Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

To script or not to script?

I have my 12 month education visa...woo hoo, and even though I missed two of my Thai language classes, I feel that I've learnt a lot more about Thailand (the country) in those 9 days, than I ever would have in the class room.

It's hard enough to speak Thai here in Chiang Mai, where they're used to hearing farang accents and language blunders on a daily basis. But out in the rural north east, we barely had a hope in hades. Hell, we didn't even know if they were speaking the same dialect.*

I read once that to learn Thai, find a village where nobody speaks English and live there for a year. A frightening prospect perhaps, but I can definitely see how this method could work. Being forced to reach in to your brain and search for a few appropriate words, or listen to Thai being fired at you with the speed of an automatic weapon, is not something I have to deal with very often. It forces you to try, and to really listen...listen for a word you might recognise. It also makes you step outside of your language safety zone, if you have one, like I do.

Of course there are times you just have to throw your arms up in the air and say 'mai khao jai...mai bpen rai', I don't understand, it's not a problem.

For every misunderstanding, there is an understanding 'hallelujah moment' and it can be very encouraging. Encouraging enough to watch Harry Potter in Thai, sitting in an Uttaradit hotel, without English sub titles. Hey, I still don't know what it was all about, but it was fun trying.

While I was away, the subject of learning Thai script was raised in class. I started learning on my own, while still in Australia and write all of my homework and notes in both transliteration and Thai, even though we're not required to. I'm afraid of forgetting what little script I know. Repetition, repetition, repetition...something,s got to sink in! Hasn't it?

The matter has been left up to us and I can see both the cons and the pros. We're told that script is not usually tackled until after the second book and that it will slow our learning of conversational Thai, down considerably. I can appreciate this. Personally I think, reading and writing is essential for pronunciation ... come do you write some of those vowels using English letters?

Either way, I'm staying out of this debate, because I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing, regardless. I see my Thai course as only part of the language experience and am not relying on it, and it alone.

*Stray and I know what each other are saying when we speak Thai and joke that at worst, we'll go home with a secret language made for two.

See what else we're up to at Cooee!


  1. Snap, Our teacher did the same and asked if we wanted to split our 2 hour class into 1 hour conversation and one hour script. We chose to do it because the class is small and everyone is keeping up well...and it has helped immensely.

  2. Talen, we have two x 3 hour lessons per week, so that method would be feasible. I think it maybe a little daunting for some, as it was for me in the beginning...and still is a little. I've been slack lately, in the sense that I haven't learnt any more vowel sounds and rules. I am picking up more consonants though, simply by writing out my homework in script.

  3. Hi Snap,

    Very late reply here but i've been blogging much of late given our new arrival and pretty hectic work schedule.

    I was struck by your opening statement that the best way to learn Thai is to be stranded in the middle of it. I quite agree as this is exactly what happened to me when the Mrs and I moved over after 4 years in London. We stayed with her folks and though she was there too I got the chance to, over 18 months living with them, develop my Thai to a level I'd never have hit had we gone straight to Bangkok or somewhere else on our own.

    I'd recommend getting stranded, for sure, but it doesn't always work out for everyone as it did for me...don't I know and appreciate it.

    Btw, as some who started learning script a couple of months into being here, all by my lonesome, I'd definitely recommend getting into. It will make a huge difference learning, and give great confidence to you in the long-run.

  4. Jon, I do remember how time consuming/hard work, albeit a blessing, babies can be :)

    I would love to get stranded in rural Thailand, although I think my learning process would have to start again due to the different dialects.

    Reading and writing is key!!!!!! I still have to apply my own transliteration system (at times)to that of my schools'...not their fault. Transliteration is a necessary evil.


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