Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Does Chinese help me learn Thai?

Firstly it is clear that as other people have pointed out any new language learning after the first one is likely to be quicker. Your language learning abilities improve with practice it seems. I thought I was going to spend most of my time listening to uncompromisable Thai and getting used to the sounds of the language but that process kicked of much faster than I expected.

I have not noticed much in the way of conjugates, I have a small experience of Cantonese and it feels like there are more similarities between Thai and Cantonese than Thai and Mandarin. I am sure they are there but really even if a word sounds similar in Thai it will almost certainly have a different tone I guess and even a small difference in pronunciation means you may as well learn it from scratch particularly as it is likely to be a single syllable.

Sentences are usually constructed in a different order, I don't really focus on grammar though so lets leave it at that.

Thai feels like it has more sounds, also more multi-syllable loan words (I have read about Sanskrit words and found lots of English ones), that should make it slightly easier to target and absorb new words I hear. This combined with t he fact that I feel the range of Thai is a little smaller, what is called speaking in Mandarin with a "strong accent" can blur into speaking "a dialect" of Mandarin.

Having already got used to a tonal language is a big help, I know it will just take time, also I can usually remember the tone of words I hear. My brain has already cottoned onto the fact that tone is important.

Other elements like using word particles for questions, to soften meaning, to focus parts of a sentence etc. are also familiar already even if the details are different. I don't waste time getting used to this idea.

At this stage Thai people are easier to talk to in general and easier to learn from, this is probably offset by the fact that there are so many more Mandarin speakers in the world to track down and harass (I mean practice with).

The Thai writing system is simpler (looking forward to that :))

In summary Thai shares some characteristics with Mandarin which make for a smoother start. Nowhere near as close as Mandarin-Cantonese, English-German etc. though.

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