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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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I enjoy picking up Thai smut funnies from the Bike Shop Kids nearby.  Not for publication here, but it makes  Bro in Law laugh when a ferang copies it like a Parrot..

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5 minutes ago, pineapple01 said:

I enjoy picking up Thai smut funnies from the Bike Shop Kids nearby.  Not for publication here, but it makes  Bro in Law laugh when a ferang copies it like a Parrot..

Ah, but the only true language to use for swearing and innuendo has got to be English?  

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As long as we dont take anything here serious  your a winner.

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Just now, pineapple01 said:

As long as we dont take anything here serious  your a winner.

I managed to hurt my arm a few days ago. being my usual clumsy self. Even I was impressed with the range of words that I shouted (in some pain).  Mrs P was lost in the English.  Her solicitous comment of " jip or mai jip" was met with another few choice English, descriptive words. I don't think Thai would have been adequate for this occasion. 

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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

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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, DUNROAMIN said:

I forgot to mention, maybe, lazy.

I'll come back to the brain wiring thing.

 

As an American, I've known many people like myself who grew up bilingual and many who were a monoglot.

 

I think, without any data to back this up, that if you grow up bilingual your ability to learn languages, even as you grow older is easier.

 

So maybe it's not laziness, more the fact that that it's just much harder for those of you not wired at birth to learn a multiple languages, and you just give up

Edited by GinBoy2

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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.

Anyone as ambitious as you are about learning Thai after age 60....

Must obviously be a Princeton Man.

I am sure that I am not incorrect.

But, am I correct?

Anki is great.

Anki is incomparable.

The developer and maintainer of Anki is also a really nice person....

Sort of an academic in the most positive sense.

My hat's off to Anki, for sure!

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5 hours ago, thailien8 said:

Great topic!  Thanks to the OP John Barleycorn for the best OP I have yet read on thaivisa and to cmarshall for an informative comment, teaching me how to say “pouring gasoline on a fire” and “hypocritical”, referring to Trump’s recent provocations I assume.  

 

I missed out on the unique pleasures of learning Thai language for the first 15 years of my time in Thailand because I was kept busy teaching English to so many lovely students at AUA in Bangkok.   But when I retired at age 60, 13 years ago, I had free time at last.  I was feeling ashamed at being so long in this country and still illiterate.  Not good, as I wanted to continue living here as a retiree.  My hearing was already starting to fail, and now I’m largely deaf, tho hearing aids help somewhat.

 

So I decided to make an effort to learn to read and write.  Not easy.

Started with a school in Bangkok where I learned the alphabet and tone rules.  This took a year, but was a good basic grounding.

Moved to Pattaya and did the Ed visa class thing at Walen, where spelling was emphasized.  More good basics.  

 

When they started cracking down on the Ed visa, I switched to retirement visa and started looking for a teacher who could do one-to-one tutoring.  I was eager to start real reading, and had many questions.  I had bought a copy of Andrew Biggs’ autobiography ก๋วยเตี๋ยวเส้นเหล็ก (Steel Noodles) but quickly realized I needed a lot of help to understand the meaning of the words.  Luckily I met a good Thai teacher and studied with her for a year as we slowly read this book together.  I was pleased to find that reading to her gradually got easier, and we finished the book.  That felt good!

 

Encouraged, I then read คิดถึงแม่ by วิกรม กรมดิษฐ์ with two more Thai teachers who were adequate but not inspiring.  

Then I went bookstore hunting for a Thai translation of an English novel, thinking that there would be many.  Wrong, there were very few.  I chose Animal Farm by Orwell because I had not previously read this in English.

Reading this went well, as I was more up to speed, and found my new favorite Thai teacher, who can speak English well, has a good attitude to cope with my poor hearing and tries hard to explain in answer to my questions.  Studying with her twice a week, two hours each time, became an important routine for me.  We finished Animal Farm last year and are now reading Aesop’s Fables.  

 

In summary, my answer to the OP is full agreement.  Learning a language after age 60 is indeed possible and enjoyable.  I may never do anything much else with it, but it has contributed to keeping my aging brain alive and functioning, giving me something more to live for.

 

 

 

 

It's funny that you mention วิกรม กรมดิษฐ์.  Early on I used to watch his short videos on youtube.  He's the usual shallow, self-regarding businessman who takes himself far too seriously just because he made money.  But he also speaks Thai rather slowly and clearly, for which I found I could forgive him a lot.

 

I don't know where you get your hearing aids or what your hearing loss is, but if they aren't fully doing doing the job, they may not be fitted correctly.  If so, it wouldn't be surprising.  In the US 40% of HAs are not correctly fitted.  God only knows what that number is in Thailand.  It might be worth considering to go to another audiologist.  Choices here appear to be very limited.  I get mine at Costco in the US, where I got the best service I ever had.  My own loss ranges from moderate to severe, but with the aids I have no problem at all even with Thai.

 

I know of a publisher that specializes in translating Western literature into Thai.  If I can find a link to their catalog I will send it to you.  You could be reading "Lolita" in Thai.

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Oticon opn 1, expensive but a world of difference in hearing

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Depend a lot on the person. I am slightly dyslexic (mainly affects me writing, not reading) and also slightly impaired hearing. I struggle to memorise Thai characters and just cannot hear tones well. I have always struggled at languages, have tried to learn about 10, but always find after learning individual words that trying to understand a whole sentence is really difficult - by the time i have translated the first couple of words in my head i have already forgotten the rest. I can speak maybe a few hundred Thai words and about a dozen phrases, but whatever i say, just do not get the answers 95% of the time. 

I also struggle with English on the phone - just too many words not clear enough for me to hear. Usually OK face to face.

 

Could i have learnt more Thai? Yes, but the effort would be considerable, and i never would be fluent. And i would never understand half what was said to me, brain just doesn't work fast enough. In the UK, my children (eventually diagnosed as slightly dyslexic, but only AFTER graduating from University) have done well, but still find languages hard, although they did learn Spanish. The time to learn languages is when you are very young, before the brain gets fully wired. My daughter in Thailand was speaking English at 1.5 years, Thai at 2 years, and a bit of Spanish at 2.5 years (self taught from internet but since lost).

 

I can get by reading some European languages because they use the same alphabet as English, i can read enough of some technical articles to understand about 50% sometimes.

 

Science, Maths, History, Geography i do not have a problem, unless i have to write about them .... languages ..... well know your strengths and weaknesses. 

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Talking heads. Over a hundred contributions, nothing to do with the aims of this forum.  We have only two or three members interested in learning Thai, where did you all come from? 

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7 hours ago, tgeezer said:

Talking heads. Over a hundred contributions, nothing to do with the aims of this forum.  We have only two or three members interested in learning Thai, where did you all come from? 

Topic got moved from the Pub Forum. 

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Unless you plan to spend all your time in a foreign country being lost and confused making a fool of yourself like millions of others do. In the twenty years i have been roaming Thailand i have met a grand total of five foreigners that speak Thai as well as i do and i am not fluent. Married to a Thai living in country for years and you can,t even count to ten. What in the hell are you thinking?

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3 hours ago, Boycie said:

Topic got moved from the Pub Forum. 

That was a mistake from the language point of view but good business for the Nation I suppose. 

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