Sunday, 30 May 2010

First Eight Weeks Learning Thai Summary


Well eight weeks and a bit, as usual this post is a little later than hoped and unlike before, technically a couple of things mentioned would be at eight weeks and a bit. A jump as the last progress report was at four weeks, but I have severely underestimated the resource required to try to analyse my progress in this way. Going to summarize some findings here in this post, run a few more posts through the mill and then make the blog public. I have to say I am enjoying learning Thai and intend to continue for sure. The landscape for learning Thai for me is quite different to learning Chinese, and the language is quite different, but there are some distinct similarities to Chinese learning.

Learning Thai has robbed time from my Chinese learning but also allowed me to analyse my Chinese learning to-date. I can easily see now where I am with my Chinese and formulate a plan for taking my Chinese to the next level.

I have been greatly surprised by how much faster things have happened than I expected, I expected to spend a lot longer listening to Thai to feel that I had got used to the language.


In as much as there is a method, it can probably be summarized very simply. I listen to and watch (although I have more time for listening) a lot of Thai, radio, tv, podcasts, anything. A large amount of this listening is in the background whilst I am doing something else and a huge chunk of that so far, I haven't been paying a lot of conscious attention

When I do pay attention I am looking for characteristics of the language, common sounds, words etc. This is increasingly moving into word usage, meanings and phrases.

Alongside the pure Thai I have listened too a lot of lessons on Youtube or podcasts, I don't try hard to learn the words of phrases but over time they sink in and start to connect with the real Thai. Sometimes I use subtitles on video (in English or Chinese)

I try not to assign concrete meaning to words, some people may say that I am harming my learning by using vocab lessons, subtitles etc. (they may be correct). I am hoping that keeping things loose will offset damage, I need some vocab. particularly as I am doing so much listening (very hard to get context with no vocab to work on).

I have starting talking, talking with Thai people as with my Chinese is the thing that makes it easy to keep going. I have started talking Thai considerably earlier than I would have done with my first language, more importantly for me at least I know when I am ready to speak a language I am learning. Again talking early may cause damage, I keep it loose, just becasue someone understands what I say I don't assume the story is over at that point. I don't spend much time saying things out aloud or practicing pronounciation.

I am not learning words, no vocab lists, no testing, words are aquired, another benefit from listening to lots of lessons is that if makes it easier to aquire words that can be used in initial talking practice with Thai people.

I have not started reading or writing Thai, I strongly feel that it is crazy to start learning to read and write a language you cannot yet 'hear', although I have started to acquire some knowledge of written Thai.


I am freezing the timings now, they are a pain to monitor and hard to define (how do you define thinking about Thai at random times), after the first week I was averaging well over three hours a day, over the the eight weeks this dropped about an hour a day, very quickly the non-attentive and semi-attentive listening is dropping off (I am sure that some part of me was attentive but I don't seem to need this anymore). Acquiring a feel for the Thai language was much quicker than with Chinese.


I have found a number of resources to help, recently, a recent blog I have looked at that has interesting posts being Women learning Thai A recent post on there being about the Learn Thai podcast that I have listened to a lot of the free lessons from.


  1. I think you're missing something when you say "I have not started reading or writing Thai, I strongly feel that it is crazy to start learning to read and write a language you cannot yet 'hear'"

    Reading and writing are independent skills. One can learn one but not the other. Unlike Chinese, the Thai script is highly phonetic. There are several important aspects of Thai you can pick up from reading Thai such as distinguishing between consonants which sound similar, vowel length and tone. All of these aspects of Thai are clearly shown in the Thai script. I find when I just listen to Thai, I frequently hear things incorrectly. These 'mis-hearings' can often be corrected by reading the Thai script along the my listening.

    Note that I'm not talking about writing Thai. Thai has many letters that are pronounced the same and remembering which letter goes in which place in a Thai word which I can speak and understand can be very challenging. I'm also not talking about any of the Thai romanization systems. Nearly every Thai text book has it's own romanization system and there are no books except for Thai language learning text books in Thailand which are printed in any of Thai romanization systems.

    Wiworm Kessvantana-Dhors claims in her textbook "Everyday Thai for Beginners" that it should take 10 to 15 hours to master the Thai writing system. I agree with her assessment as far as simple reading is concerned, but I think that being able to accurately write Thai in that amount of time is extremely optimistic.

  2. Hi yedian, thanks for the comment, I don't intend to abandon reading forever and I do appreciate that I may be missing a trick or two on the sounds, but I am optimistic that either I will pick them up by listening or that I will make the final connections when I start to read. I do agree about the romanisation systems, I am largely ignoring them, which is why when I write down words I here it is a gross approximation.

    You are absolutely correct though reading and writing are independent skills I shouldn't put them together like that, you comment will help when I start, I will just "learn to read" and not worry about writing until later.