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กันยายน 2550
9 กันยายน 2550
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Why I will never understand Thai...

I've been trying to learn Thai for around 2 1/2 years now.

Somedays I think I do OK. I can chat to the woman who sells me my morning curry, get to and from school, have basic conversations with the people who work, or live in the same building as I do, answer the phone and even manage to watch news stories and gameshows on TV.

Other days I'm hopeless. I can't even string a sentence together.

Somedays I waver between both. On Thursday night I went to see a movie with a friend. It was a Thai movie, with English subtitles but I did my best to try and listen to what the characters were saying rather than read the English at the bottom. I managed to understand around 40% of it, without needing to read the subtitles. That might sound a bit crap, but I was quite proud of myself. It was hard to follow, and for a movie where people talk quite quickly, I thought I did OK.

Afterwards we started talking about the movie and went to get something to eat. I'd just listened to around an hour and a half of Thai. I should be able to speak it, shouldn't I ??? I don't know why but I couldn't at all. Almost every time I opened my mouth an English sentence came spewing out.

I always complain to my Thai friends that I never have much chance to practise my Thai anymore. At school I only ever hear / speak English. Thai friends where I live normally talk to me because they want to practise their English. They don't particularly want to listen to my crap Thai.

So, I'm sat with a Thai guy who's English is pretty good. He's a bit shy and hesitant when it comes to speaking though. He'd much rather speak Thai. Perfect! I've known him for almost 3 years. He's an old workmate and a friend. He can understand my screwey pronunciation. It should be easy, right? Wrong. I couldn't speak any Thai at all. I don't know why but almost everything I said was in English.

It must have sounded quite funny. He spoke Thai. I replied in English. I so wanted to be able to speak, but I just couldn't. This happens a lot. It's like my brain has gone into Thai langauge overload and can't take any more...

It was late. It was almost 11pm when the movie finished, but I know that's a poor excuse. If you want to be able to speak another language you need to be able to think, and speak it 24/7. Not just when you're in the right mood.

Regardless of whether I'm having a 'can speak OK today' day or not, there's another thing that makes it hard for foreigners to learn Thai.

Supposing I spoke the most fantastic Thai ever in the whole world...
Pitch perfect pronunciation... Supposing I could effortlessly construct grammatically correct sentences...

I'd still be crap at it.

Why ? Because Thai language has so many words with double, and sometimes even triple or quadruple meanings.

English has them too. Beginners find them confusing. There's a TV program, Chris Delievery that highlights them, and uses comedy sketches to teach people when they should use each one. Last Friday's episode looked at 'train' (which means ฝึก , สอน and รถไฟ amongst other things in English.) But Thai seems to have a lot more.

Sometimes, no matter how hard I try to listen, read and speak, I know that I will never, ever be able to figure out some of the hidden, or alternative meanings.

Here's 2 examples that spring to mind from the last couple of days.

1. from Thursday's movie...

I translated part of the title (บ้านเล็ก) as 'little house...' because
บ้าน means house and
เล็ก means little.

Nope, "little house", doesn't actually mean a little house at all. It means a mistress's house. Since any guy who could afford to keep, as well as buy a house for their mistress is probably pretty loaded, I guess the mistress's house isn't that little either.

Here's another

2. From last night...

I translated สำเร็จความใคร่ as to be sucessful at something eg. to suceed in getting the thing you wish for or desire...

I worked this out by trying to translate it myself. Translating it literally you get....
สำเร็จ - sucessful
ความ - a prefix that people use when then they need to turn verbs or adjectives into nouns. It's a bit like the 'ness' suffix in English
ใคร่ - a wish

right ???

This morning I discovered that it also means something else too...
Lets just say its a good job that I've never used this word in an everyday conversation.

Create Date : 09 กันยายน 2550
Last Update : 9 กันยายน 2550 14:07:38 น. 5 comments
Counter : 276 Pageviews.

wow, you are such a wonderful that trying to learn thai,Great !!
But Basicly, it wasnt easy to speak like a mother-lang and you will just take a little bit time. Hopefully you can be better soon

โดย: yuiz (dapumpkin ) วันที่: 9 กันยายน 2550 เวลา:14:40:12 น.  

Ha ha ha (that means laughing)

You made me knew and understood the another

interesting fact of learning foreign language. I often

forget to think about that if Farang (oversea people, that they have blue eyes or non-black hair)

study the Thai language, they may get trouble as Thai people studying English.

By the way, if you want to find a friend to practice

your Thai I can be your friend.

โดย: Toby (Hashave ) วันที่: 9 กันยายน 2550 เวลา:15:07:52 น.  

I think the nature of Thai is same as the other language.
Reading , Writing , listening and speaking are different skill that needed to practice and familiar with .
I think you should start from listening and speaking . And the way to practice should not be serious . Just practice as natural ., like a kid .
Don't worry so much about gramma ,just know the main meaning and copy how to say . Just talk to any Thai that you meet daily ( not your close friend )
The example you talked about is quit complex .I also have not clear about บ้านเล็ก although I know สำเร็จความใคร่ .
Anyway , please start from the easy word /sentences .
There are many meaning for 1 Thai word ,but there is only one when it is composed in a sentence.

Don't give up. :-)

I always surprise when I went home in Krabi and saw some old women at the beach ( sell gum ,candy ,squid or souvenir ) can speak english very well with the foreigner . As I talked with her ,I found that she has never learn English with any special class/teacher. Her teacher are the tourist that she meet every day !!

โดย: รายารีย์ วันที่: 9 กันยายน 2550 เวลา:15:15:19 น.  

I think it's a big problem for u
but it's a littlle joke for me
(especially "สำเร็จความใคร่" ..hmm)

come to see
and cheer u up for keep trying on na krub

โดย: เก่งกว่าผมตายไปหมดแล้ว วันที่: 9 กันยายน 2550 เวลา:17:03:50 น.  

Cheers for the comments guys...

Whoever said:-
"There are many meanings for 1 Thai word ,but there is only one when it is composed in a sentence. "
- True, but if you're foreign, unless you swallow a Thai-English dictionary beforehand, you have no way of knowing the intended meaning...

I kind of agree that when you are 'forced' to learn a language because you need to speak and use it everyday, you normally become more confident speaking. As you get more confident speaking, it becomes easier to absorb new words, and use them correctly.

Most street vendors, tuk-tuk drivers etc. that I've come across don't speak great English. But THEY TRY, that the most important thing, and by trying and practising everyday they will only get better at speaking. Who cares if their grammar or pronunciation isn't that great, they manage to communicate OK, which contrasts with some of the people I live with, who've attented good schools, have studied English for years, and still aren't capable of even the most basic conversation... usually because they're frightened that they will sound stupid. Of course they sound stupid... I know that I probably sound pretty stupid when I speak Thai, but.. if they don't even make the effort to try they're never gonna get any better are they ???

I was the same when I started to learn Thai. I was too embarrassed to say anything other than ''จะไป 7 เอวอะไรไหมคะ " ("I'm off to 7-11 want anything ?") to the people in my office because I felt so stupid, and I was like this for amost a year... But, at some point it clicked that I had to try and speak. I could read the aplhabet and write a few baisc words, but so what!!! If I couldn;t actually say them aloud and make sentences with them, I was never gonna improve was I ? Now, if I'm in a mood to try and speak, its hard to shut me up.

Farangs (especially tourists who are only here for a few weeks) really like it when they try to buy food etc. and the vendors can speak English. They're normally more than happy to help them practise their English.

I spent a few days in Krabi last year. I had great fun talking to the boat Taxi drivers, swapping Thai and English. A couple of them told me that they really enjoyed speaking English, as it meant they could tease and flirt with all the good looking tourists :)

I try and study Thai now (just for fun - though its probably a wierd kind of fun.) I have a great teacher now - she's very patient and good at explaining patterns of speech etc... But, I think my best teachers were probably the guys and girls from my old office (one of whom used to make me read the permier league table in a Thai accent then ask me where my team were), the cleaners from my old work (who couldn't speak much English, but were so nice and friendly that I really wnated to be able to communicate with them OK), one of the guys who sells coffee in the building where I live (who used to tease me about my football team) and the steet vendors around where I live.

I've probably learnt more about how to speak, and use the language from these people than from my actual teacher or from any textbook I've tried to read.

I didn't realise this before (as I've never had to try and learn another language before) but I think that if you learn any other language, it doesn't matter which one, you need a good reason to want to learn. You need to find things that interest you. Movies, books, webboards, people you want to talk to... anything really... Same goes for anyone reading this who's learning English... If you can't do this, it doesn't matter how many books you read or how hard you study, it will never get any easier...

Keep on trying... course I will... I'm very trying...

โดย: kerrie วันที่: 10 กันยายน 2550 เวลา:18:03:55 น.  

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