A Woman Learning Thai...and some men too ;)

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

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A Year’s Worth of Women Learning Thai… and Some Men Too ;-)

Happy First Birthday

Blogging birthdays come but once a year…

A year and a month ago, on June 4th, WLT launched.

Sigh. I know, I know. It is already July 4th and I’m running late (it has been that kind of a month).

Aaron this manyAnd while a blogging birthday is not the same as your firstborn turning one, it is a cause for celebration.

When I came up with the idea for Women Learning Thai, I had set aims in mind. A given, I wanted to improve my Thai and increase my understanding of Thailand and Thai culture. But along the way (just to be difficult), I also hoped to upgrade both my writing and photography skills.

Confession time: In the past year I have not improved my abilities equally, but I have improved overall. And while I am quite chuffed at my progress for some, it may take yet another year before I’m out of one stage and into another. For all.

A bonus that I did not take into account is the online Thai community. Bloggers or otherwise. Expats and locals included. A nice surprise, the friendships gained since launching WLT are as equally important to me as my intended aims.

To celebrate, I decided to share the bloggers in my small Thai community, as well as those responsible for helping me succeed. And a given, I’ll include WLT’s highlights for the past year.

Apologies. But you first need to wade though the highlights…

Top posts on WLT…

In the sidebar are WLT’s most popular posts. Truthfully, they should be called resource-intensive content but as the title popular posts is shorter, there you go.

Learn Thai Online for FREE
Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review
Google Books: Thai Learning Resources
Top Thai Language Learning Resources
The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write
Thai Language Cheat Sheets
The Thai Alphabet Poem
Thai-English Readers with Mp3s
Byki Thai Language Course
Thai Typing Tutors: aTypeTrainer4Mac
Recording the Thai National Anthem
Google Translation & Thai Dictionaries

Thai phrase books…

After purchasing 99.9% of the Thai phrase books on the market, I tried to make sense of them all. I’m not sure that I succeeded, but it was fun trying. The island trip I took during the process was trying too.

Travelling with Thai Phrase Books
Using Thai Phrase Books
Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review
The Monty Python Phrase Book
Thai Phrase Books with a Twist
Pictures: When They Can’t Speak Thai…

Quick and Dirty…

My very first book review was Myke Hawke’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast. After tracking Myke down, I went further. Much further. And I’m not done yet.

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast
Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke
Interviewing Myke Hawke: Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast
FREE: Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary Download

Thai alphabet cartoon…

The Thai Alphabet Cartoon was cleverly created for adults. And not all adults, as I soon found out. And boy, was this series ever an experience into Thai language and culture!

Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part One
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Two
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Three
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Four
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Five
Thai Alphabet Cartoon: Part Six

Thai bumper stickers…

You can’t drive around Thailand without noticing bumper stickers everywhere. And as stickers are filled with real Thai, an ongoing series is a must.

Thai Bumper Stickers 1
Thai Bumper Stickers 2
Thai Bumper Stickers 3
Thai Bumper Stickers 4
Thai Bumper Stickers on Taxis

There are many more posts in my growing archives so please have a look around.

WLT guest posts…

Opening the conversation to include subjects that I am not able to write about in detail is important, so I am especially grateful to those generously sharing their knowledge and experiences.

Tina Gibbons: The Most Effective Way to Learn Thai and Why Learning the Thai Language Needs to be More Than a Study of Words and Grammar

Tony Wright: Let’s Talk Thai: How the Brain Learns

And stay tuned for a Thai learners series from Rikker of Thai 101!

A big blogging community thanks goes to…

In the past year I’ve met many bloggers in the Thai community. The six below not only throw comments my way, but they share time behind the scenes as well. In alphabetical order…

Expat Women in ThailandAmy: Expat Women in Thailand (no longer online)
Amy is married to Golf, a Thai translator. She blogs about the day to day expat living in Thailand. The information Amy gathers is not just for women, but for men too. For those heading to the land of smiles, she has put together an ebook – The Expat Woman’s Guide to Living in Thailand.

The Thai PirateBen: The Thai Pirate (no longer online).
Ben married into Suphanburi, where he now lives, works, and plays. And sometimes blogs. And except for when he’s playing around in the UK, his subjects cover all things Thai living.

To peruse: Driving in Thailand (no longer online), How far will 1000 Baht get you? and The Best Thai Blogs.

Beyond the Mango JuiceMartyn: Beyond the Mango Juice
Martyn works in the UK for most of the year, but as soon as he can, he hightails it to the wonderful Wi. Wi keeps their beautiful home running smoothy in Ban Norn Chad (thanks Wi!) With a humorous twist, Martyn posts about all things Thailand. His monthly reviews are a godsend for our busy community.

To peruse: Thailand Country Life – A Survival Guide, Always On My Mind and Giving a Little Bit Back.

FrogBlogPete: FrogBlog – Thaidings
A wonderful photographer and writer, Pete lives part of his time in the sunny south of France and the rest of the time in Changmai. He writes thought-provoking posts about the cultural and political aspects of living in Thailand. Btw – do you twitter? Pete does too.

To peruse: Thaivisa: Founder of Thailand’s largest online community answers the critics, Thailand’s tarnished image abroad: Thai tourism in decline and Brash Bangkok, culture-hound Chiang Mai, pornographic Pattaya, innocent Isaan – which one is your Thailand?

Thai 101Rikker: Thai 101
Rikker lives full-time in Bangkok. He is one of the few expats with in-depth knowledge of the Thai language. And while Rikker does not comment often, he does share his know-how on Thai 101, as well as via emails, forum posts and twitter. Starting next week, Rikker’s learning Thai series will launch on WLT.

To peruse: Thai jokes category, Farang Stuff and A look at the Ramkhamhaeng script.

Thailand Land of SmilesTalen: Thailand Land of Smiles (no longer live) Talen lives and works part-time in the US, but as his heart and the lovely Pookie are in Issan, he spends as much of his time there as possible. Talen has a good eye for a story, so we are often regaled by real life experiences from northern Thailand and elsewhere.

Note: While I am in contact with other fantastic bloggers, to keep this post a reasonable length I stopped at just six. I promise that the rest will be discussed at another time, so please do not send any bad mojo my way.

Photography, writing, book collecting and more… I owe… I owe…

Writing: I’d like to send a special thanks to two writing coaches: Joanna from Confident Writing (no longer online), and Paul from Bangkok BC Writing Services. Joanna released my writing fears, while Paul gives monthly tips on grammar, sentence structure, and more.

Photography: Gavin and Jackie from the newly formed Bangkok Photography School took my photography out of the 90’s and ran it straight into 2009. I’m still playing catchup, but I’m not having to run quite as fast as before.

Book collecting: When it comes to tracking down obscure books dealing with Thai culture and language, Danny at DCO Books is a lifesaver. Danny’s varied knowledge about Thailand has brought even more subjects to my attention. So much so, that I’ve ordered a new bookcase. Where it will fit, I don’t quite know.

Thai learning: As for my long suffering Thai teacher, she deserves an award for her patience. At times she calls me her best student, but I believe she means that in a special sort of way. I flit here and there, dragging her into technology and subjects far away from her regular curriculum. And she holds steady on for the wild ride. Bless her.

Programming: Oh, and I can’t forget my amazing programming buddy Jay, who puts up with a zillion frustrating emails about cacca code. Yeah, I owe, I owe. Hey Jay, even more chocolates are on the way!

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The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write Thai

Books to read

I’m all for the easy way out…

Learning how to read Thai is often a stumbling block for students of the Thai language. Some students have opted to forgo the pleasure. Others have stops and starts. Then there are those who soar through all with ease (and those, we admire through clinched teeth).

I’m of the stops and starts variety. I also go for the easiest way possible, which is what you’ll get here.

Note: In this post I won’t be taking you through the Thai alphabet letter by letter. I’ll be sharing methods and available resources for beginners learning to read and write Thai. And while my way may not be your way, you’ll still find decent resources.

Reading Thai the easy way…

Before you begin reading, you’ll need to know what each letter sounds like, their class, and if they have different sounds at the beginning or end of a word.

And if you’ve started to panic at the thought of learning 44 Thai consonants (along with their initial and final sounds), 32 different vowel configurations, numbers, and all those extra symbols, then head over to 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet.

60 Minutes How it works… as you can see from the graphic, the letter is represented with an easy to remember object association. In this case, a swan.

The graphic also includes a setting (beach, town, mountains) to denote the class (low, medium and high). And as the swan is on the beach, it’s a low class consonant (class determines tone).

Consonants gifted with different sounds at the beginning and end have two word descriptions, as in Swan Tail.

Note: With 60 Minutes, you don’t learn the full Thai name for each (in this case it would be ซ = so so = chain). What you learn is the approximate English sound. And when attempting to learn a confusing language such as Thai, a close English equivalent gets you to the next step with ease.

Getting the Thai sounds down…

Your next move is to get the actual sounds and full names into your head. IMHO, the best Thai alphabet sources available on the Internet are:

You’d think that learning to read Thai with 60 Minutes would interfere with learning the individual names, but it didn’t for me.

The Thai I learned at ashoka10’s Channel and Learn Thai Podcast slid to the front. What I learned at 60 Minutes stayed in the background until I needed to remember which letter had two sounds, and what class they were. Then visual linking clicked in.

Testing your alphabet skills via flashcards (hardcopy)…

Thai FlashcardsIf you are in Thailand, you can purchase flash cards at most Thai bookstores with a children’s section (all in Thai).

To my knowledge, there are no Thai flashcards that include everything – alphabet, graphic, English explanation and examples – so if it’s important to you, you’ll need an additional resource.

Suggestion: Buy two sets of flashcards with complimenting elements (I used the colour Thai version, with the English / Thai black and white).

And you can always print your own from slice-of-thai.com, Thai consonant/vowel flashcards. Or by printing an existing set and/or creating a new one at Cram (formerly Flashcard Exchange).

Testing your alphabet skills via flashcards (SRS)…

SRS (Spaced Repetition Systems) are basically digital flash cards. Some are online, other SRS programs can be downloaded to your computer. Some, like the Cram have Thai sets created by other users. Others are a clean slate (no Thai available).

  • Anki (download)
    A program designed to help you remember words and phrases (Mac, Windows, Linux and Debian).
  • ProVoc (download)
    Easy-to-use vocabulary trainer (Mac).
  • SuperMemo (download, online, as well as without computer)
    A learning method that makes it possible to learn fast and retain memories for years (Windows).
  • The Mnemosyne Project (download)
    A flash-card program to help you memorise question/answer pairs, but with an important twist: it uses a sophisticated algorithm to schedule the best time for a card to come up for review (Mac, Linux and Windows).

You’ll also find a growing list of SRS products in Searching for a Thai Language Learning Style: SRS and More.

Writing Thai the easy way…

When I started writing Thai, I felt forced into an uncomfortable scrunch when using the course books from AUA. It was definitely not for me. You might not feel the pinch so go ahead and try them. But I did. Beware. The books are poorly reproduced so they are also difficult to read. Eye strain. Hand strain. That’s all the excuse I needed to bail.

Knowing there just had to be a better way, I started hounding the different bookstores in Bangkok.

Thai Practice BooksFor those living in Thailand, kindergarten books for practicing the Thai alphabet are not difficult to find. Again, just drop by that Thai bookstore with the childrens’ section.

And just like their counterpart in the West, they have ample space to practice your new alphabet. Over and over.

If you prefer a grown up approach, then Reading Thai is Fun by James Neal might just be the one for you.

In Reading Thai is Fun, James shows you how to feel the natural flow of writing Thai by using the cursive style of an adult. Not the formal boxy style taught to children.

Reading Thai is FunTo understand what I mean, grab a stack of scrap paper.

Then, as big as you like (I used a 1/4 page for each), fluidly write the Thai letter ม in the graphic to the left.

Each letter has a start and finish, so be sure to note the drawing direction at learningthai.com/writing_09 (site offline for now).

Keep tracing over that letter until you own it. Until you are in the alphabet zone if you like. I like.

Putting it all together…

  1. To get a general feel, flip through 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet.
  2. With paper and pen, work through each letter at Reading Thai is Fun while…
  3. …intermittently clicking on relevant sounds found at learningthai.com/writing, Practice Writing Thai Letters (site offline for now). If tech savvy, record each into a loop for hands-free ease.

Soon you’ll have the shapes, sounds, tones and class down solid. You’ll also be ready for Thai / English readers found at Thai publishers such as Nation Egmont and Nanmeebooks and thai-bookshop.com. Right?

More reading and writing tips…

  • Practice writing the Thai script for at least 15 minutes a day.
  • Listen to spoken Thai often, no matter how bored, frustrated, or confused.
  • Load down an iPod for short walks around town.
  • Grab a stack of flash cards when headed out the door.

What you might not know…

  • Spoken Thai and written Thai are not always the same.
  • You are not going blind, there really are missing letters in Thai words.
  • Yes, some Thai words are read from middle to left then top to bottom.
  • If the lack of spaces between words frustrates you, hark back to Illuminated Manuscripts.

More reading and writing resources…

Shortly after taking on the Thai alphabet, I found myself sitting in a taxi at a long light on Paholyothin in Bangkok. Looking out the window to my left, I was thrilled to be able to read a street sign in Thai.

I wish you the same joy.

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