน กระต่าย
Literally: Turtle come arrive line victory before rabbit.

Aaron Le Boutillier

Aaron Le Boutillier: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: Well, I still consider myself very much a student, however, my advice would be:

  • Learn to read,
  • Find your Thai voice and…
  • Never ever ever think it’s the listener’s fault for not understanding. They don’t understand because you are saying it wrong, lose the ego and swallow hard and try again :)

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAdam: Make as many Thai friends as possible and be willing to teach them English in exchange for them helping you with your Thai.

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAndrew: 60 million Thais can speak it. You’re no different. Ditch the excuses and get on with it.

Celia Chessin-Yudin

Celia Chessin-Yudin: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersCelia: Get a speaking partner, who will correct you.

Chris Pirazzi

Chris Pirazzi: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChris Pirazzi: One thing I’ve discovered is absolutely crucial but left out of nearly all “programs” of Thai study: on their very first day of learning Thai, students should sit down with the teacher and go over all the sounds of Thai (where “sounds” means consonants, vowels, and tones), independent of how the sounds are written in Thai script. The students should sit there and verbally drill the tricky sounds with the teacher until the students are able to make and understand all the sounds that differ between Thai and English.

The teacher should critique the sounds made by the students and refine the students’ pronunciation until the students can make each sound correctly (i.e. until the teacher, as a native Thai listener, can distinguish which sound the student is trying to make). So in some sense, the teacher is acting as a “voice trainer” for the students.

The teacher should then say words to the students and verify that the students can correctly recognize and distinguish each sound that they hear. If it takes 5 sessions to do this, so be it: it’s worth it.

The teacher must drill not only the 5 tones and all the Thai vowels including the tricky อื vowel, but also make sure that the students can correctly make and distinguish b/bp/p and d/dt/t and the other consonant contrasts that English lacks.

Note that it’s even important for the teacher to drill sounds that English already has, because many sounds have different distributions in Thai. For example, even though the b, bp, and p sounds occur in various English words, the English-native student is not used to thinking of them as three separate sounds instead of just two as in English.

But in Thai, unlike English, you can have 3 different words that differ only by b, bp, and p, like ใบ bai (leaf) ไป bpai (go) and ภัย pai (danger).

In order to satisfy the students’ desire for instant gratification, the teacher can drill the consonant, vowel, and tone sounds using real words, as in these examples (from the intro of the 2009 Paiboon dic):

ดี dii (good) ตี dtii (hit) ที tii (turn)
เดา dao (guess) เตา dtao (stove) เทา tao (gray)
ใบ bai (leaf) ไป bpai (go) ภัย pai (danger)
เบ็ด bèt (fishhook) เป็ด bpèt (duck) เผ็ด pèt (spicy)
นา naa (rice field) งา ngaa (sesame)
ถุง tǔng (bag) ถึง tʉ̌ng (arrive)
กลัว gluua (scared) เกลือ glʉʉa (salt)
ซี sii (letter C), สี่ sìi (four), สี sǐi (color)

But the focus of the instruction for both student and teacher during this period must be on the sounds, not the words or meanings or grammar. The student will naturally be itching to move on to whole phrases like “Where is the bar?” and “How much is that pad thai?” but the teacher must guide (force) the students to focus on sound first.

I discovered how important this was more or less by accident. The very first day I went to the Thai class at the California Thai temple, I happened to be the only student, so I sat down with the teacher and we drilled sounds because that’s what’s on the first page of “Thai for Beginners.” It has helped me immensely.

Most students want to “jump ahead” to learning whole words and phrases right away, but in most cases I have observed (and I’ve now observed hundreds of people learning Thai at the temple), this impatient behavior seriously damages their long-term ability to function in the Thai language. This is because the students spend the first few months of instruction learning words incorrectly: many students are not even aware that ใบ bai (leaf) ไป bpai (go), and ภัย pai (danger) are different words in Thai until long after they have supposedly “learned” these words. This makes it nearly impossible for them to understand a Thai person correctly or speak the words so that a Thai person can understand.

By the time they realize that they should have studied the sounds first, it’s already too late: they’ve accumulated a huge dictionary of incorrect Thai in their head! It takes much more work for a student to un-do damaged learning than it would have taken to learn the sounds correctly in the first place.

For students without access to native Thai speakers, it’s still worth spending a long initial period familiarizing themselves with the sounds via available websites and software. That’s part of the reason I made the pages about Thai sounds on my hobby site slice-of-thai.com.

As a side note, it does not matter what system of transcription the teacher uses during this initial period, as long as the system writes each different Thai sound using a different symbol (that is, as long as the transcription system is complete). The focus is on sound, not writing. The students should not obsess over the English(-like) spelling that the transcription system uses.

The teacher must tell the students right at the beginning not to rely on the transcription system as a guide for how to say each word: instead, they must use their ears as the sole guide, and regard each written transcription symbol as just that: a symbol representing the sound they just heard.

With this advice, the student will be able to avoid the enormous pitfalls and wastes of time that have plagued so many students who obsess over systems of transcription.

In theory, the teacher could even discard transcription altogether and start with Thai script during this initial period (in which case the student is guaranteed not to make comparisons with English spelling!) but of course the problem with this is that Thai script has so many ways to write the same sound, leading the student to unnecessary confusion while the focus is on learning the sounds of Thai.

Christy Gibson

Christy Gibson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChristy: Speak, speak, speak. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Make mistakes and then keep trying until you get it right. Immerse yourself in the Thai language and culture as much as you can. Ask for help and ask questions when you don’t know or understand something. Accept from the beginning that it’s not an easy language to speak and don’t expect immediate results, but do work hard to make as much progress as you can. Don’t give up.

Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersColin: Language is a living thing. Learning it in a lab in a foreign country is like putting gas in the car but not going anywhere. It needs Thai input from living people. If you can’t come here, find a Thai. Offer language exchange to foreign students. Find a Skypemate. You can’t speak Thai until you feel it breathe.

Daniel B Fraser

Daniel B Fraser: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDaniel: Don’t be intimidated – just get the basics and make a daily (thrice daily) effort to get out and engage with people at street level.

David Long

David Long: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: I would advise students to spend as much time looking and listening, and as little time speaking as possible. It makes sense to me that the more we’re talking, the less we’re able to hear, and if we want to understand Thai, we need to be listening to Thais as much as we can.

David Smyth

David Smyth: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid Smyth: Become literate. Being able to read Thai makes it much easier to take responsibility for your own learning. It also shows Thais that you are serious about learning the language so they are more likely to want to help you to achieve your goals. Not being literate imposes severe limitations on your opportunities to make progress.

  • Make friends with Thais.
  • Use tv/radio/internet etc.
  • Accept mistakes as a natural part of language learning.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Everyone has good and bad days.

Don Sena

Don Sena: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDon: Do not use transliteration. It is grossly inadequate to the features of Thai. Do use transcription – IPA style – as it is (at least) capable of revealing certain important features not visible in the Thai orthography. Use detailed written accounts of the language – the kind that require a lot of study. Make sure that when using a teacher, that the teacher is not offering some quick-fix approach. Reject any teacher that uses transliteration. Understand that learning a language is a major task, and that there is nothing more complex that human language – whether humanly devised or natural. Human language, unlike animal language, is capable of an infinite number of utterances. Machine translation from language to language is far short of perfection and may possibly be inherently incapable of ever achieving complete reliability.

Doug

Doug: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDoug: Use (relatively) formal methods that ensure broad exposure to vocabulary. Don’t neglect grammar. Spend as much time on task as possible.

Gareth Marshall

Gareth Marshall: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGareth: Don’t give up.

Glenn Slayden

Glenn Slayden: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGlenn: It’s probably been said before, and may fall on deaf ears, but: learn to read and write!

Grace Robinson

Grace Robinson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGrace: Stick with it. Don’t be shy. The most important this about learning a language is really wanting to do it in the first place, having the right intention and determination are essential.

Hamish Chalmers

Hamish Chalmers: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHamish: Don’t fear the tones, learn to read, and most important … Use it or lose it.

Hardie Karges

Hardie Karges: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHardie: Crack the book, crack a smile, and reduce your dependency on English-only Thais for your social interactions.

Herb Purnell

Herb Purnell: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHerb: Again, people are so varied that it’s hard to say something useful to everyone. But just to throw out a few ideas:

  1. Work on being accurate as well as fluent, particularly at the beginning when you’re laying a foundation for later learning. But live with mistakes. They’re part of life and part of everyone’s language learning. The key is to learn from them, get some feedback, and try to do a little better next time.
  2. Just about everything in Thai is learnable if you stick with it long enough. If you can learn to do something correctly, then take the time to do it right and take satisfaction in it. Don’t be sloppy in pronunciation if you can sound better. Learn to gradually sharpen your vocabulary by learning the finer distinctions between synonyms and other words within a similar range of meaning.
  3. Reading is really valuable for developing a good vocabulary and for getting information. But (for me at least) it can be a distraction early on from the work of learning how to converse well. However, once you have a good foundation in the spoken language, read, read, read.
  4. For me, learning Thai is for interacting with Thai people. If I go to class, I want to use the lesson by talking with a Thai person about the topic so I can use the vocabulary and structure I just learned. If I read something, I want to talk to a Thai person about what I read and get their opinion.
  5. Once proficiency starts to increase or employment requires that Thai be used, pay attention to what you are saying and how you are saying it. Don’t be afraid to back up and try again if you sense there was a mistake or feel that you could have said something in a better or more appropriate way. And sharpen your awareness of what you are saying and what others are saying to you or to one another. The better your awareness and the more you develop sharp listening, the more differences you will notice between your speech and native Thai speech. Take one or two of those noticed differences and work on them, putting them into your own speech. This all takes time and effort, but it provides a good way to continue to improve.
  6. Keep a sense of humor. I have made some hilarious gaffes in learning Thai, as have most of my friends, but I am able to laugh at myself, admit my ignorance and slowness in learning, and ask how I should have said it. I never turn down a correction. Once I was in the middle of giving a talk to a group of Mien people, and a lady interrupted me, calling out, “That’s not the way to say it.” I stopped, thanked her very much, asked what the correct way was, backed up and put the correction in, and then tried to regain my thoughts to go on with the talk. Later I thanked the lady and encouraged her to interrupt me any time I said something wrong. If I had frowned or disregarded her comment, I would not only have lost the opportunity to learn something but she would likely never again have offered another correction.
  7. Finally, in language learning, as in other types of skill development, time-on-task is very important. The more one sticks with the language consistently, talking with Thai people, making an effort to read, learn vocabulary, and learn Thai customs and how one should act in various situations, the greater will be the positive payoff.

Hugh Leong

Hugh Leong: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHugh: Work hard, every day. Don’t give up. And no matter how old you are you can still learn. If I thought I would go for just one day without learning something new then I would want to leave this life and go on to what ever comes next. Learning new stuff just becomes a little harder as we get older. But we should not get discouraged just because it is hard. In fact, if something were easy, then why do it in the first place? The fun comes when we try something difficult and we succeed. They say keeping your brain active is one way to stave off senility. Well, if you are studying Thai then you’ll have nothing to worry about.

The Thais have a saying “Phak chee loy naa”, literally meaning “the coriander floating on top”. It means that all you see here is the surface of things, the pretty adornments floating on top of the Thai soup. The basic meaning is “We are inscrutable. There is lots about us that we won’t show you.” If you want to know what the soup is really made of then you need to know the language that the recipe is in. When you do, you’ll see that there are lots of goodies in the soup that you would have never been aware of if all you saw was that floating green stuff.

Ian Fereday

Ian Fereday: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersIan:

  • Never give up. If you feel you aren’t moving forwards, try a different approach or switch to something else (from conversation to reading or vice versa).
  • Don’t confuse learning to read with speaking or understanding. You learn to read to gain the tools you need for conversation. When you learn to read, you needn’t even worry about what the words mean – just as long as you can read them and know the sounds.
  • If the vocabulary is useful and relevant, by all means learn it. If it’s not, don’t bother because it will only slow you down.
  • Some people learn faster than others, so don’t be disheartened if classmates seem to be getting there faster than you. It’s not a race and it doesn’t matter how long it takes.

James (Jim) Higbie

James (Jim) Higbie: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJim: I would say it’s important to learn how to say things exactly the way Thais say them. Don’t try to learn a lot of vocabulary then make up your own sentences. Also, don’t feel that using ka or krup is demeaning. Use it a lot, especially with older people and even at first when you talk to people your own age. People in Thailand really appreciate politeness. Don’t hang out with foreigners all the time.

Joe Cummings

Joe Cummings: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJoe: For Thai, I think it’s as important to study Sanskrit and Pali as it is for a student of English literature to study Greek and Latin, to get to the roots of a lot of the vocabulary. Plus you can have fun translating your Thai friends’ last names for them (the Thai interpretations are often incorrect)!

John Boegehold

John Boegehold: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJohn: A few things. I know it can seem tedious, but back off on trying to learn a lot of vocabulary at the start and focus on reading and writing. Once you have a grasp on the consonants, vowels, tone marks, etc. learning vocabulary becomes a lot easier and you have a much better shot of nailing the pronunciations.

Also, wean yourself off of using English transliterations as soon as possible. While they may seem helpful in the beginning, they quickly become a crutch and will ultimately slow you down. Once you learn how to read Thai, you’ll realize how inadequate English transliterations are in capturing the actual pronunciation of many Thai words. Don’t get me started on the supremely annoying (to American English speakers, anyway) of using “r” in transliterations like larb, Sathorn, gor-gai, etc…

I know there are some notable exceptions, but when you start to learn Thai as an adult, I don’t believe you can be fluent and speak clearly without knowing how to read the language.

Jonas Anderson

Jonas Anderson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonas: The main advice I would give would be to not fear the “giants” of the language—the main “giants” being the tones, the written language, the sentence structure, and the fact that Thai is from a totally different language group with scarcely any similarities to Germanic or Romance languages that Westerners are familiar with.

I think that while many people are wrestling with these giants and trying to grasp the concepts to the point of giving up, other people are just out there talking to people, being attentive to speech patterns and usage and end up able to communicate even better “pit pit, took took” (sometimes right, sometimes wrong). It is not always as hard as it seems, you just have to “think you can”. If you can’t manage the tones, don’t worry about it right away. Most things are understood from context anyway.

After a certain amount of exposure to the language it is good to go back and try to put labels on some of the things you have learned through language books and courses and then you can progress a lot more quickly, but if you start out trying to dissect the language with theory and terminology it could be much more frustrating. Some people say learning new languages the way we learned our mother tongue is the best method, and I tend to agree—it’s called the immersive method—putting yourself in situations that force you to learn the language.

Oh, and don’t worry about if they laugh at you. In Thailand being laughed at is not an insult, but rather they would say they are laughing because it is “nah rak” (cute), and you can take heart in that you brought someone a smile!

Jonathan Thames

Jonathan Thames: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonathan: Make Thai friends and try to use it all the time.

Justin Travis Mair

Justin Travis Mair: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJustin: Don’t be afraid to fall on your face. The first day in Thailand I had a guy laugh at me every moment I talked. Every time I felt cocky about my Thai I would be reminded that I still have much to learn. Thai people can be very direct sometimes. You just need to brush it off and keep trying.

Larry Daks

Larry Daks: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLarry: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. We all do it.

Luke Cassady-Dorion

Luke Cassady-Dorion: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLuke: Study, study, study. Don’t give up, get as much exposure to the language as possible, learn to read, learn to write, talk to people, make friends, make enemies (if you can speak enough Thai to say something that pisses someone off, you’re doing great).

Marc Spiegel

Marc Spiegel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarc: Stick with it! It’s difficult in the beginning, but the more you practice and use the language the easier it gets.

Marcel Barang

Marcel Barang: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarcel: Are you committed? Then never despair: it all builds up somehow. If you are not, then mai pen rai, just have fun, they’ll like you anyway for trying and for being (to their ears) funny.

Mark Hollow

Mark Hollow: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMark: Persist.

Martin Clutterbuck

Martin Clutterbuck: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMartin: Remember, Thai, just like any other language, has correct and polite forms, and guidelines for good, “educated” style. If you are serious about staying in the place, a little depth will go a long way. Most Thais appreciate any effort to learn their language, so do it right and they will love you :)

  • Learn to read and write.
  • Get decent dictionaries, including a Thai-Thai dictionary like that of the Royal Institute.
  • When you have mastered the basics, have a look at the compendiums of grammar called “Lak Phasa Thai”.

Nils Bastedo

Nils Bastedo: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersNils: Learn basic questions and answers to begin with. Get out there and try to implement what you have as you are studying it. Doing a task or even helping others learn is a great way to achieve good retention. Roman script can be useful when learning Thai, but it can never fully portray Thai pronunciation as Thai writing, so dip into the Thai writing system right away starting with a few basic words, the alphabet, the consonants, the consonant classes and tonality.

Paul Garrigan

Paul Garrigan: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPaul: You need to realise that you will improve if you keep on practicing; there will always be improvements. It is like a journey, but some of us have further to travel. We will all make it to the end if we keep on going; the only thing that can stop us is the end of our lifespan. The fact is though, anyone who spends enough time learning Thai will become fluent.

Peter Montalbano

Peter Montalbano: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPeter: Ya wanta know the way to Carnegie Hall, kid? Practice, practice, practice. Oh, and get a Thai girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, whatever your flavor, but don’t speak any English with ‘em. Take some classes, do all the things I suggested before. For about 10 years, then you’ll have a good start. Go for it. Don’t give up. Be humble and realize this isn’t for sissies.

If you only want to learn enough to get around by yourself, that shouldn’t be that hard, but in all cases, be clear about what your goal is, and how close you actually are to it.

And if you’re in Bangkok, seriously ambitious to learn, and can afford the time and money, you probably can’t do better than the Chula intensive Thai course, check it out.

Rick Bradford

Rick Bradford: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRick: First, motivation is everything when it comes to learning Thai (learning anything, in fact). Keep your motivation alive. Motivation can often be stimulated when you can see visible progress.

Second, to be flexible and aware in all aspects of your study. For example, there is a lot of research which shows that we learn best if we study at a level just above our level of competence; not too easy and not too hard. So a complete novice would get nothing out of watching a ‘lakorn’ on TV, or reading the Thai translation of ‘Gorky Park’. Start with a Doraemon comic and the AUA videos.

But this also means we need to constantly adjust our studies as we improve; we need to keep challenging our level of competence.

Third, an incredibly powerful method of learning is to force yourself to *think* in Thai. It’s a bit like the visualisation process that elite sportsmen are trained to use. The brain cannot readily tell the difference between an imagined conversation and a real one, so that the Thai you are mouthing to yourself is more likely to be on tap when you are required to produce it. And, even if it feels a little weird, it’s less embarrassing than making a hash of a real conversation.

Fourth, have a variety of learning methods and recycle them. That is, you may have watched ‘lakorn’ shows and given up on them because they were too hard. After six months or so, try again, and you may be surprised to find how you have improved. There is a visible pointer to your progress. Same with someone whose conversation you used to struggle to understand, or a newspaper you had trouble with.

Fifth (although this is a very personal view): Don’t ‘passive listen’. You may think you’re passively absorbing Thai when you have the TV on in the background as you check your e-mail, but in my case, this kind of passive listening simply taught me to switch off and ignore spoken Thai as a meaningless background noise — exactly the opposite of what I needed.

If I listen now, I make an active effort to understand what is going on. Even better, at my current level, is to download an MP3 from VOA Thai News, stick the cans on and listen to it a few times, writing down what I think I have heard. (VOA has transcripts as well, so I can check how well I am doing).

Rikker Dockum

Rikker Dockum: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRikker: If you’re serious about learning Thai, tackle the written language. It unlocks the world.

Ryan Zander

Ryan Zander: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRyan: Learn to read right away. Start by learning all the sounds of the language. Then you won’t be fooled into poor pronunciation by bad transliteration schemes. Reading and writing ability in Thai will really help your speaking skills more than you’d think.

Scott Earle

Scott Earle: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersScott: Do not give up. I know it sounds silly (and obvious), but the more you can practise, the better. Most importantly, do not get put off when people don’t understand a single word you say – Thai is a strictly tonal language, and people who are not used to speaking with foreigners will not understand anything you say if you aren’t using the exact right tones and intonation at exactly the right time. It’s not your ‘fault’ that you speak using the wrong tone, because you are not used to speaking a language where it is relevant – and it’s not their ‘fault’ for not understanding you, because their brain is not tuned to listen to their language spoken with the wrong tones. Remember that people brought up speaking Central Thai will usually not understand a thing that someone in Isaan is saying (because the tones are all shifted).

So whatever you do, try and try again to speak. As much as you can. Most Thais are very keen to help you speak their language, because so few foreigners can, and so many give up before their brain has had a chance to adjust to speaking a tonal language. (Also, remember that English is also a slightly tonal language, kind of – the words PROject and proJECT have two entirely different meanings).

When you go to the local noodle shop, try ordering in Thai. Try speaking to people you meet in shops. Whenever you have the chance to speak to someone, do.

Also be aware that if you hold a conversation with someone and they say how well you speak Thai, it means they can understand you but it’s still pretty terrible! When nobody comments on it, that’s when you know you’re doing well. And no, I am not quite there yet!

Stephen Thomas

Stephen Thomas: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStephen: Find people who don’t speak English and talk to them. I hear foreigners say in Bangkok they don’t have to use Thai. I’m not sure where they go, but I can easily go outside and find many people who can’t speak a word of English. Start out by buying your morning coffee from a street vendor instead of Starbucks. Strike up a simple conversation. It will be slow at first but after a month you’ll realise how much you improved and you will have met other people in the neighbourhood who will want to talk to you too.

Learning songs is also a great way to learn, and one that I haven’t been doing to be honest. The couple of times I have learned a song I’ve seen how much faster it sinks in. Again I think it’s to do with the evolutionary mechanisms of our brain. That’s why songs are so important to us and why you can still remember songs from your childhood from historical lessons to toy commercials!

Stickman

Stickman: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStickman: Learn to read and write before you do anything – at least if you have any notions of reaching a decent level.

Consider studying at a language school in a classroom environment. You will be amazed at how much progress you will make in a short time.

I learned more in one month in a language school studying full-time – which meant 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, than I did in my first two years in Thailand conversing with the locals in various environments.

Given that many Westerners in Thailand are retired or taking time out – and so have a lot of time on their hands – studying the language formally really is a great way to spend your time, progress with the language and of course, make some new friends.

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStu: 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?’
or
‘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.
Or,
‘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.

Think LOUD … full of colours, sounds, emotions. Make crazy associations and then link them with a system that you can recall.

Know what ‘pushes your buttons’ then wrap the language up in whatever that is.

Excitement is the best memory technique.

What other advice do you give to students of the Thai language?
  
Have FUN with the language – learn as much as you can about the language as you learn to speak the language. 

Listen and observe – don’t use Thai as a vehicle to ‘say what you want to say’ to Thai people. Learn the stuff that they want to talk about and use the language to learn about them.

Terry Fredrickson

Terry Fredrickson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTerry: Speak confidently, even if you are not. Speaking tentatively will inevitably skew your tones. Get into reading as soon as possible so you can see how a word is really pronounced. Before that, find materials that use a real phonetic alphabet. Trying to represent Thai in English is hopeless. As someone else pointed out, vowel length is very important in Thai, ie., it’s not just the tones. Listen constantly, even if you don’t understand what is being said. Use the media. I learned to read the newspaper very quickly and I watch Thai TV everyday, especially news shows.

Learning Thai dialects: First, get your central Thai down solid. Then you should realise that the tone changes in Thai dialects are very systematic. For example, take words beginning with a mid consonant with a maithoo that don’t have stop finals, e.g. baan (house) and dai (can). They will both shift in tone from central Thai in exactly the same way. Somewhere there is a chart of about 15 representative words that will allow you to determine all the tone shifts in a particular dialect.

Thomas Lamosse

Thomas Lamosse: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersThomas: If you really want to speak Thai then stop speaking English right now!

Make a list of everything that is absolutely essential to your daily vocabulary. Then go out and learn how to say those things perfectly.

Forget the rest for right now.

Tod Daniels

Tod Daniels: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTod: DON’T get discouraged, don’t give up, and don’t put the idea in your mind that Thai is too hard for you to learn! It does take time, constant practice, and there is no magic method of learning Thai, no magic pill you can take and suddenly start speaking in tongues, err in Thai. The Thais have the same idiomatic expression we have in English; “Learn from your mistakes”, but theirs is ผิดเป็นครู (mistakes are your teacher).

You’re gonna make mistakes MANY many mistakes! You’re gonna say things which will make the Thais laugh out loud at you, but it’s part of the process. Get over yourself, laugh about the mistakes and take them in stride as its all part of the process in learning Thai.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTom: As has been advised in the previous interviews, dedicate a lot of time (preferably early on in the learning process) to learning the tones. Listen to examples of tone pronunciation over and over and over again. Drill them into your brain and practice them every day. Find a good language course with tone examples and listen to it in your car, on the bus, before you go to bed etc.

Communicate with Thais as much as possible. If you don’t live in Thailand, watch Thai films even if you can’t understand anything, the important thing is to immerse yourself in the language, eat, sleep and breathe it, especially at the outset. If you live in Thailand you are surrounded by possibilities, go out and chat with a noodle vendor, a taxi driver etc. make learning more interesting and fun.

Learn to read Thai. It is absolutely fundamental to successful Thai language learning. Do not be intimidated by those alien-looking squiggles. At first I thought learning how to read Thai would be impossible, but when it begins to make sense to you it is very rewarding. Be methodical, learn the consonants in their consonant classes; learn the simple vowels first etc etc. There are now many good Thai language courses that teach how to read and write effectively. If you live in Thailand and cannot read Thai you are surrounded by things that do not make sense: signs, posters, books etc. In my view learning to read Thai is the principal factor contributing to successful Thai language learning.

Vern Lovic

Vern Lovic: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersVern: Patience is indicated. I don’t know many people that picked up Thai immediately. Actually I know one girl that really picked up conversational Thai in 18 months to a very high degree. For the rest of us it takes a few years of sustained effort. Speaking Thai everyday is the best thing you can do to progress faster.

There is a great ebook I just became aware of because he decided to let me help him sell it on one of my sites. Learning the Thai Alphabet in 60 Minutes is that ebook. Have a look, you won’t be disappointed – as crazy as it sounds, it really delivers. I’d call it maybe 2 hours though

The series: Successful Thai Language Learners Compilation…

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Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Three: Learn and Love the Thai Language

รู้รักภาษาไทย: Cat Cartoons…

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

ผู้บรรยาย: ตอน กีฬา – กรีฑา
Narrator: Episode – ‘Gee-laa’ – ‘Gree-taa’.

เก้าแต้ม: กีฬา กีฬา
เป็นยาวิเศษ
แก้กองกิเลศ
ทำแมวให้เป็นคน
Kao Taem: ‘Gee-laa’, ‘Gee-laa’
Is a fantastic medicine
To remedy all the cravings
Makes a cat a Man

วิเชียรมาศ: เก้าแต้ม จะไปเล่นกีฬาอะไรหลอ(หรือ)
Wi-chian maat: Kao Taem, what ‘Gee-laa’ are you going to play?

เก้าแต้ม: เห็นเค้า(เขา)แข่งกีฬากัน ชั้น(ฉัน)เลยอยากจะชวนเพื่อนๆ มาแข่งกันจับหนูบ้าง ดีมั๊ย(ไหม)ล่า(ล่ะ)
Kao Taem: Seeing people competing in ‘Gee-laa’ has made me want to invite my friends to come and compete in mice-catching. Good, right?!

วิเชียรมาศ: ดีซี่(สิ) สนุกด้วย ชั้น(ฉัน)อยากรู้จังเลยอ่ะ บางทีเค้า(เขา)ก็บอกว่า แข่งกีฬา แล้วก็สถานที่แข่งกีฬาก็เรียกว่า กรีฑาสถาน ทำไมไม่ใช้คำว่า กีฬา ให้เหมือนกันล่ะ
Wi-chian maat: Good! It’d be fun too. Hmm, I do want to know something. People say “(to) compete in ‘Gee-laa’” and the place for competing in ‘Gee-laa’ is called a ‘Gree-taa sa-taan’. Why not use the word ‘Gee-laa’, so they’ll be along the same lines?

สีสวาด: สิ่งที่เล่นกันแข่งกันทุกอย่างก็เรียกว่า กีฬา ทั้งนั้น ส่วนที่เรียกว่า กรีฑา ใช้เฉพาะกีฬาที่แข่งกันในสนาม สนามแข่งกีฬาพวกนี้จึงใช้คำว่า กรีฑาสถาน ไปด้วย
Si Sawat: ‘Gee-laa’ is used for every type of game or competition whereas ‘Gree-taa’ is only used for ‘Gee-laa’ played in a track and field stadium. So these sports arenas are called ‘Gree-taa sa-taan’-s.

ผู้บรรยาย: กีฬา เป็นคำเรียกกิจกรรมและการเล่นเพื่อความแข็งแรงของร่างกาย ส่วน กรีฑา ใช้เรียกเฉพาะกีฬาประเภทลู่และลาน
Narrator: ‘Gee-laa’ is the word used for all activities and games to make the body strong and healthy whereas ‘Gree-taa’ is used only for the sport of track and field.

แมวทั้งสามตัว: แล้วพบกันใหม่นะครับบบ (ครับ)
All Three Cats: See you again next time!

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

Comments…

‘Gee-laa’ (กีฬา) basically means ‘sport’.

“Gree-taa’ (กรีฑา) basically means ‘track and field’.

PDF Downloads…

Below is a pdf download (created by Catherine) to help with your studies. It has Thai script, transliteration, and English.

Download: Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Three: Conversation

The Cat Cartoon Series…

Original transcript and translation provided by Sean Harley. Transliterations via T2E (thai2english.com).

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Sleep Learning: Reinforce Your Thai While You Sleep

Learn while you sleep

Can you learn a foreign language while you sleep?…

Wouldn’t it be great to learn Thai when sleeping? No more drills. No more tedious word lists. Just start snoozing and let your subconscious do the hard slog for you.

Dream on … it’s not going to happen. Or rather, not in the way you might think. Not yet anyway.

But there is one way you can reinforce the Thai you are studying and that’s by first revising a set list of words or phrases right before you sleep, then again before you enter the NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) phase.

Verbal cues during sleep can boost the memory, at least when it comes to vocabulary: A new study reveals that it may be easiest to learn that second language if you incorporate some verbal cuing during a snooze right after studying.

The study relates memory retention is stronger for those who study vocabulary, then use a verbal cue, such as a tape that recites the same vocabulary, during sleeping. The key is the studying has to be within short order of the nap learning time.

“You can only successfully activate words that you have learned before you go to sleep,” says Schreiner. “Playing back words you don’t know while you’re asleep has no effect”.

Learn Thai Words & Vocabulary…

For Thai, the only app with the above mentioned sleep attributes I could find is Learn Thai Words & Vocabulary Free (created by Languagecourse.net). They’ve only recently added the sleep mode so if you already have the app, check it out.

Learn in your sleepAt the moment I’m experimenting with an iPhone sleep app for Italian instead (SleepyItalian) because the sleep mode from the Languagecourse.net app doesn’t work with iOS (for me, anyway).

So why am I featuring an app that doesn’t fully work on iOS? Because the rest (most everything but the sleep mode) works fabulously. The app is sort of like Glossika, only with fun bits to play with. And to see what I mean, check out Sven Elven’s a sleep learning screen record download from box.com, or get the free app to play with. Or both.

I plan on reviewing the app in full but as this post is about revising vocab/phrases while you sleep (a lightweight Xmas post) I’ll leave that for later.

A brief walkthrough of ‘Learn Thai Words & Vocabulary Free’ sleep attributes…

In the main menu of the app select Sleep Learning Timer (almost at the bottom of the home page navigation).

From the sleep learning menu:

Start in x minutes: The time when the program starts (let’s say you know you will be asleep in 30 minutes so set the timer to 30 or 40 minutes).

Duration: From the next drop down menu choose the duration you want to study.

Course: Choose the course you want review while you sleep (tip: a course won’t appear in the menu until you first study it while awake).

Background music: Select none, white noise, or white noise with binaural beats (the iOS does not have this option).

Volume Calibration: Set your volume then click the button to see how loud the audio is. Reset if needed.

Yes/No: The next window gives you the choice of doing a final review of the words/phrases before you go to sleep (Yes. Show word list) or go straight into the sleep mode (No. Start sleep learning session now). The review is text only, no audio (pity).

Continue/Start: If you are ready to get to sleep press ‘continue’ or ‘start’ or ‘start sleep learning’ (depending where you are in the process, the selection is different). The screen will then dim.

The program will start playing random phrases at the time you’ve chosen. The phrases will be spaced out about 10 to 15 seconds apart. Once your allotted time is over the audio will stop.

Learn while you sleep


Learn while you sleep


Learn while you sleep


Learn while you sleep

From Sven: Very easy to use and a great tool even if you are awake. I use it while running …

Thank you so much Sven Elven – I couldn’t have done it without you!

iOS: Learn Thai Words & Vocabulary Free
Android: Learn Thai Vocabulary Free

Note: Here’s a smattering of subliminal products for Thai.

For those who want to know more…

Abstract: Boosting Vocabulary Learning by Verbal Cueing During Sleep Reactivating memories during sleep by re-exposure to associated memory cues (e.g., odors or sounds) improves memory consolidation.

Learn while you sleep

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Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Two: Learn and Love the Thai Language

รู้รักภาษาไทย: Cat Cartoons…

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

ผู้บรรยาย: ตอน กรี
Narrator: Episode – ‘Gree’.

วิเชียรมาศ: สีสวาด เธอไปคาบกุ้งมาจากไหนน่ะ
Wi-chian maat: Si Sawat, from where did you get the shrimp that you’re holding in your mouth?

สีสวาด: กุ้งต้มอย่างดี ใครไม่รู้มาทำหล่นไว้ตรงทางเข้าตลาด ชั้น(ฉัน)เห็นจึงรีบคาบมาให้เธอนี่แหละ
Si Sawat: As luck would have it, someone, I don’t know who, dropped this boiled shrimp at the entrance to the market. I spotted it and so I quickly grabbed it and carried it in my mouth here for you.

วิเชียรมาศ: ขอบใจน้า(นะ) แต่ที่หัวมันมีกีด้วย ชั้น(ฉัน)กลัวมันตำจังเลยน่ะ
Wi-chian maat: Thanks, but there’s a ‘Gee’ on its head. I’m so afraid of it puncturing something.

สีสวาด: ไม่ต้องกลัวหรอก กุ้งเนี่ยะ(นี่อ่ะ)พึ่ง(เพิ่ง)ลอกคราบ กรีนี่ไม่แทงเธอหรอก
Si Sawat: Well, you don’t have to be afraid of that happening. This shrimp just molted, so its ‘Gree’ is not going to puncture anything.

วิเชียรมาศ: ไอ้แหลม ๆ ที่หัวกุ้งเนี่ยะ(นี่อ่ะ) เธอเรียกว่า กรี ไม่ใช่ กี หรอ(หรือ)
Wi-chian maat: You call the sharp thingy on the head of the shrimp a ‘Gree’, not ‘Gee’, right?

สีสวาด: ใช่สิ กรี เป็นอาวุธของกุ้ง มันแหลม มีคมเป็นหยักๆ และก็ยาวมากด้วย ถ้าไม่ระวังก็อาจโดนแทงได้
Si Sawat: That’s right. The ‘Gree’ is the weapon of a shrimp. It’s sharp, it has serrated edges and it’s long too. If we’re not careful then it might puncture our skin.

ผู้บรรยาย: กรี เขียน ก ไก่ ร เรือ สระอี ออกเสียง ก ร ควบ กรี เป็นคำเรียกสิ่งที่แหลมแข็ง เป็นอาวุธบนหัวกุ้ง
Narrator: ‘Gree’ is written ‘Gor gai, ror reua, sara ee’ and pronounced ‘Gree’, i.e. with a ‘Gor – ror’ consonant blend sound. It’s the word to call the part that is sharp and hard and used as a weapon, at the top of a shrimp’s head.

แมวทั้งสามตัว: แล้วพบกันใหม่นะครับบบ (ครับ)
All Three Cats: See you again next time!

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

Comments…

‘Gree’ (กรี) basically means ‘rostrum’ (from the Latin rōstrum meaning beak). It is the rigid forward extension of the shrimp’s shell that protects its head and thorax. It can be used for attack or defence. It may also stabilize the shrimp when it swims backwards. (Adapted from: wiki: shrimp)

PDF Downloads…

Below is a pdf download (created by Catherine) to help with your studies. It has Thai script, transliteration, and English.

Download: Cat Cartoons Episode Sixty Two: Conversation

The Cat Cartoon Series…

Original transcript and translation provided by Sean Harley. Transliterations via T2E (thai2english.com).

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Interview Compilation: What is the Biggest Misconception for Learning Thai?

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?…

Out of the 50, 22 focused on tones and pronunciation. But there’s a mixed bag. Some said tones tones are not impossible to master while others bounced between tones being important and not as unimportant as feared. And 14 mentioned the misconception that the Thai language difficult to learn.

And now for the rest of the interview…

Aaron Handel

Aaron Handel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: People tend to cling to what is familiar to them. They are most comfortable with the sounds of their native language. The tonal characteristics of Thai are seen as cumbersome, trivial, and alien. Some people actually convince themselves that tones are unnecessary. This is a great misconception.

I have met many foreigners who communicate quite well with their Thai girlfriends, but are not understood by others. Usually, this kind of “Thai” is spoken in a mono-tone or it may have an inflection that conveys the English speaker’s feelings. This is not Thai.

I once met a Chinese gentleman who spoke “Thai” at lighting speed. He had learned it in 6 months, from Chinese teachers. There was only one problem. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not understand him. His Chinese influenced tones didn’t make any sense to me. Some Chinese dialects have as many as 13 different tones. It seemed to me that he was using at least 13 and maybe more! It made my head spin. I felt a bit sorry for him. It will take him a long time to unlearn what he had learned incorrectly.

Speaking Thai is not just a matter of using tones, but using the correct Thai tone for each syllable. Fortunately there are only five tones in Thai. The tone of a word is an integral part of its meaning. Consider this. Suppose you go to a restaurant and want to order roasted chicken. You should ask for gài yâhng (literally, chicken roasted). Yâhng is the verb meaning to roast. It is pronounced with a falling tone. However, if you were to pronounce yahng with a middle tone, you would be requesting a rubber chicken!

Usually, Thais have a good laugh when a foreigner bungles the tone, but sometimes the wrong tone can lead to confusion. The tonal distinction between near (glâi, with a falling tone) and far (glai, with a middle tone) has caused many a foreigner to wander around aimlessly.

Aaron Le Boutillier

Aaron Le Boutillier: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: That tones are not important. I have heard people say that you should not worry too much as the context of the sentence will be enough. I have never seen evidence of this. The best thing I was ever told that has helped me on my path is “find your Thai voice”.

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAdam: That the language barrier will never be broken haha. Patience is a virtue especially when it comes to learning Thai!

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAndrew: That you can do it without reading and writing it.

Chris Pirazzi

Chris Pirazzi: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChris Pirazzi: That any transliteration system shows them how to make the sounds of Thai.

Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersColin: One is certainly the belief that you can get through life without tones. I’ve met a lot of foreigners who pump out their Thai in monotone and are bemused when they aren’t understood. This is particularly common in long-term expats. They get away with it in a relationship with a partner whose ear is attuned to farang-speak but then can’t get the simplest point across to the waitress or the petrol pump attendant. Thai’s a tonal language. Learning the tones is half the battle. And learning tone and vocab at the same time is the most sensible way to go about it. You can either do this by learning to read before you pick up vocabulary, or you can go the Cotterill route and learn vocab in tone groups. Again in mnemonics, one set of vocab that lives on top of a mountain for high tone, one set falling out of an airplane for falling tone, etc.

Daniel B Fraser

Daniel B Fraser: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDaniel: I think it is that you have to sound perfect before you can be accepted as a Thai speaker. But Thai has so many styles and accents, that one shouldn’t let the sounds and tones intimidate you. Just go out there and make an effort.

David Long

David Long: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: That language learning is difficult. I believe that the thing that makes it difficult is mostly centered on how we try to do it! It seems to me that If a 2 year old can do it, then so can I and it doesn’t have to be hard!

David Smyth

David Smyth: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid Smyth: One misconception is that if you get a tone wrong, Thais will not understand you. Another is that if you can’t immediately ‘hear’ or distinguish tones, you might as well not waste any further time trying to learn the language. Some learners can hear and reproduce tones accurately almost from the outset, while others take longer … yet still get there.

Another misconception is that it is good enough just to speak and there is no need to write. Back in 1906 Basil Osborn Cartwright cautioned ‘those who imagine they can ‘pick up’ a smattering of the language in a few weeks by trying to learn words in a parrot-like fashion from romanized versions which are invariably misleading’ and which is an ‘absolute waste of time, money and frequently of temper also.’

Don Sena

Don Sena: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDon: It is possibly the greatest misconception concerning any foreign tongue: an unawareness of the phenomenon of polysemy – the array of related meanings associated with almost every vocabulary item in any language. Because of polysemy, there are no one-to-one correspondences between the meanings of a word in one language and the meanings of any one word in some other language.

Doug

Doug: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDoug: 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).

Gareth Marshall

Gareth Marshall: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGareth: That pronunciation is not important.

Glenn Slayden

Glenn Slayden: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGlenn: A common response to this question is to “not sweat the tones.” Perhaps they are intimidating and if this is an excuse to not learn the language then maybe their importance can be minimized at first. However, in my experience, being a poor tone user, they are actually important. And the tone rules (determining the spoken tone from the spelling) are hard. I discussed this last week with my language-exchange student, a native Thai woman studying for the TOEFL here in Seattle. It was frustrating for me because she did not know what I was talking about: native Thai speakers have learned the tone system so innately as small children that they often aren’t even aware that there are rules that adult learners must master. While some Thais that you may communicate with in Thailand have the ability to imagine the different possibilities for your incorrect tones and chuckle but understand you, others seem to be hearing something like the difference between “cat” and “dog,” and are completely mystified by your utterance.

Grace Robinson

Grace Robinson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGrace: Thinking it’s going to be particularly difficult.

Hamish Chalmers

Hamish Chalmers: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHamish: That westerners can neither hear nor replicate the tones.

Hardie Karges

Hardie Karges: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHardie: That tones are a huge obstacle to learning the language. Tones are a function of correct pronunciation, but so are many things, such as long and short vowels, which is scarcely mentioned. Once you can read, then you can ‘see’ the tones also, as they are written in.

Non-tonal Thai is still understandable, also, witness Lao which differs significantly in tone from Thai, but not an obstacle really. Many Cambodians can speak Thai, but non-tonally, though still understandable. Some of the words they share with Thai indeed ARE spoken the same way, though Khmer is technically a non-tonal language.

Herb Purnell

Herb Purnell: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHerb: People are really different in their learning styles, motivation for learning Thai, living situations, opportunities to get instruction (if they’re even interested in getting it), and willingness to use the language often and with many different people and, in so doing, become vulnerable. So it’s probably not possible to say anything that will fit everyone. But here are a few thoughts.

For people like me, a misconception would be that written Thai is the “real” language. The real language is oral language with its many styles and levels of speaking. The script is attractive, exotic, and challenging, and reading is very valuable at an intermediate level and beyond, but I consider it to be secondary to spoken Thai.

Another misconception is that the language is really easy, since it doesn’t have the complexity of all those suffixes and prefixes as in Russian. Or, conversely, that Thai is really hard, possibly inscrutable, and maybe unlearnable for non-Thais because of the tones and the looseness of singular/plural, lack of marked tenses, and the like. The first view can lead to overconfidence when the learner gets a quick spurt, especially toward the beginning. The second view can lead to discouragement and a decrease in motivation, then falling back on a mix of Thai and English, or to being content with broken Thai or in despair of ever improving. A middle or balanced way seems to work for most learners: some things are easy to grasp, others are difficult but eventually learnable; one just needs to stay positive, keep working hard, and enjoy the experience of interacting with people in their heart language.

For some people, perhaps for those taking a formal class, a misconception is that if I pay attention and do my homework, maybe looking/listening to snatches of the language on tape, on a CD, or on the Internet, that the language will come. Perhaps it will, but the real payoff in language learning, whether independent or classroom, is interacting with people, getting to know them, and sharing each other’s ideas. In my current work at a language school in Bangkok, revising the curriculum, I am writing very focused and doable assignments that enable students to use what they learned in class in interactions with Thai people outside of class, from very simple assignments at the start to more complex interviewing at the upper intermediate level. These assignments integrate learning in class and learning in the community and, if students are willing to follow them and use them, they can help students to become independent learners with skills they can use long after formal classes are done with.

Hugh Leong

Hugh Leong: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHugh: The biggest mistake people have is not to stress the importance of Thai tones. In my opinion, if you get the tones wrong, no matter how much they are smiling at you, no matter how much vocabulary you know, no matter how well you read and write, no one will understand a word you say. Let me change that a bit. If you have someone you spend lots of time with, your partner, paramour, maid, golf caddie, they may be able to “decipher” incorrect tones and guess what you mean. That becomes more of an idiolect, your own personal language, which can be understood by only a few.

Here is why tones are so important. The sounds of English can be divided into 3 very important parts, consonants, vowels, and intonation. If you get any of these wrong then the person listening will have trouble understanding you. For instance, let’s say we have trouble with our consonants. You want to say “Your life is fine,” but you confuse the consonants and come out with “Your wife is mine”, only two small consonant changes. But if you say this to the wrong person you will quickly see how important consonants are in English. In this case we say that the change in consonants is “morphemic”, it changes the word’s meaning. I don’t think that anyone would say that it is unimportant to learn the English consonants and vowels. Then why do some people insist that Thai tones are not essential to being able to speak and be understood?

In Thai, tones are just as important as consonants and vowels. Changes in Thai tones cause “morphemic” changes in the words. They mean something different. If one speaks toneless Thai it is the same as saying all English words using only one consonant. “Your life is fine” becomes “Tour Tife is Tine”.

No wonder Thais look at us incomprehensibly at times. I’m not saying learning Thai tones is going to be easy. I still get those looks sometimes. And when I do, I don’t blame the listener for not understanding me. I know I just have to work a little harder at it. In one of my favorite books, Alice in Wonderland, Alice and Humpty Dumpty have a discussion as to whether “Saying what you mean” is the same as “Meaning what you say”. I never could figure out who was right. But I do know that if we don’t use the correct tones when speaking Thai we will always be meaning one thing and saying another.

Ian Fereday

Ian Fereday: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersIan: That it is any more difficult than any other language. Clearly, Europeans learning a language that uses the ABC alphabet is always going to be easier because they can already read it (mostly). That’s why I think learners should get reading out of the way first. Then it is not a hindrance to speaking and understanding.

James (Jim) Higbie

James (Jim) Higbie: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJim: Some people say the tones aren’t important but your Thai will sound pretty ragged if you don’t learn them.

Joe Cummings

Joe Cummings: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJoe: That you can learn the tones without learning to read. Children can learn by pure imitation, but not adults. Adult learners benefit immensely from both using the language communicatively (as in The Silent Way methodology) and by explicitly discussing the structure (grammar translation). You need to work at the language from both ends, structure and communication.

John Boegehold

John Boegehold: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJohn: That’s tough from my perspective because I had no conceptions at all when I started! I have noticed a fairly common one in other students has been thinking (or hoping, anyway) that tone is a secondary component in pronouncing a Thai word when in reality it’s as important as consonants and vowels in being understood clearly when speaking.

Jonathan Thames

Jonathan Thames: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonathan: That it’s especially hard and/or impossible. I don’t know, lots of things. That’s what happens when you learn a language – hundreds of misconceptions are broken down over time. At least that’s been my experience.

Justin Travis Mair

Justin Travis Mair: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJustin: That it is TOO hard. Learning any language is difficult and Thai can seem even harder since there is little in common with English. That said, It is very attainable and I don’t think it is beyond anyone who is willing to try to be able to become fluent in Thai.

Larry Daks

Larry Daks: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLarry: I don’t know what the biggest misconception is, but this is one that leads people feel reluctant to speak. That if you mispronounce words the listener can’t understand you. That is the case in some situations, but if you use words within sentences, your listeners can often figure out the context.

Luke Cassady-Dorion

Luke Cassady-Dorion: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLuke: That it’s impossible for foreigners to learn, that tones are a hurdle which can’t be surmounted (anyone who has been to a Karaoke parlor knows that this country is full of tone-deaf Thais who can speak their own language just fine) and that the writing system is an obstacle.

Marc Spiegel

Marc Spiegel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarc: Thinking you can get by learning transliteration. Of course you can learn the language, and I do have friends who are fluent; however, their pronunciation is quite poor and there are many instances where Thai people do not understand what they are saying until they hear most of the conversation and can understand the topic they are trying to speak about. In order to truly master Thai I strongly believe you must learn to read Thai properly.

Marcel Barang

Marcel Barang: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarcel: That learning to read and write is difficult: it takes time, certainly, but it’s hugely rewarding. If you settle down in Thailand for a number of years, it’s well worth investing in reading and writing. My only regret: I never learned to type Thai. It’d have come handy in my line of work, to consult dictionaries online or to Google things.

Mark Hollow

Mark Hollow: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMark: That learning to read/write is too difficult or not necessary. Yes, it takes a long time and regular practice but it’s not too difficult. The benefits from being able to read are immense.

Martin Clutterbuck

Martin Clutterbuck: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMartin: That you can learn this language without learning the writing system.

Nils Bastedo

Nils Bastedo: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersNils: I think that every person is unique in this aspect. Since Thais tend to praise and don’t expect much from foreigners, one can gain a false sense of achievement. Remain humble. You will be advanced when you can watch Thai movies and newscasts with ease and read books and newspapers. If you cannot read a newspaper, you are intermediate at best.

Paul Garrigan

Paul Garrigan: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPaul: I think that people expect things to happen quickly, but this is not the way for most of us. It is usually a case of believing that you are almost fluent one day to realising that you have a long way to go. It is easy to become disheartened because the prize always seems to be moving further away. Still if you stick with it you will get better. It might take a long time though; for some of us it will be a long long time.

Peter Montalbano

Peter Montalbano: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPeter: I think different people have different misconceptions. Some think the tones aren’t important, and that’s about as wrong as could be. Some don’t notice the difference between long and short vowels. Some don’t get the difference between aspirated and unaspirated unvoiced stops (p, t, k, ph, th, kh).

And I’ve heard quite a few people claim fluency when they have only enough vocabulary for basic conversation. This may stem from the misconception I’ve heard from many speakers of Indo-European languages that this language is as easy to learn as another European language. At the basic spoken level, it may be as easy as those, or easier. But in the end, it comes from the other side of the world, and learning to speak it is like growing a second soul. There are almost no linguistic cognates, so the vocabulary you have to learn from scratch is immense. The grammar at first glance seems incredibly simple, but that’s deceptive. You will at almost every level of learning run into sentences that are nearly impossible to decipher without help. If you’re like me, the learning process is a lot of fun, but much harder than your third-year Spanish class, or whatever.

Rick Bradford

Rick Bradford: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRick: One common misconception is that Thai is too hard to learn. Another one, I think, among people who have begun to speak, is that mastering the tones is not of crucial importance.

Rikker Dockum

Rikker Dockum: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRikker: That learning Thai is anything other than fascinating, engaging, and rewarding. Also, the misconception that literacy is non-essential, or should be put off until later.

Ryan Zander

Ryan Zander: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRyan: That the tones are the hardest part of speaking. When I hear people speaking Thai poorly, it’s almost always their getting consonant sounds wrong that sticks out to my ears.

Scott Earle

Scott Earle: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersScott: 1. That the tones are not important (they really are!)
2. That you need not bother to learn to read and write. It makes a difficult job a lot easier!

Stephen Thomas

Stephen Thomas: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStephen: That you can get by using Romanisation. There are consonant and vowel sounds that appear in Thai that we simply don’t have in English. Plus the vowels we use pull double and triple duty. In Thai a vowel is that vowel sound only, with the exception of a few vowel combinations which are considered separate diphthongs in their own right. The letter A on its own is used to represent 4 different Thai vowels. In English I can substitute one A sound for another in a word and you recognise that it’s the same letter, but to a Thai person you’ve completely changed the spelling. Also some vowels in Thai are held longer than others but we don’t have a way of noting that in The Latin Alphabet which leads to putting the stress on the wrong syllable which again results in a completely different spelling.

Whenever I see a name or a place written in Roman letters I look for the Thai in order to see how it’s really pronounced. Some assistant directors have offered me “karaoke” scripts and I tell them no.

Thai is actually a remarkably easy language to get to a basic level and like all languages it takes practice, good teaching and a lot of drilling. I think one of the big problems is that Thais, despite being wonderful at many things, aren’t the world’s best teachers. So many just stand in a classroom and talk. Being engaging doesn’t seem to have much importance in Thailand when it comes to teaching technique.

Stickman

Stickman: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStickman: That the language is difficult because of the tones. It isn’t!

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStu: Just because there are 40 odd consonants that it’s ‘hard to learn’. … oh, and that ‘tones are difficult’.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTom: That transliteration systems can be relied upon for correct pronunciation.

Thomas Lamosse

Thomas Lamosse: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersThomas: Taking short cuts. A focus on constantly trying to develop a large vocabulary before correct pronunciation of the words one can already speak. Learn to pronunciate every word in your vocabulary to perfection before adding new words.

My opinion is that it is better to speak 10 perfect than to have a huge vocabulary that is spoken incorrectly by mispronouncing characters, tones and vowels.

Tod Daniels

Tod Daniels: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTod: That learning to read and understand what you’re reading in Thai is beyond them. It takes time, and countless hours of word memorization, review but for me, it’s far easier to read/understand things written in Thai than it is to speak clear Thai as a foreigner.

Also the old lame excuse, I can’t speak Thai because I’m tone deaf and can’t hear the differences in similar sounding yet differently toned words. In the beginning I couldn’t either and nearly gave up. Then I started learning the different tones in high frequency words I’d use: white, rice, shirt, mat, tiger, etc, (although I rarely talk about tigers as a rule!) Finally I actually began to hear the toning when Thais spoke to me. I also concentrated ONLY on the falling and rising tone as the other three can pretty much be blurred in colloquial speech with no loss in comprehension to a Thai.

I think ANYONE who puts their mind to it can learn to be at least conversational in Thai, get their point across and conduct their routine daily interactions in Thai.

Vern Lovic

Vern Lovic: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersVern: Maybe it’s that, “If I learn Thai – I know Thai.”

What I mean is, there are so many different dialects in Thai that you might know Thai and move 100km away and have a difficult time. When my wife moved from Isaan to the south – she was as dumbfounded as I was. That made me feel a lot better. Southern dialect is very different. Very little tonal expression and a whole lot of vowel sounds. I joke with the monks at the temple when they speak southern with me by repeating back what it sounds like to me that they just said… It goes something like, “Aweeooweeeweeee Oh Wa?”

The series: Successful Thai Language Learners Compilation…

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