24 February 2014; AT5 = 1063 hours; total class time = 2001 hours; TV = 504.1 hours
Well I finally broke the 500 hour mark for watching movies and TV in Thai, but it took almost 14 months to do so. And while that included stretches of time when I couldn’t watch anything – no TV or computer in sight – it also included a lot of days when I just couldn’t get myself to watch as much as I would have liked, when breaks between bouts of watching would stretch out longer and longer…I don’t even watch that much movies/TV in English, in Thai it can be totally enervating.
But what’s it really worth, having watched 500 hours’ worth of Thai-language video? Can I understand Thai TV programs better now than a year ago? I think so, but it’s hard to compare experiences across time – like how does my recent viewing of the 20+ hours long Madame Don (มาดามดัน) stack up to my viewing of the similarly long manee sawat (มณีสวาท), which I saw almost a year ago?
I couldn’t really say. I really can’t come up with an objective rating of my comprehension level – for example, as a percentage, which is the way they periodically rate your average understanding in class at AUA – and I certainly can’t do so for the roughly 20 to 25 hour long experience which is the typical lakorn.
And at this point, who really remembers how well I understood manee sawat? If pressed I would say that I followed the main plot fairly well, and the details to a certain degree, and that there was a fair amount that went over my head or that I grasped only roughly; but I’d probably say the same about Madame Don, too.
I think I probably understood more of Madame Don than manee sawat – I mean, wouldn’t that have to be the case given that, by the time I viewed MD I had been exposed to several hundred additional hours of TV, movies, classtime, and “real life” conversation in Thai?
By way of contrast, progress at AUA has been much easier to see. For example, having gotten to AT3 (intermediate class), I could look back on the comparatively simple AT1 (beginner class) and know for sure that my ability to understand Thai had improved. Or within any particular level of class, being able to follow what was going on fairly consistently was a definite sign that my understanding of Thai had come up since earlier days at that same level, which were always characterized by longer and more frequent lapses in understanding.
Maybe what this really means is that I haven’t yet made significant progress in understanding “TV-level” Thai.
What I mean is, my experience of classes at AUA followed a pattern in which there would be a “breakthrough point” where I’d finally be able to follow what was going on consistently without getting lost. For AT1 and AT2 (the beginners’ classes), this happened after roughly 150 hours; for AT3 (intermediate class) it was at about the 265 hour mark. Then with more class time, my ability to follow the details of what was being said would improve further.(See The First 1000 Hours, Part 4).
Maybe AT5 doesn’t fit this pattern quite as neatly, though there definitely were times when I could look back to earlier stages in that class and clearly see improvement (see The Ups and Downs of Early AT5 and Fuzzy Comprehension in AT5). Sometime around 400 to 500 hours into AT5 I had a decent level of understanding, but it’s hard to say precisely when I reached the point, during the next 500 or so hours of classes, where my comprehension had gotten good enough that I began to feel that I could learn more outside the classroom than in. All this may simply be the result of AT5 having so long a duration – a projected 1200 hours! – that progress happens at a kind of slow motion that’s hard to notice, like in a film being shown at a fraction of its normal speed.
Anyway, maybe I haven’t reached any analogous and clearly noticeable such breakthrough point with my video watching and, to the extent that I have made progress, it’s been incremental and thus harder to see and gauge.
I’m currently watching a fair amount of non-lakorn TV (news, talk shows, documentaries) for the first time since late October – early November, when I went through a similar phase, and it does feel like I’m able to follow along a little bit better than before – I think.
Or is it that my current choice of shows are simply a bit easier to understand?
Anyway, onward and upward: will I make the 1000 hour mark, and what would my comprehension abilities be like at that point?
I wonder about this myself.