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long time in Thailand and my thai still sucks


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I felt exactly as you do and have a great deal of difficulty tuning to the tones. I just put my head down and studied, and listened and I also did formal training in a Thai language school which reall

Learning a language is mostly about memory, and its well known peoples memory isnt as good as you get older. The main issue I think for westerners is the tonal system, because we never learned to lis

You are not alone. I gave up a long time ago.

The system is actually almost totally phonetic easy to learn, with far fewer exceptions to the rules than any Western language.

That a misconception. Thai is, at most, 80% phonetic, and the excpetions are many. Regional pronunciation is accepted and used everyday and no effort is made to use proper Thai when talking to foreigners. Instead, latin derived languages are 100% phonetic and of inflexible pronunciation, while of course English is not.

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The secret for me was motivation and immersion.

I wanted to ask any girl I met out - and did!

Immersion was hanging out in pubs with only Thais friends.

What freedom speaking the language gives. Personally, I'd hate to get my wife to come with me everywhere. For example, down to the wood shop to buy wood for my shed today and then to the mechanics to get a job done on my car.

MOst older guys I know have already met an English speaking, long-haired dictionary.

If you have difficulty with the tones, learn to read. Anyone can learn to read. Took me 1 month with an AUA book, 1/2 hour every day. I could speak fairly well at that time though. Once you can read then you'll be motivated to know what words mean. I see that these days there are so many aids to help - youtube, android and apple applications.

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i know these are mostly if not all excuses

how have you learned to speak it well?

i would especially like to hear from those who find/found it very difficult

No, you need to hear from those who are successfully speaking/understanding the language, not someone to pad your back ;-)

Not that that's me, though. I went to school to learn the language though (speaking/writing/reading), and I can tell you that in my experience the best way to get familar with the tones and differentiating between them is learning how to read and write. It's also pretty cool to be able to read signs and things around you.

I took some classes before learning how to read and write, and the tones just just went into one ear and out of the other.

But I'm definitely not an expert. It takes time, and I just don't have it these days.

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imagine,you can speak thai perfectly.

Now what are you going to discuss with thais?

You can only speak to them as you would speak to a 10 year old,

they dont know nothing of your culture,your music,actors...

There is not much common nowledge.

The same as you dont know any chinese or thai singer by name ,or

chinese or thai movies......it's a complete other culture and i doubt

that you as farang would ever be intrested in chinese singers ,actors,politicians.....

So thais are not intrested in our culture.

Exception exist off course.

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I failed French with an 8% grade in GCE. Later I found a French girlfriend, learnt French slang and some French songs, after that it came easy. A salesman friend of mine once gave me this advice: If you learn 200 of the most common words used in everyday language for each Country you visit, they will think you are almost fluent. Most people use the same 200 words in every day conversation with the odd word thrown in. For instance, how are you, I am fine thank you. The weather's hot (cold), no problem, etc. I learnt to read and write Thai language in 5 days with a book called "Easy Thai" published in Singapore. I then learnt quite a number of Thai songs, which is an easy way of learning the language and getting the tones correct.

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Go to a school to get the basics and then learn phrases that you use often, like buying something, ordering food etc. Watch TV with a Thai person and listen to them talk, the TV Thai is the correct lingo. By listening you get used to the sound of Thai. There is also a great app for learning Thai but cost about B900. It shows the English to transliteration and Thai but also pronounce the word. I love the app and use it when waiting for someone being late or when I have time on hand.

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if you pick it up great but really don't do yourself in too much, in the UK there's a lot of people speaking very poor English(cue the jokes about the natives etc) but we still get the gist of it.... my experience in Thailand was you get a word slightly wrong and you might as well forget the rest of what you got right, the locals won't decipher it and get your gist....

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Being an old man, having spoken a little French, Italian an Spanish when I was young....I now realize, from this post and the replies That I'm

Tone Deaf....

Been here 10 years and maybe can speak a couple of hundred words and I still (as said by one poster before) get the "Huh?"

Oh well....Anybody know a cure for "tone deafness"?

There is such a thing as a 'sound discrimination' test.

If someone's score is low, that is that way it will remain...

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Hi,

I lived in Japan for over ten years and can speak it ok.

But Thai, I can not hear the tones.

For example "hobby" is in Thai "Ngan Adilay", I say it like "gung adilay" but nobody understands.

When they say it, I always think "that is what I said!". I can't hear the difference, just as Japanese can not hear any difference between right and light, yet we can.

I have a young Thai wife that speaks English, and now have an iPhone app that you speak into it in English, and it translates to

Thai (written and spoken) and they can understand it fine. Only drawback is each sentence must be less than 100 characters when written.

In Japan I was younger and needed Japanese, here I simply don't need it, so lack motivation.

I am sure if I went to school and studied two hours a day I could learn, but who has time when retired on a Paradise Island!? ; o )

Good luck to us all!

Cheers,

IE

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imagine,you can speak thai perfectly.

Now what are you going to discuss with thais?

You can only speak to them as you would speak to a 10 year old,

they dont know nothing of your culture,your music,actors...

There is not much common nowledge.

The same as you dont know any chinese or thai singer by name ,or

chinese or thai movies......it's a complete other culture and i doubt

that you as farang would ever be intrested in chinese singers ,actors,politicians.....

So thais are not intrested in our culture.

Exception exist off course.

I do not know how long you have lived here, but you are absolutely wrong.

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I started learning Thai language after some 10 years visiting Thailand, and even 6 months at a time in the last 5 years.

When I had thai girlfriends, no way to learn the language.

They want to spaek english, and learn the language.

And they have no interest in teaching you the thai language.

In the last 2 years, I have a neighbour who speaks some english. She is not my girlfriend. She is not in the business of learning english to meet farangs,,,

I went from saying Sawasdee Khap, to having some conversations in thai language in 2 years.

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I am 60 and went to school for a 1 1/2 although I am not fuent I get around pretty good and most understand me well. Lots of Thais are shocked I speak Thai and say I speak it very well

I try but think I speak a little bit of Thai well

You just have to go to school It really does help

I will go back again and study more I like the languague

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I know a guy who has studied two hours everyday, minimum, for three years now. He hangs mostly with Thais and insists they speak Thai. He's 60, an ex-exec of Fortune 100 company, sharp, nobody's fool.

He will be the first to admit his Thai sucks.

Some people just aren't good at languages. Especially tonal languages.

Try learning the tones when you only have 20% hearing in one ear and qualify for a hearing aid in the other.

I can certainly identify with the OP I am 71 now and never was any good with languages. I have taken courses and had a private teacher which helped the most still I have trouble pronouncing the words I can remember. The important thing is that My wife understands and we have developed a communication system that works for us. The problem at the start was for the wife to learn to think about what I was trying to say or use actions for. She had a one trrack mind. I would say no and she would not even try to think of any thing else. It took time and I have learned to point say a few words and laugh at myself. It helps.

One other thing I have learned is just because people can speak it that does not mean they can understand it when it is spoken to them.

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I am 60 and went to school for a 1 1/2 although I am not fuent I get around pretty good and most understand me well. Lots of Thais are shocked I speak Thai and say I speak it very well

I try but think I speak a little bit of Thai well

You just have to go to school It really does help

I will go back again and study more I like the languague

Do you read and write it. I have been told that is a big help in speaking it.

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My Thai is far from OK. I've been lazy over the many years I've been here often using the excuse that I'm working overseas for half of that time and don't retain what Thai I have picked up.

I've reached somewhat of a 'Plateau' - any improvements I now make are slow.

Taxi's, restaurants, shopping malls etc I have no problem with my Thai easily covers that, its when I get into a conversation and the subject matter becomes more challenging that I struggle.

I spend most of my time in Thailand in Bangkok - However, I'm currently 'up country' and the Thai which I thought is fairly fluent is not so readily understood up here. I am faced with replies I can't understand... it seems the actual language up in Isaan is different... So while some up here are pattering on about what great Thai I speak I have great difficulty understanding them !

Add into the mix that when / if I don't understand the 'Isaan' dialect it's repeated, faster and louder - this doesn't help at all and its not just Thai's.. the Louder approach is a Western one too !...

Dialects, also a lack of complete necessity to speak Thai, also the nagging issue that its a one nation language and really of no use outside of Thailand make it easy not to learn...

I wish I had taken up formal courses to read and write Thai when I first arrived here moons ago...

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Good topic!

I'm going on 10 years and my Thai is so-so. It is my fault, I studied with a tutor, but I stopped too soon and did not learn adequate vocabulary. Strange, but if I am with Thais that speak no english, I am better able to communicate than if they speak varying levels of english. My experience in the tourist areas is that the Thais that know just enough english (to be dangerous) will refuse to speak Thai. I also have noticed that some Thais automatically listen for English, and if you speak Thai, even pronouncing the tones correctly, they will blow you off until you "flip the switch" as in "Hi do you speak Thai? Good! I do too!" To be fair, that can happen with almost any language. They see you as an outsider and listen for the language they are programed to communicate in...

I do learn to read and wrote Thai; however, I can sometimes read words or even a sentence- and not really comprehend what I am saying. Oh my Buddha...

Interestingly enough, I recently met an expat that warned me to NEVER learn Thai. His girl friend informed him that she would never want a boy friend that could speak and comprehend Thai...

You can make up your own minds about that little gem. I have had Thai girl friends that were elated that I made the effort to communicate with them in their own language. They bought mel Thai children's books and would patiently

listen as I stumbled through the text.

My humble advise? LEARN THAI! If a persobn is going to remain in Thailand for any length of time, its only respectful to make an honest effort to learn the local lingo.

Lance out!

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I worked hard at learning Thai for may years. Have a shelf of Thai language books and courses.

I can now speak a little Thai, but not enough to have a deep conversation.

I know hundreds of Thai words, but still have have enormous trouble with sentence construction.

I had avoided learning to read Thai as it looked so difficult, but eventually gave it a go and was surprised to find that reading and writing Thai is actually rather easy.

But my problem was that the more Thai I learned, the more I realised that I would never achieve a high level of fluency.

So one day I just gave it up. Came to the conclusion that the reward did not justify the effort.

Plus eventually I found that I no longer wish to retire to the LOS. Too expensive, too dangerous, and too lonely

(I'm too old now for booze and bar-girls).

Edited by jackflash
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imagine,you can speak thai perfectly.

Now what are you going to discuss with thais?

You can only speak to them as you would speak to a 10 year old,

they dont know nothing of your culture,your music,actors...

There is not much common nowledge.

The same as you dont know any chinese or thai singer by name ,or

chinese or thai movies......it's a complete other culture and i doubt

that you as farang would ever be intrested in chinese singers ,actors,politicians.....

So thais are not intrested in our culture.

Exception exist off course.

You probably don't live here so you're forgiven for what may turn out to be then most idiotic post of the week.

So Thais know nothing of the likes of Beyoncé, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, Coldplay right?

They know nothing of Clooney, Pitt, Hanks, Cruise, Winslett, Theron, right?

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Go to a school to get the basics and then learn phrases that you use often, like buying something, ordering food etc. Watch TV with a Thai person and listen to them talk, the TV Thai is the correct lingo. By listening you get used to the sound of Thai. There is also a great app for learning Thai but cost about B900. It shows the English to transliteration and Thai but also pronounce the word. I love the app and use it when waiting for someone being late or when I have time on hand.

Can you give us the name of that app?

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I wouldn't worry about the tones until they come up in words you are actively learning, like some mentioned in the previous responses. Otherwise, you will drown in them. Instead, focus on copying what others say and you will find that, usually, you are saying the right tone (it happens to me all the time....I couldn't tell you the tone, couldn't identify it, but I just say it how others do and I mostly get it ...people correct me when I don't).

A big thing that I haven't seen mentioned too much is perseverance and striking up conversations. Try to cultivate some place where you can talk to people in Thai. I had my first chats with store owners who just wanted to know stuff about foreigners and were happy to have a change in their day. Just those little 1-2 minute exchanges can be excellent practice. Otherwise, find some other place until you find a person who is interested enough to be patient as you slog through.

Another thing is....this one is sort of a pet peeve of mine....people often say things to me like "that is so cool...I wish I could speak another language" as if it is something I just picked up by the by there one day. No, it actually took a ton of work, some embarrassment (but I try not to take myself to seriously when I mess things up) and many socially awkward situations (sitting there, understanding VERY little while everyone else is laughing at a joke, for example). Put yourself out there and remind yourself that it IS difficult to learn. I see a lot of people beat themselves up and then give up instead of realizing that it was hard work for nearly everyone, even faster learners.

Hang in there.

Some excellent and very true advice. Another tip I can add is when you speak with Thais, use a sentence where 1 word will do. If you mispronounce the words, it will give them the chance to understand from concept.

Also, don't get discouraged, if you persevere it should 'click' one day.

I remember being told this years ago when I was amazed at the level of one of my (Western) friend's Thai. He encouraged me to keep with it and a couple of year's later I realised I had turned the corner when I was chatting in Thai on the phone one day.

I've lived in Thailand for over eight years now and I can't imagine not speaing Thai......My wife is Malaysian and initially she wasn't interested in learning Thai but started taking lessons 18 months ago and now she is really pleased that she did as our Thai friends regulalry comment on what good progress she's making.

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