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JohnBarleycorn

After Age 60: Is it possible to learn to Read and Speak Thai? And, Is it Worth the Effort?

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Posted (edited)

@JohnBarleycorn

 

Sorry to burst your bubble but I don't think most foreigners whose native language is Indo-European can speak Thai language fluently if they begin to study Thai after 50 years old.

 

The Thai language is too different from Indo-European languages.

 

I don't deny that many foreigners can speak elementary Thai such as ordering food and asking what time of day etc, but if you were to converse at an intermediate level to a native Thai person, many couldn't understand you.

 

I have heard so many stories from people who learned Thai for a year with good 'compliments' from Thai teacher but when they go out to the real world, the reality sets in.

 

 

 

Edited by EricTh
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On 6/3/2020 at 6:37 AM, cmarshall said:

Is ignorance ever better than knowledge? 

 

I started learning Thai at age 60 on my own in the States.  I have continued to study here in Thailand, first at the Intensive Thai program at Chulalongkorn U and subsequently one-on-one at Sumaa Institute.  Yesterday, for example, I had a three-hour online session with my teacher in which we talked about politics, the current situation in the US, the performance of several countries in controlling Covid, Thai expressions, etc.  I was able to express my thoughts throughout, sometimes fluently, sometimes groping for specialist vocabulary.  My teacher taught me several new expressions, which is a current focus of mine: ราดน้ำมันเข้ากองไฟ, หน้าไหว้หลังหลอก (an indispensable phrase which I had learned, but forgotten), and ปล่อยไปตามยถากรรม, discussion of which helped refine my understanding of the niceties of the Thai concept of karma.

 

I am just finishing reading Tongchai Winichakul's "Siam Mapped" in Thai with my teacher which has enriched the academic Thai in my Anki deck.

 

But the frustrations haven't stopped, of course.  The handymen in my building speak with a strong Isaan accent, very clipped.  I can hardly make out a word they say.

 

My Anki deck has 14,271 cards of which I can probably recognize 60% to 70% and cold recall somewhat fewer.  But from Anki I also learned to touch-type Thai nearly as fast as English, which helps a great deal with remembering Thai spellings.  However, I am not fully satisfied with my retention rate with Anki and plan to add memory palace techniques for the stubborn words.

 

Language study is a very fair enterprise.  The more you put in, the more you get out.  

 

In my opinion the best thing about Thailand is the Thai language.  It's too bad so many expats miss out on its unique pleasures.

Impressive! Puts me to shame -  I rarely read Thai. 

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On 6/5/2020 at 10:53 AM, seajae said:

as much as I would love to be able to converse in Thai as well as read it I have a major memory problem that stops me from doing so. while I know a few words and numbers my memory fades rapidly even with english at times. I have sat down and studied thai for many hours  till words etc can be remembered/spoken but after going to bed of a night when I wake up the next day none of it is retained at all and its back to square one. Makes it very hard for me but fortunately I dont mind others speaking in thai around me, just dissapointed I cant join in, imagine there are several others like this as well

I find that now I forget some English words, quite embarrassing sometimes. 

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On 6/4/2020 at 3:58 PM, talahtnut said:

Understanding the lingo spoils the fun

for Thai gals.

My mate said everytime he walked past a

particular group of gals the say 'moo'. and

giggle.

I told him that's good, means they like you.

I disagree; if I understand your statement correctly. Learning Thai is great, obviously for meeting girls, or guys. 

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9 hours ago, Neeranam said:

I find that now I forget some English words, quite embarrassing sometimes. 

It's known that learning a second language makes the tip-of-the-tongue experience worse!  However, bilingualism may also delay the onset of dementia by as much as five years.

 

Research on bilingualism has looked at tip-of-the-tongue states, and one of the things that emerged from these studies is that bilingual speakers are more likely to experience such states than monolinguals. This is not due to a lack of vocabulary: bilinguals truly know the right word – they just find it harder to retrieve it. Why is that?

 

The research points to two reasons. First of all, if you hear a word more often, it will be easier to bring it to mind. If you speak two languages, you will inevitably hear words in both these languages less often than if you speak only one language. And secondly, bilingual speakers always ‘activate’ both languages while talking, which means that the two languages compete, and finding the right word might require… about twice as much effort!

 

http://www.bilingualism-matters.ppls.ed.ac.uk/languages-tip-tongue/

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9 hours ago, Neeranam said:

I find that now I forget some English words, quite embarrassing sometimes. 

Why.?. Are you not a Native English speaker like me.

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I have a basic Thai but, no, after 60 not worth the effort as it's a minor language. Input vs Output? enjoy your retirement didn't you study enough in your 20s? 

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16 minutes ago, BobBKK said:

I have a basic Thai but, no, after 60 not worth the effort as it's a minor language. Input vs Output? enjoy your retirement didn't you study enough in your 20s? 

Even when out to pasture, it would be nice to communicate with those around you. 

I can't share about learning over 60, as I'm not there. I don't think learning a language is 'work', it's fun, especially if it's the only means of communicating where you live. For me, finding the time is the main obstacle when learning Thai. I look forward to the day I can retire and spend a few hours a day reading Thai books and learning. 

"To have another language is to possess a second soul."
Charlemagne

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4 minutes ago, Neeranam said:

Even when out to pasture, it would be nice to communicate with those around you. 

I can't share about learning over 60, as I'm not there. I don't think learning a language is 'work', it's fun, especially if it's the only means of communicating where you live. For me, finding the time is the main obstacle when learning Thai. I look forward to the day I can retire and spend a few hours a day reading Thai books and learning. 

"To have another language is to possess a second soul."
Charlemagne

Well it's not a sin obviously. If folk have tons of free time then why not?  I have elementary Thai that gets me food/drink etc. and don't think the investment worth the outcome. As for girls etc. many do not like Thai speaking farang as they think they know too much  555.

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2 minutes ago, BobBKK said:

As for girls etc. many do not like Thai speaking farang as they think they know too much

What does this mean? Are you talking about prostitutes in tourist bars? If not, it is totally wrong. 

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For those of us that are married to a Thai, learning the language is so important. Communication is vital in my relationships, not just with my wife but her parents and other relatives, neighbours and the local community.  

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Posted (edited)

As I listen to my wife on the phone seamlessly swapping between English and Thai, and me having had a facebook vid call with my daughter and son, where we could all swap between English and Spanish with my daughter and English and Lao with my son, it's something which I think enriches all of us.

 

My Thai son is actually teaching Lao to my daughter and she's teaching him Spanish. The reason we're doing Lao before Thai, is that it's my wife's primary and I found it a lot easier to pick up than Thai. The words are more clipped and easier to hear for a Western ear

 

Sometimes these kind of things renew my faith in humanity.

 

So even though it's hard the older you get, learning another language is a magical thing

Edited by GinBoy2
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