Thursday, December 13, 2007

Attempting to Learn Thai 16

December 13, 2007
Months in Thailand: 17.5
Hours at AUA: ~1319 (Level 5-10)
Reading and Writing: AUA Level 3 (~4 months/~90 hours in class time)

In Class:

I just went to 2 listening hours for the first time in weeks, and my comprehension was 95-100%. I even knew basically every non-specialized word used. My "Language Acquired" is now rated at 78%, which I feel is low... but then again, AUA classes are totally free after reaching 85%, so they may not be in a hurry to award the last few percentage points.


Tomorrow is the last day of Writing Level 3. At this point, I know the entire alphabet, Thai numerals, and all of the "rules" (more like guidelines...) for irregular spellings and pronunciations. Essentially, at this point I have all the needed tools for deciphering written Thai. If, given enough time, I still cannot make sense of something written in Thai, it now comes down to vocabulary, idiom, or cultural references or implications that I don't understand rather than inability with the actual writting system. Here are some examples of attempted reading:

Newspaper: I can get the idea, but newspapers are full of names, royal terms, and language that is too formal for me to really read yet.

Comic Book: About a month ago (a long time given I've only been doing 4 months of writing) I read through a volume of Initial D in Thai. It was very slow going and I needed to look up a few words, but I could really read and follow it. Comprehension ~80-90%... though keep in mind there are lots of pictures! (On a side note, it's very strange to be reading a Japanese comic book, which was later made into an animated series that I have watched in English, translated into Thai.) The 10 volume first series, combined into one paperback with about 200 pages, took me at least 5 hours. It was my first real, extended attempt at reading.

Car magazines: If I slog through every word, 70-80% comprehension, but it's too slow and tedious to enjoy. If I try to read at a faster pace, I lose the gist because the narrative isn't continuous enough; one sentence is about suspension, the next about tires, the next about brakes, and it's all too detail oriented to really absorb.

My first "real" Thai book: I'm reading a book of short stories by an author from Chiang Mai called "Mee Why Pua Saap," which I don't know how to translate. The first short story was 15 pages and took me about 10 hours to read; the second was 25 pages and also took about 10 hours. If the reading were any more difficult, I don't think I could stand it, but I am engaged and following it just well enough to keep going. My understanding of the most basic gist is ~70%, meaning I follow the general story and many of the details, but am often missing the finer points and at times, am confused about certain nuances of the plot. At the sentence level, sometimes I understand every word as well as every implication in a sentence; in other sentences I understand all the words but am not certain about the meaning, and others still I really don't get a thing. Nevertheless, I can follow the narrative at this slow pace and without a dictionary (though I often use one to check words I'm especially curious about or stuck on).

Out of Class:

It's harder and harder to mark progress, but I still feel it. Things continue to get smoother. The most noteworthy recent example is that I was able to explain turbocharging, and a number of other things about cars and engines, to a taxi driver. It was kind of bumpy because I lacked certain specialized terms (names of parts etc.) but I could do it, and he could follow it.