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Tag: Motivation

Thai Language Thai Culture: Learning Thai Later in Life

Thai Language

Learning Thai Later in Life…

I read the Language Forum posts on ThaiVisa.com regularly to find out what some people are thinking about learning Thai. Some of the posters are quite knowledgeable and I learn a lot from them (I just learned a new Thai word today from a post: แรงจูงใจ /raeng-​joong-​jai/ “motivation”). But sometimes the posts are less than helpful. From a post this week titled “Reasons Why Not to Study a New Language”, here is one comment, “Learning Thai is boring and a waste of time, useless outside this liitle (sic) country. If you can get by without don;t (sic) bother” .

As you probably have guessed, I don’t completely agree with the last comment. But for some, like our commenter, they really may have no แรงจูงใจ /raeng-​joong-​jai/ for learning Thai. It is a truly difficult language to learn and the ROI, return on investment, is just not worth their effort. For them, I recommend that they not waste their time with learning Thai. With that attitude, failure is almost guaranteed.

But for others, whether they want to feel more at home here, want to speak with and understand those around them better, want to communicate with a friend or spouse in more than just broken or pigeon English, want to express more about what they are feeling than just being able to say, sometimes using only hand gestures, that “I am hungry”, or simply want to keep their brains from atrophying in this hot tropical climate, they do have the motivation to accept the challenge of leaning Thai.

The big question is, and it is one that keeps a lot of people from taking up that language-learning challenge, “is it more difficult to learn a foreign language when you are older?”

The answer is yes. Learning any language after our teenage years really is difficult, but not necessarily that much more difficult later in life. At a certain age our brains are wired to learn language, any language. We all pick up language about the same age, somewhere between 2 and 4 and that language-learning-on-steroids continues on until we are teenagers. During this time we can learn more than one language. That is how some people become truly bilingual. It is probably true that a child can learn to speak 3 or 4 languages fluently at this time. Our brains are just wired that well. But sometime later our brains probably go on to be used in learning other skills. So if you are past your language learning age, yes, learning new languages will be difficult, but not impossible.

The questions about the difficulties learning Thai when we are older are often asked by seniors who have come to Thailand to retire. Their response frequently is, “I’m too old to learn a new language.”; although I have heard people in their 20s say the same thing. It is a great excuse for not learning Thai. But it is not true.

Age should not stop anyone from learning anything, a new language included. It might slow you down a bit, but at our age what hasn’t slowed down? After the age when our brains are less wired to learning languages, picking up new ones becomes more and more difficult. But it has always been difficult, hasn’t it? When you studied that foreign language in high school, did you find that easy? I didn’t. I not only failed French, I failed Spanish too.

On the other side of the fence, I have taught English as a second language in a number of countries, and in America, and I spent about 10 years trying to teach Thais English, some of the most futile times in my life. Of all the students I have taught, my best students, the only ones who really mastered English, were students at a community college in the U.S. They came from places as varied as Mexico, Russia, Brazil, China, Italy, and South East Asia. The one thing they all had in common though, was that they were all immigrants.

As it turns out, studies have been done to determine what variables make for successful language learners. Teachers, textbooks, methodology, student’s native language, their educational level, were all ruled to have a minor influence. The one major characteristic all good language learners have in common is “motivation”; there’s that word แรงจูงใจ /raeng-​joong-​jai/ again.

When you live in an environment where everyone speaks one language, and you speak another, it becomes easier to develop the motivation to learn to communicate with those around you. And who has more motivation for learning a new language than an immigrant?

As for all those foreigners coming to Thailand to work or to retire, you are surrounded by people speaking a different language than you. If you have the motivation of a typical immigrant (which is what you basically are) to communicate with those around you and to learn a new language, then you are not too old.

Here are some suggestions for learning Thai (or any new language) for those who are beyond the “language-learning-on-steroids” years.

Define your motivation…

Know exactly why you are putting in the time and effort to study Thai. I mean, if you exercise you might be doing it to look good, or for your health. If you study the piano you can do it to accompany your own singing (which is why I am currently, at age 66, learning the piano), or as a meditation, or simply for the love of music. All of us will have our own reasons for learning Thai. Define your goals and work hard to achieve them.

Take lessons…

A good teacher is important. Do some research and find the person using the methods that fit your personality and needs. I personally liked learning in a class setting better than one-on-one. Others might feel the opposite. If you take scheduled lessons, especially ones that you pay for, you will have more of a reason not to skip one. It is like having a personal trainer who forces you to do those last 10 pushups. If you try to learn Thai without a teacher then it will be like having to do all those pushups by yourself.

Carry a notebook…

Every time you come across an English word you would like to say in Thai, or a Thai word you would like to know the meaning of, write it down, even if it is only phonetically. I have hundreds of pages of words like this. I use them like a personal vocabulary textbook containing words that I need or want to use.

Use a dictionary (paper, on-line, or human)…

Don’t let inertia stop you from looking up a new word (often from that notebook of yours), or at least asking someone who knows Thai to help you out. It takes time and effort to look up words but the rewards are there for you. Find a dictionary that you find easy to use (with type that you won’t have to use a magnifying glass to read), or if it is a person, someone who is reliable and can answer your questions.

Be patient…

You don’t have a time limit on learning a language. I mean, most of us are still learning new words in our own native language. You have the rest of your life. Note your progress and remember that all learning has a plateau phase when our brains don’t do much for a while and nothing new happens (It is probably just resting.) But the brain is getting ready to make that next quantum leap later.

Have fun…

If you aren’t enjoying what you are doing then you’re like that guy from above who thinks that “Learning Thai is boring and a waste of time”. The way I keep it fun is I look at leaning new words like I am playing a computer video game where I need to collect weapons (words in this case) that I can use to slay the monsters and eventually save the princess.

Saving the princess. That is my แรงจูงใจ /raeng-​joong-​jai/.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

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David Mansaray: How to Use Motivation Effectively

How to Use Motivation Effectively

How to Use Motivation Effectively…

Has this ever happened to you? You are busy thinking the same ‘ole thoughts like you always do, and then someone comes along and changes your head around with one of those “ah, hah!” moments.

That’s exactly what happened to me this week when watching David Mansaray’s video: How to Use Motivation Effectively.

Please watch his video (so that my explanation below makes perfect sense).

In the video David took “the minimum dose needed to have the desired effect” and combined it with “becoming motivated”. His idea is for us to motivate ourselves just enough to propel us to do what we plan to do, but not enough to use up all our energy before we get there.

[ insert “ah hah!” here ]

Now, I’ve been worried about my lack of motivation to learn languages for a good long while. I eventually came to the conclusion that I was more interested in researching how to learn languages, than actually learning languages.

Researching all the different language learning methods gives me a high; an energy that pulls me forward. Seriously, I can spend hours going from one theory to another, often writing posts on what I find.

And just like David explains in the video, by the time I got to my studies, I’m done. I’m zapped out and my enthusiasm has wained.

But, after listening to David’s explanation, I realised that’s not 100% the case. What I was actually doing was using up my energy and motivation to study before I could get to my studies.

So instead, if I just follow what David suggests and harness that energy before it’s consumed, then my natural excitement for languages will be transferred to my studies instead. See?

And guess what? It works! As soon as the rush of David’s “ah hah!” hit, instead of searching for similar motivation resources, I went off to study. For hours. Fantastic.

If you too are having motivation issues, please give David’s idea a try and let us know how you get on. Ok?

A little about David Mansaray…

I’ve been following David for quite awhile, on his blog and on twitter. What first attracted me to David was his interest in learning languages.

Do you remember The Polyglot Project with Claude Cartaginese? Since then David and Claude have teamed up for the informative The Polyglot Project Podcast. Prepare to be inspired.

But David’s overall goal is the exciting Big Self-Education Project:

I’m going to challenge the status quo. I decided to drop out of university to pursue self-education. Over the next few months, or perhaps years, I’m going to teach myself a number of different skills and I’ll share my journey. How much can we learn and how far can we go without an institution or qualifications? That’s just what I’m going to find out!

I’m here to teach you how to learn more quickly and effectively. I share actionable steps and I also explain the science that holds it all together, because understanding why something works increases the chances of you actually doing it.

Site: David Mansaray
Twitter: @DavidMansaray
YouTube: davidmansaray
Facebook: davidmansaray

Thanks David. Your ‘Big Self-Education Project’ is certainly working for me. More please.

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Unmotivated to Study Thai? Just STOP IT!

Unmotivated to Study Thai? Just STOP IT!

Unmotivated to Study Thai? Just STOP IT!…

Last year I asked How Do You Motivate Yourself to Study Thai? Check out the answers in the comments – they’re great.

When I started researching for a followup post I collected resources for staying motivated to learn a foreign language, or most anything.

For the love of languages: How to stay motivated while learning languages
The Linguist: How to stay motivated in language learning – the mind and the brain
Success Consciousness: Motivation and How to Get Motivated
Pick the Brain: 7 Steps To Motivate Yourself

But then I found a hysterical video from Bob Newhart with a simple message anyone can follow: Just STOP IT!

That’s right. If you are bogged down with a zillion excuses to avoid studying your Thai lessons, Just STOP IT! It’s that simple.

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How Do You Motivate Yourself to Study Thai?

What is Your Motivation to Study Thai?

Are some languages seriously harder than others… or…

According to the graphic below, for English speakers Thai is in the medium range of difficulties at 44 weeks. The hardest languages to learn are double that at 88 weeks. And apparently it takes a mere 23-24 weeks to learn Italian.

But seriously, I believe they have the graph all wrong.

MOTIVATION should be in huge letters at the top of their factor list. Because without motivation, the other talking points don’t mean a thing – and the 23-24, 44, and 88 week estimates turn into unattainable dreams.


Via: Voxy Blog

So, what do you do when you run out of steam to study Thai? How do you revive your language learning passion?

Do you listen to Thai music?
Which singers, which songs?
Do you watch Thai movies?
Which actors, what movies?
Do you (gasp) watch Thai tv?
Which programs?

And while I’m at it… what is YOUR motivation for learning Thai?

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Lani, a Thai Learning Thai: Part 2

A Thai Learning Thai

This Thai learning Thai…

Learning Spanish seemed counterintuitive to retaining any Thai that I had acquired but that is exactly what I did. When I moved to Ecuador I thought I could keep up with my Thai and learn Spanish too but I couldn’t. There wasn’t enough room in me brain for both languages.

Acclimating to the altitude and culture was enough to contend with, but I was surprised by how much Thai still bounced around in my head. One of my colleagues had her students interview me for her Comparing Cultures class which was flattering and one of my own students showed interest in learning a little Thai which was endearing too.

Thailand might have been on the other side of the globe but it was never too far from me. So it is no surprise that I’m here again and picking my way though the vocabulary discard pile as I try to get back into the Thai language.

When I returned I kept saying Sí and Spanish words came to me quicker than Thai yet at the same time when I tried to recall words I needed to know for a particular task or transaction, the right words magically pop-tarted out of my toaster. And now that I have started taking Thai classes again, Spanish is fading like my memories of Ecuador.

Last year I took Thai 1 and 2 at Payup University but I decided to take a beginner’s class again – this time at AUA. And I’m really glad I did because it’s been a structured refresher’s course for me as well as a lesson in confidence building.

My classmates think I have great Thai because I know more words than they do but as I explained I came back to the basics because I feel like I learned bad Thai. My tones (if any) were wrong and thankfully the teacher I have now is motivated to teach us the correct tones.

I had heard somewhere that when learning a language it can be beneficial to take a break, a long break and even learn another language before coming back to the original language again. And I must say that that person is spot on the doggie.

I feel a little more attuned to the nuances that I missed before like spelling, correct pronunciation and sentence structure (damn classifiers). I try to learn words that I don’t think I’ll ever use because this time around I know that just because I won’t ever use that word doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

Maybe I have short memory but I think I am engaging in more conversations too. I’m not as afraid to try because I know that I need the practice. The good thing about the people I interact with is they know I’m trying so they stick with Thai.

Last year it seemed like there were more people who just wanted to switch over to English. I don’t know. But this year maybe I’m giving off the I’m Serious vibe. Perhaps I’m willing to sweat a little more. As they say in aerobics class, “Let’s do this together.”

Lani Cox
{the missing teacher}

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Lani, a Thai Learning Thai: Part 1

A Thai Learning Thai

This Thai learning Thai…

Unfortunately there was no mystical transference or osmosis of language from mother to womb. So I am an American born woman who is ironically half Thai and half Chinese. Ironically because my ethnic makeup is very Thai, something I learned when I moved here as an adult. There are many Thai-Chinese in bra-tet Thai including the reining King.

So it is the great unanswered question: why did my mother not teach my brother and I Thai? We can look to historic events and circumstances surrounding my birth. The Vietnam War had ended and the good people of the United States on more than one occasion asked my parents, “Are you Vietnamese?” Did this have any bearing on my mother’s decision?

We can look to education or lack thereof. Do educated parents normally, bo-get-tee, teach their children their native language if it differs from where they are raising their children? Consequently, do undereducated parents decide it is best for their children to learn only the dominate culture? While my father was college educated, my mother was not. Her family was too poor to send her to school so she dropped out around the fifth or sixth grade. We don’t really know. Her birth wasn’t even recorded.

She was born in Lamphun situated a little south of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. My father died in a motorbike accident when I was six during a family vacation. I never asked my mom if he tried to teach us Chinese or what he thought about us learning Thai. I will have to ask her the next time I speak to her. It might seem odd to never ask my mom these questions but it is odd to think of them.

If you’ve ever lost a close family member like a parent or a sibling when you were young (or whenever?) you would understand that information about the deceased somehow gets lost until you think to look for it. Information is sometimes offered or shared which then provides more questions you never thought of before. It’s a strange storytelling dance that is full of surprises.

It is not like I didn’t ask my mom to teach me, especially when she was around her Thai friends in Hawaii. “What are they saying? What are you talking about? Teach me”. “I don’t know how”, was her answer. “Well, how do you count?” I learned how to count to ten and it didn’t go any further than that.

Well, I learned how to say you got small balls. Apparently this is a Laos slang saying. Oh, you want to know? It’s tonal you realize and I’m not sure I can convey a tone through print. Ba-hahm-noi (mid, low, high) just think of all the ways a set can sit. Little boys are called this as well, so I’ve learned, although I have never heard anyone say this and I’m not about to be the one who starts.

Of course I have asked my mother: “why didn’t you teach us?” Heck, she’s been asked the question from family and friends and probably strangers although I don’t believe she knows any. My mom seems to know every Thai person on the island of Oahu and it’s a healthy community. Her response to the dreaded question – “they wouldn’t have used it or they wouldn’t need it, when would they use it”, etc.

So now that I’m living in Thailand, what’s my excuse? Right about now – it’s a lack of motivation. I’ve gotten by all my life. And that, my friends, is a hard habit to break.

Lani Cox
{the missing teacher}

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