26 May 2013; AT5 = 1031 hours; total time = 1969 hours; TV = 124.8 hours
I just yesterday returned from an almost four week stay in the countryside west of Bangkok; but before I write about that, I’d like to give updates on a few other things.
Video watching: as should be apparent from the numbers, my video watching has really slacked off – I’ve watched less than 25 hours of TV since my last entry, over two months ago. Of course, about 4 weeks of that time I was traveling and unable to watch TV or movies, but this is still a decrease. What happened was that after finishing watching Maneesawat (มณีสวาท), the thai lakorn (soap opera) that I’d become interested in, I tried watching a little of this and a little of that, but was unable to find another lakorn that I really liked. Maybe I was also feeling burned out on watching Thai TV/movies (plus putting in so many hours at school), because there was a roughly three week period when I hardly watched anything; instead, I indulged myself reading in English (mostly novels), which I really enjoyed – it was probably a good semi-break from Thai. Then in early april I started watching and became absorbed in a lakorn called Raeng Ngao (แรงเงา) which had aired on TV here last year (I’m watching it on Youtube). This lakorn had been discussed in class a number of times – I got the impression that it was a big hit with Thai audiences – so I knew a bit about the characters and the overall plot before I started watching it. (Plus I had actually caught an episode of it last year on an overnight bus ride). Anyway, it’s engaging enough that when I left Bangkok for my trip, I was at the halfway point (10 out of 20 episodes) and felt frustrated that I had to break off my viewing. Now that I’m back, I plan to watch the remaining episodes.
School: For close to a year now I’ve been here in Thailand on series of ED (education) visas – each one is good for 90 days, then I have to leave the country (I’ve been going to Laos) and apply for a new visa using paperwork provided by my school, AUA. In return my obligation is go to class for at least 15 hours per week, though I often do 25 to 30 hours per week in order to get the bonus of 50 free hours that AUA offers if you complete 200 hours within 8 weeks. All of this is no problem because I have plenty of free time for school and I find the classes enjoyable, plus I feel like I am still learning a lot in class. However, I decided it was time for a change of pace. So when my last ED visa expired back in late April, I decided to get a tourist visa as a replacement. The tourist visa is good for 60 days, and my understanding is that I can renew it here in Bangkok for an additional 30 days. I now have no obligation to go to class. So I pretty much haven’t been to school since 19 April, with the exception of one day when I went in to meet a friend and took an hour’s class just because I was there anyway. This way I get an extended break from school and more time for Thai outside the classroom, travel outside of Bangkok, etc.
Crosstalk: Since early march I’ve been meeting with a young Thai graduate student for “crosstalk”, which is the same method of communication used to teach Thai at AUA. I speak in English, she speaks in Thai, and the conversation is supplemented with visual communication, mainly pictures and gestures. Similar to AUA, I try to just understand what she is trying to communicate without focusing on the language being used and without using English to analyze or translate what she’s saying. There are however some differences for me between my experiences with crosstalk outside of school as opposed to what I experience inside the classroom at AUA. The obvious difference is that at AUA the communication mostly goes one way – from teachers to students – with the students giving only occasional responses, whereas with crosstalk it’s more 50-50 with both of us participating equally. I also feel that in the one-on-one crosstalk my conversation partner and I are more aware of each other’s level of understanding and adapt accordingly. So if I see she doesn’t understand what I am saying, I can try to figure out what the stumbling block is and adjust by rephrasing, increasing the nonverbal communication (ie, drawing pictures etc), or elucidating a concept by explaining it or giving examples. Because she is the only person I am focusing on, I can custom tailor what I am trying to communicate in order to get her to understand. Similarly, if I don’t understand what she is saying, she’ll either pick up on that or I’ll just tell her that I don’t understand what she’s just said. And I also think relating one-to-one holds my attention better than in class – my mind seems to wander off less. Usually when my focus slips it’s toward the end of a three to four hour conversation, and I’m getting pretty tired.
What do we talk about? Things that we’ve done or experienced recently, things that happened in our childhoods, family, life in Thailand and America; and sometimes stories drawn from literature or mythology. Sometimes it’s very conversational with a back-and-forth, sometimes it’s more like a class at AUA in that one person will speak for a period of time with the other person not saying much (this usually happens when telling a long story). Ability-wise, I think we’re fairly evenly matched, though I suspect her comprehension of English might be a bit better than mine of Thai, and that perhaps my ability to speak Thai might be a little better than her ability to speak English. Though I will occasionally cross over into Thai – it’s usually when we first meet or when we’re wrapping things up – for the most part I stick to English so that she will get English input; similarly, she sticks mainly to Thai, which I appreciate for the Thai input. After all, getting the input in the other language is the whole reason we’re doing crosstalk.
Anyway, I’ve had about 25 hours of crosstalk at this point; there’s some information available about crosstalk online here.