Learning Thai, 2 Years On
A little background on this article:
I wrote this as a letter sent to the DC Thai Meetup group d-list. The
group consists of about 50% Thai and 50% of people trying to learn to speak
the Thai language. After posting it, I got a few emails back, most of people
assuming by my letter that I can still barely speak any Thai. So as a quick
addendum, I would like to say that as of this writing, I can read Thai 50%
the speed and comprehension that I can for the English language. I can also
understand almost half of what is spoken to me in Thai with absolutely zero
context (body language, location, current event) to work from.
That being said, here it is:
Watdee tuk kon krab (what's up, everyone)
So I figure this should be of some interest to those in this email list.
A little more than 2 years ago a Thai friend of mine asked me to come
stay with him in Thailand. I decided to start studying a little
survival Thai two weeks before my trip, just to get by and all . . .
But for some reason I kept saying, 'well, I've done all this work, cant
quit now or it would have been a waste . . . gotta study more!!! gonna
be fluent any time now!'
And motivated by a 2nd trip to Thailand 6 months later, I continued to
study . . . Was really fun to do things a typical tourist couldn't, to
not just be with locals, but to almost be one myself . . .
I am about a week or two from my 2 year anniversary studying the crazy
language we call Thai . . . And I am still going with that carrot on a
stick dream of one day being able to confidently call myself fluent.
Being such a momentous occasion, I have been reflecting . . . So what
have I learned from all this?
LEARNING THE THAI LANGUAGE IS FREAKING HARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I would admit even infinitely harder than building a
robot to get a
Singha beer out of the fridge (yes, I would know).
I studied 1 hour a day for 1.5 years, and for a 6 month period even
managed 2 hours a day. That comes out to about 900+ hours of studying.
Extensive research shows that one must study at least 600 to 1000
hours of anything complex to become a so-called 'expert.' Whether it
be chess, the guitar, or multi-variate calculus - doesn't matter.
Unfortunately, no research says how many hours a farang needs to learn
Thai fluently, but I can assure you it isn't less than 1000 hours. That
means if you are really dedicated and study one hour a day for 3
years, you still wont be fluent. Sorry =P
Then again if your nuts like Cornell and study 6 hours a day . . . you
would reach fluency in like 6 months . . . =P
So why am I writing this? This email may sound more of like a
discouragement to those who are learning, but I think it is more of
useful knowledge to those who want to learn. These are the facts,
being bilingual just isn't an American trait =P
A bit of encouragement . . . those who have studied an equivalent of
about 210 hours (an hour a day for 7 months) know that you can
communicate in complete Thai sentences. Perhaps you can just barely
get by, but at least you can. Its a much easier, much more tangible,
yet still very rewarding goal for many on this list to reach. At least
3 or 4 of you already have passed this point. I highly encourage
everyone to set this goal.
Anyway, being my two year mark, I have decided to dedicate myself for
the big plunge . . . I am going to move and live in Thailand for a
year. This new journey will happen around March of next year. Fits
perfectly between a career transition, and right after I finally pay
off my gagillion dollar tuition. Still gotta iron out tee rak issues
tho (that's you, Jenny).
I pray it will finally help me catch the carrot that's so elusive.
Anyway, signing out, and best wishes to those who desire to undertake
probably the hardest single task anyone can undertake. =)
Choke Dee Krab (good luck)