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Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Interview with Claudio Sennhauser

Claudio on Stu's Cracking Thai Fundamentals

Claudio on Stu’s Cracking Thai Fundamentals…

The first day of the Cracking Thai Fundamentals workshop started out with the obligatory introductions. I realized during the introduction that even foreigners who have been living in Thailand already for quite some time still seem to struggle with the same aspects of the language as I did: tonality, vocabulary, reading and writing. I was in good company!

To get the workshop started, Stu Jay set the stage by getting our minds to think outside of words. He made us aware that learning a new language is slowed down when we focus on literal translations, because meaning of words is relative. Stu Jay asked us to “never let words limit our thoughts” and led us through an exercise in which we color-coded a list of words based on how they feel, rather than focusing on their specific meanings. All participants quickly got a better feeling of words as a result of this color-coding exercise.

It then was time for Stu Jay to teach us some basic semantic building blocks of the Thai language. We learned 11 essential words without having them translated into English. We internalized their meaning through gestures and full body motions. I found this highly effective, as it pulled us away from the writing and sound system of our mother tongue. With these building blocks in place, and only two hours into the program, each student was already able to produce complete and proper sentences in Thai.

Next, we learned the Thai vowels. We had lots of good laughs, as Stu Jay taught each of the vowels with a corresponding hand sign. It is impossible, for example, to ever forget the sara aa (า) the way Stu Jay teaches it. These hand signs have been developed by Stu Jay as a way to “lock” the vowels into our body, mind, and throat. This module of the workshop is available on YouTube (Part 1 and Part 2). You will see that you feel quite comfortable with all the vowels in less than 30 minutes.

We then learned about the different consonant classes and the role tone markers play in the Thai alphabet. Stu Jay got us to visualize vivid scenarios and repeat his sounds, body movements, and gestures to ensure the highest possible retention of the learned material. As a result, I will forever know what the low, middle, and high classes are doing in the Thai alphabet, as I vividly remember the funny stories and images Stu Jay used during this module.

After we all had a solid understanding of the classes, we tackled the Thai consonants. As with the vowels, Stu Jay developed a system that teaches these vowels in a fun and easy way. We used his Thai Consonant Map to gain an understanding of each consonant’s class, sound, and where in the mouth it is produced. Through many engaging exercises, we gradually became aware of the muscles used to produce each consonant. Stu Jay ensured that the participants remember each of these consonants by using stories, analogies and metaphors with humor. I now won’t be confusing ผ, ฝ, พ, ฟ anymore and remember how they sound and to what class they belong.

Throughout the entire workshop, Stu Jay taught us not only the Fundamentals of Thai, but also many aspects of Thai culture not typically taught during a language (or even Thai culture) course. Getting such a deep insight into Thai culture has provided many “AHA!” experiences for all participants of the workshop.

Cracking Thai Fundamentals has been an outstanding experience for me. I’m now confident and convinced that I can master the Thai language. I feel Stu Jay has given each participant a very powerful language seed and it is now up to us to make it grow.

Claudio Sennhauser
Claudio Sennhauser | twitter: @DemoWell

More on Stu and Cracking Thai Fundamentals…

Around the Internet:
Twitter: @stu_jay
Facebook: Stu Jay Raj
YouTube Channel: stujaystujay
Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Language and Mind Mastery
Bangkok Radio: Cracking Thai Fundamentals

On WLT:
Mnidcraft: The Art of Language
Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part One
Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part Two
Successful Thai Language Learner: Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj
Cracking Thai Fundamentals Meets Mnidcraft Over Songkran
Stu Jay Raj is Back in Bangkok with Cracking Thai Fundamentals
Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Interview With Scott Eddy

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9 Comments

  1. It does sound like it was a great seminar. I think that a lot of us miss out on the basics and pay for this later. I like the way Stu uses TRP to make the information stick. I feel sure that this would make learning easier but it is just getting the time to think about these things and apply them.

  2. It is indeed an excellent workshop. And if students could attend Stu’s workshop right away, they’d never develop the fear of tones that so many seem to have. A lot of people coming into Thai don’t even know enough about tones to be afraid, but soon enough they freak.

  3. Claudio Sennhauser

    October 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    This is so true, Cat. One of the participants just recently moved to Thailand. He wasn’t afraid of tones — and he “got” them immediately. Attending this workshop right away would be very beneficial for anybody having just moved to Thailand. Anybody else, however, will also see an immediate improvement of their language skills, as well as a much higher motivation to really learn the language. My sensory awareness and acuity has definitely increased as a result of this workshop. I realize that I still have a loooong way to go – but all of a sudden, it looks easier and much more fun.

  4. ‘Fun’ and ‘Stu’ certainly go hand in hand :-)

    I’ve always thought that companies bringing in expats should send their new hires to Stu. His workshops will not only jump-start their Thai language skills, but take away some of the mystery (confusion) of living here.

    There is a course for Thai culture that companies send employees to, but it doesn’t cover what Stu does. And maybe it takes an expat to know what expats need? Just a thought.

    Stu is working on online materials, so he won’t have to be here physically. Although having a choice will be great.

  5. Excellent write up Claudio. I’m sorry I missed the seminar it sounds like everyone had a great time and learned a lot. I’m still in contact with Stuart So between his online materials and emails I’m hoping to learn more.

  6. Claudio Sennhauser

    October 8, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks, Talen. You were definitely missed! I hope you’re feeling much better by now.

  7. It was a real honour to have you participate Claudio… and sad that you couldn’t make it Talen. You were the first group to go through the new version of the course where I use my Indic compass and subset chart of the Thai consonants (and everything else on the back) as anchors to everything else over the two days.

    I was blown away by Pete too… the guy that had just arrived here in Thailand. I could see the point where you knew he just ‘got it’. I’m up country at the moment and it’s just by fate that he will be coming to this same province. I’m keen to catch up with him and see how the retention / comprehension still is and hopefully keep him ‘buzzing’ so that the momentum doesnt drop. He’s a great test-case that I can use to help tweak the course even more in the future.

  8. Great summary, Claudio, and thanks again, Stu for a great class and a great performance!

    I think another one of the keys to this course is Stu’s ability to reach across numerous cultures and languages to make them really relevant to the class.

    My family and friends all noted a change in my quality of speech from day 1. Stu, you really helped me to “let go” of my native-English speech patterns. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I never thought I could make so much progress in a couple of days. Amazing experience.

  9. That’s awesome Ron!

    I was sitting there listening to your rhythms and they were there sometimes and ‘almost’ there at others. It happens with me too. Sometimes the tone contours of English take over when we start to kick into ‘alpha’ mode where we stop thinking of what we’re saying and just speak. You now have the tools to be able to bring those back into the conscious mind temporarily, tweak your tones, throat, rhythms etc and send them back into the subconscious.

    I was seriously blown away by all of you.

    I’m about to send you all an email and a link to an evaluation form. Really looking forward to your feedback – both positive and negative. I’d also like to collect your testimonials like this that I can use to inspire others in the future.

    Thanks guys!

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