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Tag: Steve Pavlina’s 30 days to success

My 30 Day Thai Language Trial: Overview

New Years resolution

Overview of my 30 day Thai language trial…

Don't Break the ChainWell, that’s that. Finish. My 30 day Thai language trial is over.

And I now have a new habit. Studying Thai. Daily. Yeah! But please note: I will no longer upload the Don’t Break the Chain graphics from my iPhone to WLT’s sidebar.

(It was a tedious chore, and one I forgot. Often ;-)

I started this 30 day trial because my Thai learning had stagnated. Sure, I had oodles of Thai language courses and resources. But what I needed was a better method of studying, as well as new study habits. Daily study habits (as it turns out).

Some of you might be in a similar situation. You want to speak a language other than your own, but you don’t know how to go about it; you don’t know what works for you.

Because (as you might have discovered) there is more to learning languages than selecting a language course.

And that’s what the 30 day trial did for me. It jump-started a better way of learning.

A given, everyone has a different language learning style. The 30 day trial proved to me that Luca’s method suited me best. If you are coming across this series for a first time, be sure to either listen to Luca’s explanation of his method on YouTube at An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages, or read about it in two parts on WLT here: Part One and Part Two.

My biggest fear wasn’t about the method, but that I would not be able to acquire a regular study habit. Why? Well, the list went on and on, but it was top-heavy with insomnia and procrastination (which resulted in frustration).

But I now know that Steve, emk and Jerry are totally correct. That if you do something for around 30 days, non-stop, you will be the proud owner of a new habit. Again, if you are coming here all shiny new, please click on their names above or read my 30 Days to Successful Thai Language Habits post.

Along the way I discovered even more language learning resources of interest: The Mozart Effect, Shadowing, iReadFast and spreeder.com. Each one is a keeper so please check them out too.

The true test of this trial is not after a short 30 days run, but a year plus. And to put myself to the test, I have timestamped a post for next year.

Because even though the 30 day trial series is over, it’s not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Thai lesson to prepare for…

My 30 day Thai language trial…

If you are reading about my 30 day trial for the first time, please visit these posts:

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My 30 Day Thai Language Trial: Week Four

New Years resolution

Week four of my 30 day Thai language trial…

Don't Break the ChainHere I am again. Reporting in. And just like last week, I’m here say that nothing has changed. I now have a new study habit. And the weird thing about it is this: it’s like I’ve had it forever.

As before, I listened, read, and repeated the scheduled Thai conversations. Some days I did well, other days I didn’t. But I studied each and every day, with no missing days in the chain.

One unexpected outcome is my increased confidence with Thai. My previous mode of studying in dribs and drabs never garnered the same results.

So if you are stuck with your Thai studies, perhaps you too should give a serious thought towards a 30 day Thai language trial.

Note: There will be one more post on the subject of my 30 day language trial. So until then… WHOOOHOOOO! (I made it… almost ;-)

My 30 day Thai language trial…

If you are reading about my 30 day trial for the first time, please visit these posts:

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My 30 Day Thai Language Trial: Week Three

New Years resolution

Week three of my 30 day Thai language trial…

Don't Break the ChainI am settled into a study schedule, so that’s it. It took three weeks for me to gain a new language learning habit.

Nothing odd happened this week so I won’t post the results. I basically listened, read, and then repeated the Thai conversations. There were a few times when my time was strapped (and I forgot to update my calendar even). To make sure there was a continued input of Thai, on those days I pared down my studies to listening and repeating the audio.

What I do want to do is share two more language learning toys discovered while using Luca’s Method: iReadFast and spreeder.com.

As mentioned, Luca’s Method centres around reading, listening, repeating. Sometimes I scrolled the Thai conversations in MS Word docs while listening to the audio, other times I printed out the Thai (but that means a waste of trees). I knew there just HAD to be a fix somewhere. A MS Word or PDF scroller was my first thought.

After trying out all possible keywords, I finally found speed reading programs. Most for the Mac could not read Thai script so I kept looking. Bless LifeHacker for their article: iReadFast Speed Reader. iReadFast does read Thai.

If you are on either a PC or Mac you can use spreeder.com which is an online speed reader.

And if you want to peck through other readers (not free), here is an overview: Speed Reading Software Review.

I never did get the speed timed to my audio files (karaoke software is a possibility). But regardless, both speed readers are a fantastic find for reading Thai script. My reading speed has already improved so I will continue to use them (even without sound capabilities).

The theory behind reading words at the same eye level is called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation.

Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) is a method of displaying information (generally text or images) in which the text is displayed word-by-word in a fixed focal position. Aside from a basic reading aid, RSVP is being researched as a tool to increase individual reading rates.

Whatever the theory, it works. So please do give it a try.

My 30 day Thai language trial…

If you are reading about my 30 day trial for the first time, please visit these posts:

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My 30 Day Thai Language Trial: Week Two

New Years resolution

Week two of my 30 day Thai language trial…

Don't Break the ChainThe more I note the lack of sleep in the weekly reviews of my trial, the more I am getting pissed off.

Insomnia has been a part of my life since my toddler days and I usually work around it. I ignore it if I can. Sometimes I back off from plans. Sometimes I soldier on shagged out. Sometimes I howl at the frustration of it all.

Today, while writing this out, I’m in full howl mode.

Because now that I really really want to ramp up my Thai, it is coming to me just how invasive this lack of sleeping is.

I guess that is what happens when something has been a part of your life for a long time. Until you force yourself to face it, you try and pretend that it does not exist. And yeah. I do know how insane that sounds.

If you have never suffered from insomnia, please let me try and explain…

Insomnia is a lot like a bad internet connection. You have work to do. You have deadline. But until that connection works, you are totally stuffed. You are left clicking CONNECT! CONNECT! CONNECT! It sucks. Totally. But if you live where the connection is always bad, you deal. Because you have to.

Ok. I’m done ranting.

New language learning stuff…

A new addition to my language learning / sleep inducing arsenal are the Creative Aurvana in-ear performance earphones.

The earbuds to my iPod/iPhone earphones were in tatters, and since Thailand is not big on keeping parts in stock (and I was desperate) Aurvana was chosen from my local iStore. I wore the earplugs Thursday night and getting to sleep was a breeze. Friday was not as successful, but you can’t blame external happenings on earplugs (the bed was restless).

If you are interested, please note that the Aurvana earplugs are miserable for walking. I took them to Central on Friday and the cord noise was awful. No matter, being stationary is what I need them for.

The earbuds fit so snug, they block out the TV and most sharp noises that tend to irritate. When I compared Aurvana with the JVC HANC250 (high-grade noise canceling headphones), I’d say they come pretty close.

The earphones are small, so there is no additional noise found with large headphones brushing against whatever (sofa pillows, cord, etc).

Note: If they had been available, I would have gone for the Zen Aurvana (active noise canceling) version instead.

Friday, January 8 (day eight)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

I was more relaxed on Friday. I am guessing it is because I learned a fairly useful lesson last week. That if I do not get to my studies right away, I will. Eventually. I am committed.

Needing to spend my morning running about the city, I settled into typing conversations in the afternoon. In the evening I listened, read, and repeated Thai conversations.

Saturday, January 9 (day nine)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

Face it. I have not been awake enough to go straight to my original goal of studying before emails. But to keep ahead of the game, I started typing future conversations instead. This also gets a fair bit of listening in because I am finding mistakes in my Thai materials = the need to listen over and over again. Typing, and then reading while I listen to the audio, catches these mistakes. It also ties the written Thai in with the audio.

On and off, Saturday was spent getting my Thai materials just so.

As the days go on, I find myself leaving my set objectives – listen, read, and repeat – to the end of the night. I am a bit worried that it won’t be conducive for learning Thai as I am not a night person. But. Shrug. I am not always a morning person either.

Sunday, January 10 (day ten)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

Throughout the day on Sunday I typed, listened, and read. Even though my studies were spread out, it was a productive day.

Monday, January 11 (day eleven)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

After playing around with Luca’s method for almost two weeks, I decided to switch around my materials. Sort of like, midstream, I know. The reason? Because the audio files I am using do not have smooth conversations that jig with me. They are a compilation of this and that, so there is not enough flow. And I want flow.

I started my morning by translating six chosen Thai conversations into English (this included listening, typing, and reading). In the afternoon I had a two hour Thai lesson. I closed down the evening by running through three of the six conversations. I’m on a roll.

Suggested materials: Luca uses Assimil (btw – the Thai audio is great). But you can use pretty much any Thai conversations from course materials. Just be sure to pick conversations that suit your level, and especially your temperament (something I discovered these past weeks). If your audio comes with a mix (English, conversations, and exercises), using Audacity, just copy what you need to create a dedicated audio.

Tuesday, January 12 (day twelve)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

I’m finally getting into stride on my daily lessons. No, my sleep has not improved, just… softened (the sure sign of resignation… mine).

Instead of forcing myself to study for a set length of time, I study for a long as I feel like. As long as it is fun, interesting, and chuffable. If I have do not have at least an hour clocked during the day, I make up the time in the evening.

Just a couple of days ago I believed that my brain was not geared to study at night. But now I know that I was sooooooooooooooo wrong. It’s nice being wrong.

In the morning I tidied up the six dialogues (adding notes on colloquial and idiomatic Thai, formatting, etc). I then practiced for awhile. In the evening I listened some more. And instead of praying for sports to come on, I watched TV and practiced handwriting conversations by memory. Yeah, I confess. I did peek! The act of doing something without a computer was a nice change.

About my writing… My handwriting in English can be horrid (and sometimes surprises me, but mostly not) so I am not expecting my writing in Thai script to be any less messy. When I learned how to write Thai script last year, I adjusted the free style from Reading Thai is Fun by James Neal. I went this route because the precise writing demanded by Thai teachers cramps my hands. Besides, my aim during the 30 days is to tidy up my freestyle but not make a big deal over it. The spelling is the key.

Now, about my spelling… it is cacca in both English and Thai. I depend on spell checkers for English but I’m making an effort for Thai. For now.

Wednesday, January 13 (day thirteen)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat. Translate the second Thai dialogue into English.

Wednesday is the maid’s day. I call it the maid’s day (possessive) because she takes control of my life for this one day. Gung loves to send me out grocery shopping, even though I try to resist (I hate shopping and will often wait until my fridge is naked before going at it again).

There are even items that Gung now gets herself. Sigh. WHERE are my women shopping genes?

All through the morning Gung will come waggling items at me, telling me how many we need and when. Around nine or ten I sometimes give in, and off I go.

Both my iPod and iPhone are loaded down with Thai lessons, but I forgot to take either on my shopping excursion. My bad. To make up for it, while pretending to nap in the afternoon I listened to Thai conversations recorded with mellow music. It was restful to drift in and out while hearing soft snippets of Thai in and out both ears. It also masked the sound of the vacuum cleaner.

I revamped my materials so I’m back to translating a new dialogue one. For some reason, it going faster this round. Using smoother materials is my guess.

Thursday, January 14 (day fourteen)…

Goal: Review.

Today I went through the three new lessons. A full hour straight through. The reason? I slept last night and the night before too. YEAH! Hopefully there will be no more putting the salt and pepper in the fridge and the house keys in the dishwasher. Hopefully, there will be no more forgetting my iPod on outings. Hopefully, my brain will soak in lessons easier.

Personal observation: When I am overtired, I make a lot of mistakes translating Thai. Sometimes I am hours into using the wrong bits before I notice. Using Luca’s method, I am catching the mistakes earlier. I am reinforcing the correct information from the start.

Tips from week two…

TIP 1: When you are first getting used to a dialogue, drag it into iTunes and loop it. That way, you can lean back, close your eyes, and just listen. You can also print out the dialogue to read along with iTunes. I started reading along on my computer, but when the page needs to scroll I lose my place. I study three dialogues at a time this way. If I am really tired, I will listen to one dialogue on its own.

TIP 2: If you come across a dialogue with a sentence that is too difficult for you (too long, too fast), pull the audio into Audacity. Then select just that one sentence and keep hitting the green arrow to repeat. You can also zoom into the dialogue and select a smaller area. Slowing down the speed is also possible (effect >> change speed >> percentage change). Audacity is great for parroting tones too. Select your word or sentence, hit the green button, and say the dialogue at the same time. Keep hitting that green button. Like Shadowing, your ears will pick up where your tones are wrong (especially if you use decent earphones/earbuds).

TIP 3: To practice translating the dialogue into English, drag it into iTunes and loop it. With your eyes closed, translate into English as it goes.

My 30 day Thai language trial…

Ah, before I forget. If you are reading about my 30 day trial for the first time, please visit these posts:

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My 30 Day Thai Language Trial: Week One

New Years resolution

Week one of my 30 day Thai language trial…

Ok, here I am (waving at you all). It’s official. I made it through week one of my New Year’s resolution. Yeah! I’m chuffed.

emk: The first 30 days were hard: I wanted to skip a day, here and there. But I knew that if I skipped a day, I could skip two, and that if I could skip two days, I could skip a week. (And after that, the project would be doomed.)

Don't Break the ChainGetting through the first WEEK was hard for me.

When I went to write this post, the first draft came out with a heavy focus on my struggles to keep to the 30 day resolution while suffering from a severe lack of sleep. I did consider deleting the sleep comments, but as the solutions might help someone else, I left most in.

So here you have it, warts and all.

Week one of my 30 day Thai language trial…

My 30 day Thai language trial began after celebrating the Christmas holidays in the UK.

Long-haul = jet lag.

Timely, my jet lag flew slap into a week’s worth of insomnia.

In fact, most of my time learning Thai has been spent battling insomnia. But now, with advice from emk, Jerry, Steve, and Luca, I am committed to work around the insomnia and stick with my Thai lessons.

Btw – If you don’t know about emk, Jerry, Steve, and Luca, swing by these posts:

Friday, January 1 (day one)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

Starting a New Year’s Resolution the day after New Years is… well… guaranteed to start off slow. And knowing that my intentions are to study first thing each morning (before email even), you will soon realize just how slow it has been!

The first day of my Thai studies kicked off reluctantly (I didn’t get settled in until after 11am), but the hour went quite quickly (a surprise). With firm plans to go sightseeing in the afternoon, having a tight time-frame to get my lessons over and done with turned out rather well.

As intended, I read Thai script along with the audio; sometimes out loud, sometimes in my head.

I am a bit worried about the boredom level of my chosen materials. And I guess that boredom is yet another reason for students of Thai to attend to the chore of reading and writing from the very beginning. Because if they don’t, they will find themselves revisiting the bare basics (see Pookie run…). Yup, it is a consideration…

Personal tip for the day: No matter how reluctant you are to study, just start.

Saturday, January 2 (day two)…

Day two was not as easy as day one.

  1. Still jet lagged.
  2. Being tired, I kept losing my concentration.
  3. Jet lagged = tired = loss of concentration = procrastination.
  4. I allowed myself to get sidetracked by email.
  5. It was a weekend, meaning no alone time.

Forget getting down to lessons before attending to email (or anything else), I procrastinated most of the morning and into the afternoon. Getting up from a short nap, I skimmed through a book that just happened to be on my bed: 100 Ways to Motivate Yourself.

Perform Your Little Rituals caught my fancy.

Make up a ritual that is yours and yours alone – a ritual that will be your own shortcut to self-motivation. As you read through these various ways to motivate yourself, you might have noticed that action is often the key. Doing something is often what leads to doing something. It’s the law of the universe. An object in motion stays in motion.

Action or no, Thai lessons require reading. This meant that I needed to find a ritual to suit partial inactivity (further down in this post you will see why I added the word partial).

Music. That works. Baroque music is supposed to help the brain learn, and I need help in the brain department. Lots of help.

I also added a second ritual – a lovely pot of mint tea.

Brewing the pot of tea was easy. Finding dedicated music took a little longer (and gave me more time to procrastinate). Opening iTunes, I selected Relax With the Classics to set the mood, and then started my search.

Yes. I know. Relax With the Classics is Baroque. But you see, I had that procrastination thing going on…

When Googling (a favourite pastime of mine), I found an interesting site: The Mozart Effect. Skimming through what Don Campbell had on offer, I chose Vol 4 – Focus and Clarity Music for Projects & Study (Don, apologies for misspelling Devon ;-)

I found the comments on amazon.com most useful, and you might too.

For those interested in the Mozart Effect:

So I had music dedicated to the Mozart Effect. I had a pot of mint tea. And I had my Thai studies. Finally. But now, at nearly dinner time, I had to think of what to have for dinner too.

Using the concept of a tight time-line, and with this being the weekend (no cooking), I ordered pizza via phone before getting down to work asap.

My studies lasted 30 minutes before the pizza man rang the doorbell. Drat. He was 30 minutes early.

After dinner I prayed for anything with a sports theme on the TV, but with no luck (women reading this will know what I’m on about). Several hours later a boring (to me) movie came on and I was in business. Excellent.

Dragging my computer and a cup of cold mint tea into the back room, I finished up the final half hour of my studies.

Personal tip for the day: Drink mint tea. Listen to Mozart. Kill the email alerts. Change pizza companies. In preparation for weekends, tape the sports channel.

Sunday, January 3 (day three)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

And here we have it, the inevitable. I am not only jet lagged, but last night was sleep challenged.

As an insomniac, I know that there will be times when my Thai trial will be more of a… trial. I just didn’t expect to face it this soon.

Bad nights = brain soggy days = times where all I want to do is lay around on the sofa and talk to cats.

Previously when insomnia struck, I’d pass on any pretence of studying Thai. But now I have this 30 days challenge… and… sigh… My eyes are burning, the world is shimmering like my own personal version of Max Headroom, and I just want to play dead. But I can’t.

Because if I DO quit my 30 day trial (now, or any time within the next 30 days), I lose face with you all. And with myself. No thanks.

Yes, I do tend to whine when I’m tired.

I finally got to my lessons in the late afternoon, when the house was quieter.

My listening and reading stint lasted 20 minutes (I was interrupted by a message on my phone, then took the opportunity to wander off). I studied for a second lot of 20 minutes while waiting for dinner to cook. Note to self: Double-tasking lessons and cooking does not always work (I got so involved in my lessons, I forgot to turn on the broccoli). The last part of my studies started after dinner, but turned into a marathon of reading and typing.

Extending my lessons to that extent was not intentional, but I was having fun so I let the Thai flow. Also, I could see how typing out the lessons earlier would help with retention, so I was enthused about putting the time in now rather than later.

Personal tip for the day: If tired, break the hour into 20 minute lots. Remember to turn off the phone. If bored, switch to reading and typing. If cooking, set up a veg alert.

Monday, January 4 (day four)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

Grrrrrrrr… Yet another bad night of sleep.

Tired and fed up with being tired, I put off my studies for a spot of house cleaning (a ritual I used years ago when stressed and overtired). By the time I was finished, I had also unpacked the luggage from the UK trip (yeah, I’m bad), put veg and chicken bones into a pot for soup, cleaned the kitty litter, and changed out the water bottles. Pleased with myself (and now ready to study), I looked at the clock. Ouch.

Lunchtime was coming up fast and my Thai teacher was arriving at 1pm. Darn! So at 12.00 (and out of mint tea), and with my lunch fighting for lap space with my computer, I tuned into my lessons to force myself to listen and read for 20 minutes. And it was forced. It was a real effort to stop myself from doing anything but those lessons.

My Thai class went from 1pm to 3pm (not too shabby, yea?) And the class was excellent! After actually studying Thai for three days straight, I was prepared to participate. A plus, I barely noticed how tired I was.

PS: My Thai teacher is indeed happy with me too :-)

Personal tip for the day: If tired, go ahead and procrastinate (it is not the end of the world). If tired, listening while listlessly reading is better than doing nothing at all. If tired, anything is possible. Even success.

Tuesday, January 5 (day five)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

If I want to keep to a reasonable Thai study schedule, insomnia is a hurdle I need to work around. I need to continue to find ways that will enable me to study, no matter what.

I usually wait until night three after two nights of not sleeping to take pills, and last night was the night. With the help of pill I slept 8 hours straight through, but I am now groggy (just one of the reasons I try to avoid this ‘fix’).

As a long-time insomniac, I have a collection of methods to get to sleep, but they continuously need to be adjusted. My favourite audio for my iPod no longer does its thing, so I searched for a possible replacement. There are literally hundreds of products online to help with sleep, and this time I went with the relatively inexpensive Sleep Sound Insomnia Remedy (sadly, no longer online).

I also found this hilarious post from Letters From a Broad: A foreign language is best learned in the bedroom.

And while I am not considering a Thai boyfriend anytime soon, her post gave me the idea to combine a relaxing audio with my Thai homework. Ten minutes was all the time it took to create a combined sleep/Thai audio for nights with an iPod. Nice.

Being both tired and unmotivated, the morning (again) was mostly a wash. Day 1 taught me how having a deadline is beneficial, so I aimed for a 11-12 push.

Tired, I made it ten minutes, took a break, and then worked for another ten minutes. Pathetic. I then took another break, followed by working for thirty minutes. Getting close to evening, I threw a chicken into the steamer oven and climbed on my Airwalker to see if Shadowing would help.

Explanation: I figured that since I was tired, I needed to keep awake. And seems to me, keeping awake suggests some sort of movement (and not only the grey matter). I came across Shadowing last year and as it seemed to fit what I needed to get past being tired, off I went.

If you are interested in Shadowing…

(Shadowing) = …listening to and simultaneously echoing a recording of foreign language audio…

…15 minute sessions are probably ideal, though you may want to start with only 5 or 10 and you may work up to 30…

When you shadow properly, you put the correct resonance of a new speech form directly into your auditory system and simultaneously seek to match that resonance with your vocal output. To whatever degree you are not tone deaf, you will organically perceive any mismatch as the equivalent of a musical note out of tune and, to the degree that you have talent, you will naturally and instinctively seek to correct this mismatch upon repetition by changing your output. If you get into the physical habit of reciting entire dialogues aloud and correctly, how can this fail to improve your fluency?

Wow. I climbed off that Airwalker invigorated AND a few minutes smarter! After my (albeit brief) experience, I can easily say that adding Shadowing to your language learning arsenal is something to consider.

Personal tip for the day: For musical energy, start with Toccata And Fugue In D Minor before moving on to the Mozart Effect. If falling asleep during the day, get on the Airwalker and practice Shadowing.

Wednesday, January 6 (day six)…

Goal: For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat. Translate the first Thai dialogue into English.

Today was… totally amazing, even with yet another night of craziness (no sleep).

When I finally settled into translating the source files from my Thai lessons into English, it was a WOW session. Luca’s method really is powerful!

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

Excited at how Luca’s method is turning out, I managed a full 45 minutes straight through. No pauses. No fussing. No fighting. And after cooking dinner, I finished the rest of the hour.

Side note: I know that I have been working through this week like it is the most difficult of chores. And with the lack of sleep, it has been a chore. But I also know that, in reality, this is just a teensy snibbet out of what I hope to become a lifetime habit of language learning. A minor health problem (lack of sleep), can become a huge obstacle. But… only if I let it. And I won’t. I am fighting back.

Personal tip for the day: Do not give up. Fuss. Whine. Do whatever to stick it out. But do not give up.

Thursday, January 7 (day seven)…

Goal: Review. For one hour minimum, listen, read, and repeat.

I made it to day seven. Yeah! But here I go again with the insomnia…

Frustrated at not sleeping the night before (and with no guarantees of sleeping through the night), last night I pulled out my final trick – a half bottle of wine. It worked. I slept from 11pm something to shortly before 5am. The total hours were not great, but for me, not terrible either.

I worked on my lessons for one hour before my eyes starting getting heavy. It was a productive hour, one that gave me ideas on how to progress during the second week.

During the review part of my goal, I also went back over the agenda for day six: Translate the first Thai dialogue into English.

I redid day six for a good reason. It came to me while I was translating Thai-English, that in order to translate my English back to Thai, I needed to be more exact in my translations. In Thai, I find it easy to translate with a general idea of the meaning. But I do not believe that will work when translating the Thai conversation to English, then my English translation back into Thai. I realize that it is early days… so… I will just have to see how this works out.

A plus, using Luca’s method, I was able to catch mistakes coming and going. Fabulous.

Personal tip for the day: If needed, go ahead and repeat a day.

A recap of what I learned on week one…

  • Find a ritual that works for you.
  • No matter how reluctant you are to study, just start.
  • Get rid of distractions (kill the email alerts, turn off the phone).
  • If needed, break the hour into 20 minute sections.
  • If bored, switch to something more interesting (reading and typing).
  • If tired, go ahead and procrastinate (it is not the end of the world).
  • If tired, listening while listlessly reading is better than doing nothing at all.
  • If falling asleep during lessons, practice Shadowing.
  • If needed, go ahead and repeat a day.
  • To get your heart pumping, listen to energetic music.
  • Schedule your studies around a set engagement.
  • Put the Mozart Effect to good use.
  • Do not give up. Fuss. Whine even. Do whatever you need to do to stick it out.

And above all… enjoy… ;-)

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30 Days to Successful Thai Language Habits

New Years resolution

The new year is almost here…

It’s that time again: New Year’s resolution time. And this year I am serious about using the opportunity to ramp up my Thai language learning. Because even with the best intentions, it seems that I can find the time to do everything except for my Thai lessons.

Let’s see… This past year I searched for Thai language learning resources, researched and wrote posts for WLT, traveled here and there, learned a bit of photography, and teamed up with the FSI project. But I did not make a concerted effort to focus on my Thai studies. My bad.

I am not a total slacker, but I really do need to make my Thai language studies a priority. Besides, the whole point of starting WLT was to concentrate on my Thai studies, so getting the lead out is a must (especially as last year’s lead felt like a dead weight).

So I did what I do best. I exercised my google finger:

Steve Pavlina is on to something with his 30 day trial idea. Depending on where you get your advice, it takes anywhere between 3 weeks to 66 days form a new habit. That means that Steve’s thirty days will either get me there, halfway there, or not. We’ll see.

Steve Pavlina: One of the best ways to kick off the New Year is by starting a 30-day trial of a new daily habit or activity. Instead of creating a New Year’s Resolution that probably won’t stick, just commit to a short-term change. Make a January resolution only. If it doesn’t work out, you’re completely free to abandon it on January 31st, but for the first 30 days, use every ounce of resolve and self-discipline you can muster to stick to it, whatever it takes. At the end of the 30 days, you’ll be in a great position to decide whether you want to commit to a permanent change, having 30 days of success behind you.

And I can’t believe my good luck. When searching for advice about using Steve‘s 30 day method, I found a post on the how-to-learn-any-language.com forum by another language learner, emk (not his real name, obviously). He used Steve’s method for two years, successfully.

I contacted emk for permission to republish a part of his success story, and he agreed. Thanks emk!

How emk used Steve Pavlina’s 30-Day trial method to learn Thai…

emk: I studied several foreign languages in school, with predictably poor results, and tried to learn Italian on my own. When I studied Italian, I made it about 2 weeks into the course, and wound up with a nice accent and a ~100-word vocabulary. This was useful when traveling, but a bit limiting. My study skills, in other words, were well-suited to the length of a school term, but I never really had the sheer endurance required to learn a second language.

This isn’t a regular language-learning technique, such as shadowing, L-R or using an SRS deck, but more a “meta-technique”: A technique that helps you use other techniques more consistently. If you already have adequate self-discipline, this story probably won’t interest you. But if you tend to get half-way through a project and then move on to something else, you might find these tricks useful.

I was inspired by two stories:

  1. Steve Pavlina’s 30 days to success
  2. The Seinfeld calendar

The first 30 days were hard: I wanted to skip a day, here and there. But I knew that if I skipped a day, I could skip two, and that if I could skip two days, I could skip a week. (And after that, the project would be doomed.)

As of today (November 2009), it’s been a bit more than 2 years, and I’ve studied French every single day since I started. I can read popular non-fiction in French, and—if I pick the right book—I typically miss about 0–6 words per page. I can talk with my wife for an entire day in French, and I’m just starting to be able to understand the news on RFI.

Here are some tips based on my experience:

  1. Start with a simple but well-defined goal. It should be big enough to be significant, but small enough that you can actually follow through. Listening to a single Assimil lesson 8–12 times is great. “Study some French” is not a concrete enough goal, at least at first, and “learn 100 words new words in an SRS deck” is too much to keep up for long.
  2. You may find it more pleasant to “get it out of the way” first thing every morning, after you wake up, or to set aside a fixed time every day.
  3. If you have a miserable, depressing winter and you’re starting to burn out, you can set goals like “Study some French every day”. You’ll keep a small amount of momentum, and you’ll probably prevent the decay of your skills. But you’ll do less and less as time passes, and eventually you’ll need to recommit to a bigger and more concrete goal.
  4. If you commit to an overly large goal, you’ll make enormous gains, but you’ll drive yourself nuts, and possibly run screaming into the woods. Save this kind of crazy experimentation until later in the process.

There’s a real power to doing something every single day, because you can’t postpone it, you can’t let the rest of your life interfere with it, and you have to find the time every single day. And having a concrete rule makes it easier, because you don’t have to waste any time thinking up excuses.

If, like me, you’re motivated to learn a foreign language—but fear that you’ll get bored and give up—then you might want to read the two blog posts I linked to above, and consider a 30-day trial :-)

Read the unabridged version here: Start the New Year With a 30-Day Trial

What emk and Steve are suggesting ties in sweetly with Luca’s language learning method. If you have not had the pleasure, below are Luca Lampariello’s two recent posts on WLT:

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

Don’t break the chain…

Don’t Break The Chain!One of the inspirations emk mentioned is the Seinfeld calendar. What you do is acquire a wall calendar that has all 12 months on one page, stick it on a high traffic wall, and then mark each successful day with a red X.

The continuous chain of X’s are supposed to motivate you to keep going with your resolutions.

Sounds good to me.

If you have an iPhone, there is an app called Don’t Break The Chain! You have a choice of a free app with ads, or a US$4.99 version without ads.

For those without iPhones, there are several online calendars: Don’t Break The Chain! and Your Seinfeldian Chain.

I have not tried either (yet) so please let me know if you do.

There is even a sample calendar on Google Spreadsheets: Seinfeld Calendar in Google Spreadsheets.

And if you don’t want to keep an eye on your chain via a website or with an iPhone, you can always download these two beautiful calendars: Seinfeld Calendar.

The pdf’s print out on A4 or Letter, which are a perfect size for the fridge door. I’ve printed two and taped them together for separate goals: Thai lessons and using my Air Walker. I just might add a secret third…

I also found a sample spreadsheet for 2007: Don’t Break the Chain – Spreadsheet Version. It is especially suited for those with more than one resolution to follow.

In Tomas’s post, he mentions printable calendars at ePrintable.com: Free Printable Calendars you can make customise and print.

So there you have it. A selection of calendars on your iPhone, online, in Excel, and printable as well.

Making (but not breaking) a New Year’s resolution…

I’m going for it. Absolutely. Following emk’s lead, I’m headed for thirty days of Jerry, Steve, and Luca. And if you want to go for it too, I’d really love have you along for company. Baring that, I’d appreciate your support.

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