Since mid 2011 I’ve been learning Thai in a way that’s similar to how I picked up my native English as a small child, and without doing any “studying” in the traditional sense of memorization, practice, or exercises. It’s fun, it works, and this blog is my way of sharing my experiences learning Thai with anyone who might be interested.
The longer version:
I’ve been learning Thai since moving to Bangkok in mid 2011, but I’ve never “studied” the language in the conventional sense of memorization and practice, nor have I used my native English to try to get a handle on what Thai means or how it sounds. Instead, I’ve been learning Thai from the inside out, without studying, without translation, without relying on a writing system, and without analyzing how the language works. I learn by being in a Thai language environment and simply trying to understand what’s going on – what I’m seeing, hearing, and experiencing. The language is absorbed automatically as a side effect, without my needing to make any special conscious effort.
I began this process by going to AUA (American University Alumni) Chumchuri, where the beginner level all-Thai classes use non-verbal communication (such as drawing, gesturing, or actual objects) in such a way that students can follow what’s going on even if they don’t know any Thai at all. As I progressed to higher level classes, the elements of non-verbal communication were reduced and the subject matter under discussion – and the language being used – became less concrete and more abstract, more complex.
Outside of school my Thai usage has grown from minimal/utilitarian to conversational. I have also been using Crosstalk to communicate with (and learn from) Thai people – it’s essentially the same set of communication methods used in AUA’s classes, but employed in situations outside the classroom setting in order to allow people who speak different languages to converse and understand each other. Plus I watch a lot of unsubtitled Thai movies and TV.
Learning Thai this way has been fun and a real adventure, and I find the language learning process fascinating. I’m also aware that for a lot of people, what I’ve been doing – learning a language without study or practice, in a way akin to how small children pick up their native language – just doesn’t seem possible, and especially for a “difficult” language like Thai. So at a certain point I began keeping a journal of my experiences with Thai. This blog is a way of sharing those experiences with anyone who might be interested.
Note: If you’ve come here because you’re trying to find out how the Thai program at AUA (Chumchuri) works, although that information can be found in posts scattered throughout this blog, your best starting point might be The First 1000 Hours, Part 2: How ALG Works (March 2012); this, and the several posts that follow, cover the nuts and bolts of how AUA’s Thai program is structured, what actually goes on in the classroom, etc.
If you’re interested in my experiences with Thai language TV and movies, the first post to deal with that topic is Travel, TV and Movies (7 Jan 2013); you can also try the lakorn page, or clicking on the relevant categories and tags.