Hi, my name is Brett. I’ve been based out of Thailand for over 10 years and I’ve come a long way in Thai. I had no idea how to learn a language and I felt like I was just banging my against the wall for the first year or so. I eventually figured it out, taught a couple friends and that worked so well that I knew I had to document the process. Things have evolved quite a bit since then. You can check out more of my story below.
Here’s a couple interviews with me:
- Women Learn Thai – http://womenlearnthai.com/index.php/successful-thai-language-learner-brett-whiteside/
- Chiang Mai Citylife Magazine – http://www.chiangmaicitylife.com/citylife-articles/we-can-all-learn-thai-from-a-white-guy/
- Bangkok Podcast – http://www.bangkokpodcast.com/learn-thai-from-a-white-guy/
Everything changed once I stumbled upon an old book that explained the consonant classes, tone rules and gave suggestions on how to drill them. I spent a month or so drilling the rules 5-10 minutes/day. Within 5 or 6 weeks I felt like the door had blown open on Thai and a light shone inside my brain. I found that once I learned to differentiate the vowels and pronounce them myself, I could hear them easily when other people said them. And since I had been drilling the tone rules, and I was no longer mixing up words like เคย and ค่อย or บ้า (crazy) and ป้า (aunt). The tones just fell into place really quickly at that point. I didn’t always say them right at first, but I started to match up the way Thai people said words with the tone rules and it just clicked.
About a year after that, I started teaching friends how to read Thai and work through all the tone rules. The first couple of people took 2-3 months to get it down, but I’ve improved on the system dramatically and have cut it down to about 10 hours spread out over 2 weeks. It does require a bit of a commitment to push through all the content, but the payoff is massive.
Languages are what I do. I can hold a conversation in 5 languages and get a smile out of people in many more, but I’m no super genius – I just have methods that work and I keep plugging away. Since I’ve been in Thailand, I spent a few years each taking classes or private lessons in Japanese, Chinese and Korean, but all the while it was my Thai that developed while I was actually “studying” the other 3.
If you are looking to get good in any language, I strongly suggest spending some time getting familiar with the sound system. It may seem boring or not useful, but it will save you so much time and frustration later.