Friday, January 12, 2007

Attempting to Learn Thai 7

January 12, 2007
Months in Thailand: 6.5
Hours at AUA: 455 (Level 3-4)
Other study: None since I started at AUA (before that, some minimal self-study and 6 very poor classes at another school)

In Class Progress:
I've only put in 24 hours since classes started back up at the beginning of this week, but I'm understanding my AT3-4 classes much better than before the three week break. It's no small difference either... if I had to estimate, my comprehension this week is 25-50% better. This week I've been following the gist of things almost all the time, even in the mixed 8am AT 3-10 class.

This means one of two things, or more likely, both. First, I think due to teacher combinations, subjects, and the impromtu nature of AUA's classes, the classes this week are on the whole at least a bit easier to understand than those before the break. But second, it seems that the three weeks off must have served as something like a germination period, a time when my brain could continue to sort things out and some of the Thai floating around could sink in. The 8am AT 3-10 class is NOT easy, and I've gathered that some of the other AT3-4 students don't follow it as well as I do.

The 7am AT1-10 class is also an interesting benchmark. Because so few students come to AUA at 7am, they just throw everyone in together and the teachers adjust according to the mix on a given day. On Monday, it was just me and another AT3-4 student, so obviously it was an AT3-4 level class. But other days, there have been several AT1 and AT2 students, and it's been a lot easier, something like a hard AT1 class or an easy to average AT2 class. In these classes, it's not really surprising that I've understood the gist of things 99% of the time. But remarkably, I've also understood 95% of the vocabulary! I could translate or explain the meaning of just about every word, despite the fact that I have never studied any of them in an academic or traditional fashion.

Sitting there in easy classes like this, it doesn't seem like anything special that I get just about everything. It's like going back to 1st grade after making it to 3rd. But at the same time, it really is pretty amazing... 4 months ago, I didn't have this level of comprehension in AT1 classes, and 5 months ago, I didn't know ANY Thai except for hello, thank you, and the numbers 1-10.

Out of Class:
Noticible improvements, and a number of impressed Thais during my recent trip to Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Sorn. Also, and yes I know I'm not even supposed to be speaking yet, I seem to be understood 90% of the time or better when I stick to saying what I naturally know how to say. I've even had some phone conversations in Thai that weren't complete disasters.