Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learner: Aaron Le Boutillier…
Name: Aaron Le Boutillier
Profession: Security Consultant
Website: Le Boutillier Group
Products: Women’s Self Defense, Hijack Management, Disruptive Passenger Management and Law Enforcement Training
What is your Thai level?
Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?
Professional Thai. I spend most of my time learning from Thai books at the Police Station so I need to spend more time on the street. Sometimes I feel like I can read about the Thai Criminal Code but struggle ordering some sticky rice and chicken! Too much reading and not enough speaking.
What were your reasons for learning Thai?
Absolute passion. I am never happier than when I have learnt a new word in the morning and then use it with ease in the afternoon. Magic!
Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?
I first arrived in Thailand in 1991 and this was the beginning of my fascination with Thai. I did not really take is seriously until I moved here again from Singapore 3 years ago. The past 3 years I have been immersing myself in study.
How long have you been a student of the Thai language?
From 1991 to 2007 I was interested and reached a level of basic proficiency but was only conversant in certain basic situations. When I moved back here in 2007-2008 I realized I needed to knuckle down if I was ever to move from this basic level I had found myself in for so many years.
Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?
Many pronged, but now there is direction. With advent of FB, Twitter etc learning has become so much easier in the way of resources at hand. I don’t think I learnt it the right way in the beginning, although I did learn how to read early on which I think is a huge bonus.
Did you stick to a regular study schedule?
Not so much a study schedule but I am disciplined enough to leave a dictionary in the bathroom, a Thai comic next to my bed, Thai twitter on my BB and surround myself with as many opportunities as possible to practice.
What Thai language learning methods did you try?
I spent some time at Jentanna and Associates in Soi 31 and that was great. They really helped, now I am going at it alone.
Did one method stand out over all others?
Helping as a translator at the Local Police Station was the wake up call. There you sink and die if your Thai is not up to speed and the added embarrassment of looking silly in front of a group of tourists and police is enough incentive to study harder.
How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?
Early early! And I am a great advocate of this method. Throw away the phonetics and go crazy with all those lovely consonants and vowel sounds.
Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?
No, I enjoy it and it makes sense to me. That does not mean by any stretch that I understand everything and you will still find me scratching my head whilst trying to read the Thai newspaper. I suppose I would change the word difficult with challenging.
What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?
There is an “ah hah!” moment? I look forward to it.
How do you learn languages?
By stress, word association coupled with mind-numbing pure memory.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Having a vocabulary of obscure words that make Thai people laugh as they tell me I speak like their Grandfather and my weakness would be colloquial off the cuff Thai.
What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?
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”.
Can you make your way around any other languages?
Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?
Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?
Do you have a passion for music and/or you play an instrument?
What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?
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 :)
Aaron Le Boutillier
Le Boutillier Group
The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…
If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.