Language learners have a tendency to build a protective bubble around themselves over time which can easily lead to number of bad habits. This bubble grows as people tell you how amazing you are at their language. In the beginning you know this is crap and you don’t know anything yet. I mean, how could you? You are just starting out, right? As time passes and you begin to get your bearings, we sometimes find ourselves believing that we are really that good and in our vain-ness we become blind to anything resembling our actual ‘level’.
The point of this line of posts is to get rid of as many of those bad habits that so commonly occur when mr/s-farang-come-learn-speak-language-Thai. You can’t necessarily rely on Thai people to correct your mistakes, because you’ll find that most of them won’t (even when you ask them to and they agree!). And the logical conclusion we make when nobody corrects us is usually NOTHING IS WRONG.
Anyways, let us examine the following sentence –
ผม จะ ไป ที่ โรงเรียน
See anything wrong here? Me neither. Its grammatically correct. You might even find this exact example in an phrase book or “Learn Thai + <CleverEasySoundingWord>” brought to you by <tokenwhiteguy>. The problem is that its bulky. Farang-sounding even. Lets trim the fat off this sentence.
ผม จะ ไป ที่ โรงเรียน Ok – first and most importantly, excessive usage of ที่ is the first bad habit I try to cut out of my students mouths. When Thai people sit around making fun of their friends who supposedly speak Thai very well, this one always comes up. Its not wrong and you can get as defensive as you’d like, but its just not natural. I suspect it originates from the much stricter usage of prepositions in English, but less important than where it comes from is where its going – into the trash. Keep going, you are almost speaking Thai.
ผม จะ ไป โรงเรียน Alright, we are on the right track now. Things are lookin up. Soundin good. But we’re still feeling a bit bloated. What should we cut next? School? Perhaps, but not yet. Now we want to get get rid of YOU and what I mean by YOU is we need to get rid of ME ..erm .. “I”.
Pronouns folks. Wrap them all up and put them in storage. You can pull them out sometimes after you get a feel for when and how they are used. But until then, it just makes us sound silly because at this point you are still thinking in English and its force of habit that brings all those pronouns along with it.
ผม จะ ไป ที่ โรงเรียน
Now we are on the right track. Yet there are still more things we could do here.
For example, if somebody asks you where you are going and you are going to class at school you can just respond as follows:
Somchai: ไป ไหน
TokenFarang: (จะ) ไป เรียน
C’mon team – Tie bee eazee!
Remember, while we can translate the exact sentence in many cases, the ultimate goal is to speak like a native, is it not? So try not to make logical rules in your head because those rules are based on the logic of how your native language(s) works and unless you are from Laos, you are just making the journey into fluency more difficult than it needs to be.