21 May 2014, TV = 775.9 hours
Sometimes I feel disappointed that my Thai isn’t better than it is: not getting what someone’s saying to me, or watching a TV show and hitting a scene where my understanding drops precipitously, or wanting to say something and realizing that I have no idea how to say it.
I don’t get majorly discouraged like wanting to throw in the towel, it’s more like: why can’t I understand this yet, after all this time?
I thought about this the other day as I rode the BTS (the skytrain). Despite having listened to the canned announcements for close to three years now – stuff about upcoming stations, changing for another line, not leaning against the poles, etc. – I still don’t get every word. (Obviously, I’m talking about the Thai announcements – and not the accompanying English translation!)
I do ride the train less often since I stopped going to AUA regularly about a year ago – but still, haven’t I heard these same few sentences several hundred times? How come there are still parts that slip past me, where I can’t catch what’s being said?
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But then there are signs of improvement as well.
I’m definitely getting better at hearing the difference between sounds that – to my English speaker’s ears – sound remarkably similar. For instance, a couple months ago someone pointed out that I was conflating two separate words; when they pronounced both words for me, I could hear the difference for the first time.1 (It hadn’t helped that I’d been perceiving a kind of “linkage” between the meanings of the two words, which I think served as a confirmation – mistaken, as it turned out – that they were the same word).
And then today at the market, I caught onto a new word that not only sounded very similar to another, more familiar word, but also had the same meaning – ie, the two were synonyms, and thus would have been really easy to mix up.2 I actually repeated the new word because I thought I’d misheard, but the woman who’d been speaking to me confirmed that I’d heard (and understood) correctly.
Probably most of what I read are short things on posters, notices, and advertisements. Context is still a factor in helping me figure out the words, but I’ve been understanding writings where the given context is broader, isn’t nearly as much help in narrowing things down. For example, looking at a menu it’s pretty obvious that most of what’s written is going to be names of foods and drink; whereas a cell phone advertisement could say a lot of different things. And then there are ads (notices, etc) where the topic/context isn’t so obvious. (For example, see this recent post).
Maybe if I at some point have the time/energy/inclination, I’ll try to put together a post showing some of the writings that I have – and haven’t – been able to figure out.
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1. โจร vs. จน
2. เปิด vs. เบิก
(Note: I think these are the pairs of similar-sounding words in question, but using written Thai is a fairly new step for me – and will probably be the subject of a future post!)