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Thai Time: Relearn Thai Tense the Thai Way (Part 1)

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Relearn Thai Tense the Thai Way (Part 1)…

If I were to ask you: what is the future tense word in Thai? Most of you would probably respond instantaneously-“จะ /jà/, of course!” And if I ask you: how about the most common past tense word? There are a few but you’d probably invariably select แล้ว /láeo/ as your first choice. Then let me ask you: then what does the sentence “จะไปแล้ว” /jà bpai láeo/ mean? How do ‘future’ and ‘past’ tense occur in the same sentence?

The Thai language appears to warp spacetime, making the past and the future collide, resulting in a big black hole in your brain. No wonder you never understand it.

In the vast majority of Indo-European languages such as English, French or German, everything that you do has a temporal reference: you did something; you have done something; you will do something, etc. You can even refer to an alternative past that didn’t exist (I would have gone to Chiang Mai if I hadn’t had to work on Sunday). This concept of tense is so fundamental to Indo-European languages that it’s ingrained into the speakers’ perceived reality and is something many of you probably think you cannot do without. “How can I ever say anything at all if I can’t say when I do it?”

However, Thai is a tenseless language and it doesn’t really deal with time in the same way that languages with grammaticalised tenses do.

At this point you may ask: “So what about all these translations such as ‘will’ for จะ /jà/, or ‘to have (done) already’ for แล้ว /láeo/? Is my teacher/school/book wrong?” No, they’re not wrong. That’s just one way to ease your learning difficulty by analogising Thai into concepts that you’re already familiar with in your native tongue. But if you do not want to end up with something called ‘interlanguage’ and speak broken Thai for eternity, you may want to approach Thai time in a Thai way.

That is why in this post I’m offering you an alternative approach to some of the most common time markers in Thai. My approach may seem a bit different but I’m sure it will all come together.

แล้ว /láeo/ VS ยัง /yang/ – fulfilled VS unfulfilled…

I decided to pair these two up instead of แล้ว /láeo/ VS จะ /jà/ because their functions really complement each other beyond just a past-future pairing. You’ll see why.

แล้ว /láeo/ is a fulfilled particle. It is dubbed so because it shows that the action is already done, or at least it has been set in motion, hence the conditions are fulfilled. It is often translated as ‘already’ or ‘now’:

เค้า ไป เกาหลี หนึ่ง อาทิตย์ แล้ว
káo bpai gaolǐi nùeng aatít láeo
She already went to Korea a week ago.


Her ‘going to Korea’ has already happened and now she’s in Korea.

จะ ถึง แล้ว
jà tǔeng láeo
I’m nearly there.


I’m arriving now – the ‘arriving’ part is set in motion and is bound to happen any time soon.

หนู จะ สอบ พรุ่งนี้ แล้ว
nǔu jà sòrp prûngníi láeo
I’ve got an exam tomorrow.


She hasn’t taken her exam yet but the exam has been scheduled (or as in my word- ‘set in motion’), and แล้ว /láeo/ in this case is used to express the imminence of that event.

On the other hand, ยัง /yang/ is the absolute opposite of แล้ว /láeo/: it is an unfulfilled particle. It shows that the action is still ongoing, or it has not even started yet. The action feels somewhat pending and incomplete. It is often translated as “still” or “yet”:

ยังไม่รู้เวลานัดเลย
yang mâi rúu weelaa nát loei
I don’t know the appointment time yet.


At the moment of speaking he doesn’t know what time the appointment will be. The ‘knowing’ part is therefore unfulfilled.

เล็กเค้ายังอายุแค่ 15 เอง
Lek káo yang aayú kâe sìphâa eeng
Lek is still only 15.


The implication of this phrase is that Lek’s still not old enough for whatever purpose that requires him to be older.

On a different note, when you use the ‘Have you…?’ question (แล้ว)รึยัง? /(láeo) rúe yang?/, you now know that you literally say: แล้ว + หรือ + ยัง /láeo/ + /rǔe/ + /yang/: ‘fulfilled or unfulfilled’!

ได้ /dâi…/ – achievement particle…

Although they’re written the same, this ได้ /dâi…/ does NOT have the same function as /…dâi/ ‘can, able to’. /dâi…/ is dubbed an achievement particle and is always put in front of the verb. The deeper meaning is something like “I got (the chance) to …” or “I succeeded in (doing something)”. It’s often used to describe past events (but not always).

ไม่ได้กินข้าวเมื่อเช้า
mâi dâi gin kâao mûeacháao
I didn’t eat this morning.


This means the speaker didn’t get the chance to have anything for breakfast. If you drop ได้ /dâi…/ from this sentence: ไม่กินข้าวเมื่อเช้า /mâi gin kâao mûeacháao/, it means that the speaker made a conscious decision not to have breakfast, not because he didn’t have the chance to do so.


เดือนหน้าจะได้ไปฝรั่งเศส
duean nâa jà dâi bpai fáràngsèet
I get to go to France next month.


This demonstrates how ได้ /dâi…/ doesn’t necessarily talk about the past, because in this case the event will take place in the future! The speaker of this sentence feels that his ‘going to France’ is an achievement and he’s looking forward to it.

มา / …maa/ – perfect particle…

Now this particle is probably the only Thai time marker that actually has a tense in a traditional sense. มา /…maa/ describes events that started in the past and lead up to the present moment, or as it is popularly known, the “present perfect tense”:

กินข้าวมารึยัง?
gin kâao maa rúe yang?
Have you eaten?


In many situations, กินข้าวรึยัง? /gin kâao rúe yang?/ would perhaps suffice. However, since กินข้าวรึยัง? /gin kâao rúe yang?/ has no temporal reference, it can also mean something like “Are you ready to eat?” or “Do you want to eat now?”. มา / …maa/ is there to eliminate this ambiguity.

Essentially, this word is the same มา /maa/ as in ‘to come’, but when it’s used as a time marker it follows the main verb:

รอมา 5 ชั่วโมงแล้ว
ror maa hâa chûamoong láeo
I have been waiting for 5 hours now.


/ror maa/ roughly translates as ‘have been waiting’. Although this guy has been in constant anticipation for 5 hours, he may have been doing other things while waiting. Whereas,

มารอ 5 ชั่วโมงแล้ว
maa ror hâa chûamoong láeo
I came here to wait 5 hours ago.


/maa/ in this case is NOT a time marker and literally means “to come”, so /maa ror/ in this case just means “come to wait”. Whoever this poor soul is, he hasn’t left the spot for 5 hours now. Frightening thought…

The deep sense of this time-marking มา /…maa/ is explored thoroughly in Stuart Jay Raj’s Thinking in Meanings – Cracking Thai Fundamentals Part 2 in which he explains that the famous Thai greeting ไปไหนมา? /bpai nǎi maa?/ doesn’t literally mean ‘to come’ but rather in a metaphorical sense: “Where have you been to arrive at this point (in time)?”

จะ /jà/ – intention particle…

/jà/ is widely understood as ‘will’ or ‘the future tense word’, and it often refers to the future. But more fundamentally, /jà/ is an intention particle, expressing the intention of a person to do something e.g. เค้าจะสอน /káo jà sǒrn/ can be translated as “She will teach”, “She’s going to teach” or “She intends to teach”.

จะนอนตอนสี่ทุ่ม
jà norn dtorn sìi tûm
I will go to bed at 10 p.m., I intend to go to bed at 10 p.m.


Self-explanatory.

พอจะออกจากบ้านฝนก็ตก
por jà òrk jàak bâan, fǒn gôr dtòk
As I was leaving home, it started to rain.


In this case, จะ /jà/ does not refer to the future. It shows that the speaker intended to leave home, but it started to rain before she could do so. So it’s really not valid to keep calling จะ /jà/ a future tense marker. It’s not.

ฉันจะไม่เจอเค้าอีกเลย
chán jà mâi jer káo ìik loei
I never want to see him again.


In this sentence, the speaker has made a conscious decision not to see him again. It is by choice. If you remove จะ /jà/ from this sentence, it takes on a whole new meaning: ฉันไม่เจอเค้าอีกเลย /chán mâi jer káo ìik loei/ means that the speaker has not seen him for some time (perhaps even though she wanted to).

One interesting fact about จะ /jà/: it also appears in a lot of words such as อาจ(จะ) /àat (jà)/ ‘perhaps’, คง(จะ) /kong (jà)/ ‘possibly’, น่า(จะ) /nâa (jà)/ ‘likely, should’, เกือบ(จะ) /gùeap (jà)/ ‘almost’, ควร(จะ) /kuan (jà)/ ‘should, ought to’, etc. Unpredictability, conditionality and subjectivity seem to be the theme for the word จะ /jà/ here. Note that จะ /jà/ in all these cases can almost always be dropped.

กำลัง /gamlang/ VS อยู่ /yùu/ – ongoing action VS ongoing state…

กำลัง…อยู่ /gamlang…yùu/ pattern is more or less an equivalent of ‘to be …ing’ in English. One difference from the English counterpart is that this pattern strictly refers only to an ongoing present and not to a future plan such as “I’m going to New York next week”. You can use both of these words together for any ‘to be…ing’ structure most of the time, but the two words have slightly different functions. I’ll start with กำลัง /gamlang/:

กำลัง /gamlang/ literally means ‘power, labour, energy’. When it is used as a time marker, it focuses on the ongoing ACTION (the action is being carried out at the time of the event):

ผมกำลังกินข้าว
pǒm gamlang gin kâao
I’m eating; currently what I’m doing is eating.


This sentence illustrates the movement of the speaker having his meal. The focus is on the action.

อากาศกำลังดี
aagàat gamlang dii
The weather is just about right.


I believe this needs an explanation. While it is true that in this sentence there cannot be any literal ‘action’ going on because nobody controls weather, ‘กำลัง /gamlang/’ in this case shows that the weather itself is keeping its balance; it’s not too cold or too hot, as if some effort is being made to make it so. Therefore the event seems “active”.

อยู่ /yùu/ on the other hand literally means ‘state of being, to be in a state of…’ (The word อยู่ /yùu/ itself means to live or to be alive as well.) When it is used as a time marker, it focuses on the ongoing STATE (that the current state exists at the time of the event):

ผมกินข้าวอยู่
pǒm gin kâao yùu
I’m eating; the current state that I’m in is eating.


This sentence illustrates the ongoing state of the speaker having his meal. Although the meaning is almost identical to the similar sentence we’ve seen previously, the focus of this sentence is actually on the state. Imagine you’re enjoying a meal and someone calls you on the phone, interrupting your blissful ‘state of eating’. This sentence would better suit the situation than ผมกำลังกินข้าว /pǒm gamlang gin kâao/, although both sentences would be grammatically accurate. The difference is insignificant.

ผมกำลังกินข้าวอยู่
pǒm gamlang gin kâao yùu
I’m eating; currently what I’m doing is eating and the current state that I’m in is eating.


The translation of the sentence above is probably somewhat repetitive to you, but it is a good description of how กำลัง /gamlang/ and อยู่ /yùu/ work together. If you use them both, it simply shows that both the action and the state of that action’s result are ongoing. They more or less have the same referent: eating.

แม่มีเงินอยู่ 10 บาท
mâe mii ngern yùu sìp bàat
Mum has 10 Baht.


This sentence is interesting. Verbs like ‘to have’, ‘to be’ or ‘to know’ are called static verbs–verbs that describe a state (rather than an action like ‘to go’ or ‘to eat’). Possessing something is not an action–you don’t ACT out your possession over it. In this sentence, the mother has 10 Baht. It is a state of having money, not an action.

Therefore, you cannot use กำลัง /gamlang/ instead of อยู่ /yùu/ in this case:

*แม่กำลังมีเงิน 10 บาท
*mâe gamlang mii ngern sìp bàat
Mum has 10 Baht; currently what she’s doing is having 10 Baht.


As you can see from this erroneous example above, although the difference between กำลัง /gamlang/ and อยู่ /yùu/ is minute and they can coexist most of the time, in some cases the interchangeability ceases and you’re forced to choose only one.

But most of the time you can use them both or either one. No need to overthink this.

These are some of the most common time markers in Thai. By this time you have probably realised that the irony of this post is that almost all of these ‘time markers” can’t decisively mark, ‘past’, ‘present’, or ‘future’ tense! The way they express time is entirely relative to the actual event and context, among other things.

The objective of this part 1 is to guide you through the conceptual thinking of the words’ function rather than finding a non-existent equivalence for each of them in your language.

In my next post, Thai Time: Relearn Thai Tense the Thai Way (Part 2), we will create a whole new dimension of time expression by combining these words! Sounds fun? You’re such a geek!

Download Tense Audio: 987kb zip

Until next time!

(Bingo) Arthit Juyaso
Principal of Duke Language School
My book on reading Thai fast: Read Thai in 10 Days

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Interview: Ben Bradshaw is Getting by in Thai

Interview: Ben Bradshaw

Ben Bradshaw is getting by in Thai…

Name: Ben Bradshaw
Nationality: American
Age range: 25-30
Sex: Male
Location: Bangkok
Profession: Entrepreneur
Web: CikguBen.com

What is your Thai level?

Intermediate.

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

About 80%. I can follow most conversations and fill in the final 20% with just guesses based on context and experience.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, professional Thai, or a mix?

I speak mainly street Thai mixed with some professional Thai that is used in English instruction.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

I have a brother that is an amazing Thai speaker. I see Thailand as a land of opportunity for foreigners willing to learn about the culture and master the language.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

May 2014.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

About 30 minutes per day reading a Thai grammar and language book. Then I speak and use Thai and learn new phrases at least 5-6 other times throughout every day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

No. I just pick up my Thai book when I have the time.

What Thai language learning methods are you using?

I rely on English speaking friends to explain phrases and concepts, a pocket dictionary, google translate, and a Thai grammar book.

Does one method stand out over all others?

Yes. The most effective method for me is to speak and make mistakes. Then I will be corrected and I will then be able to remember how to say it correctly the next time. Half the battle is just remembering the new words and phrases when you want to say them.

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes. I can read at a very basic level but I can recognize all letters but when reading a block of Thai text then I struggle.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I think it’s difficult how there are no spaces between words. Also, so many of the characters look so similar to the others that I often confuse one for the other. I think through time and more practice this will be less and less true.

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

I started speaking the first day I was taught. I was never scared to try to speak Thai.

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

I could be understood within about the first week. I have experience in other Asian languages so putting together basic thoughts and phrases for simple communication came easy to me when I had established a basic vocab and a sense for the tones.

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I am always scared that if I say something incorrectly, with either the wrong vowel or wrong tone that it is going to have some reference to male or female parts. It’s like this always in language learning so I’ve learned to just laugh at the times when I might get close to saying something incorrectly and hopefully the person listening knows that I am a student in the language.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That speaking is hard. I think, in fact, that Thai is quite simple to speak. I think the script makes people feel like the language is going to be so difficult but when you really get down to it, thoughts are simple, grammar is basic, and the tones are doable.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

When I realized that the tones are relative to each other. Just because you have a lower voice doesn’t mean you need to go to great lengths to make your voice sound higher or more “Thai”. You simply need to change your tone in relation to your other tones. It was difficult at first to so many consecutive words with different or similar tones but once I realized it as just in direct relation to your previously said tone, then it started to become much easier.

How do you learn languages?

I learn a few phrases, build a vocab, start speaking to people, carry a pocket dictionary, carry a small notebook, and always ask questions like “how do you say ‘to go’ in Thai?” It really helps to have a person explain things in your native language at the beginning.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strength is being willing to talk to anyone. My weakness is not wanting to talk to people sometimes out of sheer laziness.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Yes. I am fluent in Malay and Indonesian. I can “get by” in Mandarin.

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Yes. Thai being a tonal language, often times start to come first to my mind when I am speaking Chinese. I’ll try to think of the Chinese word but the Thai word will come first. My Thai has actually overtaken my Chinese skills now.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

At least 4 different foreign languages. 1. Malay. 2. Indonesian. 3. Thai. 4. Mandarin Chinese.

Are you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No. Although I am always trying to improve my Malay and Chinese, I am not actively studying these languages at the same time as learning Thai.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

Yes. I am currently living in Bangkok.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

Yes. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and have experience programming in a few different languages like C, MatLab, JavaScript, and Arduino.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument?

Yes. I love listening to music and almost always want it to be playing in the background of whatever I am doing. I grew up learning to play the violin and was quite advanced as just an elementary school student. I moved then into the trumpet and later into piano. Nowadays I don’t actively play any instrument but sometimes do get a feeling like I should get back into playing and making music.

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

Get out there and speak. Be confused. Be frustrated. Make mistakes. Write things down. Don’t worry if you forget something you learned 3 minutes ago. Look it up again. Use what you’ve learned and it will finally be cemented into your mind. Oh and of course, try to mimic Thai people, not your Thai-speaking, native English speaking friends.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

I plan to continue on the same course that I am on now, that is, read a little of my grammar book, ask questions to my friends, and then try to practice and speak with Thai people as I go about my daily life.

Ben Bradshaw,
CikguBen.com

Getting by in Thai…

If you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember: the whole idea for this series is interview those who are either new to studying Thai or renewing their interest in learning Thai. It’s all good!

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Thai Language Thai Culture: Learning Thai Medical Terms: Breaking Down and Building Up

Thai Language

Learning Thai medical terms: Breaking down and building up…

As a follow up to our previous post here on WLT, a reader has asked us to translate a list of medical terms that are important to her. But instead of simply giving a one-to-one English/Thai translation I thought it would be better to show how we can go about breaking down the English term and seeing if we can build a Thai term that can be used to discuss these medical conditions.

Many Thai technical terms and vocabulary that describe complicated ideas are made up of a compound of simpler Thai words. The list we have here contains terms in English but they are basically concepts. We start with breaking down the concept first, then finding the Thai word for each constituent part, and then reconstructing the concept in Thai. This technique can be used with most complex concepts to understand, read, and finally produce Thai compound words.

Note that the terms we come up with will be polite, and/or technical terms that would be appropriate to discuss with a doctor or professional but would be understood by any Thai speaker.

List of medical terms: Abdominal pain, stomach ache, gastritis
 bleeding from the digestive tract,
 cancers of the stomach or esophagus
, chronic heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion
, diagnosis and removal of stomach polyps, 
dilatation of esophageal strictures, 
trouble swallowing, 
ulcers of the esophagus, stomach duodenum, unexplained chest pain.

Note: Many of these conditions in Thai can be prefixed with โรค /rôhk/ = disease, or อาการ /aa-​gaan/ = symptom. We’ll drop most of these for brevity.

Abdominal pain (stomach ache, gastritis)…

Breakdown:
Ache, Pain: ปวด /bpùat/

The following words can be used to refer to the stomach and abdomen:

กระเพาะ /grà-pór/ (stomach, abdomen)
กระเพาะอาหาร /grà-pór aa-hăan/ (กระเพาะ = stomach, abdomen; อาหาร = food)
ท้อง /tóng/ (stomach, abdomen)
พุง /pung/ (this is more like “belly”; พุงใหญ่ = big belly, beer belly)
ช่องท้อง /chông-​tóng/ (usually referring to the abdomen); ช่อง = cavity

Answers:

Abdominal pain: ปวดช่องท้อง, ปวดกระเพาะ

Stomach ache: ปวดท้อง

Gastritis: โรคกระเพาะ

Bleeding of the digestive tract…

Breakdown:
To digest: ย่อยอาหาร /yôi aa-hăan/ (ย่อย = digest, อาหาร = food)
Tube: ท่อ /tôr/; หลอด /lòt/
Track, walkway: ทางเดิน /taang-​dern/
Esophagus (digestive tract, pathway of the food): ท่อทางเดินอาหาร /tôr taang dern aa-hăan/; หลอดอาหาร /lòt aa-hăan/
To bleed: เลือดไหล /lêuat-lăi/; เลือดออก /lêuat-​òk/ (เลือด = blood, ไหล = to flow, ออก = come out)

Answers:

Bleeding in the esophagus.
เลือดไหล (เลือดออก) ใน ท่อทางเดินอาหาร
เลือดไหล (เลือดออก) ใน หลอดอาหาร


Bleeding in the digestive tract (includes the stomach).
เลือดไหล (เลือดออก) ใน ท่อทางเดินย่อยอาหาร


Cancer of the stomach or esophagus…

Breakdown:
Cancer: มะเร็ง /má-reng/; โรคมะเร็ง /rôhk má-reng/

Answers:

Cancer of the stomach.
โรคมะเร็งกระเพาะอาหาร


Cancer of the esophagus
โรคมะเร็งหลอดอาหาร


Chronic heartburn…

Breakdown:
Burning sensation: แสบร้อน /sàep rón/ (แสบ = to sting, burn; ร้อน = hot)
Breast: ทรวง /suang/
Chest: อก /òk/
Chronic illness: โรคเรื้อรัง /rôhk réua-rang/

Answers:

Heart burn
แสบร้อนในทรวงอก
จุกเสียดท้อง


Chronic heartburn
โรคเรื้อรัง แสบร้อนในทรวงอก
โรคเรื้อรัง จุกเสียดท้อง


Acid reflux…

Breakdown:
Acid: กรด /gròt/
Flow: ไหล /lăi/
To return: ย้อน /yón/
Reflux (meaning to flow back or return): ไหลย้อน /lăi yón/

Answers:

Acid reflux
กรดไหลย้อน


Indigestion…

Inability to digest food: อาหารไม่ย่อย /aa hăan mâi yôi/

Diagnosis and removal of stomach polyps:

Breakdown:

To diagnose: วินิจฉัย ​/wí-nít-chăi/
To remove: ลบ ออก /lóp-​òk/
Polyp: โพลิป /poh-​líp/ (English loan word); ติ่ง /dtìng/

Answers:

Diagnosis stomach polyps
วินิจฉัยติ่งกระเพาะอาหาร


Remove stomach polyps
ลบติ่งกระเพาะอาหารออก


Dilatation of esophageal strictures…

Breakdown:
To dilate (enlarge): ขยาย /kà-yăai/; ทำให้ กว้างขึ้น /tam-​hâi ​yài-​kêun/
Strictures (a narrowing or constriction): แคบ /kâep/

Answers:

Dilatation of esophageal strictures
ขยายหลอดอาหารแคบ
ทำให้ หลอดอาหารแคบ กว้างขึ้น


Trouble swallowing…

Breakdown:
Trouble: ปัญหา /bpan-hăa/
To swallow: กลืน /gleun/


Answers:

Trouble swallowing
ปัญหาการกลืน


Ulcers of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum…


Breakdown:
Ulcer: แผลเปื่อย /plăe-bpèuay/ (แผล = wound; เปื่อย – decayed)
Bowel, intestine: ลำไส้ /lam-​sâi/
Small: เล็ก /lék/
Part: ส่วน /sùan/
Beginning (part): ต้น /dtôn/
Duodenum: ลำไส้เล็กส่วนต้น /lam sâi lék sùan dtôn/ (literally: beginning of the small intestines)

Answers:

Ulcers of the esophagus
แผลเปื่อยที่หลอดอาหาร


Ulcers of the stomach
แผลเปื่อยที่กระเพาะ


Ulcers of the duodenum
แผลเปื่อยที่ลำไส้เล็กส่วนต้น


Unexplained chest pain…

Breakdown:
Pain: เจ็บ /jèp/; (ปวด /bpùat/ is more like an ache)
Chest: หน้าอก /nâa-​òk/ (Aside: อกหัก /òk-​hàk/ literally means broken chest but it is the translation of the English “heartbroken” or “broken heart”)
Unknown: ไม่รู้ /mâi-​róo/
Cause: สาเหตุ /săa-hàyt/

Answer:

Unexplained chest pain
เจ็บหน้าอกที่ไม่รู้สาเหตุ


The secret to learning Thai complex vocabulary…

Whether technical or not, Thai complex vocabulary very often tells the story of exactly what it is. If you know the individual words that make up the story you are pretty much on your way to knowing the meaning of a complex word that you have never seen before. This is not so easy in English.

Example: The English sentence “She had plastic surgery” tells us that a woman had an operation but unless we had heard the term before we really don’t know what kind. The Thai term is ศัลยกรรมตกแต่ง. It’s a big word, made of ศัลยกรรม = “surgery” and ตกแต่ง = “to beautify” or “to embellish”.

So the English word is “surgery using plastic”; not very descriptive and in fact misleading. The Thai word is “surgery to beautify or embellish”. If you know the constituent Thai words then you will know the meaning of the complex word without ever having seen it before.

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

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Data Survey Part Two: Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell

Say it Like a Thai Would

Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell…

This is part two discussing the survey data I compiled about Thai Studentz-From-Hell. If you haven’t read the first post, go to Data Survey Part One: Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell.

Below, where I talk about the data I’ve mined, I’m going to use some specific terms. I’ll use Westerners for people from the west and Asians for people from the east, okay? If I use the word students or foreigners, I’m talking about everyone learning Thai. Also, in an effort to be a kinder-gentler (not so blatantly racist) Tod Daniels, I’m not gonna use the term white people like I usually do. Honestly, I don’t like the hate mail it garners!

Btw: I’ve included a What can you do? section at the end of each category. That’s where I offer wisdom and information to hopefully help you overcome possible limitations in your learning Thai experience.

But before I get to the survey compilation, I just want to say this one thing.

The teaching Thai language to Westerners system is broken…

I know this will ruffle a lot of feathers, but the system (method, text books, etc.) used in the teach Thai to non-native speakers (and Westerners especially) is badly broken. It has stagnated for years with schools popping up all over the city using nothing more than copied textbooks from the original Union Thai Language School. Sometimes the only difference is the cover of the book!

I’m not saying the Union Method doesn’t work. Time and time again I’ve pointed out that their methodology turns out more proficient foreign speakers of Thai than any other method out there, period, end of story. Even the illustrious uni known as Chula teaches Thai that way. Sadly (for us learners of Thai) there’s been no total overhaul of the materials for years. The vocabulary is antiquated, the lessons don’t build on each other, and the advanced materials come from the Stone Age.

In saying that … I will speak up in the defence of several schools: Rak Thai Language and Duke Language especially. They took the tired material and re-worked it, putting it head and shoulders above the old stuff. But, it’s only a matter of time before contemporary Thai study material appears on the market. The new method will use the technology of today, in a way that revolutionises how Thai is taught. It’s coming soon. I know that for a fact. I’ve personally seen some of the material in the development stage.

What can you do? Unfortunately what’s out there is what’s out there and that’s that. So you’re either gonna use what’s available or you’re gonna come up with your own way to learn Thai. And that’s what some of the advice in this post is all about: Using what’s available in this day and time.

Finally, here we go!

Age and sex of students…

One of the most interesting things found in the data was that neither age nor sex seemed to play any role in a student’s ability to learn Thai. There was a good make-up of males and females and a broad age range of people from their early 20’s to their late 60’s (even older) of both Westerners and Asians. From what the teachers told me, age doesn’t affect anyone’s ability to learn the language at all. That at every school included in this data review, old people seemed to learn as easily as the younger students.

My personal experience: The b/s excuses you read on every forum concerning learning Thai where Westerners parrot out “I’m too old”, “I’m not good at languages”, “I can’t hear the tones”, blah-blah-blah were just plain and simple not represented in the feedback from teachers at ANY school.

What can you do? Stop using your advanced age and (supposed) inability to learn languages as excuses and start learning Thai already! And of course, if you are deaf, there’s obviously going to be a problem. But for the rest of you, get off your butts and ramp up your listening time!

Hemispherical origin (a polite way of saying ethnicity!)…

What started to come to light was, hands down, Asians (Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc) learned the Thai language far better than Westerners. ANY Westerners!

On further reflection of this conundrum, in the data I did come to a conclusion of sorts. Asians as a rule are less question driven in their education systems and lean more towards rote learning. Also, Asians accept any teaching methodology without question. But, due to our question driven education system, Westerners sometimes try to buck the methods (especially rote) that are often used here to teach Thai.

What can you do? Face it. If you aren’t Asian, you’re unlikely to be able to change your learning mindset overnight. So when you do go to take in the material presented, be as open-minded as you can. Try and adopt a less question driven strategy and go for rote. Go with the flow. If just for now.

Speaking multiple languages…

Another interesting point made was that the more languages a Westerner knows that use a Latin based alphabet, the harder it is for them to get Thai to click. Now, I know some of you will come out in force against this, but again, that’s what I got from talking to the teachers. I don’t know why the data shows this but it clearly did.

I do think it’s possible that studying a multitude of Latin languages gets in the way with learning Thai somehow. It’s not so bad in the early speak via karaoke part of learning Thai (like is taught in 99.99% of the schools) because they use transliteration (karaoke), which is mostly legible to English speakers. It only becomes an impediment when a Westerner makes the leap from learning to speak Thai via karaoke, to actually reading the Thai script. The teachers mentioned that at this point Westerners come off the rails, learning far slower than their Asian counterparts.

From my study, the best Western learners are those who only speak their mother tongue, or at most another language closely related to English. The best Asian learners mostly know their mother tongue, although they oftentimes possess fairly proficient English language skills too. Compared to Westerners knowing more than one Western language, Asians who knew other Asian languages didn’t have a problem.

What can you do? Perhaps you speak more than one language that uses the Latin alphabet, and good on you if you do. BUT, do note that learning the Thai script will take a slightly different mindset than what is needed for French, Spanish, Polish, etc. So when you do enter a classroom to learn Thai, be prepared ahead of time for differences. Don’t fight it.

Impediments to learning…

The anecdotal data I gleaned in the meetings with teachers hands down showed that there were two big impediments to Westerners learning Thai. One is that Westerners often over-sold or completely overestimated their ability in Thai. Meaning, they went into the school saying, “I’m not a beginner!” “I can read Thai already!” “I want Thai script only textbooks!” Yet when the teachers tested these students, turns out the students couldn’t speak or read Thai to the level needed to keep up in their chosen class. Asians, on the other hand, had no trouble admitting they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Also, some Westerners were adamant that they weren’t beginner level students, to the point they became confrontational, even when they could see from the informal interview they were basic Thai speakers (and that, only when under spoon-fed conditions).

The Thai teachers said that even when they tried to sell beginner courses as a refresher/review, few Westerners would go for it. Conversely, Asian beginners of Thai bought right into the premise that you start learning things at the beginning, not partway thru. When Westerners forced schools to let them into the intermediate classes, they were left in the dust because they just didn’t have the foundation they should have. Rather than suck it up and admit the truth, more than a few Western students turned the blame away from themselves by putting down the methodology, the school, the teacher, and even other students.

What can you do? Obviously, don’t overestimate your ability in Thai, period. If you can’t keep up, face the truth. Instead of pretending, start on book one page one and don’t progress into the next level until you really get it. Because believe you me, you ain’t fooling anyone!

The second really big impediment was that Westerners, to a person, thought they knew how Thai should be taught to Westerners. It is true that as adults we are fairly locked into the way we acquire new information. Some people are visual learners, some are tactile learners, some are aural learners, and some use all those avenues to learn new stuff. And equally important, rote learning goes against the Western grain.

What can you do? Sometimes the rules just plain don’t apply and this is one of those times. Attempt to be open to how the information is being presented, even if you think it’s not the right way. Give it a chance, a real chance.

I’m NOT saying to sign up at the first Thai language school you wander into. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the teaching Thai as a second language system is broken, or at least in a terrible state of disrepair and neglect. What I am saying is be open to the methodology used at a particular school and see if it jibes enough with the way you learn things. Do your due diligence, but don’t discount a school’s methodology right outta the gate. Well, you can discount one school’s methodology as total b/s, but at least give the rest of the schools out there a decent chance. Because seriously, until the changes come, that’s all there is.

Education level…

In regards to Westerners and their ability to get Thai to click, education levels seem to play a VERY important role. The reverse doesn’t appear to be true for Asians because no matter what education Asians have acquired, they learn Thai just fine. The data shows that where Westerners are concerned it’s almost an inverse proportion. The more education a person from the West has had, the less they take to Thai as it’s taught in schools. Westerners with a high school education or a bachelor’s degree learn Thai far easier than those with a Master’s or PhD. It also appears that foreigners with a ‘teaching anything’ background have more difficulties with learning Thai via the methodology available in today’s marketplace, than Westerners with degrees in non-teaching fields.

My personal experience: On the topic of education and Westerners learning Thai I have to agree with the teacher’s perceptions. I’ve ran into more than my fair share of Westerners with a high level of edu-ma-cation. In talking to some (not all of course) it’s clear they think they know best on how Thai should be taught to Westerners. And rather than taking personal responsibility for their failures, that it’s possible to be their own worst enemy, they instead blame the school, the teacher, the methodology, other students, or any distraction they can think up on why they can’t learn Thai. They even meet with the teacher or manager of the school between classes to offer suggestions on how teachers can improve how they teach. They also whine and cry about this or that on breaks with other students. Now, it’s fine for students to commiserate with one another on the difficulty of learning Thai, because for one, it can build classroom cohesiveness. It’s just that this particular demographic of student has often tried many schools, all the while not learning Thai. These kinda people are the bouncers I mentioned in Part One of Studentz-From-Hell.

What can you do? As with the discussion about Impediments to Learning listed above, even if you think it’s not the right way to learn, be open to how the information is being presented. Give it a chance. Remember, if you aim to learn Thai in a classroom setting, what other choice do you have?

Group versus private…

I looked at the subject of private versus group lessons using the same methodology, but there just wasn’t a big enough sampling of annoying students in the private section. This is because at most schools, in private classes students can tailor the lessons to the way they learn. While in groups, students are dragged along with the rest of the class and are more likely to kick up a fuss.

What can you do? If you do find yourself failing in a classroom setting, then do give everyone a rest (yourself included) by signing up for one-on-one lessons. The solution can’t get simpler than that.

Thai teachers…

Another complaint from the Thai teachers (ALL of them) was that some foreigners think that the reason they weren’t learning Thai is the teacher’s fault. There certainly are marginal and even extremely poor Thai teachers out there. But clearly, not every single foreigner who fails to learn Thai can point their finger at their teacher’s lack of skills.

What can you do? If you gave it the old college try with a teacher and it just plain ain’t working, switch teachers or schools even! You’ll certainly find out right away if your problem was the teacher, or you. Either way, a change of scenery is better than sitting thru an entire module seething.

Class size…

One thing I tried to pin the teachers down on was class size versus efficacy in their methodology. This was a touchy subject, especially when talking to the owners of the schools. Most schools employ teachers on a fixed monthly salary so whether they’re teaching a handful of foreigners or a group of 15, the hard cost to the school is the same. It was no surprise to me that the owners thought there was nothing wrong with cramming in as many students as there were chairs in every classroom. Because face it, the more students per class, the more their profit margin.

The teachers, on the other hand, totally disagreed with this premise. It had nothing to do with what the teachers are being paid and everything to do with the pride they take having students become proficient in the language. They all said that the best size for a group of students (Westerners and Asians) was between six to eight people at most. Group lessons are conversation or dialog based and they incorporate practice with other students or with teachers, and large classes fall way short of the mark as far as having enough useful practice time for each student.

My personal experience: I have witnessed the detriment a large class size (more than 10 people) can be to students. There’s just not enough of the teacher to go around and they’re pulled six ways from Sunday. In those early levels of learning it is crucial that the teacher has adequate coverage to correct pronunciation and structural errors EVERY time! With too many students in a class they just can’t do it. The teachers also can’t effectively keep that many students on topic either, so it becomes more like herding cats than teaching Thai.

What can you do? If you enrol in a group class (especially an intensive one) and there’s more than seven or eight people in the class, bail out! DON’T waste your money and your time! March right up to the front desk and inform them you’ll wait until either a new class starts or the next term rolls around. Again, stand up for yourself in this regard because it’s way important early on.

In summary…

I’ve tried to present the information from the data and the feedback I got from the teachers as accurately as I could. However, as is my penchant to do, I did ride some of my hobby horses as far as what I think works acquiring the Thai language. I am nothing if not opinionated, and that my opinion differs from yours is fine by me. I had more fun going to the schools, interacting with the staff, getting this information than I’ve had here in Thailand in ages!

Remember, Tod Daniels is NOT affiliated with ANY Thai language school. I’m about learning Thai by whatever means works for you.

Good Luck,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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Data Survey Part One: Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell

Say it Like a Thai Would

Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell…

Awhile back I went to seven previously reviewed Thai schools. I asked the owners of the schools, the teachers, as well as the front desk staff, if they’d be interested in participating in an informal survey. I explained that I wanted to find out what they thought were the best and worst foreign learners of the Thai language.

Now, before you poo-poo this survey as just another hare-brained idea from Tod Daniels, or try and say my study sample is too limited, please let me explain. In just one of the schools, eight teachers contributing to the survey have taught Thai to non-native adult speakers a combined 128 years! That averages out to about 16 years experience apiece. And that was just at ONE of the schools I queried. The other schools are equally impressive, so if anyone is to be believed, it’s the Thais in the trenches.

Anyway, I set up meetings after school hours because there was no time to hash out this stuff during the short 10 minute breaks between classes. At the meetings I asked what they thought were the best learners of Thai versus what they thought were the worst learners of Thai. Surprisingly, every teacher was more than happy to offer their opinion. And often in a animated, humorous way, with anecdotes and stories of the Studentz-From-Hell. As you can imagine, a good time was had by all. Taking copious notes, I phrased questions in different ways to weed out spurious answers.

Some of the time I spoke in Thai, and some of the time in English. The mountain of information I gleaned was insightful (to me at least).

After I finished with the school owners and Thai teachers I then asked the front desk staff to start obliquely quizzing new students about what education level the students possessed, what other languages they spoke, and how old they were. Now, some of the schools were already doing this so it was just a matter of handing me a pile ‘o paperwork and letting me paw thru and take notes. But some of the schools never did this before, and now many do. So when you enrol in a Thai language school and they bug you for this stuff you can either thank or hate me for getting them to pry into your personal business.

After compiling the data I’d gleaned from the teachers I waited a couple months, then went back and met with the front desk staff to see what other information they’d accrued. I also revisited the teachers to see if they had more to add. We then reviewed my findings.

Thankfully, the fact that I was going to other Thai language schools as well didn’t come up even once. You see, I wanted as much cooperation as I could at each of these schools and I found out early on that the school’s owners didn’t like each other one little bit! Even though some are in the same building, have swapped out teachers on occasion, and the owners know each other, they can be awfully prissy when it comes to mentioning other schools.

Once I had the data I put it in a semblance of order. At first everything just seemed random, almost nonsensical. But after sorting it in different ways several issues appeared over and over. What threw me at first was that the information I gleaned from the various schools was presented in different manners. Once I realised this fact, I started making real progress.

Although I’m just gonna present what I found, you’ll be glad to know the results are based on the empirical data and the feedback I gleaned from the schools. Plus, I came up with a viable criteria to sort through it all.

Trust me. I didn’t make any of this up. And you can totally disagree with my findings, and that’s ok by me.

I gathered the below data on foreigners learning Thai, because plain and simple, I’m nosy about other students. Incredible as it may seem (what with my off-the-wall personality) I have a fairly good relationship with the Thai language schools scattered around Bangkok, that made compiling data not troublesome at all!

If you recognise yourself in this post, hopefully you’ll find my tipz-n-trickz a help in skewing the odds in your favour to learn Thai.

What are “STUDENTZ-FROM-HELL”?…

Studentz-from-hell: Plain and simple, students from hell are just that. Hell. They are students who refuse to accept they’re in class to learn. They are somehow unaware that they are in a roomful of other students, with what should be a competent teacher of Thai. These annoying students do whatever they can to make the class time drag out. Other students and the teacher end up miserable as well.

Classroom Commandeer-erz: These are students who monopolise and/or commandeer a class (much to the chagrin of the other students). For every one question asked by other students, they ask five inane and often unrelated questions. They constantly interrupt, interject, and unconsciously or not, become such a detriment to the other students that they are even ostracised during breaks! They make the teacher spend an inordinate amount of time on them and their issues rather than realising the other students deserve an equal share in the teacher’s time as well. This particular student would be better suited to private lessons, and in that way, they could bother a teacher to their heart’s content.

Non-participantz: The exact opposite of the Commandeer-erz, these students do not participate in class either with teachers or students. They often act miserable. I dunno, maybe they are miserable. What I do know is that a negative attitude, especially in something that has the potential of being difficult, is a losing proposition.

Why-erz: No, I’m not talking about mindless foreigners who wander around Thailand wai’ing every limbless beggar, 7/11 worker and Soi Dog! I’m talking about students who insist on asking “why” at every opportunity. In Breaking Down the Wall of Whyz (shameless plug) I pointed out that knowing the why behind the way things are in Thai doesn’t help you become more proficient in the language itself. It does give you tidbits of the background on the language, but unless you’re ever going to be on Jeopardy and the Thai language comes up, the knowledge doesn’t really help you progress.

Laterz & Skipperz: Laterz are people who waltz into class 10-15 minutes after it starts like it’s not a problem. They don’t know what lessons are being taught, and they disrupt the entire flow of the class when trying find the right page, etc. The Skipperz believe they can miss a couple days of class and still keep up. Now, I know once in a while we all have business to attend to and need miss a class or two. That doesn’t mean we can’t study what was covered so we can semi-participate in the next class. Both of these types of students are a detriment to other students who do manage to show up on time, and are doing their best to learn. Some schools have now implemented a policy of locking classroom doors 10 minutes after each class starts, forcing the Laterz to wait until the next hour to rejoin the class.

Teaching Expertz: Not surprisingly these are foreigners who think they are experts in how Thai should be taught in class. It’s true we all develop our own little tricks and tips which make Thai click for us. And there’s nothing wrong with sharing this information with the other students at an appropriate time, like on a break. However, if you were indeed an expert, you’d already speak Thai. Right?

Know-it-allz: This particular demographic of student just flummoxes me. They clearly have taken the level at least once, sometimes several times. They know the material inside, outside, upside down, in a box, with a fox, but they won’t advance themselves to the next level. I think they enjoy making us squirm in our seats as we stumble thru sentences mangling new words. Don’t confuse the Know-it-allz with people who take a level, but want to really make it stick so take it again. They know that each level builds on the previous and bluffing your way thru just ain’t gonna cut it.

Kibitz-erz: These are students who, no matter their nationality, clump together and whisper to each other in their own language during class. This is especially troublesome in lessons at schools which have ‘Thai ONLY’ rules. It is distracting to others trying to learn Thai.

Over Their Head-erz: As you might surmise these students bluffed or blustered their way into a level of Thai which is way beyond their current ability. They drag down a class pretty fast because they don’t have the foundation of material which was supposed to be learned in previous level(s). To accommodate, teachers try to draw a happy medium by teaching to neither the slowest nor the fastest learners, so this type can easily kill the flow of a class.

Technoz: These are students who are glued, and I mean glued, to their mobile devices. They check their dictionary apps for every permutation of a Thai word and get totally lost in their searches. It results in being unable to keep up with what’s going on in class. I’m all for using tech. And there’s certainly no shortage of really good Thai dictionary apps out there. I just suggest that people use their class time wisely by getting the most out of it at the time. There’s plenty of time during break and after class to look deeper into a subject.

Interrupterz: These are not people who interrupt in class with questions. These are students who just will NOT turn off or mute their mobile devices! They’re constantly getting and responding to SMS’s, Facebook updates, and conversing with people on Line. They drive me up a wall. They also take phone calls in the classroom, walking out to chat and then wandering back in again. Now, I know that some of you are in business here, and that’s great, but you have no business learning Thai in a group setting if you can’t go 50 whole minutes without communicating with the outside world. I was sitting a class just the other day and a student got a phone call. He answered it, talked IN the classroom for two or three minutes like it was nothing. That is just plain poor form and I think at the very least the teacher should have called him on it.

Rusherz & Blurerz: These are students who have an adequate command of the vocabulary being covered in a particular module or lesson plan but for some reason spit out what they want to say so fast, so incoherently, that even the teacher has no idea what they just said. I had this particular affliction when just starting to speak Thai. It was almost as if I needed to get out what I wanted to say as fast as I could. I didn’t care if it was right or wrong, I just felt the overpowering need to spit it out. It ended up coming out like a blur of jumbled up syllables. Tip: take a deep breath, slow down and try to enunciate what you’re saying. This will let the teacher hear enough of what you are trying to say to correct you (and that’s a good thing).

Mice or Whisper-erz: These are students you can barely hear. They seem to purposely lower the volume when they’re speaking Thai. It’s frustrating to the other students and to the teacher as well. I know we’re all hesitant about having other people hear us speak Thai, especially when we are at the “I speak sucky Thai” stage. But that’s part of the learning curve. There is no wrong when learning conversational Thai. It isn’t a test. Do the best you can to practice what you’re learning, and speak up so the teacher can correct you.

Bouncerz: These students bounce from one school to another, trying method after method, book after book, and program after program, yet still can’t get Thai to click. I’ve met a LOT of this kind of students and to a person they’re primarily westerners NOT Asians. It’s almost as if the westerners are trying to find the school or the method which works for them instead of realising they have to adapt their learning to the available methods. These students often possess an eclectic vocabulary in Thai, but fall short on good Thai sentence structure.

Are you a “STUDENT-FROM-HELL”?…

Realising disruptive in-class behaviour is valuable for those trying to make their way thru the minefield that is the Thai Language. So, what can you do if you have a particular personality trait that lumps you into one or more categories? Do take note of it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in solving it. The second step is actually doing something about it.

Anyone who’s studied Thai in a group setting has met at least one, perhaps more of the studentz-from-hell that I’ve outlined above. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below – I’d love to hear all about it!

Next I’ll cover the school data in-depth, breaking it down by category.

Good Luck,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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Adam and Ben Bradshaw: Farang Rian Thai ฝรั่งเรียนไทย

Farang Rian Thai ฝรั่งเรียนไทย

Adam and Ben Bradshaw: Farang Rian Thai…

Being a fan of Adam Bradshaw for years, I finally interviewed him in 2011. When it comes to speaking Thai, Adam is one of the best out of the many talented expats I’ve come across.

Since breaking into the business, Adam has been involved in many projects involving the English and Thai languages. His most recent (and my favs) are The Breakdown and Talking Thailand. Both are quality shows (and I believe Adam’s drive for perfectionism has something to do with it).

When Adam’s brother Ben (also talented in languages) showed up in Thailand last year they teamed up to produce Farang Rian Thai (ฝรั่งเรียนไทย). During each show Ben shares his progress with learning Thai. That’s awfully brave of him!

At the moment there’s only three episodes but there’s sure to be more soon.

Farang Rian Thai (ฝรั่งเรียนไทย): Episode 1…

Farang Rian Thai (ฝรั่งเรียนไทย): Episode 2…

Farang Rian Thai (ฝรั่งเรียนไทย): Episode 3…

Where to find Adam and Ben Bradshaw…

ajarnadam.tv: Farang Rian Thai
Facebook: AjarnAdamBradshaw
Facebook: Ben Bradshaw
Facebook: AdamBreakdown
YouTube: jadambrad
Twitter: @AjarnAdam

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Kru CAN: Going Beyond Basic Thai

Kru Can

Kru CAN: For those who want to go beyond the basics…

Kru CAN is a Thai Skype teacher with three years experience under his belt. And while I do promote Thai teachers on WLT (one-on-one and Skype) that’s not why I’m sharing his site. I’m doing so because of his growing collection of posts to help students learn how to read Thai.

The posts on Kru CAN’s site teaches Thai from Level 1 (beginner) to Level 5 (advanced). The subject matter is: Thai Vocabulary, Grammar Usage, Easy Story in Thai, Easy-to-read Articles in Thai, Easy-to-read Articles in Thai with Audio, Easy-to-read News in Thai, Thai Language Exercises, and Conversations in Thai.

Note: All posts have pdf downloads but only the audio post has audio. Some posts have keywords/vocabulary to learn, and most posts have transliteration.

Thai Vocabulary: A list of words with Thai script, transliteration, and English translation. Each lesson has an animated banner to help you learn the words. Each word has three cards: Thai script, Thai script + transliteration, Thai script + transliteration + English translation.

Grammar Usage: Grammar samples with Thai script, transliteration, translation, and a vocabulary list.

Easy Story in Thai: Short lessons with three or four sentences. Each lesson has Thai script with spaces between words and English translation. There is no transliteration.

Easy-to-read Articles in Thai: Thai script with no spaces between words, transliteration (IPA I believe), English translation, and a vocabulary list to learn.

Easy-to-read Articles in Thai with Audio: Audio spoken in an easygoing manner, Thai script (separated by word for lower levels only), transliteration and translation.

Easy-to-read News in Thai: Consists of paragraphs with Thai script and English translation. Some have transliteration and vocabulary lists.

Thai Language Exercises: A selection of sentences in Thai script with missing words. Answers appear in the comments several days after the post goes live.

Conversations in Thai: Some have Thai script with English translation, while others also have transliteration.

Personally, I’d love to see audio in all posts. If you too would like to hear Thai spoken, perhaps this will help: Does your computer speak Thai.

Where you can find Kru CAN:

Web: Kru CAN
Facebook: Kru CAN
YouTube: Kru CAN

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It’s Cherry Blossom Time in Khun Chang Khian, Chiang mai

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry trees are blooming in Thailand – hurry if you can…

Depending upon traffic, an hour from Chiang mai is the Khun Chang Kian Highland Agriculture Research Center. Around this time of year (Jan/Feb) visitors squeeze up a hairy one lane road to see the Center’s cherry trees in bloom.

Siam and Beyond: The variety of sakura growing in Thailand is the Wild Himalayan cherry (Prunus cerasoides). Its name in Thai is นางพญาเสือโคร่ง /naang phá-yaa sǔea-khrông/, which means “Tiger Queen.”

Thailand isn’t exactly known for its cherry trees, but as the story is told, over 50 years ago China’s defeated Lost Army planted the trees in Santikhiri (สันติคีรี) to remind them of their homeland. Looking to attract more tourists to the region, in 1974 Thailand extended the planting to other suitable areas in the north of the country.

Cherry Blossoms On Sunday (the day after Children’s Day) I attempted the drive up the mountain to Khun Chang Kian but turned back due to the massive amount of cars trying to do the same.

The grade is fairly steep and traffic goes both ways so you are constantly forced off into a dirt shoulder. That’s if there is one. If not, one of you will need to reverse. And if there’s a long line going up and another coming back down, it can be a nightmare.

My car has an automatic transmission with a button for a break (weird, huh). The combination of a steep hill and constantly having to stop and start did me in! The cars behind crowded too close, leaving no room to go from brake to accelerate. Turning around at the overlook, I promised myself a Monday return.

The trip up the mountain can be made in a regular car if your timing is right. Sunday was a wash but going back on a weekday worked out great.

Tips: If you don’t have access to either a truck or motorbike, at the scenic overlook partway up the mountain transportation is available. But do know that parking there is limited. And if you do go in a regular car and a truck (four-wheel drive) comes the opposite way, stay on the road but give them enough room to go off the shoulder on either side. Sometimes it works and sometimes not but it’s worth a try.

How to get there…

As per the map below, drive out of Chiang mai, heading towards Doi Suthep. A few km past the Phuping Palace and Gardens (zoom in to see it on the map) is a three way junction. At the junction is a hard to miss sign to Khun Chang Khian telling you to turn right. Keep on that small road all the way to the Khun Chang Kian Highland Agriculture Research Center.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

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Interview: Jeff is Getting By in Thai

Thai Style

Jeff is getting by in Thai…

Name: Jeff

Nationality: USA

Age range: 30

Sex: Male

Location: Bangkok

What is your Thai level?

Hard to say. It depends on the subject matter being discussed, but for regular day-to-day dealings, I would put myself squarely in “intermediate.”

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

I’d say I can at least get the gist of at least 70% of what’s being said.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, professional Thai, or a mix?

I speak polite Thai with some working knowledge of slang and Isan.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

It’s annoying to live in a country and not know the language.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

About one month before I moved to Thailand.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

Everyday is a lesson – but specifically studying Thai – maybe about 2 hours per day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

Not at all. I think this is one reason I’m not taking part in the successful Thai learners series.

What Thai language learning methods are you using (resources needed)?

I am reading and studying vocabulary from a couple books written in Thai.

Does one method stand out over all others?

I only know the self-study and immersion method. Having someone constantly correct me is rather discouraging. I prefer to learn from my mistakes (i.e. notice Thais saying the word differently than I am and working to mimic them).

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes, of course. I got into reading and writing almost as soon as I landed.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I wouldn’t say difficult – just time consuming (it took me about 3 months of 3-5 hours per day to get comfortable with reading and writing in Thai).

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

I’ve been using Thai from the first day. It’s a matter of politeness and convenience.

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

I think everyone could understand สวัสดีครับ right away ☺

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I don’t get embarrassed from making mistakes. I like a good laugh.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That tonal languages are some sort of insurmountable obstacle.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Going out with Thai friends and realizing at the end that I was fully engaged in the conversation we were having that lasted well over three hours.

How do you learn languages?

I like to study grammar and get a basis of vocabulary down while doing grammar drills. Then it’s just about using what I know and adding more vocab.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are that I am quite good at learning grammar and I’m able to think in whatever language I’m learning. My weakness would be my own laziness. I really should be at a very advanced level for how long I’ve lived here.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Yes. I am fluent in German and also speak French as well as some Spanish and Norwegian.

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Sometimes when I’m speaking German, a Thai word will creep up to my lips.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

With natives in their own countries, I have used German, Hungarian, Thai, Lao, and Tagalog.

Are you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

Yes, I’m concentrating on Tagalog and also working on getting at least a rudimentary knowledge of Lao and Burmese and mixing a bit of Norwegian in there.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

I have been in Thailand for about 5 ½ years.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

Nope.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument

I love music and used to play violin.

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

There is a direct correlation between effort and result.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

Keep on trucking.

Getting by in Thai…

Thank you Jeff, Terry, Dan, Tod, Snap, Talen and Greg. And for others out there – if you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember the clincher: the idea for the series is interview those getting by as well as regenerate an interest in learning Thai.

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Discount: Learn Thai Style’s Speak, Read & Write Thai Course

Thai Style

Discount: Learn Thai Style…

Before Xmas, Tom Lane from Learn Thai Style and I got into a discussion about LTS offering specials to the Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook group and readers of WLT.

The below offer is just one of several to come. Enjoy!

Get 50% off the Speak, Read & Write Thai Course at Learn Thai Style. You’ll receive lifetime access to over 700 trained teachers, structured, written, audio, video and self study learning materials and learner support.

To get the discount, use this promo code: I will learn thai 2015

Web: Learn Thai Style
YouTube: Learn Thai Style
Twitter: @LearnThaiStyle

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