Sunday, June 03, 2007

Attempting to Learn Thai 12

June 2, 2007
Months in Thailand: 11
Hours at AUA: ~920 (Level 5-10)
Other study: Just started some writing self study, only about 3 hours so far.

In Class:

Things continue to get easier. In many easier AT5-10 hours, I understand 100% of the gist, though not yet all the vocab. The hardest hour that I attend in the present schedule is Religion, and even in this class I rarely lose the gist of things. I’d say my understanding in this class is 60-80%. However, much of the upper level vocabulary goes in one ear and right out the other, a problem that I think will only be mitigated after I can read and write a bit.

Overall, I am continuing to feel progress in class, and in harder hours I can almost feel my Thai getting better. During easier hours though I wonder how much I am benefiting. I don’t think the plateau is far off…

Oh additionally, I asked for a progress check recently and was surprised to see that my "total language acquired" rated at just 66%, up only 10% from when I started AT5 like 3 months and 250 hours ago. My overall understanding and, especially, my ability to speak, have improved far more than this reflects. Nevertheless, my "average understanding" was rated 87.5%, which I’d say is about right.

Out of Class:

Fluency. It all depends on how you define it, but I think I’ve reached the early stages of fluency. I can now converse quite naturally with people, and I can normally understand regular conversation with me and around me. I get lost on idioms and slang, and if someone speaks very quickly I have trouble following, but typically I get it.

In the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve had a number of long (2+ hour) conversations with one friend that were almost all in Thai, though it should be noted that her English is very good and so if we were stuck in Thai, we could switch to English. I have been talking on the phone much more successfully, though it is still much harder than in person. In fact, a month ago I was woken up by a rather difficult personal call and managed to immediately follow and respond to it, all in Thai.

I also recently went out to dinner with a group of students and told them a story IN THAI, which they all clearly followed because they all burst into laughter at the right moment and, later on, joke about the story with me again. I also happened to get into a very strange, hour long conversation with three people I didn’t know (though as a result of the conversation, they are now friends) in which I was doing most of the speaking, sort of pouring my heart out about something, and doing it in Thai.

I’ve even been finding that in conversation with English speaking Thais, I sometimes want to use a Thai word or phrase because it expresses things better than the equivalent English does. Additionally, even when on paper someone’s English is better than, or even vastly superior to, my Thai, it often seems easier to converse in Thai (or to mix but mostly Thai). I believe this is the result of the ALG method, which has taught me to be very comfortable even when I don’t understand every single word, and made me really good at getting the point and following the gist of things. When speaking English with many Thais, I often feel little or no confidence that they understand me, whereas I think I must usually exude some confidence when listening to Thai that encourages the speaker to give it to me with both barrels. Admittedly, depending on the person speaking this can still be way over my head, but conversations often seem, at least from my end, more comfortable if they are in Thai.

It is still bumpy and limited, but I’m fluent in Thai... Aray wah!?!


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