Monday, 14 June 2010

Firm conversation base


I have already established why I think conversation in Thai will be important to me, however it will only be a small (yet significant) part time wise. I don't live in Thailand, the easiest way to gain Thai language experiences is by being prepared to speak a little Thai (if you have other easy or even hard ways then please let me know).

Conversation also provides a firm base to build language around I can acquire words and concepts randomly via other input means but conversation provides a necessary focus to build a connected set of language.

Thai only meal

Last week on lunch-time I treated myself to a Thai meal at a restaurant near where I work, managed to not speak a word of English. The waiter helped a lot by not getting too chatty, but also by accepting that I speaking Thai and only using Thai. I managed to go outside the basics a little, asked where the toilet was (even though I didn't actually need it) also asked whether I could have the mussaman curry with chicken (the menu only said beef prawns and pork) but Chicken was fine. Actually I just said 'mee gai mai krap?' but it worked. Thai restaurants are going to be important, I expect to and am trying to build up a strong base of food and restaurant related language and then work out from there. Chinese was different, the menus are hard to read, the staff often don't speak Mandarin etc. for Chinese, Chinese medicine shops were a much better base. From the base, need to work outwards. Having had some success in Thai restaurants I can in theory (my theory of course) leave off the conversation until I have accumulated enough knowledge to strike up more interesting conversations with the staff. However sometimes an opportunity presents....

Local Thai opportunity

There is small Thai eating place just near where I work, I have worked out the following, in the evenings it opens just about the time I leave work. if I pick the busy Friday evening I can pop in for a coffee or beer, (can't regularly spend money on meals). There will usually be three Thai staff in there with nothing really to do until the customers pick up. They are happy to help me with questions etc. My objective isn't to speak only Thai (that dries up too quickly) but to ask questions, try things out etc. For example I know 'wan atit' is Sunday but occasionally hear 'atit' in things I listen to. I don't know if this is short for Sunday (often it seems not) or another word with the same sound and tones etc. etc. After asking it appears that is does actually mean sun (but usually combined with something else when talking about the sun directly). I am used to listening out for 'patet' to try to pick up country names but have a radio recording where the word 'patet' ends a sentence. I asked about this and the person I asked couldn't think of another word that had the same sounds or why this word would be on the end of sentence (although I am aware that when I get asked questions like these about English often nothing comes to mind until later). Since then I have head the word for abroad (I would understand if I heard it but can't quite remember, as I need a bit more exposure). I guess you could end a sentance with something like bai XXXXpatet "go abroad", there are probably other examples.

Wind up

I hope this continues to show how I will be using conversation to learn Thai, it is significant but I am by no means "talking myself towards fluency" I am as always mainly "listening my way towards fluency". There will be more no listening in my next post.

Also I have noticed that some preparation goes a long way, I didn't have to think or struggle to speak Thai in the restaurant, I had spare capacity to listen and concentrate on what the waiter was saying, having Thai sounds in my head doesn't guarantee that I speak perfectly but I can honestly say that so far in my Thai speaking experiments I have not been misunderstood once, not withstanding that mostly the scope for what I may be trying to say is fairly limited I am pleased about that.

Lastly and most importantly, I am using language to describe language, I don't actually believe that atit means sun or that patet means country. It is possible that they map exactly to those English words in connection with the internal meanings in my brain but highly unlikely, there is still a lot more to learn.

1 comment:

  1. I've just been to Thailand, and I do understand your point very well about gaining Thai language experiences by engaging in conversations. On one of my last days, I made a trip to เกาะเกร็ด just outside BKK and decided to walk the 5km around the island. Bad idea: it was scorching hot and the sun was burning holes into my skin. After 2km I was desperate for some shade, and when I passed a small shop, I spotted an umbrella. I asked the 5 or so people sitting there whether the umbrella is for sale, but it was not. However, a women got up and asked me XXX?, which I didn't understand, but she got to get it all the same: it was a piece of cardboard; then she repeated XXX, I repeated XXX, and she repeated it again. I thanked here and went on, holding a piece of cardboard over my head. XXX is now very strongly linked to this experience, and I doubt I will forget it anytime soon. Getting real experiences is way better than watching TV or listening to podcasts, and I can see your point about prompting such experiences by speaking early on.