Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Attempting to Learn Thai 14

September 11, 2007
Months in Thailand: 14.5
Hours at AUA: ~1200 (Level 5-10)
Reading and Writing: AUA Level 1 (~5 weeks/~25 hours in class time)

In Class:

It finally happened... I've decided to stop attending so many hours at AUA. It's a little sad, actually, as AUA has become like a home to me, but the fact is that AT5-10 is too easy for me now and I believe that my Thai will improve more quickly through watching TV and movies and interacting with people outside of class. For 2 weeks now I've only gone to a single hour per day of listening class, attending the 12pm news hour because it is more challenging (and also more interesting) than most other hours. (In total though this still means being there 3 hours... one of writing, one spent in the library with writing homework, and News. So while 3 hours/day is definitely less than 5-6, it's still a fair amount of time that I am spending studying Thai.)

As of 2 weeks ago, my Language Aquired was rated at 74%, which again means that according to the teachers, I now have a natural understanding of 74% of everyday, common Thai.

Reading and Writing:

I have just a few days left now in R+W level 1. At this point, I know 28/44 consonants and most of the single character vowels. I can read more and more of what I see around me, and also write some simple sentences if I chose my words carefully.

The most recent assignments for class have been to write things like "Mrs. Ploy is Thai. Mrs. Ploy's husband is Korean. Mrs. Ploy and her husband have 3 sons and 2 daughters."

Also as a gauge for total hours that I am studying reading and writing, I would say I've been spending about 1 hour doing homework and practice for every 1 hour of class, a 1:1 ratio. So up to now I've done about 25 hours in and out of class, about 50 total.

Out of Class:

Yesterday I had a cool experience. I happened upon a clearance sale in the department store inside Paragon mall, and as I was picking out a few things, I chatted a lot with two of the clerks who were working the sale. They ended up inviting me to go out with them after the store closed, and I decided to go along since I was going from there to the gym and would finish at the same time they got off. As it turned out, they didn't have anywhere in mind to go because they usually work at another mall elsewhere in the city and were here just to help with this big clearance, and thus didn't know the area. So in the end, I suggested we go to the food market by my old apartment.

As we were talking over dinner, I realized that for maybe the first time, I was the one in command of a long conversation happening entirely in Thai. I was doing most of the talking, asking most of the questions, and generally leading the conversation for the 2 hours we were there. At times I didn't know the word for something (scar, for instance) or had to repeat myself or restructure a sentence that didn't come out right, but overall it was more natural feeling than awkward. Let me note though that it was mostly everyday topics, things like the US and Thailand, food, weather, cars and motorcycles, teaching and studying. I am lightyears away from playing this role in a discussion about religion or philosophy or anything else nuanced and abstract.

It's hard to quantify, but comparing my conversational skills now to about 4 months ago when I first began to have many regular conversations in Thai, I notice that I am speaking much more quickly, and generally am able to articulate far more than I used to be able to. Conversations can also get much deeper these days, although there still is a long way to go before I can precisely word certain emotions or philosophical abstractions.

I have also watched 2 Thai movies in the last week, and never really lost the gist of what was going on. There was a lot of dialouge though that I didn't fully grasp as both films had far more slang and faster speech than I ever encounter in my day to day life. Even in listening to native Thai-Thai conversations, I usually don't hear speech this fast, improper, or with this much slang.

Despite all this progress, talking on the phone is still really difficult, and sometimes I manage to confuse myself and others pretty thouroughly.


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