Monday, 22 March 2010

The First Two Days Learning Thai

In the light of potential comparison to the speak early, learn in the country approach, I will need to adjust my intended method somewhat, within an eight week period I would only expect to be listening with very little other learning. I have already blogged about how how important listening was to me when I started learning Mandarin. The problem with just listening for 8 weeks is that it is hard to analyze the advantage I get, even if I know it is there. Besides I think I known how to avoid damage from attempting to talk too early... or rather I hope I do.

Having said that the last Saturday and Sunday, the free time I had was devoted almost entirely to listening, I don't look for explanations or vocab. I am going to log 2 hours for each day of attentive listening to a variety of sources (variety is important here) but also have fixed on a small selection of spoken stories from that I found as podcasts on my Ipod (these will be one of the sources I return to often).

How can I listen to hours of material I completely fail to understand? Because I am actively getting used to the sounds slowly the mush of sounds starts to resolve and unravel.

  • listening for common sounds
  • listening for word boundries
  • listening for sentance boundries
  • male sounds, female sounds, children, old people
  • listening for conjugates and loan words
  • listening for names, emotion, formal speech (news) etc. etc.
How can I explain, the language slows down the sounds become more distinct, and I notice things.

The rolled r (some speakers seem to drop this). The tones, at least one funky one there. The similarity to Cantonese (I speak very little Cantonese but I know the sound. The more formal spoken language sometimes sounds a little Welsh (bizarrely). Some females especially seem to put those Cantonese type noises on the end. I don't know the romanization but hearing some numbers sipgao sipsam (youtube had a video, Thai numbers for Cantonese speakers, had a quick first intro. already). A guy and a girl say sipgao she put a little Cantonese feel and stretches out the gaaaooo (but also just slightly Welsh ;)). What does roi mean (love the sound) what does tiimmii mean?

I have improved at this even after six hours or so it has all slowed down, almost to a point where if feels they are speaking too slowly (it will speed again when I start to understand a little unfortunately), even so I have the suspicion that the Thai radio presenters speak a little slower than Chinese ones, bit more laid back.

Writing this I am logging some less attentive listening, listening to Thai radio online.

I meet so many language learners who have been learning for years and yet moan that they still can't cope with understanding the language they are studying at full speed. Why not sort that out first, ironically I think it is easy to get used to it when there is no burden of attemped understanding.

A good start, game on Thai, I have no fear, I have no pressure, no stress, no danger.

There is so much more I could have written, I bet Thai has more sounds than Mandarin more than Cantonese, I hear some loan words (Nuclear, Europe etc. etc) the Thais seem to be armed with enough sounds to pronounce these types of words better than the Chinese and significantly better than the Japanese discovering these things for myself is far more important than reading about it.

I am concious of learning so much this way, imagine how much I may be absorbing unconciously.


  1. It's going to take a while for me to catch up with all these posts. It's all very interesting so far.

  2. Thanks for the comment Keith, I didn't want the effect of being observed to change anything I did initially.