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Thai - How difficult?


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My opinion after 30 years of Thai study.   To learn Thai presents many challenges to a speaker of a Western language beyond simply hearing and making the correct tones.   The five "tones"  b

Of the two foreign languages I’ve studied extensively, French and Thai, I’d say that for me at least, Thai’s around 20 times harder than French - ie for every hour of study to improve my French, 20 ho

My biggest issue is actually hearing the tones, I'm deaf in one ear and pretty crumby in the other (I'll spash out for an aid one day). Of course when speaking I invariably get the tones wrong and (li

Very straightforward after a while. Also a lot easier than Vietnamese, which has a huge number of homonyms making it difficult to tell words apart unless you're very fluent. 

 

The Thai script is not an issue either...after a while you just "get it". Even if Vietnamese is written using "familiar" characters, all the accents and unusual pronunciations doesn't necessarily make it any easier for us.

 

I've lived in both countries and although I never put much effort into learning Vietnamese, I found that the locals there give up a lot more easily or seem less willing to speak their language with you than Thais are. Of course, the younger generation in Vietnam speak English at least as well as Thais, if not better. 

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2 hours ago, andre47 said:

You can exist very well without speaking Thai, but if you can speak Thai it opens for you a new world. Thai people will treat you quite different and you will understand this country much better. I don't regret that I learn Thai....

Yep, I can vouch for that.

 

All the grumpy, complaining old farts (sorry to be so blunt) who complain Thais are super awful and racist people and that the Vietnamese are so open and welcoming, and "democratic" and other nonsense like this have absolutely no clue what they're talking about, because they don't speak the language.

 

Once you do speak Thai, it's a whole new world.

 

As I speak both Thai and Lao, I think I can compare the mindset and attitudes of people in both countries quite accurately.

 

My conclusion is both Thais and Laotians are similarly friendly; though Laotians tend to be more shy and less likely to approach foreigners unless you make a move first. Tribal people are quite suspicious of outsiders and may even run away if you try to ask them something! 

 

Thai officials (especially at land border crossings) tend to be much more consistently friendly and helpful than Laotians, who are more by the book and rigid, thanks to their Communist ideology.

 

Since I don't know much Burmese, Khmer or Vietnamese, I'm less able to evaluate locals' attitudes. 

 

In short, knowing the language of the country you are in changes everything.

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Here is the Rumak explanation :

 

Most everyone that has difficulty learning something fits this pattern.   You go to class to learn how

to play baseball.   You practice throwing the ball and catching it .  You do this for one hour a day.

After class you go out and play basketball for the rest of the day. 

Anytime you happen to come across a real baseball game you try to join in but do very poorly. 

 

Now substitute going to a Thai class for an hour a day.   Then returning to your Native speaking friends and lifestyle,  and tinglish speaking GF  for the rest of the day.

 

Children learn quickly because they are immersed in the language , as when they move to a foreign country and go to class and play with their foreign speaking friends .... hearing their language almost all day except for the minority of time when they are home with their English (or other language)

speaking parents.  The desire to learn/fit in is what stimulates the mind to hear/mimic/ and finally retain until it becomes more and more "natural" .

 

in my case it was the desire to interact in more interesting ways with more interesting women, that eventually led to me pronouncing words and saying groups of words in a fairly decent resemblance.   I never really "studied"  the rules,  and tones .   But as with children, the mind just

learns to repeat after hearing words and phrases many times.  Naturally i had to "practice often" with the opposite sex to gain ground.    It also helps to be a hansum man  lol , and though that may be fading....... the language skills gained have not.

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32 minutes ago, Bogbrush said:

#

Reminds me of Benny Hill playing the Chinese chip shop owner. “I fly ships.” “Surely, Mr Moo, you sail ships?” “Yes, stupid woman, but before you can sail the ships, you must fly them...”  RIP

 

An asian woman got so fed up being ridiculed every time she ordered  "flied lice"  that she persisted and persisted until one day she went to the shop and the guy mimicked " you want flied lice , light? "

 

She stood up tall and told him straight , " NO !  I want Fried Rice ! ..... You PLICK  !

Edited by rumak
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3 hours ago, andre47 said:

You can exist very well without speaking Thai, but if you can speak Thai it opens for you a new world. Thai people will treat you quite different and you will understand this country much better. I don't regret that I learn Thai....

 

This would be my answer as well ( to those who do not  want or "need"  to speak Thai.)   I respect that there are different strokes for different folks ,  and this is just one more example of that.

 

Having been here a long time ....... when i meet farangs (not often)  I am still quite sure i made the right decision to forego the sooo stimulating opinions and  prejudices of my fair skinned brothers

for the easily answered Thai greeting   "sabai dee mai "    .    

 

sabai deeeeeee,   krap

 

 

 

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Obstacle is that you need to learn reading, writing and speaking at the same time.

I felt like back in elementary school and paused now for reading and writing.

But definitely it is the way to go if you have a lot of free time and patient, which I both don't have at the moment.

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I have read posts in the past that claim the opposite - i.e. knowing the language is something you may wish you hadn't when you hear Thais talking, possibly about you, assuming you can't understand.

 

Anyone come accross this?

 

In my few years in China when out and about shopping with my (Chinese) wife, she would often tell me traders immediately assuming she was a guide, would instigate a double price for the foreigner and a kickback for her. Needless to say they lost any sale after she spit venom at them.

 

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There have been a few posts here recommending Internet courses/electronic translators;  whilst I’m sure they have a place (particularly the courses) I am dubious, in that all those I have investigated use females and therefore “chan” as opposed to “pom”.  I understand using “pom” and why, and could adjust for that, but would the female tense cause any other difficulties further on in a sentence?

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1 hour ago, Saltire said:

I have read posts in the past that claim the opposite - i.e. knowing the language is something you may wish you hadn't when you hear Thais talking, possibly about you, assuming you can't understand.

 

Anyone come accross this?

 

In my few years in China when out and about shopping with my (Chinese) wife, she would often tell me traders immediately assuming she was a guide, would instigate a double price for the foreigner and a kickback for her. Needless to say they lost any sale after she spit venom at them.

 

For better or worse, speaking the language helps you to really understand the culture. If anything, it's better you know what they're saying that way you can actually grasp what is going on. 

 

If you can't speak it, then you'll feel like I did years ago - that every Asian country is the same.

 

No matter whether you're in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar or Vietnam...young local men (or just locals in general) will say: "Hey You" to grab your attention. 

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1 hour ago, rumak said:

Here is the Rumak explanation :

 

Most everyone that has difficulty learning something fits this pattern.   You go to class to learn how

to play baseball.   You practice throwing the ball and catching it .  You do this for one hour a day.

After class you go out and play basketball for the rest of the day. 

Anytime you happen to come across a real baseball game you try to join in but do very poorly. 

 

Now substitute going to a Thai class for an hour a day.   Then returning to your Native speaking friends and lifestyle,  and tinglish speaking GF  for the rest of the day.

 

Children learn quickly because they are immersed in the language , as when they move to a foreign country and go to class and play with their foreign speaking friends .... hearing their language almost all day except for the minority of time when they are home with their English (or other language)

speaking parents.  The desire to learn/fit in is what stimulates the mind to hear/mimic/ and finally retain until it becomes more and more "natural" .

 

in my case it was the desire to interact in more interesting ways with more interesting women, that eventually led to me pronouncing words and saying groups of words in a fairly decent resemblance.   I never really "studied"  the rules,  and tones .   But as with children, the mind just

learns to repeat after hearing words and phrases many times.  Naturally i had to "practice often" with the opposite sex to gain ground.    It also helps to be a hansum man  lol , and though that may be fading....... the language skills gained have not.

Everybody is "hansum" here, even if you look like "Catweazle".

The bigger the wallet the more "hansum" you look.

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6 hours ago, andre47 said:

Reading and talking is doable, but I don't believe that I will be able to write Thai one day. The problem is that if you hear a syllable you cannot be sure how to write it. There are 3-5 different possibilities. You have to learn and remember the correct writing of each single word. Nowadays we can use software at our phone or our computer. That makes it a bit easier.  

The tones are also not easy, but in most situations you or your counterpart can catch the meaning from the context.

I also used to believe that writing would be nearly impossible to learn because of the use of different consonants for the same sound. The vowels themselves are easy. To learn to write a word it's mandatory that you know the tone rules, knowing the tone rules helps you narrow down the correct consonants to use and any tone marks that may be required.

 

After learning the tone rules it's now possible for me to write a word I'm not familiar with after hearing it spoken provided its spoken clearly enough to determine the tone. With a combination of luck and skill I can write it correctly maybe 50% of the time which isn't bad considering I used to think it would be impossible. I'm talking about relatively simple words. And the common words we use daily I can nail maybe 75% of the time.

 

At home we keep a whiteboard on the fridge for our shopping list and todo items. I get a kick out of writing in Thai and latter my wife will read it and do any corrections below it. Its a fun challenge.

 

So don't give up on the written part yet.

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6 hours ago, jackdd said:

It doesn't matter much if you get the tones right, usually the context gives away what word you wanted to say and you will be understood.

This is very true. An important point for people not to get to hung up on the tones early on. If you can string enough words together people will usually figure out what you're saying.

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My problem is remembering which words get which tones. I know in Thai they have the same word for rice and news. But I cannot remember which tone to use for each word. Rice is chao - is it rising or falling? How do you remember? I have some vocabulary but it is not of much use to me.

 

 

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