Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Thai by the numbers

How can just listening teach you anything?, actually I am a little impatient I help the process on by combining real Thai with lessons in my mother tongue, I don't get out a pen and paper or practice, or think too much about the lessons. Language is full of numbers so I find them a good hook in during the early stages. Islands of numbers that expand are just like the other islands of words and meaning that expand outwards.

A Thai lesson on numbers above, if you follow the link back to Youtube you can see part two. I have made no systematic effort to learn Thai numbers yet (I haven't sat down with a book or a lesson etc. and any lessons I listen to I am doing something else) but I have both listened to a lot of Thai and a fair number of lessons on numbers. I let the lessons wash over me, I pay attention to Thai when I think numbers are involved and now I am pretty comfortable with Thai numbers. I have to say pretty comfortable with them, I think mostly in Chinese numbers now and will probably stick to that. Both Thai and Chinese numbering systems are simple logical and powerful (Chinese more so because of the Thai et and yi). There will be another post on numbers soon, the language you think in when you think about numbers makes a big difference, there is a real reason why many Asian kids are so much more advanced in maths than Western kids of a similar age and it not because they work harder.

When I was a child (and I suppose still) you could buy those "painting by numbers" kits, you had to fill in numbered sections with selected colours. If it was a complicated one you didn't know what it was going to look like until you had filled in enough of the blanks (especially if someone hid the box from you ;)). Listening to Thai is a bit like the paintings it is blank, there is data and information there but you don't exactly what it represents, every blank you fill brings it closer until finally you get the complete picture.

In my post summarizing the first two weeks of learning Thai I included a video, I noted this about the video:

Early on she says a number, five hundred and fifty three, the first time I watched it I heard fifty three, but then I found out a meaning for that roi sound I like so now I hear five hundred and fifty three. Of course she may be saying a bigger number I have not got that far yet, in fact I have not actually deliberately sat down to learn Thai numbers in any systematic way at all.

Now I know the number IS bigger, I was hearing similar numbers all the time now she is clearly saying "year 2553", I have managed to work out that Thailand measures it's own year aside from the international year. This mirrors the way other words are growing into phrases.

One example from many: I hear "len footbun hai sannook" In a Thai radio broadcast. I guess this means something like "play football for fun", I don't know for sure that hai can be used quite like this, if I am wrong I will find out at some point.

This is how it works. The phrases will get longer, turn into sentences etc. It will depend on material and time.


  1. Hello, Chris
    Do you know how to tell time in Thai,
    Such as 7 in the evening, but Thai call 1 clock in the evening, 8 is 2 and 9 is 3 till 11 we call five, but tell we just call midnight. Hahaha, It's complicated for foreginers i guess.

  2. Hi ArthitEnglish,

    I am aware of the difference with Thai time, but can't really tell the time in Thai properly yet (I will come ;)).

    BTW I like your English learning blog, a good attitude, I will keep up with your posts there.

  3. 'This is how it works. The phrases will get longer, turn into sentences etc. It will depend on material and time.'

    It's a great way to look at it. Comforting.

    Thai numbers came quickly for me. Which was great, because most everything else is coming at an ambling pace. What clicked is how Thai numbers written in Thai script can be visually linked in a logical way (except for one or two that is).