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10 Years Of Learning Thai


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One thing I love about traveling is just sitting somewhere, and observing people - how they act, their mannerisms and gestures - I'm like a finely calibrated precise piece of laboratory equipment. What I'm looking for is emotion, I'm the very entomologist of emotion. And Nana plaza is engorged with all these flitting specimens. It was like I was born with acute tetra chromatic vision - a highly unusual condition.


Render an old man saying a cautious goodbye to his ladyboy going back to work under the cheap neon lights so poorly modulated, Ha! A young girl buying som tam before starting her shift. These are minutely detailed, almost impossible details to forget. I can see them all in vivid detail even now years later - even rotate them in the minds eye. I can even envision their moods via the colour spectrum.


I'm an uncompromising pragmatist though. I'm effective - and I get what I want. Because - when you cast your gaze out there - it's a fucking zoo.


But that doesn't mean I don't care. You have to observe, and be mindful of absolutely everything that it can possibly represent - before you make any judgment. Only then - and I'll repeat - only then will you become truly fluent in the language.


That was my breakthrough. And if you choose to go the same path - it *will* be painful - because you are going to have to consciously warp your brain, and you may discover you are unable - or tired and old and unwilling.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Mr Sandwich , firstly I wish to apologize for my inappropriate comments as per December7th 2016 at 18:13 hours . After reading your opening piece I realise you are dead serious about the matter . I learned Portuguese a couple of years ago and learning Italian these days by always carrying a small notebook with me where I listed about 400 words which I think are important . Those I assembled from a dictionary . Daily target is remembering 5 words plus repeating the previous ones . Does not work like clockwork but does the job in the end .


Would that work with the wonderful Thai language ? I would not , like it would not with Chinese or Lao . There is no way to get the pronounciation right or find the proper tone . Either you live in the environment or use a teacher . Maybe Miss Pim from the Moonlight Bar .


Hab big prompremm .

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Best advice ever had came from the head of our Peace Corps Thai language program(me). "You need to practice your Thai. Go get a girl." :)


It also helped that PC gave us "motivation". After our first week in Thailand, they told us they would no longer feed us. They gave us a 60 baht a day allowance (plenty of money back then) and told us to start feeding ourselves. Nothing like an empty stomach to encourage you to learn how to order meals.


After a month on the coast at Prachuab, they told us we'd be continuing our training in the lower north. They told us where to meet (the university, not the teacher college), gave us enough money to get there by train, and loaded us into a bus. They dumped us out in Bangkok and said they'd see us in Phitsanulok in another three days.


Situational reinforcement really works, plus we found out in a hurry if we could survive on our own in Thailand. I thought training was great. A buddy and I spent two of the three days in Bangkok, hitting the bars and massage parlours. Then we took the train north on the last day. :)

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  • 2 years later...
On 3/7/2017 at 10:19 PM, buffalo_bill said:

There is no way to get the pronunciation right or find the proper tone

Perhaps that is the case.  But millions of children seem to manage it.  

Talking Thai or Isaan or Khmer is not that difficult.  All these languages are just different ways of expressing the same things.  They aren't really that much different from us (Western culture), it's just they found their own way.  I found that fascinating, and in the interest it made me really listen to them. 

If you really want to speak a foreign language, then learn to listen first, and be fascinated by their culture. 

If not, well your welcome to your bubble. 

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