Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday I find myself sitting in a small classroom, together with two other foreigners, learning the Thai language. In total I have had 10 classes, each lasting for a mere 2 hours. In the beginning I expected the classes to resemble my days in high school in that there is a teacher who explains things and the students take turns to answer the questions and test their pronunciation, but then in a more adult way since I am the youngest in the class with 31 years of age. But these classes are nothing like that at all, luckily its all but those boring days in the past. Several times during a class the conversation converts from language to Thailand in general and it is just great fun to listen to the crazy stories of my classmates or the strange things happening in this country.
We do have a curriculum though, and during each class we repeat the words we learned last class, learn some new, and try to make sentences with the words we know so far. Making the sentences takes some effort I noticed. When a question is being asked I need to translate what I heard, think of an answer, and translate that to Thai again to be able to say it out loud. In some conversations it might look smart when someone asks you a question and you take a few seconds to contemplate the question before answering. But if the question is about the color of your shirt it does not work that way anymore. So far the stuff we learned matches most self-study languages books but the big difference is that here my pronunciation is being checked and it is a lot more motivating to keep studying. Some parts of what I learned I already used in real-life like at the local 7-11 or in restaurants.
Besides learning the pronunciation we also started with writing and reading Thai characters, this is done with a set of cards which is available at bookstores in Thailand. Each card has one character and a picture linked with that character, and on the back you can see how to pronounce the character.
The hardest part here is still that the characters do not make any sense, it is just a little drawing that I have never used before. But after drawing it a dozen times on a practice sheet it seems to get stuck in my memory and I am able to recollect the drawing when seeing them in print.
After buying the two packages of Thai character cards for a total of 500 baht I found out that there is also a free application for your mobile phone available which teaches you the same; “Thai Flash”. Other helpful tools are also available in the market locally, when I was at the Tesco Lotus (“Lotuh” as the Thais call it) they had a DVD playing at the local DVD shop with a happy alphabet tune on. You can sign along while looking at the characters and learn writing Thai on the beat. The DVD was suitable for people above 2 years of age, but my wife pointed out that it might be too hard for me at this point because they add some other sentences to the song, to keep it interesting, which I am not able to understand yet. Maybe in a couple of months, when I am a bit further at school…
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