Mike Learned to Speak Thai

Today’s guest post is from Mike of Portland, Oregon.

Update: Oct, 2016 – Mike has been in Thailand for about 2 years now.  Here’s a video of him speaking Thai.

I’ve been living in Bangkok for about 11 months now. I’ve seen lots of expats who spend way too much (sometimes all!) of their time inside the farang bubble. Anticipating this dilemma before I arrived in Thailand, I decided that I’d seek out a neighborhood with a more “local” flavor – I didn’t want to be just another dude whose Bangkok life was limited to a 2 block radius of the nearest BTS station. This decision has had a significant effect on my continuing progress with the Thai language. Everyday I’m forced to ask questions to the people who live on or near my soi – and these questions often lead into smaller conversations that challenge me and force me to seek out new vocabulary so I can keep up. This is how to learn Thai.

The day I moved into my apartment, I told myself that I needed to get right out there into my surroundings and start using my limited Thai skills. I would practice saying a phrase out loud many times before I went out to use it. One of the early ones being: “I don’t want milk in my coffee, please.”

The first time I got in line to get a coffee at the stand near my local 7-11, I kept saying the phrase over and over in my head. I was so sure I had it down perfect.
When it came time to place my order: “hot coffee please.” Then a slight pause as the smiling server grabbed a cup, at which point I added “and I don’t want milk in my coffee, please.” He glanced at me sideways with a slightly confused smile. I beamed back with confidence – he had understood me! Then, in utter disbelief, I watched him add not one, but two types of milk to my coffee. Too bewildered to utter another word, I handed him 20 baht and stared down at my cup filled with a liquid that made it the exact opposite of black coffee.

A couple weeks later, after many failed attempts to get a coffee with no milk, someone finally pointed out what I was doing wrong. I had been screwing up the vowel on the word for milk (นม) and saying it too much like an (อะ) so they thought I might be trying to say “water” (น้ำ). One simple vowel had derailed my quest for the perfect cup of joe. It may have been slightly defeating watching all those milky coffees being poured day after day, but in the end, it was an experience that solidified my efforts to be precise with this new language. It may seem like a small victory, but my mornings are now complete with endless cups of black coffee just the way I like it.

That first cup of coffee was just the beginning of my quest to improve my Thai.
Everyday I go out and speak Thai. If I make a mistake (and I’m aware of it), I try to find out what I did wrong and give it another try next time. Eventually, I know I’ll get it right and I move on to the next thing.

Whether it’s talking with 80 year old men who hang out near the coffee stand next to the 7-11, or fumbling my way through the open air market asking what every vegetable is called (over and over again because sometimes I forget), my use of Thai is constantly being nudged in the right direction with each brief encounter with the people in my ‘hood. Bangkok can either be a blockade or a boon to your Thai language skills – the choice is yours! If you want to improve though, you really gotta get out there and talk to people.

Mike learned to read Thai in less than 3 weeks* using my online course. You can hear him talk about it here: Mike’s Video

*Your own results on time of completion for the course may vary. If you spend at least 30 minutes a day on the lessons, you can reasonably expect to get through everything in about 2 weeks.

Thai Movie Posters: Duel

Today’s latest Thai movie poster is from the 1971 film Duel, which was directed by Stephen Spielberg and pitted an electronics salesman being terrorized by an unseen driver of a tractor-trailer.

Thai Poster for Duel, a 1971 Spielberg film.


Top Center:
การตามล่าอย่างหฤโหด
ระหว่างรถยักษ์ 10 ล้อ กับมนุษย์ 2 เท้า


Title:
กะให้ตายก่อนเที่ยง
Duel of Death


Bottom Center:
เดนนิส วิวเวอร์
แจ็คเกลีน สก็อตต์
นำแสดง


Bottom Right:
สตีเว่น สปิลเบิร์ก
กำกับการแสดง

Learn To Read Thai

Learning to read again in a new language can seem rather daunting, even painful at times.  Even after you’ve gotten comfortable with the Thai script and can learn how the Thai tone rules work,  moving on to longer sentences and eventually short texts can be intimidating.

I spent a couple of years crazily trying to read whatever Japanese books I could get my hands on. Manga, language learning theories, fiction, old literature, etc. What I’ve discovered is that it was a mistake to read manga  or whatever solely because it was manga (or because I heard lots of Japanese learning websites recommend doing so) and it was in Japanese. I just wasn’t couldn’t get into it.   If you are going to invest a lot of time in something, it’s better to spend lots of time trying to read things that you might enjoy.  Be picky.  Because of the enormous amount of time and exposure required, we want to spend as little time as possible being bored and/or frustrated

What I ended up doing is trying to re-read many of the books I read when I was younger.  And when I was a kid, I read lots of Stephen King. So, I went to amazon.jp and ja.wikipedia.org and started to read about Stephen King books that I’ve read in the past and know pretty well. Reviews, summaries, character descriptions, etc. And its been great. Even though every single page has plenty of words that I don’t know, I know enough that can skip as many of those words as I want. I mine everything for sentences of things that I want to see again in my SRS. But the two most important things going on here are that I’m enjoying reading, and I am READING. I only read as long as it stays interesting. If I start spacing out or getting bored or frustrated…I do something else, or go look for something else to read. I can always come back to the current one if I feel like it or just try again tomorrow.

So anyways, I’ve devoured a lot of Stephen King stuff in the past few days and tonight I’m poking around summaries of Star Wars and Robocop. I also really wanna get my hands on some of the Jp translations of SK’s books. (I eventually did)

Anyways, how does this help you? Well, I’d say Thai is more limited than Japanese as far as I know in regards to translations from English when it comes to books. However, there are loads of movies and tv series to work with. So as I’m writing this, Lost is on tv so I figured that was good enough to start with. If you watch that, or Prison Break, Heroes some other show (the early version of this post was written in 2012!), we might have some material to work with.  If there isn’t a Thai wiki for whatever show/movie you’d like to read about, just Google it.  There’s always some Thai people talking about any popular drama out there somewhere.  If you don’t care about tv and movies, then read wiki pages and blogs about whatever interests you.  Find translations of books you read a long time ago and try and read them again in Thai.  You’ll probably remember some of the story which makes it a lot easier to access.  There will likely be loads of words that you don’t know and that’s ok.  Just work out what you can and don’t look up every word.  The important stuff will keep appearing.

So again, how do we go about reading this stuff when we still suck?  Let’s look at a few sentences and how we can break them down into smaller chunks that we might want to put in our notes (and/or flashcards if you use them).

First sentence from the Prison Break Wiki
Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์แอ็กชัน ดราม่า ทางโทรทัศน์ ออกอากาศครั้งแรกทางช่องฟ็อกซ์
This one is full of SRS goodness. What have we got?

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์ – PB is a series

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์แอ็กชัน PB is an action series

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์ดราม่า PB is a drama series

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์ ทางโทรทัศน์ PB is a tv series

PB เป็นซีรีส์ออกอากาศครั้งแรกทางช่องฟ็อกซ์ – PB is a tv series that was first broadcast on/by Fox.

Get the idea yet? Let’s look at the the first line from the Lost Wiki. A bit longer you may notice.

Lost เป็นดราม่าซีรีส์ที่อเมริกา ที่มีเนื้อหากล่าวถึงผู้รอดชีวิตจากอุบัติเหตุเครื่องบินตก บนเกาะลึกลับ

See anything from the Prison Break sentence in this one?

Lost เป็นดราม่าซีรีส์ – Lost is a drama series

Lost เป็นดราม่าซีรีส์ที่อเมริกา – Lost is a drama series in America

Lost เป็นซีรีส์ ที่มีผู้รอดชีวิตจากอุบัติเหตุเครื่องบินตก = Lost is a series about survivors of a plane crash

Lost เป็นซีรีส์ ที่มีผู้รอด เครื่องบินตก บนเกาะ – Lost is a series of plane crash survivors on an island

บนเกาะลึกลับ – on a mysterious island

Tear apart the sentence until its only got 1 thing it in you don’t know. And if you are still trying to practice reading at a basic level then keep the phrases really short, but don’t waste time with single words. Words out of context are forgotten too easily. There isn’t anything wrong with having a few of the same sentence with only one word changed.

Now, go try and skim through a few of those. Set goals.  Do a few sentences like this each day.  You don’t need to make flashcards for everything.  But, it’s often worth noting down stuff that you see a lot of and want to remember or anything that jumps out at you. Its always ok to delete flashcards and toss your notes.   And when you get up into the thousands it’s a good idea.

เรื่องจากข่าว March 28th, 2011

Is anyone seeing a pattern here yet?  A lot of the words showing up in these things are used in previous wiki posts.  Go back to the first one and start there and read them all.   By the time you get through you will be awesome at reading about earthquakes.   Maybe then you will get the idea of how this whole “learning to read” thing works.
Make flashcards for new words.  Remember – no more than 1 new word per card.

คำศัพท์

  • เปิดตัว – debut
  • ภายใน – within; inside of
  • สั่นสะเทือน – quake
  • สามารถ – able to; ability [สา มาด]

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Pg1/Pt1

What if you had someone take you through an entire book and create all the flashcards you could want or need from stuff inside?   It’d be kinda nice I think.  Buying the Thai translation abroad might be a hassle so if you can’t find it just let me know and I’ll figure out what it would cost for me to pick up a copy and send it to you.

If there is a card you know already, just suspend it.  All the cards I’m putting up are in Anki format.  I’m going to do the book in order to make it easier on me, though I wouldn’t normally do so when teaching face to face.  This may take a while.  If you want me to skip ahead to a particular section, just shoot me an email and I’ll put that up first.

Wimpy – Page 1

เดื่อนกันยายน

วันอังคาร

ก่อนอื่นฉันขอบอกให้ชัดๆ ไปเลยว่า

นี่เป็นบันทึกประจำวัน

ไม่ใช่ไดอารี่ ถึงบนหน้าปกมันจะเขียนไว้ว่าอย่างนั้นก็เถอะ

เมื่อตอนที่แม่ออกไปซื้อมันมาน่ะ

ฉันก็ ย้ำนัก ย้ำหนา แล้วว่าอย่าเอาเล่มที่เขียนว่า “ไดอารี่” มา

************************************************

Breakdown –

วันอังคาร

ก่อนอื่นฉันขอบอกให้ชัดๆ ไปเลยว่า – first off, I want to make it very clear that

นี่เป็นบันทึกประจำวัน – this is a journal

ไม่ใช่ไดอารี่  – not a diary

ถึงบนหน้าปกมันจะเขียนไว้ว่า as for the cover saying

อย่างนั้น that (diary)

ก็เถิะ – whatever (I don’t care, it doesn’t matter)

เมื่อตอนที่ – When

แม่ออกไปซื้อมันมาน่ะ – my mom went out to go buy it

ฉันก็ ย้ำนัก ย้าหนา แล้วว่า – I told her a million times..

อย่าเอาเล่มที่เขียนว่า “ไดอารี่” มา – not to come back with a book that said diary (on the cover)

***************************************************************

SRS Cards

เดือนกันยายน – September

วันอังคาร – Tuesday

ขอบอกให้ว่า – Let me just say…

นี่เป็นบันทึกประจำวัน – this is a journal

บนหน้าปก – on the front cover

เมื่อตอนที่แม่ออกไปซื้อมัน – When mom was going out to buy it

ฉันก็ ย้ำนัก ย้าหนา แล้วว่า – I specifically told her that…

เล่มที่เขียนว่า “ไดอารี่” – a book with “Diary” written on the cover

LTfaWG – Why study with me?

I realize that while I have created a number of resources here, much of it isn’t very useful for a beginner that doesn’t know where to begin.  So I’m offering myself to you, dear readers.

Reading is ez!  It takes most people about 2 weeks* to go through the alphabet and all the tone rules, however, it will take a bit of regular practice before you are able to fully master/internalize everything.   From there we start reading the Wimpy kid books. We start easy with captions and go back and forth with that while drilling essential phrases until you can handle longer passages.  Then I keep feeding you useful language bits while you keep reading and working out the class/tone rules until you no longer need to think about them. I supply you with flashcards with audio for everything so you can review it.

*Individual results may vary. My system was developed over a period of about 10 years and in the last 5 years or so of teaching Thai privately, it generally took 6 hours of 1 on 1 lessons to cover all the material that you can now find in my online course. The time it takes someone to complete the 50 or so lessons in the online course will likely take you somewhere in the vicinity of 10-20 hours including review time.

Once you are ready for longer passages, we jump around in the Wimpy Kid books with you reading while I create flashcards for the more useful phrases and tell you what things mean. After you have a decent vocab and have begun to figure out how the language works, you can go off on your own or you can cut back your time spent with me and we can go through the whole book together.

It works slightly better in person because the internet in Thailand isn’t what I would call reliable, but via the magic of skype or google voice/vid chat distance really isn’t much of an obstacle.

Key Points/Strategies in my Method –

  • No Textbooks
  • No Phonetics/Transliteration
  • Only Authentic Material that is Interesting (Wimpy Kid books!)
  • SRS Flashcards (So you can’t forget)
  • No Word Lists
  • Fun Super-Useful Phrases (ie – 100 sentence project)
  • No Pressure
  • More Bang  for your Baht

มี – to have – Transcript

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDAbBp3uLCU]

    Do you have a cat ?   ไม่มี
    Do you have a dog ?   มี
    Do you have any money ?  มี
    Do you have it now ?   ไม่มี
    Do you have a car ?   ไม่มี
    Do you have a motorcycle ?  มี
    Do you have a house ?  ไม่มี
    Do you have any friends ?  มี

LTfaWG: Talks from Saturday – August 8th

We made 10 clips yesterday.  Come and get ’em.

youtube.com/gwindarr

A taste –

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTAL3wC1KsQ]

Aug 5 – Video

Bunch of new vids from yesterday.   My busy-ness level is getting pretty insane.    Feedback on vids on my youtube channel would be very much appreciated.  Tell me what you like and what you don’t like so I can make this thing better.  Its a lot of work for me to rope native speakers into doing this on a regular basis without pay and to keep them showing up.  Especially since none of the Thai speakers (that I’m aware of) ever bother to check the vids unless I actually show them.

There are quite a few clips today so I’m going to avoid posting them all here.  Just check out the latest vids on my channel below.

http://www.youtube.com/gwindarr

Read Good Stuff = Get Better at Language

Here is an excerpt from the Thai translation of an English book which I am reading at the moment.  Can anyone guess what its from?

Hints – Sci Fi, more than 1 movie version was made

“มีอะไรอยู่ในกล่องหรือ”

“ความเจ็บปวด”

……………………

“ข้าต้องไม่กลัว ความกลัวเป็นตัวพิมฆาตจิตใจ ความกลัวคือความตายกระจอกงอกง่อยซึ่งนำไปสู่การสูญสิ้น ข้าจักเผชญหน้ากับความกลัวปล่อยให้มันเคลื่อนผ่านตัวข้าไป จิตของข้าจักเพ่งพินิจวิถีทางแห่่งความกลัว แลตระหนักได้ว่าเมื่อมันผ่านไป….ก็หามีสิ่งใดหลงเหลืออยู่ไม่ นอกจากตัวเรา…”