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Tag: methods (page 1 of 2)

Please Vote to add Thai Language to LingQ!

Please Vote for THAI on LingQ!

Please Vote to add the Thai Language to LingQ…

We need your help getting Thai on LingQ. At present, LingQ supports about 10 languages including Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, but not Thai. The first step to getting Thai on LingQ is to get 1000 votes for Thai to be added as a beta language.

To vote Thai, go to LingQ’s Facebook page: What language should we add next?

So, what’s LingQ all about?…

If you are unfamiliar with LingQ, watch this video:

Why do we want Thai on LingQ?…

Last week Scott contacted me about rousting everyone to convince LingQ to add Thai. I looked into LingQ several years back but was unable to generate much interest for Thai, so moved on to supporting other resources for learning Thai. But since then, there’s been a marked increase in the numbers of students learning Thai, so hopefully this time our votes will make a difference.

As I don’t have recent experience with LingQ I asked Scott to step in to explain:

Scott: I’ve been using LingQ to learn Russian for a few months and I think the biggest benefit is its versatility. If you like extensive reading you can just read and use the dictionary if you get stuck. If you want to do intensive reading then you can create “LingQs” for your unknown words and review them by doing basic flashcards, cloze deletions, dictation, or multiple choice.

All lessons have audio so you can practice any combination of listening, reading, shadowing, etc. For the fully supported languages, it has tons of material ranging from beginner dialogues up to complete radio programs. It is also easy to add your own material and has apps for Android and iOS which allow you to review your lessons on the go. It is the best language learning tool I’ve found and it would be a huge help to my Thai studies if it was added.

Scott in turn asked polyglot Wulfgar to expound even further:

Wulfgar: I’m glad that there is an effort to make Thai a supported language on LingQ. I have been using LingQ for about a year to study 4 different languages – French, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin. It’s an excellent tool. There are many different ways to use it, and it has a variety of functions, but let me tell you what I use it for. There is a stage in my studies when I am trying to accumulate enough vocabulary to read native material. This can be a really intensive and grueling experience with a book, for example. I used to trudge through a book, page by page, looking up words in a paper dictionary, setting aside unknown words for memorization. Difficult, time consuming, but it works. An improvement to this was mouse-over dictionaries. These allowed me to quickly see the definition, and some would even build a list of words that I looked up.

LingQ has gone several steps further. It has a mouse over dictionary which keeps track of unknown words, of course. It highlights unknown words blue, and previously looked up words yellow, which I find very helpful when reading. It has flashcards, or an export function that will let you use your own flashcard software. There is a library full of material of different levels, most of which has audio. I really like to read material that also has audio – the reading and listening reinforce each other. It’s very convenient being able to go to the library to get material; no more searching all over the place to find it. And because it keeps track of your known words, you can tell how difficult a lesson will be for you (how many unknown words per minute for example) and chose appropriately.

As I mentioned earlier, I use it to study 4 languages. Having a single location for all of these saves a lot of time. I often create my own lessons, uploading material into LingQ. For example, I’m reading the Count of Monte Cristo in French, which is publicly available online, so I load a chapter at a time when I want to read. Sometimes I pull something difficult into LingQ just to see how hard it really is – I check the unknown word count. I’ve put in subtitles of movies, letters from friends, etc.

I’m a big believer in Krashen’s i+1 theory, or something similar to it. I believe one acquires language most efficiently at a level (i+1) slightly above their current state of language proficiency (i). Consistently using lingQ lessons which have low levels of new words (less that 10 per minute for me) is an excellent way to follow this theory. Making difficult material more comprehensible, or knocking it down to the i+1 level, accomplishes this also. For example, listening to the same material that you read, memorizing unknown words with flashcards, etc. There are many ways to accomplish this, and LingQ can be a big help.

Back to Thai. I’m currently learning Thai, and I’m at the point where I want to become a reader of native material. There are some nice tools for Thai, but they aren’t as useful or convenient as what LingQ would offer. There is an effort to gather lots of existing lessons together to fill the library, and a standing offer from an individual to create many new lessons something like Thai Recordings, but mostly dialogue based. LingQ would offer a mouse-over dictionary, which would parse something like the bulk lookup in Thai Notes, which is imo the best free online parser by far. There are some who say it’s impossible to parse Thai, but I disagree because it’s already been done, and without forcing spaces between words.

In summary, I hope you all will vote for LingQ to implement Thai. It’s a great tool that can be used in many ways, and will dramatically improve the resources to study this beautiful language.

Again, please help us add Thai to LingQ by voting. Go ahead, send your brothers, your mothers, your husbands and lovers to all vote Thai!: What language should we add next?

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Krungthepkaki: Inaki’s Thai TV YouTube Channel

Watching Educational Thai TV on YouTube

Watching educational Thai TV on YouTube…

The many ways to learn Thai thrills me. On top of course books and online Thai lessons, there is YouTube, iTunes and all the iProducts (iPhone, iPod, iPod Touch, iPad, etc), recording devices, video software, and… what else?

As I no longer have a teenager in the house my technology skills are flaffing around at halfmast. Sure, I can find my way around a computer, but I draw a blank when it comes to anything to do with a TV. Don’t ask me why… For instance, last week a new MacBook Pro joined my family and I still can’t figure out why my channel changer has the ability to turn the screen on and off.

Regardless of my TV wrestling capabilities, I still like to get an earful about the available technology. And in the discussion on HandBreaking Thai Language Videos for the iPhone, Iñaki came out of lurking mode to do just that when leaving a fabulous first comment:

I have a TV Tuner card in my computer that allows me to record live TV programs to the harddisk. I watch almost exclusively TVThai (also known as ThaiPBS or ITV) because they have many documentaries and educational programs, most of them with Thai subs, which is a bonus for Thai learners.

I have already accumulated almost 30GB (roughly 100 hours) of my favourite programs, which I intend to upload to my youtube channel. Check it out, maybe you’ll find something that interests you.

TV Tuner cards? You got it, I just had to know more. And as I also liked what I saw on his YouTube channel, I fired off a short list of questions:

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your interest in the Thai language.

My name is Iñaki, I’m a 45 years old Spaniard living in Bangkok. I came to Thailand in the year 2000 as a tourist. I was planning to backpack around South-East Asia for six months but I spend most of that time in Thailand.

I started learning the language from the very first day I set foot in Don Meuang. I fell in love with Thailand, the people, the culture and the language and when I went back home, I decided to come back to stay.

Do you follow the TV method? If not, what method are you using to learn Thai?

I think all “methods” are good as long as you are constant. Whatever you do, if you do it in your target language, it will make you improve. The worst approach is to spend too much time arguing (in your own language) on forums about what method is best. Having said that, the TV method is an artificial way of crippling your abilities. Why on earth would you refrain from using a dictionary or reading? The ALG method is similar but makes much more sense, because there are two teachers explaining new vocabulary with gestures and drawings and trying to keep the students focused. If you start watching TV 5 hours a day in a language that you don’t understand, 99% of the time your brain will simply disconnect and ignore the sound as background noise.

The best method, with 100% guaranteed success rate is the “swim or sink immersion” method (I’ve just made that up) which consists of putting yourself in an environment where your target language is the only language. All media (TV, radio, films, podcasts, internet forums, social media, newspapers, magazines, comic books, wikipedia, etc) has to be in Thai or dubbed in Thai; avoid your English speaking friends, colleagues and lovers and replace them with Thais who can’t speak English, and choose Thai whenever you have a choice of languages (mobile phone, computer, DVDs, etc.). With this method, anyone, regardless of intellectual abilities can get to a level that some (Irish) polyglots would refer to as “fluency”in three months, and to an intermediate level in about one year. This SOSI™ method is also know by some as the AJATT method, but it existed before Kazumoto was even born. Kazumoto is an amazing language learning guru; he is half my age but has double the insight.

Roughly how many hours of Thai TV do you watch each week?

I have hated television since I was a teenager. I saw it destroying family life, children’s games and songs, literacy, and lowering the general IQ level. I saw people being hypnotized, brainwashed and addicted to it. I’ve always tried to avoid watching TV, and in my first six years in Thailand I practically watched no TV at all. Now I watch around five hours a week. I prefer listening to the radio, my favourite stations being Chulalongkorn University 101.5FM and witayu sueksa the Ministry of Education radio station. I listen to them all the time, while working, doing the laundry, commuting, etc.

Which TV Tuner card do you have?

I bought a no-name tv tuner for 1000 baht two years ago. It works fine in windows, but it’s a pain to make it work in Linux. The system says:

saa7134: <rant>
saa7134: Congratulations! Your TV card vendor saved a few
saa7134: cents for a eeprom, thus your pci board has no
saa7134: subsystem ID and I can’t identify it automatically
saa7134: </rant>

What software do you use to convert the recordings for YouTube?

I record using the software that came with the card in MPG2 format and then extract the audio with TMPGEnc and convert it to AAC with foobar2000. I crop, resize and convert the video to xvid avi with VirtualDub and then mux the video and the audio into a mp4 container with YAMB. It’s not as easy as using some other programs, but it gives me total control of all the parameters, and I get the best compromise between size and quality in a format that plays fine in both my phone and my computer.

What advice can you give to those aiming to record TV shows via their computers?

If you intend to use the card in Linux or Macs, do a bit of research first to see if the card you want to buy works with your system. Any question about formats, quality and the video conversion process, just ask Google.

What type of programs can we look forward to seeing on your YouTube channel in the future?

I have some documentaries, a Japanese series dubbed in Thai with Thai subtitles, some educational programs for children and many reality shows about normal people or families and their everyday lives.

YouTube channel: krungthepkaki

TV Tuner card resources…

You already know that I have no background on this subject… yet – I’m still at the amusement stage of controlling my computer from across the room with that darn channel changer – but I do have a mean Google finger.

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Luca on Active Learning vs Passive Learning

Luca Lampariello

Active Learning vs Passive Learning…

I’ve been learning languages by myself since I was 13. As an experienced self-learner, I came to the conclusion that there is no one best method, but there are some universal principles one can stick to and which I think should be shared for the benefit of those who really want to learn foreign languages the proper way.

To start off on the wrong foot can lead to disaster, that is, frustration and giving up the pursuit. It is mandatory to know how to get started. The first phase, which can last 6 months to 1 year (depending on the complexity of the target language and your previous experience) is definitely the most delicate one.

Craving for a quick proficiency is dangerous, because it keeps you from concentrating on your studies. It is like a runner who constantly thinks about still having 15 kilometers to go, instead of staying focused on the track, step by step. Thinking that he’s got such a long distance to cover could get him mentally tired from the very beginning.

 Luca LamparielloI’m sure that many of you eager learners have taken a moment off your language studies and had some “reverie” (fantasized) about yourselves being fluent speakers and communicating flawlessly in the language you are learning. I did that numerous times.

When I was learning German I thought “how incredible would that be to speak it fluently”. That thought made me doubt about my future success and I had doubts often around 6-7 months after starting that language. I was a bit frustrated because I wasn’t fluent yet. How could I be fluent after 6 months? At that time I had no real experience at learning languages, and the worry easily frustrated me. I want to explain to you now why it doesn’t disturb me anymore, even when I’m learning difficult languages such Chinese (as I’m doing now).

I’ve come to the conclusion that if you do a quality work, the results will be terrific in the long run. By “long run” I mean that you have to be positive about the fact that there will come a point where the knowledge that you’ve been accumulating will “explode” (in a good sense), take off. According to some unofficial literature, this threshold is called “epiphany point”. After that point, you find yourself speaking much much better than you had done before. You don’t know why, but you’re happy about it. I’m sure some of you know what I mean. This epiphany point, as I told you, is going to happen at some point of your path, and the more quality you put into building a core in your head, the more brilliant this epiphany point will be.

 Luca Lampariello What is quality work? The quality of your work is absolutely essential to learning a language well. Quality work is steady, efficient and not too heavy, and you impose it on yourself according to your schedule. The aim is that of “building a core” in your head. Knowing how to schedule your work keeps you from being a passive learner. I’ve described some of what I do on YouTube, but I want to share with you the reasons why it is so efficient for me.

During the first year, I focus on listening to that language, but I almost immediately start writing and speaking it. I don’t listen to a huge amount of material. I think it is much more efficient to listen to some material very attentively rather than flooding your brain with hours and hours. I start writing that language after a couple of weeks after the very first start (mostly using Microsoft Word). By retranslating the texts into the target language and then confronting what you’ve done with the texts after a week puts your brain in the position of elaborating phrases directly in that language. It is also a very powerful form of auto-correction and helps you to absorb grammar effortlessly.

Somebody says that grammar is not important and that you can learn a language well without a grammar book. In answer to this: grammar IS important. The whole point is not whether grammar is important or not, but HOW one can absorb it without effort, that is, with a study that doesn’t foresee any heavy and horrible grammar book (which I generally try to avoid as much as I can). So with this simple “retranslating” operation your brain fixes the structures of that language and also provides a script that your brain will use when speaking that language.

I have been wondering for a long time why I see (literally) written subtitles in my head when speaking languages, and I found out that this is due to my way of learning. Having a script in your head links sound to letters and words, and it is of great advantage.

 Luca LamparielloAfter 3 months, I start elaborating phrases in my head and I start doing the most important thing: I talk, even if I don’t have a native speaker. I imagine having one in front of me and try to think of what to say. Introducing yourself, talking about the weather, family and so on.

There are some “language gurus” who enforce the idea that speaking to yourself is not useful at all, cause nobody is there to correct your pronunciation and your grammar mistakes. I think (but this is just my humble opinion), that this is not sound advice to give. Speaking to yourself might not better your pronunciation, but gets you fluent in a language. A language is also a matter of automatism. If kids don’t speak that language, it is simply because they haven’t developed the physical capacity of doing so. But as soon as they do, you can tell that they literally “crave” words (like when they try to utter the word “mama” after a few months).

As adults, we have the advantage of a fully developed apparatus which we are ready to immediately create new sounds with. My advice is: listen to audio material for a couple of months, start writing and translating texts from your language to the target language, and after another month start having conversations, even to yourself. Of course this has to be a progressive work.

After a year (but it can be much less) you are ready to add quantity to your work. At this point your brain is able to absorb and enjoy a huge amount of input (movies, books and newspapers) much more efficiently and even produce outcome better (both oral and written conversations with native speakers).

If you wonder why people immersed in some language (living in-country) get to speak it fast the answer is extremely simple. It’s because they are FORCED to speak that language on a daily basis. Whereas living in your country makes you lazy because you don’t necessarily need to speak it. If you create your own environment where you are immersed in that target language, even if you still live in your own country, you will learn that language very well anyway.

Which leads to the final point. How to create that environment? I’ve been speaking with some Americans who asked me “Luca, how can you speak English like that if you’ve never been to the US before?” For those who praise the mp3 as an incredible learning resource, think one better: Skype is the real deal. Audio-material (although a tapes’ sound quality was much worse) has been around for over 40 years, but skype has been around for much less. Skype is tailor-made for language learning, and with this wonderful software application you’ll have no more excuses for not getting proficient in languages. A conversation with a native is an invaluable asset.

Luca Lampariello
Web: thepolyglotdream
Facebook: Luca Lampariello
YouTube: poliglotta80

WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One
WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two

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The Linguist: A Personal Guide to Language Learning

How to learn a language

Review: The Linguist – How to learn a language…

I know who Steve Kaufmann is. Sort of. A couple of times a year I stop by his blog, The Linguist, to see what he’s up to. But until lately I didn’t know the details of his method of choice.

How to learn a languageThe reason? Because LingQ is not offering Thai (waving at Steve). LingQ does have English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese and Swedish (perhaps Thai is in the wings).

If you don’t know who Steve Kaufmann is… in a nutshell, Steve is an accomplished linguist with (I believe) eight languages under his belt. He authors the blog, The Linguist on Languages, and is the driving power behind a popular language learning community: LingQ. And if you are into YouTube, he has a channel there too: Lingosteve.

When researching for a post on language learning styles (it’s more complicated than I thought), I purchased his book, The Linguist: A personal guide to language learning (no, I did not pay the quoted price). Busy as usual, I filed the book away.

On a weekend when struggling with a crappy internet connection – I wasn’t sure if the lack of internet meant my temperamental Belkin modem was playing up, or Thaksin losing half his money was a contributing factor (yeah, I’m paranoid), or both – I gave up trying to reconnect and read Steve’s book instead.

The first subject in his book is A Language Adventure, which describes Steve’s linguistic adventures. Next up is The Attitude of a Linguist (aptly named). But the real reason I purchased his book was this section: How to Learn Languages.

What I found was a pleasant surprise as his method suits me quite well. Odd, as I’d (wrongly) assumed that Steve was an all natural guy. And I don’t do all natural.

Steve’s method is similar (but not quite) to Luca’s. If you are unaware of Luca’s method, then please read through these posts:

Steve Kaufmann’s method of learning languages…

Steve says that before you try to communicate in your target language, you should spend time on listening, repeating out loud, learning words and phrases, reading, writing, and practicing proper pronunciation.

To express yourself in a new language you must first absorb the language by listening, reading and learning vocabulary… These activities will always account for about three quarters of your effort while you are working to achieve a basic level of fluency. But from the beginning you also have to work on your skills of expression: pronunciation, writing and conversation. Developing these skills requires a conscious commitment to regular and patient practice.

Some learners are hands on (they don’t want to waste time studying; they need to jump in and start talking). But I quite enjoy learning languages using the proposed methods of polyglots Luca and Steve. To get a word or phrase into my head I need the basics: Listen, read (Thai script), repeat out loud, and write or type from both reading and listing.

Curious, I compared the basics of Luca and Steve’s method’s side by side.

Steve Kaufmann’s method:

  1. Listen repeatedly to material within your basic range of comprehension, concentrating on pronunciation.
  2. Repeat individual words and phrases out loud, both during and after listening.
  3. Read sentences and paragraphs out loud, first very slowly and then more quickly, and always in a loud voice.
  4. Record your own pronunciation and compare it to a native speaker.
  5. Write using the phrases you have mastered.

Luca Lampariello’s method:

  1. Listen to audio files.
  2. Repeat audio files.
  3. Read the materials with and without the audio files.
  4. Translate the Thai dialogue into English.
  5. Translate your English translation into Thai (transliteration or script).

For me, the strength of Luca’s method is translating the dialogue into English, and then translating it back into Thai. I’ve noticed that by following Luca’s method, the dialogues are burned into my brain. Without a lot of work, it also improves my writing, grammar, and spelling. And except for translating back and forth, Steve’s method follows a similar path.

When it comes time to communicate, Steve states the obvious: Build your conversations around the phrases you have learned. Sometimes I really do forget that it’s that simple.

Another bit of advice Steve shares is to create intensity with language learning. And this is where Steve’s method differs from Luca’s. Luca suggests going for an hour a day to start. And then later, paring that hour down to a half hour. Steve wants us to go full force into language learning.

Learning a new language is most enjoyable when you are learning quickly, which requires intensity… You need to overwork the language processing capability of your brain by constant and frequent repetition during a period of intense learning. This period may vary from three months to twelve months depending on your starting point and your goals. During this period you must maintain a sustained commitment to your task.

Both Luca’s and Steve’s ideas work, so it’s up to personal learning preferences and available time. For this suggestion, I do believe I’ll take Steve’s advice and ramp up my study time.

The rest of his book touches on tools to use, and setting clear goals. The book finishes with a pep talk using Mike Weir (winner of the Masters Golf Tournament) as an example.

All in all, if Steve’s LingQ community included Thai, I would seriously consider using it as a viable tool.

To see for yourself, stop by The Linguist, and/or check out his language community at LingQ. Also, you can read two of Steve’s books for free. The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey is online. And you can download The Linguist on Languages via his sidebar.

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FuKDuK.tv + ALG = Speed Metal Thai?!?!

FuKDuK tv

UPDATE: FuKDuK.tv is offline (for now)

Fancy your next Thai lesson on ‘Speed Metal Thai’? On how glass bottles are made? Fashion tips? A visit to the Bangkok Seashell Museum? Cooking sessions? Looking graffiti artists over the shoulder? Yes? Then stay put!

Automatic Language Growth…

The way children acquire their native tongue is perfect: it always results in fluency. Automatic Language Growth (ALG) is an approach to language learning based on the conviction that adults can achieve native-like fluency as well – by doing what children do. ALG believes that language is acquired naturally by having experiences in the language. Concrete happenings that involve objects or activities, maybe emotions, often interactions, sometimes smelling, tasting, or feeling. And language. But that’s not necessarily where the focus is. The focus is on the happenings in general, on the experience. Language is picked up naturally, as are social and cultural norms, and, more generally, knowledge about the world.

ALG also believes that most of the things adults usually do when they ‘study’ a language are counterproductive. Grammar, pronunciations drills, language analysis, memorizing word lists, translation, you name it. And, quite importantly, early speaking. Toddlers don’t do it, and ALG suggests adults shouldn’t do it either. Not for the first year or so, or the first 800 hours.

There’s a simple principle behind these ideas: you need to firmly establish language patterns before you can use them correctly. And you establish these patterns by observing them over and over again in different circumstances, not by producing them.

The ALG approach is used in the Thai program at AUA Ratchadamri.

Internet TV for REAL – FuKDuK.tv…

FuKDuK.tv is an internet TV project run by a group of young Thais. The company went live in October 2007 and offers currently 28 channels. Each channel has a theme and posts video clips on a regular basis. The clips are between a few and 30 minutes long and are offered in various media formats. You can download all current and previous episodes from their server. In April 2010, there are almost 1200 clips with more than 250 hours of footage.

Many clips on FuKDuK.tv are ideal from an ALG perspective: they present real experiences containing natural conversation, they offer a lot of visual clues that help you guessing what’s going on, and there’s no focus at all on anything related to ‘language study’. Just sit back, enjoy the stories, watch, guess, and let your subconscious do the learning!

In the remainder of this section, I’ll introduce most channels and suggest a few episodes to watch. The links provided take you to pages where you can choose your preferred format. On my mac, mp4 works fine (and these are the only ones I’ve checked out), but you might have to choose something else. I need to download the files first in order to watch them without interruption, but that might be just my internet connection.

Channel 3 is a good place to get started. Episodes in this channel explain how things work: a visit to a glass bottle factory and a Thai explanation of the Christmas tree. What happens in a tattoo studio? How does a printing press work? And, and, and… Channel 4 presents sights: the Bangkok Seashell Museum, a doll museum, or a visit to a shadow play performance. Channel 7 is on food and places to eat: watch the preparation of a specialty from Surin province, or check out the many restaurant reviews like this one.

Channels 3, 4 and 7 are really good for beginners.

Channel 8 is on Apple and Windows. Watch this hilarious iphone parody between minutes 2:20 and 5:20! Need some inspiration for taking pictures through windows and mirrors? Then check out channel 10 on digital photography for this and much more. Get fashion tips on channel 11, or just join the presenters shopping for bags and jackets at Bangsaen Walking Street.

Exercise when you’re pregnant? Get some advice on channel 12, which is on health related topics. Channel 13 is on ecology: visit a village on a reservoir lake or a biogas farm. In channel 15, the presenters visit private homes. Check out this guy’s taste (and pay special attention to his shoes!) – he must be some kind of star, or visit furniture show rooms (great for beginners).

Sick of sugar-sweet Thai pop? Give yourself a break with some serious head banging to Speed Metal Thai. That’s channel 16 on Rock and Metal. You wouldn’t expect it, but even this channel is a great resource for learning Thai. Watch an interview on American rock music history here (starting at minute 5:30). Channel 18 is on sports. Try a personal trainer in a fitness studio, or enjoy this cute episode on a ‘stacking’ competition.

Fancy fast cars? Check out channel 23 with documentaries on the Toyota racing school or the Bangkok international motor show. Channel 26 is on team activities, or something to this effect. There are episodes on the fire brigade (1 & 2, with 2 being the cooler one – you get to climb the big red car!), graffiti artists and a bowling place. Channel 28 is on everything design-related. Have a look at these lamps, or check out a bamboo-inspired architecture project.

Channel 2 has episodes on buddhism, the king, traffic regulation and drug laws. There are episodes on a collectible card game on channel 6, channel 9 is on Ubuntu, channel 14 on short films. Channel 17 discusses legal matters in a, let’s say, unusual way. If you’re not into ‘Speed Metal’, have a look at channel 19 covering traditional to folk to pop. Channel 20 is anime, channel 21 is on Muay Thai, channel 22 on business. Art is on channel 24, and pets are taken care of on channel 27.

Thai language, Thai culture…

You don’t need to believe in ALG or become a Metal convert to benefit from FuKDuK.tv in your Thai studies. FuKDuK.tv is a treasure trove full to the brim with authentic material on contemporary Thailand and it’s culture. Enjoy!

Learning Thai and experimenting with ALG for independent learners at ‘Bakunin Learns Thai’ (no longer live)

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An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two

 Luca Lampariello

Luca Lampariello’s language learning method…

To refresh your memory of Luca’s previous post, An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One, here are the main points of his language learning method:

  • The timeframe of the method is: Quality, then quantity.
  • The method is based upon a strategy of: Often, natural, and sà-nùk.
  • The strategy consists of: Listen, read, repeat, translate, translate back.
  • Often: Study Thai on a daily basis.
  • Natural: Don’t bother with the heavy tomes of grammar.
  • Sà-nùk: Make your language learning experience entertaining, not stressful.
  • Full circle: Thai (source files) => English => Thai

To explain the three phases of the method, I hand you over to Luca…

The elementary phase…

For this phase of the method, I often use the Teach Yourself series. You might be familiar with David Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai.

It does not matter if you don’t have Teach Yourself Thai. What does matter is choosing a quality course with Thai script and sound. Benjawan Poomsan Becker‘s Thai for Beginners, and Yuphaphann Hoonchamlong’s Thai Language and Culture for Beginners 1 both come to mind. And when they update (soon), the free FSI Thai materials are recommended too.

Note: The bulk of my method concentrates on the dialogues – listening, reading, translating the Thai into English, translating your English back into Thai – but do not ignore the lesson plan that comes with your Thai course.

The elementary phase consists of:

The Method Thai English Thai

  1. Listen to the audio files.
  2. Repeat the audio files.
  3. Read the materials with and without the audio files.
  4. Translate the Thai dialogue into English.
  5. Translate your English translation into Thai (transliteration or script).

When you translate the Thai dialogue (audio, transliteration, or script) into English first, then translate your English version back into Thai (transliteration or script), you come full circle.

Note: It is important to translate into English first. I am only emphasising this point because it is often misconstrued by those following my method (and I don’t want you to lose out).

Full circle: Thai (source files) => English => Thai

The full circle attributes of my method are what makes for a quality outcome.

For this phase, spend an hour a day on your lessons. If studying for a full hour is too much for you, break the hour into 15 or 30 minute sessions.

Below is a potential two week schedule:

Days 1-5: Listen, read, and repeat. Take notes on grammar.
Day 6: Listen, read, and repeat. Translate the first Thai dialogue into English.

To give you an idea on how it will work, Catherine contacted the publishers of Teach Yourself Thai for permission to share the first dialogue.

Official notice: Teach Yourself Thai reproduced by permission of the author (David Smyth) and Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

The sound files for the first dialogue:

The Thai sound files translated into English:

What is your name?
My name is Peter.
Peter, you are American?
I am English.
I come from Manchester.
Excuse me.
What is your name?

Day 7: Either give your studies a rest, or review what you have learned.
Days 8-14: Follow the same schedule for Unit 2.
Day 15: Take your English translation, and translate it back to Thai (script or transliteration).

The English translated back to Thai (transliteration):

sà-wàt-dee kâ
kun chêu à-rai ká
chêu bpee-dtêr kráp
kun bpee-dtêr bpen kon à-may-rí-gan châi măi ká
mâi châi kráp
bpen kon ang-grìt kráp
maa jàak man-chét-dtêr
kŏr tôht kráp
kun chêu à-rai kráp

The English translated back to Thai (script):

สวัสดี ค่ะ
คุณ ชื่อ อะไร คะ
ชื่อ ปีเตอร์ ดรับ
คุณ ปีเตอร์ เป็น คน อเมริกัน ใช่ ไหม คะ
ไม่ ใช่ ครับ
เป็น คน อังกฤษ ครับ
มาจาก เเมนเช็สเตอร์
ขอโทษ ครับ
คุณ ชื่อ อะไร ครับ

Tip: When you translate, work line by line. It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember everything, just do your best. Oh, and be sure to check your work for any mistakes.

Complete the rest of the course in this manner: Listen, read, repeat, translate the Thai source files to English, and then translate the English back to Thai.

After 1 month, start talking. Even if you don’t have a native speaker in front of you, imagine that he/she is there. Make an attempt at simple conversations.

Partway through this phase, you will be able to get by in an actual conversation. This is because translating the dialogues back and forth gives your brain the necessary rehearsal time to eventually speak in real time.

After 6 months, everything will be enormously easier.

The secondary phase…

The second, or intermediate phase, is very similar to the elementary phrase. You will use slightly more complicated texts, which will also need to be translated to English first, and then translated back to Thai.

I depend on Assimil for this phrase. Assimil offers one of the top Thai courses out there, but to get the most out of it you do need to read French.

Here are a three alternative Thai courses: Everyday Thai For Beginners by Wiworn, Ph.D. Kesavatana-Dohrs (don’t be put off by the title, this book is not for raw beginners); Thai for Intermediate Learners, by Benjawan Poomsan Becker; and Thai Language and Culture for Beginners 2, by Yuphaphann Hoonchamlong.

The secondary phase lasts 6 months, more or less.

The advanced phase…

This phrase is centred around talking with locals, watching movies, singing Thai songs, and reading advanced Thai materials. You might have nibbled away at each already (especially the Thai movies, songs and conversations) but this phrase concentrates even more so.

  • Movies: Watch Thai movies. Take notes.
  • Talk: Whenever you can, talk to the locals you meet (in person, or via Skype).
  • Sing: Take the time to learn Thai songs.
  • Read: Get stuck into Thai books, newspapers, and Thai language sites.

Movies: YouTube is a treasure trove for Thai movies. If you want to follow along with subtitles, here are a few of the excellent channels available: EDIT… even though they are educational, the videos have been taken off line.

Talk: If you do not live in Thailand, you can always join one of the online language learning groups which utilize Skype. As there are too many to list here, go to WLT’s Learn Thai for FREE resources page, then scroll down to ‘Online language exchange partners with Thai learners’.

Awhile back, I was talking with some Americans who asked, “Luca, how can you speak English like that, if you’ve never even been to the US before?”

My answer? For those who praise mp3’s as incredible for learning languages, think further: Skype.

Skype is the real deal. Audio-material – although the old-fashioned tape sound quality was often miserable – has been around for over 40 years. And while Skype has only been around for a short time, it is excellent for learning languages.

Bottom line: Conversations with native speakers are a must.

Thai songs: Learning to sing in your target language is a part of the sà-nùk factor we were discussing earlier. Again, YouTube is the place to go (search to find your music style). A decent site for Thai songs with lyrics is ethaimusic.com (offline for now). And AnothaiDara not only translates Thai movies, but Thai songs too.

Other advanced Thai learning resources: To progress in your reading, download Hugh Long’s triple package of free: Advanced Thai Reading and Vocabulary Building. Also advised is Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Thai for Advanced Readers.

Again, an overview of the method…

  • The timeframe: Quality, then quantity.
  • The strategy: Often, natural, and sà-nùk.
  • Strategy breakdown: Listen, read, repeat, translate, translate back.
  • Full circle: Thai (source files) => English => Thai

If you use my method, after a year and half (2 years max) you will be very good. And it won’t be a miracle, but a reality.

Anyone, I repeat, anyone, can use my method for self-study and get to an excellent level in a foreign language.

Luca Lampariello
Web: thepolyglotdream
Facebook: Luca Lampariello
YouTube: poliglotta80

WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One
WLT: Luca on Active Learning vs Passive Learning

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An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part One

 Luca Lampariello

Introducing Luca and his language learning method…

 Luca Lampariello Luca Lampariello is an Italian polyglot who speaks 9 languages: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, and Portuguese.

Chinese is his latest language project, and learning to speak Thai is a real possibility!

When Luca was barely in his teens (13), he began studying languages on his own. As his experience grew, he came to the conclusion that there is no one best way to learn a foreign language, but there are some universal principles. And handy for us, he believes that the principles should be shared with others desiring to learn a foreign language.

Using these basic principles in his self-study, over the years a simple language learning method evolved.

Full circle: Target language (source files) => Native language => Target language

The MethodThis method enabled him to acquire languages with ease. Ok, it is still a work in progress, but what method isn’t?

To talk with other language learners, Luca joined YouTube. You can find his informative videos on his YouTube channel at poliglotta80.

And YouTube is where I found both Luca and his method.

Excited about the possibilities, I contacted Luca to get the finer details on how his method would mesh with learning Thai. And as you will soon see, it works quite well. So well in fact, that we decided to work together to remix the script from his videos to fit a post format. Two posts, actually.

And that is what you will find in the coming information. Luca’s method, but with a focus on Thai language learners.

I now hand you over to Luca…

An easy way to learn foreign languages…

While learning a foreign language is not an easy task, it is not as difficult as it seems. I called one of my videos An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages, because I was inspired by the title of a book that made a serious impact in my life: An Easy Way to Stop Smoking.

Being able to quit smoking is generally perceived as difficult. The book literally dismantled the reasons why one smokes, and then rendered the quitting of cigarettes quite easy.

The idea is this: In order to be able to do something easier than first imagined, one has to be shown how to do that very same thing, only simply. This works for languages too, although it takes more of an effort.

My language learning method…

  • The timeframe of my method is: Quality, then quantity.
  • The method is based upon a strategy of: Often, natural, and sà-nùk.
  • The strategy consists of: Listen, read, repeat, translate, and then translate back.

Studying languages with quality and quantity:

From the very beginning, put quality time into your studies. The quality aspect makes the difference between an excellent and a mediocre outcome. Put quality into your studies for the first 8 months to 1 year. After that period of time, add an additional ingredient for a solid language acquisition: Quantity.

Quality: What is more powerful than absorbing content? Preparing and training your brain to receive that very same content, that’s what. And if you put the time into absorbing the sounds of your target language, your brain becomes plastic towards that language.

Quantity: Listening and reading become more effective once you’ve built a decent vocabulary. And if you acquire a stable of useful words, you are more likely to understand, enjoy, and learn from books, blogs, articles, and podcasts.

My method uses three basic principles:

Often: The first principle is to work on a daily basis. Or, at the very least, 5 days a week. No gigantic amount of work is required either. For the first 3 months, 1 hour a day of study is preferred. Later on you can cut it down to 30 minutes.

Please note that it is more effective to learn a little bit each day, than to cram for 2 long days each week. Trust me. And after a mere 6 months, you will be astounded at your progress.

Natural: The second principle is to learn in a natural way, as natural as possible. The natural way of getting into the fabric of a language doesn’t bother with the heavy tomes of grammar.

It is not that grammar books are not useful. But, given the heaviness of the subject, a strong focus on grammar has a tendency to discourage language learners.

In the first stages of the learning process, it is more fruitful to concentrate on the spoken language by listening to as much dialogue as possible. During this time, write down, in your own words, the bare basics of grammar. No more.

Sà-nùk: The third principle is very Thai: Sà-nùk (สนุก means ‘fun’ in Thai). This principle focuses on making your language learning experience entertaining, not stressful.

It is important to inject a bit of sà-nùk into your lesson plan, so here are a few suggestions:

  1. Create simple games with the lessons.
  2. Input the lessons into Byki (activities and games).
  3. If on a Mac, copy the vocab into aTypeTrainer4Mac.
  4. Learn a handful of Thai songs each month.
  5. Laugh at hilarious Thai commercials on YouTube.
  6. Partner with another Thai language learner.
  7. Challenge your partner to a Thai language competition.
  8. At each milestone, treat yourself to something lusciously sinful.

There will be times when you feel frustrated because you can’t recall something you worked on a few days ago. When this happens, allow yourself to relax. Remind yourself that soon enough, those very same worries will seem ridiculously easy.

One other important note: Even if it takes you 8-9 months to finish your chosen Thai course, don’t worry. The faster one learns a language, the faster one forgets. So don’t learn in haste. Remember that quality is much more efficient than quantity.

A few more tips before we move on…

The Internet:

Rather than surfing the Internet in search of multiple Thai language courses, concentrate on one set of materials. This is exactly what I do with the Assimil and Teach Yourself series (more about this later).

The Internet is an incredible tool for learning languages, but it also turns a fair number of people into passive learners. What I suggest is to become an active learner by sticking with good material at the exclusion of all others.

And only after you’ve acquired a core of language knowledge, do you head back to the Internet. Because it is at that point that the Internet will become an amazing means to improve your linguistic knowledge.

But until then, please don’t be tempted away by yet another language course. And another. And another.


A delicate subject to talk about is pronunciation. With some effort, even taking into account linguistic inclinations and ear, I personally believe that most language learners can reach a good pronunciation level.

What I want to point out though, is that it is extremely important to listen to the sounds from the early stages of your learning. And being tonal, this is especially true with the Thai language.

It is not just a matter of listening, but also being able to reproduce the sounds correctly through the proper positioning of your mouth and tongue.

Getting the assistance of a native speaker will accelerate the process of acquiring and reproducing sounds correctly.

Proper pronunciation consists of two main phases:

  1. Pronouncing single words correctly.
  2. Getting the correct intonation of a whole sentence.

Thai learners are lucky in that there is an excellent product available: Improving Your Thai Pronunciation, by Benjawan Poomsan Becker.

Thai script, transliteration, writing vrs typing:

I personally use MS Word for my foreign language studies. But, given transliteration and the Thai script, you might very well prefer to handwrite your homework.

If you are going the typing route, WLT has a post explaining how to type in Thai (PC typing resources are included): Thai Typing Tutors: aTypeTrainer4Mac

The beautiful Thai alphabet stumps many students, while challenging others. Taking this into account, you can choose to go through the method either way: Thai script or Thai transliteration.

If you are unfamiliar with Thai transliteration styles, visit thai-language.com to get a look at some that are available.

And for those of you desiring to get a jump on the Thai alphabet, 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet is the ticket. You can also study the Thai alphabet via one of the many language sites in WLT’s Learn Thai for FREE resources page (but don’t lose yourself in there!)

Please note: In An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two, I will explain (in detail), the strategy of my method.

Luca Lampariello
Web: thepolyglotdream
Facebook: Luca Lampariello
YouTube: poliglotta80

WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages: Part Two
WLT: Luca on Active Learning vs Passive Learning

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Learn Thai with Psycho-Cybernetics


Ah, to have the insecurities of a kid again…

When I was fourteen, I moved from the glorious New Zealand to the enormous U.S.

The U.S. was too strange, too big, too shiny new. Worse, I did not assimilate.

My experiences were not the same as my classmates, leaving me the outsider. Dense and awkward became the name of the game. And this, after previously being an avid participant in school activities, keeping fairly decent grades.

Enter a dog-eared copy of Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.

It literally changed my life.

Following Maxwell’s advice, I restructured my mindset away from feeling like a not so clever outcast, to being up to the challenges of a new life.

While it did not happen overnight, I did go from feeling that I couldn’t do anything, to believing that perhaps I could, then on to actually doing whatever fit my new mold.

After leaving school, the advice garnered from Psycho Cybernetics gave me the hootspa to work as: a mudlogger, draftsman, geotech, professional photographer, designer, and creative director. All sans official training.

But I never applied what I learned from Psycho-Cybernetics to foreign languages. And I don’t know why. A pity. Because when I started on the long road of learning Thai, it dredged up the negative baggage from before:

  • I’m not good at remembering vocabulary.
  • Perhaps I suffer from short-term memory loss?
  • My long term-memory isn’t too grand either.
  • I’m too shy to speak Thai in public.
  • I mean, what if I can’t find the right words?
  • And I’m having a difficult time staying motivated.
  • So much so, that I’d like to ditch my Thai class. Again.
  • In addition, the Thais speak too fast for me to keep up.
  • Awk! The tones! The tones! Awk! Awk!
  • And (a biggie), I’m not young anymore.
  • Darn. So maybe learning Thai is just TOO HARD!
  • Sigh. I must be a language learning dummy… :-(

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

Because it sure did to me. Only this time, I knew what to do.


And being older (cough) (cough), this time, I included audio in my search.

Matt Furey and the Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation…

The Internet is awash with Psycho-Cybernetics tips, but several resources stood out: Matt Furey’s Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation, and the Psycho-Cybernetics Audio Book by Maxwell Maltz. There is even a New Psycho-Cybernetics on the market.

One important lesson I learned from Psycho-Cybernetics is that I’m not shy. Ok, I am shy. Painfully shy even. But Psycho-Cybernetics taught me to stop my shyness from getting in the way of getting what I wanted/needed (same, same).

And as I wanted/needed to ask Matt Furey for advice, shy or not, I did.

Matt Furey: The most important psychological discovery of this century is the discovery of the “self image.” Whether we realize it or not, each of us carries about with us a mental blueprint or picture of ourselves. It may be vague and ill-defined to our conscious gaze. In fact, it may not be consciously recognizable at all. But it is there, complete down to the last detail.

This self image becomes a golden key to living a better life because of two important discoveries:

  1. All your actions, feelings, behaviors, even your abilities – are always consistent with this self image. The picture you have of yourself in your own mind determines your lot in life.
  2. The self image can be changed. Numerous case histories have shown that one is never too young nor too old to change his self-image and thereby start to live a new life.

If we feed information and data into our Creative Mechanism to the effect that we ourselves are unworthy, inferior, undeserving, incapable (negative self-image) this data is processed and acted upon as any other data in giving us the “answer” in the form of objective experience.

Visualizing, creative mental picturing, is no more difficult than what you do when you remember some scene out of the past, or worry about the future.

Acting out new action patterns is no more difficult than “deciding,” then following through on tying your shoes in a new and different manner each morning, instead of continuing to tie them in your old “habitual way,” without thought or decision.

Matt Furey
The Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation

Using Psycho-Cybernetics to get over the Thai learning blues…

So basically, Psycho-Cybernetics is a simple concept. You just write over negative thoughts with positive memories, replacing a negative self image with a positive one. Easy.

And while it might sound odd, your unconscious really can’t tell the difference between generated experiences and the actual ones.

So this is what you do…

First: Decide what you want to accomplish…

  • I want to feel confident enough to speak Thai.
  • I want to be able to concentrate on my studies for longer.
  • I want to retain x amount of new vocabulary each week.
  • I want to feel excitement for learning Thai.

Second: Tell yourself that it will happen, that you can do this…

  • I am a positive Thai speaker.
  • I can concentrate on my studies.
  • I do have the ability to learn x number of new words each week.
  • I love the feel-good factor of learning Thai

Third: Create detailed movies to play in your head…

  • You working hard at your Thai studies.
  • You being chuffed at how many new Thai words you acquired this week.
  • You grinning from ear to ear in anticipation of your next Thai class.
  • You speaking fluent Thai, surrounded by adoring Thai guys or gals or the other.

I can already hear the doubters out there. But come on, what have you got to lose? And if you are not too sure if it’ll work for you, then give it one just month. Pick a short month if you have to. Ok? And I will too.

Psycho-Cybernetics resources…

Psycho-Cybernetics Foundation
Psycho-Cybernetics Audio Book
New Psycho-Cybernetics

YouTube: Interview with Dr. Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics) 1/4
YouTube: Interview with Dr. Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics) 2/4
YouTube: Interview with Dr. Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics) 3/4
YouTube: Interview with Dr. Maxwell Maltz (Psycho-Cybernetics) 4/4
YouTube: Maxwell Maltz Clip

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Successful Thai Language Learner: Chris Baker

Chris Baker

Presenting… Chris Baker…

Disclaimer: I don’t advise anyone to replicate this method.

I’ve never had a single Thai lesson. By the time I started to learn Thai, I was already 30. I was conscious of having been trained by the British schooling system to learn languages (French, German, Russian) which I could never really use. I had learnt Tamil with a teacher in south India for my doctoral work, and read it quite well but spoke it badly. I moved to Thailand in 1979-80, already married to Pasuk, and in flight from Margaret Thatcher, and thus unlikely to return. I decided to approach learning Thai without teachers, a bit like learning as a child. This was partly laziness, and partly a conscious desire to escape my earlier experience with language learning.

In 1979, I walked into AUA (then virtually the only institutionalized Thai teaching center), and persuaded them to let me photocopy their introductory learning materials, and copy several tapes. I donated these to the Cambridge University Language Lab, their first Thai course, and used them for about six months to learn the sounds. I bought Campbell, Fundamentals of the Thai Language, and used that to learn the script (helped by knowing Tamil which has a similar alphabetic structure). I also looked around for a translated novel, and found only Botan’s Letters From Thailand. I’d read a page in English, and then the same page in Thai. This did not work so well because Susan Kepner’s translation is very loose, but I got used to reading.

I came to Thailand in 1980 and worked in a company with two Farang and about thirty Thai. I later moved to a company with 300 Thai where for most of the time I was the only Farang. So I learned to understand Thai by just listening to what was going on around me all day. I also watched a lot of Thai television, and even resisted getting English-language cable when it came available. At some point I stopped translating what I was hearing and began listening in Thai. I can’t remember when that was but it took a long time. More slowly, I got confident about speaking. I was fine at everyday conversation and business uses. I’m still not much good at formal presentation. The first time I gave an academic presentation off the cuff, someone came up afterwards and asked Pasuk why I had to speak like a peasant. I was just using everyday language, without the gear-shift needed for a formal presentation.

At that time I read enough for business uses, and a bit of newspapers, but I did not practice properly, and my reading speed remained very low. I had no need to write in Thai, so I lost that completely, but I can use a keyboard, hunt-and-peck style.

In 1997, I stopped working in business. By this time, there were lots of things that I wanted to read in Thai. I decided to work at improving my reading by spending several hours a day on reading Nidhi, Chatthip, Chai-Anan, Kachon, Sombat, etc, etc. After a couple of months, my speed had improved a lot, but I twigged that I was cheating: if a word was familiar I would pretend to myself I understood it. To enforce some discipline, I decided to translate formally. I chose Chatthip’s Thai Village Economy in the Past because I’d read it and knew it was easy, and because it’s a book many foreigners had commented about without actually knowing what it said. Also, Chatthip is a friend. I discovered I enjoyed doing translation so I also did bits by Nidhi, King Rama V, the Communist Party of Thailand, Pridi, etc, etc. I can now read quite quickly. Only recently I’ve acquired the important ability to scan a text without having to read every word.

The fascination with Khun chang khun phaen goes back some time. When we were writing Thailand: Economy and Politics in the early 1990s, I had just read E.P. Thompson’s Customs in Common and I wanted to use some literary sources. I found out about KCKP, and we used it in a small way in the prologue. Some time around then I read William Gedney’s enthusiastic comments on the poem. Then I decided to translate Nidhi’s Pen and Sail, which uses KCKP a lot. We tried to get literature specialists, both Thai and Farang, to help translate the literary extracts in Pen and Sail, but nobody would cooperate. Eventually, Pasuk and I did them ourselves. As a result, I got more interested in KCKP, and also realized that I could probably handle old poetic Thai with a bit of effort.

Why translate KCKP? There’s not one major piece of old Thai literature in translation. Much of the canon is adapted from elsewhere (from Java, India, China), but KCKP is a local original. Lots of old Thai works consists of fantastic tales about gods and kings, while the core of KCKP is a wrenching tragedy probably based on a true story. It’s also a wonderful social panorama. Gedney wrote, with a bit of exaggeration, ‘If all other information on traditional Thai culture were to be lost, the whole complex could be reconstructed from this marvelous text.’ Most of all, it’s just a great story, and deserves a wider hearing.

It’s also fascinating on gender grounds. It has been lambasted by feminists. One of our good friends wrote Thailand’s first feminist tract 35 years ago as a blast against KCKP. Some friends are seriously perplexed why we should want to translate it. But you can also read the text as a serious and sympathetic study of women in a male-oriented society. The female lead, Wanthong, is by far the most complex character and has all the best lines.

When we started, I could not read it at all. Pasuk translated word for word; I transcribed; and then I reconstructed as English prose. But by a third of the way through, I could do it solo—with a lot of bloopers. I’ve since been back and read the whole original at least twice.

At the beginning, there were many things we could not understand—words whose meaning has been lost, concepts and metaphors that belong to a culture now in the past. Astrology, supernaturalism, food, dress, weaponry, architecture, etc. We have had to consult lots of people and lots of book. In rendering to English, the main difficulties have been over curses and endearments. เนื้อเย็น works wonderfully in Thai as a compliment to an intimate partner, but how do you capture both the idea and the gentle sound in English? Also, the original poem is in a wonderful, headlong meter which is impossible to replicate. We are rendering it into prose, but we are conscious that it began in oral tradition and we are trying to make it read aloud well. The sea at Hua Hin has heard a lot of it.

We plan to publish it late next year (2010). I’m not sure there’s another old literary work I’m interested in translating but I’m open to suggestion. Lilit phra lo is wonderful, but Robert Bickner’s translation is rumored to appear real soon now. What else? I’d like to do some more work on the old KCKP manuscripts. I’m thinking of translating some late Ayutthaya historical documents. I also have a draft of a book on Ayutthaya written almost a decade ago which I really should finish.

Chris Baker

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Note: Chris Baker, with his wife Pasuk Phongpaichit, wrote: A History of Thailand, Thaksin: The Business of Politics in Thailand, Thailand’s Boom and Bust, and Thailand’s Crisis… and much more.

If you would like to share how you successfully attained the ability to communicate in Thai, please contact me to make it so.

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My Thai Language Experience

Language Experience

Methods. Stops and Starts…

Moving to the Island of Borneo in ’94, Thailand became a yearly destination. After falling in love with the Thai countryside, the Thai people, and the hottest food in the world, eventually building a house in Chang mai was a real possibility.

With this in mind (but knowing I had scads of time), I purchased Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Thai For Beginners (book and cassettes).

As you can see from the photo above, my copy is well-worn. But truthfully, it’s from scraping in and out of luggage, backpacks and carry-ons. Not from actual use.

Today when I look at Thai For Beginners I see a well-grounded book. But back then I’d tuck up in a Thai hotel room, cassette player by my side and TFB in hand, then freeze about page 27 with ‘The Thai Writing System’.

Thai uses an alphabet of 44 consonants, 32 vowels, four tone marks and various other symbols for punctuation, numbers, etc.

The longer you rely on transliteration, the more time you’ll waste reinforcing a writing system that will be virtually useless in Thailand.

At some point between discovering Thailand and moving here (nine years), I purchased Survival Thai by Dr. Michael Gruneberg. Word association is a proven method, but he neglected to mention an aspect of learning the Thai language. The five tones. And if you know anything about the Thai language, the avoidance of learning tones can get you into blush-inducing communication difficulties.

Teach Yourself Thai' title=Another course I ordered before the move (bless amazon) was Teach Yourself Thai, by David Smyth. As my packing was in high gear, ‘Teach Yourself Thai’ was shoved into a crate soon after being torn out of the box.

Landing in Bangkok, I spent the first couple of months unpacking and walking around dazed. Culture shock was expected as a been there, done that, so the time was allotted for.

After the breather, I checked the expat forums for contacts, then hired a Thai teacher to teach in my home. The teacher was lovely. The vocabulary wonderful. The transliteration in the prepared lessons, not so much.

Frustrated at fighting through what seemed to me forgettable transliteration sans Thai script (yes, it was a Becker / reading Thai head-desk), I recorded the weekly lessons (words that bounce around my head even still).

When not recording, the class pretty much consisted of talking about Thailand, Bangkok, relatives and relationships. In English. Meaning, ten thousand baht later, I came away with a handful of disjointed Thai words and a brief introduction to living in Thailand. As seen through Issan eyes.

It might seem expensive to some, but the chats helped ease me into my new home. And I guess that’s the main reason I didn’t force the class back in line. You see, as an experienced expat I know a mourning period is needed after an international move. Mourning for lost friends, a lost lifestyle, and of course, the lost confidence of knowing where everything is. By taking a brief Thai class with a entertaining local lass, I slid into Thailand instead of the alternative.

Making my way to Pantip Plaza, I grabbed a copy of Rosetta Stone Thai Explorer, followed by Rosetta Stone Thai Level 1. Recognising similar photos from my Rosetta Stone French course, there were no surprises there. Rosetta Stone claims their program ‘unlocks your innate language learning ability’ so I will give it a decent try. Later.

My next attempt was in an actual classroom setting with Cracking Thai Fundamentals, taught by the entertaining Stuart Jay Raj. An impressive linguist, Stuart reads and writes 13 modern languages and has a close relationship with 15 others.

The Cracking Thai Fundamentals workshop does not promise to have you speaking Thai after 8 lessons. What the course does do is strip away the mystery of the language and provide you with skills and knowledge that will facilitate and even accelerate any further study in the language.

Cracking Thai Fundamentals is a linguists playground. Peppered with storytelling, it’s a course heavy in the minute details of language learning.

Stuart is now teaching Cracking Thai Fundamentals and more at stujay.com. And if you are lucky enough to take one of Stuart’s courses, you will also learn a multitude of useful tricks for getting around in the Thai language.

Thai Pronunciation' title=And along with Improving Your Thai Pronunciation by Benjawan Poomsan Becker, ‘Cracking Thai Fundamentals’ is the reason I no longer fear the dreaded five tones. As much.

Soon after finishing the course, I moved further into Bangkok. Taking a different tack, I signed up at a nearby Thai language school for one-on-one lessons. At this point I was travelling a great deal and renovating a condo, so classes were once a month to once every three months. Obviously, with my tough schedule, learning Thai was not a priority. An additional strike against, I neglected to record the lessons.

During class we tried out Spoken Thai by Plung Phloyphrom, and Speaking Thai (The Fastest Way to Speak Thai) by Dhirapol Polsawasdi and Chanchai Boonhao. But with six lessons spread wide over a year (and nothing recorded for the in-between times), there wasn’t much of a chance of getting ahead in Thai.

Towards the end of the course I requested to be switched off the transliteration method and over to learning the Thai alphabet. Again, it was difficult going. To assist, my first flash card purchase was the full colour set used in Thai schools. While attractively designed, for me the lack of a translation limited their ease of use.

My second flash card purchase was an improvement. Thai Alphabet Flashcards (buythaibooks.com – suspended for now) are from a top Thai language learning website, Learning Thai (offline for now). One side has Thai, flipping the card over shows an explanation in English. The cards are handy for getting acquainted with the Thai alphabet.

Thai Alphabet 60 minMy continued search finally led me to the secret to effortlessly learning the Thai alphabet. And although it took me a lot longer than stated, 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet is amazing.

Relying on simple images, they’ve devised a visual memory system to help you learn the sounds, shapes, class and location of the Thai letters. It works.

So where Survival Thai used word association, 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet uses visual association. Bingo.

An understatement, I’m not a quick learner when it comes to languages. But by using the visual association method, it took me around 10 minutes to learn how to read Thai numbers. Due to the assortment of Thai rules, learning the alphabet took me a lot longer. A whole lot longer than 60 minutes. But no matter, I was hooked. And I could now make out Thai words while running around Bangkok.

And this is one of the reasons I decided to embark on this website. I know there has to be an easier way to learn Thai. I just have to find it. Or, design a program to suit how I learn.

No. I’m not ignoring the amount of hard work it will take to learn a language as difficult as Thai. I’m just suggesting that it doesn’t have to be mind-numbingly dull or painful.

So I guess I need to source out how

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