Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Thai is Thai and I am Thai


I listen to a lot of the language I am learning, apparently this does not translate very well to the web: "hey guys here is a video of me listening to Thai, can you see the headphones?, and here is another video of me listening whilst watering the vegetables in their raised beds". Followed by the incredibly exciting "here is the full two hours video of me listening whilst working, it looks a lot like a guy programming for two hours but spot the headphones!". Now here is the exciting bit I actually don't understand hardly anything yet! I was really enthusiastic at the prospect of releasing these videos, I thought they would go down a storm on Youtube, friends and family members advised me against this though...

So although I know that analyzing the process doesn't help me, it is the only way to capture what is happening. First real milestone is that Thai is Thai.

Resistance is useless, I cannot speak Thai in English, I cannot think Thai in English, I may use English or Chinese as a scaffolding or a fuzzy definition but I should be aiming to lose that. So when studying Thai I am Thai, how can I possibly resist my own language.

Thai is Thai

The first step for me, Thai no longer sounds a little Welsh or a little Cantonese in places, it sounds like Thai. I wanted this to happen as early a possible so that I am not studying a foreign language. Of course Thai is not Thai to me in the same way as it is to a Thai person (for a start they actually understand it) and a Thai person has a wider filter for dialects, regional variations, age variations, styles of speaking etc. etc. But it is no longer foreign.

As most English people I can easily say that German is German, French is French, not being able to say that Thai is Thai was one of my biggest initial hurdles. A hurdle that I think is vastly underestimated. When I meet someone who studied Japanese for three years at school and then later for two years at night classes and they tell me that they can't understand real world Japanese because "they talk too fast" I know that for them Japanese is not Japanese yet, which after five years is a shame don't you think? If Japanese was Japanese to them they they could just apply all that vocab they had learned and understand fairly easily, but because Japanese is not Japanese they can't understand even the words they think they know when they study them in pristine isolation and slow motion.

I am Thai

When studying or thinking about Thai, I am Thai, in my head I am Thai. I explain away the obvious problems with this statement by imagining that I have had some sort of brain trauma that has left me with little or no memory of my own language or culture, but has left me with the English and some Chinese that I learned previously (so at least I can think Phewww), I bet the brain freaks would like to get a hold of the imaginary me. As for the physical side, well I just would just have to mumble about recessive genes, complicated family history and try to change the subject as fast as possible coff.

Being Thai, I am obviously somewhat upset that I have to re-learn my mother tongue, but there is no real resistance to the language, no unfavorable comparisons, no moaning about it (unless I am having a bad day, I always reserve the right to have bad days). Significantly there is no embarrassment about trying to sound Thai (after all that is what I am). There is considerable embarrassment though about sounding English (damn that hurts), let's hope I don't have to undergo that forever.

No comments:

Post a Comment