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Lani, a Thai Learning Thai: Part 2

A Thai Learning Thai

This Thai learning Thai…

Learning Spanish seemed counterintuitive to retaining any Thai that I had acquired but that is exactly what I did. When I moved to Ecuador I thought I could keep up with my Thai and learn Spanish too but I couldn’t. There wasn’t enough room in me brain for both languages.

Acclimating to the altitude and culture was enough to contend with, but I was surprised by how much Thai still bounced around in my head. One of my colleagues had her students interview me for her Comparing Cultures class which was flattering and one of my own students showed interest in learning a little Thai which was endearing too.

Thailand might have been on the other side of the globe but it was never too far from me. So it is no surprise that I’m here again and picking my way though the vocabulary discard pile as I try to get back into the Thai language.

When I returned I kept saying Sí and Spanish words came to me quicker than Thai yet at the same time when I tried to recall words I needed to know for a particular task or transaction, the right words magically pop-tarted out of my toaster. And now that I have started taking Thai classes again, Spanish is fading like my memories of Ecuador.

Last year I took Thai 1 and 2 at Payup University but I decided to take a beginner’s class again – this time at AUA. And I’m really glad I did because it’s been a structured refresher’s course for me as well as a lesson in confidence building.

My classmates think I have great Thai because I know more words than they do but as I explained I came back to the basics because I feel like I learned bad Thai. My tones (if any) were wrong and thankfully the teacher I have now is motivated to teach us the correct tones.

I had heard somewhere that when learning a language it can be beneficial to take a break, a long break and even learn another language before coming back to the original language again. And I must say that that person is spot on the doggie.

I feel a little more attuned to the nuances that I missed before like spelling, correct pronunciation and sentence structure (damn classifiers). I try to learn words that I don’t think I’ll ever use because this time around I know that just because I won’t ever use that word doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

Maybe I have short memory but I think I am engaging in more conversations too. I’m not as afraid to try because I know that I need the practice. The good thing about the people I interact with is they know I’m trying so they stick with Thai.

Last year it seemed like there were more people who just wanted to switch over to English. I don’t know. But this year maybe I’m giving off the I’m Serious vibe. Perhaps I’m willing to sweat a little more. As they say in aerobics class, “Let’s do this together.”

Lani Cox
{the missing teacher}

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13 Comments

  1. Hi Lani, you are an inspiration. It is hard for a lot of people to make a realistic appraisal of their own level and needs. The idea of going back to a more basic class would be a hard pill for many to swallow – including me. You have looked at your own skills sensibly and done what you think is right – very commendable. Sometime we have to go back to basics in order to progress but a lot of us just won’t do that so we stagnate instead. I’m sure your Thai language skills will benefit greatly from your sensible approach.

  2. Lani, I long for the day when my head becomes a toaster!

  3. Lani, I think it’s great you went back to basics. So many people just keep going in hopes they will get better but to be honest with yourself isn’t always easy…in the long run though it will pay off in spades.

    My own studying has been slipping a bit lately so I decided to partner up with a friend from class one day a week to study and I may take some private one on one classes.

    While My vocabulary has grown immensely and I am speak more Thai in conversations I’m still having problems keeping the grammar in the correct order…my English mind is fighting the Thai way.

  4. Lani, what a great post! This one is brilliant: I try to learn words that I don’t think I’ll ever use because this time around I know that just because I won’t ever use that word doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

  5. @Paul: Thanks to saying I’m an inspiration. That is always nice to hear. After struggling with basic Spanish I knew that revisiting Thai would be good for my self confidence.

    @Snap: Be careful what you wish for ;)

    @Talen: Yeah, I see Thai language learning as something that ebbs and flows. Some days the brain is empty and other days it is full. I’m sure you are going through one of those “I need a break!” moments. Soo soo!

    @Cat: Thanks for posting. Yes I am brilliant, ain’t I? :P

  6. “I had heard somewhere that when learning a language it can be beneficial to take a break, a long break and even learn another language before coming back to the original language again.”

    This tip is very true, when I was first learning German, I tried to shove in as much vocabulary as I could, needless to say, by the end of each day I was already confused about which word meant what, and nearly forget every single word I had learned.

    I took a break for sometime, started practicing some other things (mainly took a cooking class), and after a while came back to learning German from scratch.
    Now I could talk fluently with much better accent, and a much bigger vocabulary :)

  7. Lani, can you please teach me how to put off the Serious Vibe? I need it!

  8. @Amr: Glad to hear it! I think all learning can benefit from a break from time to time. We need it!!!

    @Megan: You throw your head back like you are going to sneeze and you speak pasa Thai with your eyes bulging out :D

  9. Catherine and Lani

    ……’I had heard somewhere that when learning a language it can be beneficial to take a break, a long break and even learn another language before coming back to the original language again’….

    As Catherine knows I holiday in Thailand three times a year and on my return to the UK it’s a very rare day I get to use Thai face to face. I find because of that my Thai word skills deteriorate. Yet when I land back in Thailand everything seems to come flooding back to me and I pick out the basics of many conversations. I always find that amazing.

    Lani it sounds like you are enjoying life in the classroom and making great headway. Well done.

    @Talen….one on one lessons in Pattaya…..mmmmmm

  10. Martyn, that’s great to hear that your Thai still comes back easily. I find that when I don’t sleep, I draw a total blank. It might be because I haven’t used Thai enough for it to become second nature to me.

  11. Amr, I absolutely love the way you’ve created your German site. The pictures with rollovers are especially fantastic. I’d like to have the same for Thai, but it being a tonal language sound would be needed. But with a rollover list, how?

  12. Thank you Catherine for taking a look over at the site, and for your kind words :)

    I wish I could help, but for the rollovers I followed a tutorial on the net, can’t remember what I searched for exactly, it was something related to CSS programming
    I could help you do those rollovers if you want them with text only, if you want them with sound as well, then maybe you could have a programmer look at that page:
    http://www.languageguide.org/french/vocabulary/body/
    And try to imitate that script for you :)

  13. HI Amr, I know how to do rollovers (I use them on this site), but what I can’t figure out is how to include sound too (thanks for sending over the site btw). But your suggestion is spot on – get a programmer to help :-)

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