Sunday, 18 April 2010

Do I need a teacher to study Thai

Waiting for a course

I have met a number of people, who claim that they wish to learn this language or that language, but they are waiting for a course. "I hear they are going to start a Mandarin course in September so I am waiting for that to start" for example. Why wait? We know that plenty of people around the world learn second or third languages without a course, and with the Internet you can find your own content so why wait? The typical answer would be something along the lines of "I don't want to do anything wrong", what can this mean? are they afraid that they are going to "break" Italian somehow, render is unusable to anybody. At the very least what harm could just listening to language do? Apparently some people are of the opinion that even this is risky without trained supervision. To be fair some languages can be a little tough, an innocent bystander just listening to an argument in Afrikaans could come away with bruises and minor flesh wounds.

Do I need a class?

I have attended one class in Mandarin (just the one evening) and in the pursuit of further knowledge I recently listened to a bunch of recorded lessons from one of the Confucius Institutes, I also remember studying how not to speak languages at school and an Italian course that was provided for me by my Employers many, many, many years ago. The most striking thing is that you spend a lot of time listening to other students being stupid or waiting for other students to catch up because they are being stupid. To be fair they have to wait when I am being stupid but the cumulative effect of all the stupidity is a huge waste of time. You need an excellent teacher and/or an excellent curriculum to even start counteracting the stupidity and if god forbid the teacher is a little stupid then everybody is DOOMED.

My next problem is the content, I want to choose it. I remember doing the Italian course having to learn a bunch of stuff about airports and meeting people from planes. I had no interest or use but had to learn it because the teacher rated our progress. I dropped out of the course.

So do I need a teacher?

That depends on how you define teacher, I have listened to lots of material on Youtube for example, every single one of those people was a teacher of sorts, every Thai person I may meet and talk with is potentially a teacher, everybody I may meet on Skype at sometime could be a teacher. A confidante, a trusted friend can be a powerful teacher. Recently I have had a Chinese teacher with whom I can pick a topic and talk to for an hour, that is a valuable experience. In the classic sense, in the classroom sense however I do not see the need for a teacher.

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