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A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

Paul’s Quest to Fluency…

A little over a month ago Paul Garrigan launched his quest to become fluent in the Thai language. Impressed with the obvious dedication shown, Stu Jay Raj (jcademy.com) took Paul under his wing: 6 Months to Thai Fluency – Paul Garrigan Week One – Thai Bites.

From day one I was excited about Paul’s quest. But to join, I first had to discover my own motivation to raise the stakes in learning Thai. No doubt, motivation in language learning is key.

You see, Paul and I are both introverts. It’s a personal attribute that gets in the way of becoming fluent in any language. A no brainer, to communicate by speaking, you really do need to be interested (motivated) in talking with people.

My Quest to Speak Fluent Thai in Six Months: I’ve lived in the country for thirteen years, so it is embarrassing to admit I’m still not fluent. There have been periods when I’ve put in the hours to learn the language. I can read Thai, and I’ve got a reasonably large vocabulary, but I just don’t like talking. My goal over the next six months is to rectify this situation.

Paul’s week three post gave that “ah hah!” needed to find a motivation that has a decent chance of sticking with me.

5 Improvements in My Approach to Learning Thai: It is my goal that within one year, I’ll be putting out videos in the Thai language as well as the ones in English. This is my dream, and I’m passionate about making it happen. There might not be even one Thai person interested in what I have to say, but I know it will give me so much pleasure to do this.

After reading Paul’s main reason for becoming fluent in Thai, I realised that my own motivating factor should also be something tangible, not mysterious, or just because “it’s the thing to do”.

Now here’s the thing. When searching for my motivation to join Paul’s quest I decided to switch to Italian. Because motivation-wise, it just so happens that everything fell into place for me to learn Italian (for the interim) before getting back to Thai.

  • This week I found out that I’m headed to Venice at the end of the year.
  • Also this week, Glossika launched their Complete Fluency Italian Course.

The clock is ticking. I have under 200 days to get my head around Italian and the pressure is creating a RUSH of motivation. VENICE!! YA! ITALIAN!! YA!

Then, after the New Year, with the Glossika Method fully entrenched (hope, hope), I’ll get back to my regular studies with the Thai materials at Glossika and jcademy.com. How’s that for a plan?

The guts of the language quest…

Paul will study with Glossika’s Complete Fluency Thai course (pssst: the pre-launch price is US$49). And at the same time, I’ll be tackling Glossika’s Italian course (already launched). The two courses are designed the same so we’ll have plenty to discuss.

As mentioned, Paul will be working hand-in-hand with Stu and jcademy.com. As a polyglot, Stu Jay Raj is an inspiration for learning any language so I’ll be quoting him often. Plus, his site includes posts on getting your accent just right – none of that superimposing your native language over your target language. IPA warning: I’ve succumbed.

The Glossika Method…

I’ve written about Stuart Jay Raj many times but Mike’s Glossika is new to this site. Other than to say that the method is centred around GMS (Glossika Mass Sentences) and GSR (Glossika Spaced Repetition), there isn’t room in this post to get into much detail. I will later though.

Before I sign off I do want to quickly inject that I’ve been interested in mass sentences ever since Brett mentioned using sentences to learn languages effortlessly.

Mining sentences (finding sentences, getting the sentences approved by someone knowledgeable/trustworthy in the language, and then recording the sentences) is not effortless. But now there’s Glossika – and Glossika mined the sentences for us. So now there’s no excuse.

Until next time…

Please do read what Paul’s been up to during the first four weeks of his quest:

Care to tag along? We’d love for you to join the quest!

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Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Thai Challenge 2014

Cracking Thai Fundamentals

Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Thai Challenge 2014…

I’ve reviewed scads of learning Thai projects since starting WLT and Polyglot Stu Jay Raj’s Cracking Thai Fundamentals Thai Challenge is one of the most exciting ever.

To give you a bit of background: Stu’s original Cracking Thai Fundamentals started in Bangkok in 2000. Wanting to learn about the Thai language, I attended a CTF course shortly after arriving in Thailand. Like other students I met in class, I loved it so much that I signed up for second round.

If you are interested in what people are saying about CTF, below are several Cracking Thai Fundamentals interviews:

Stu Jay Raj is Back in Bangkok with Cracking Thai Fundamentals
Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Interview with Claudio Sennhauser
Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Interview with Scott Eddy
Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Interview with Peter Lo

In order to reach more students, six months ago Stu started working his butt off to create an online learning experience: Jcademy. That’s right. You no longer have to physically attend one of Stu’s courses to reap the benefits.

To add to the thrill, this week he launched the Jcademy Cracking Thai Fundamentals Challenge.

I’ll say it again. Stu’s CTF Challenge is one the most promising projects I’ve come across. And to help make it even more powerful, please do join in!

For the next few months you can follow Polyglot Stuart Jay Raj as he guides two expats through the CTF course. To do that, Stu created four ways to experience the challenge:

  1. Watch the sessions live via Jcademy’s CTF Challenge section.
  2. Afterwards ask questions of Stu, Andrew, and Richard on Google Hangouts.
  3. Watch the session videos on Jcademy and Stu’s YouTube channel stujaystujay.
  4. Join the CTF Challenge (how can you resist?)

Note: The first CTF Challenge Google Hangout starts at 4pm, Wednesday, January 22.

Be sure to keep up with Jcademy news via:

Web: Jcademy
Facebook: Jcademy
YouTube: stujaystujay
Twitter: @JcademyOnline

And a reminder. This is not a paid ad – I don’t do those – the opinions in this post are unencumbered by personal gain.

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UPDATE: Jeff Netto’s Thai Challenge

Jeff Netto's Thai Challenge

Jeff Netto’s Thai Challenge…

Jeff is a serious language learner. If you remember, he started his Thai language challenge with ziltch Thai. Nada. In addition to the 6 week challenge Jeff set himself 19 months to learn as much Thai as he can. Reason? A friend is learning Thai too, only in Thailand.

I’ve seen other language challenges but I’ve never seen the likes of what Jeff got up to. During the challenge, Jeff studied four hours a day, six hours a day, ten hours a day even. Impressive.

Jeff Netto's Thai Challenge

And Jeff has real excuses to avoid studying (I have a handful of my own). I mean, he works ten hour days, has a young family, yet he still drove himself to study long hours.

Jeff Netto's Thai Challenge

Jeff didn’t stop at learning Thai either. Alongside Thai, Jeff concentrated on Serbian, Xhosa and Spanish. Again, impressive.

How did Jeff manage? During the day he grabbed opportunities where he could and after work he studied long after his household was asleep. Given the choice of sleeping or studying languages, Jeff chose languages.

This, my friends, is a man with a serious language passion.

Interview with inspirational polyglot Jeff Netto…

Understandably, Jeff is still busy concentrating on his Thai challenge so instead of my usual long list of questions I’ve kept the interview to the bare minimum.

Jeff, what is your mother tongue?

(Brazilian) Portuguese.

When did your passion for learning languages develop?

Well, it started when I was a kid learning martial arts, Japanese was the first language I ventured on at age 14. Almost at the same time I started to have English classes at school as part of the Brazilian Public School’s Curriculum. Later on came French (age 17) influenced by a couple friends who were engaged in a government project for foreign languages training.

But what REALLY took me for a loop was an exercise given by a college professor back in Brazil. The class was “Instrumental English” (aimed at preparing the student to do peer reviews and bibliographical research in the Biology field), and the exercise was basically to interpret texts in different languages by using visual or cognate material in the text itself, no dictionaries or any other aid material.

Each week she brought a different text: Spanish, Italian, Japanese… those three didn’t really offer many difficulties, but when she finally brought the text in German everything changed!

I remember it was a Mickey Mouse comics page, and I could only give the meaning of three words out of the whole story! I can’t express the frustration I felt…

I remember ditching the second block of classes and going straight to the university library. I pulled out a German dictionary and a German grammar book and started to translate the little story. Well, as you know, dictionaries don’t list conjugated or declined (case) words, so I decided to appeal to the Internet.

As soon as I typed “German Grammar” on Altavista (yeah, I know it is old…) I came across the website: “travlang.com/Languages” (that is actually still active) which offered the basics for about 70 different languages with links to support material. And then the rest you already know… chain reaction! German, Russian, Korean, Hebrew, Swahili, you name it!

This happened in 2000, and I haven’t stopped since.

You mentioned the importance of changing out activities, to not overdo. Could you please explain further?

When you decide to study a language you need to make sure that you have a balance between the main skills of a language: writing, reading, listening and speaking. Otherwise you may have a counterproductive effect, which actually happened to me after the last day of the challenge. I studied over 24 hours of Thai straight, so even with changing methods my brain got sick of it! I couldn’t touch a Thai book for nearly a month.

I have to admit that it was quite embarrassing, but it does serve as an example to others who are considering a similar challenge whereas they put an excessive amount of study hours in one single language!

Which Shadowing method are you using?

:) It is hard to define which type I followed, I definitely didn’t walk back-and-forth in a park reciting Thai out loud! I don’t think I would EVER do that. What I call shadowing, is in essence the very same thing others do: listen to audio files repeating out loud the expression while trying to get as close as possible from the native pronunciation (like the guy from Pimsleur always says…).

But beyond that I modify the sentences to fit my goals. It is quite effective when you are doing some sort of manual labor which requires mechanical movements, because you can let your mind run free while your arms and legs operate on “auto-pilot”.

Now that it’s over, what are your overall thoughts on your six week Thai challenge?

It was amazing, and I intend to participate in many others! Probably with different languages, but I’ll definitely keep going with Thai.

The Challenge gave a different taste to the tedious study process, which can be extremely motivating at times.

How will your 19 month Thai challenge be planned out?

Well, taking into consideration that I need to juggle 17 college credits and off-record language study at the same time, I’m still studying the possibilities. But I intend to find a steady study-buddy and keep on until life intervenes. :)

What are your suggestions for language learners aiming to emulate your studies?

There are a couple guidelines that I think would give learners some leverage:

  1. Find a concrete interest to support your language study. Be it to impress that one girl in French class or read the Old Testament in Hebrew, it doesn’t matter what the interest is, as long as it exists;
  2. Find out how you learn things (wikipedia: Learning Styles), your study time will be most effective if you know how information sticks to your brain!
  3. (in case you are not living in the country where the languages is spoken) Immerse yourself as much as you can. Music, TV, radio, any and everything you can find in that language;
  4. Be humble about it! If you can’t understand after reading three times, ask somebody with experience. At the end of the day you’ll need to interact anyway, right?!
  5. NEVER, EVER let obstacles or other people’s comments demotivate you! You can do it! No matter what it is, you can do it!

Jeff Netto,
twitter: JNatAlkhimia
YouTube: JNatAlkhimia
Blog: The Thai Challenge

Jeff Netto’s impressive Thai language learning timeline on twitter…

I followed Jeff’s tweets from the beginning. And from the start of the 6 week challenge Jeff stayed at the top of the pack.

But what really interested me was his pattern of study and how he switched out the focus. He’d write for a bit, watch a video on YouTube, study vocabulary, and then perhaps get back to writing.

And if Stu Jay Raj had a twitter challenge timeline I imagine it’d look similar. I’ll ask.

Because I was curious, I kept a rolling record of Jeff’s progress. I’ve tidied it up a bit so you can get some language learning inspiration too.

Pdf download: Jeff’s Twitter Thai Challenge

NOTE: As mentioned, in addition to Thai Jeff was studying other languages but I only kept the Thai tweets.

The Thai language learning community comes out in support…

Many in the Thai language community followed Jeff’s progress. I was chuffed to hear that the top three Thai language products were so generous in their support of his Thai challenge.

Learn Thai Podcast was on Jeff’s twitter timeline from the very beginning. And when LTP discovered Jeff’s passion for language learning, Jo and Jay gifted him with the entire LTP package. Fantastic.

Jeff started with Rosetta Stone but when he played around with a free version of L-lingo, Rosetta Stone was out and L-lingo was in. And also watching his progress were the good folks at L-lingo who graciously gave Jeff their software version.

Benjawan Becker from Paiboon Publishing was also curious about Jeff’s Thai challenge. Always one to support avid students of Thai, Benjawan sent her entire collection of learning Thai CD’s.

Jeff is plugging away at another language challenge so when he comes up for air I’ll ask for a brief review of Learn Thai Podcast, L-lingo, and the Thai language CD’s at Paiboon Publishing.

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The Tadoku Challenge: Read More THAI or Die

Read More THAI or Die

Read More THAI or Die…

Andrej from ‘Bakunin learns Thai’ (no longer online) recently reminded me that the registration for the Tadoku challenge, Read More or Die, is now open for July.

From Read More or Die…

The three basic Tadoku principles:

  1. Read without using a dictionary. If you can’t read it without using a dictionary, read something easier.
  2. Skip over whatever you don’t understand.
  3. If you find that what you’re reading is boring or difficult, toss it and pick up something else!

Quoting Andrej…

The idea is to read as much as you can at a fairly easy level, so that you:

  • Consolidate language knowledge.
  • Casually pick up new words.
  • Casually pick up new structures.
  • Deepen your relationship with Thai culture.
  • Increase your reading speed.
  • Develop a reading habit.
  • …etc.

The contest will be run via twitter. To register to read Thai, just tweet: @TadokuBot #reg #th

More about the Tadoku challenge:
babelhut.com: Tadoku – Read More or Die – April 2011 Edition
how-to-learn-any-language.com: Tadoku – Read More or Die

I’ll be reading for the month of July but as I’m traveling extensively I’ll forgo registering. If you are joining the Tadoku challenge please let me know as I’d love to cheer you on.

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The Thai Challenge PLUS The 6 Week Challenge

The Thai Challenge PLUS The 6 Week Challenge

The Thai Challenge PLUS The 6 Week Challenge…

Once again Josh reminded me about the Read More or Die Challenge. But what really cranked me up was a mention of the 6 Week Language Challenge started by how-to-learn-any-language.com.

If anyone is interested in participating in a challenge to starting to learn a new language check out 6wc.learnlangs.com for more info.

The idea is to choose a language that you barely know and then commit yourself to 6 weeks. To compete in the challenge you tweet your hours of study. If you want to know more, the details are explained in the 6 Week Challenge How To.

As you can see from the current high score list, they are already a week plus into the challenge, But it’s not too late if you wanted to jump in (and I don’t believe it matters how new you are to your chosen language).

In second place (at this writing) is JNatAlkhimia, who is mostly studying Thai.

JNatAlkhimia’s real name is Jeff Netto and in a few brief hours I’ve become attached to his twitter account, his YouTube account, and I’m waiting for new entries to his Thai blog. It almost seems like stalking him. But I’m not. I’m revved about his Thai studies because his studies are revving up mine.

On YouTube, polyglots have started talking about how they learn languages but I’ve never watched an avid language learner explain their steps to learn Thai. And I’m finding it way interesting to see how he tackles the process.

So far Jeff has three Thai YouTube vidoes online: First Day of The Thai Challenge – Resources and Approaches, Thai Challenge – First Steps Part 1, and Writing in Thai – Practice hints and Different Font Shapes.

It’d be redundant to go over each one (I’ll leave you to view his videos) but I did want to share the resources he’s using, while matching them with what I have here.

Alphabet: Chris Pirazzi’s Consonant Flashcards
My review: Chris Pirazzi at Slice-of-thai.com

Phrase book: Lonely Planet’s Thai Phrasebook
My review: Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review

Dictionary: Pocket Thai Dictionary Thai-English English-Thai
I do have the pocket dictionary but I prefer to bounce between T2E (online) and the Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary (iPhone and software).

Additional resources: With an understanding of what he needs to absorb, Jeff compiled materials from the Internet. It’s a shortcut for getting the Thai language and Thai culture into your head. And really, that’s how WLT came about. But instead of printing what I found I put them here: FREE Thai language learning resources.

iPod: I wasn’t able to catch all of the apps he’s using except for Speak Thai. Again, I do have this resource on my iPhone but I’m way behind reviewing iPhone apps.

Thai lessons: For lessons with sound files Jeff is using the highly respected FSI Thai. The original materials are transliteration only so an additional resource is the Thai Language Wiki. The FSI materials have been painstakingly typed out in Thai script and the sound files are above each section. Note: It’s still a work in progress. Transliteration needs to be added, phrases updated, and new sound files recorded and slotted in. But it’s a great resource regardless.

Extras: He’s using the Book of Mormon in Thai so it’s no great leap to imagine that he’s got a religious bend. So I’m thinking that Ben Crowder’s 1000 Word List from the Bangkok Mission might be of interest to him. Ben used to have a Book of Remembrances in Thai online but it’s not there anymore. Pity. But there is a Thai Script download that’s useful no matter what your leanings are.

What more could Jeff be using? That’s a tough one because there’s so much to chose from. But if he’s going for free he couldn’t go far wrong with BYKI Thai (my review is here: Byki Thai Language Course). Oh, and since he needs to familiar himself with situational Thai, the AUA videos would be a help. And then there’s TCU Open Courseware, and L-Lingo, and e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam, and and and…

Joining the Thai Challenge…

Learning a language is a long-time goal and often being accountable can be tedious. Depending on your personality, setting challenges such as this can give you a needed push. And while I won’t join the 6 week twitter challenge I have decided to follow the basic idea with an Excel spreadsheet.

Jeff has his minutes divided out by: Writing Alphabet, Thai Linguistics, YouTube, TV, Vocabulary, Alphabet, Listening, Writing ABC’s, Chat, Reading, Conversation, FSI, Phonology, Radio, Business (?), Grammar, Dialog, and Survival phrases.

My subjects will be different. I’ll wing it at first and then tweak to suit my own learning style, and once I’m on a roll, I’ll report back.

The Thai Challenge AND The 6 Week Challenge…

Blog: The Thai Challenge
Twitter: @JNatAlkhimia
YouTube channel: JNatAlkhimia

6 Week Challenge Competing scores
6 Week Challenge: How to
6 Week Challenge: Detailed listing for JNatAlkhimia

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