Friday, March 13, 2009

Chicken to Owl

Seven months in, and I've finally learned the Alphabet.

And actually I haven't even done that. I've learned the names of the letters and the words that go with them "A-apple, B-ball, C-cat..." or rather "Gor gai (chicken), Kor kai (egg) ... Hor honok hoo (0wl)" I can recite them while looking at the picture flash cards in order. I haven't tried to recognize them out of order yet. But I have managed to sound-out highly useful words like 'crocodile' and 'bread snack' by just looking at the letters. Not too shabby!

How, you may wonder, have I managed to make such mind-boggling progress with my language acquisition plan? Let me tell you... no, better let me show you:

Uber-awesome flash cards... complete with bright pink carrying case!

One set of cards has the letter & a picture for the corresponding word on the front, and on the back they spell the letter word, and show a few other words with pictures for that letter. The other set of cards just has the written letter, and the word that goes with it - but no pictures. On the back there's room to practice writing the letter. These are amazing.

The only drawback is that in order to get started, you have to know the sound of each letter & the word for each of the pictures. It's difficult if not impossible to figure this out on your own, but it hasn't been too difficult for me to find Thai people help me. The cleaning lady at the school likes to sit in the teachers room and ask me questions about English... so I had her help me learn a few of the words. And I've brought them out on the songthaew once or twice to moderate success. But recently I've made the most progress by bringing them along on my drive to my off-campus class. Of course I nearly caused an accident today when I said (essentially) "P-penis" instead of "B-buffalo" today. Good lord this is a dangerous language!

But indulge me while I whine.... why couldn't I have found these back when I first got here??? Back in October & November I had those long awkward drives with someone who spoke no English and this would have been perfect. I might actually be able to read now if I'd had them back then! I'd even tried writing out my own flash cards, but that's kinda putting the cart before the horse - trying to write the letters before I can even say them. These are perfect. Oh well.... no use crying about it now.

The next step of course is paying attention to the actual letter, trying to recognize them out of order and all that. And if I ever want to be able to read, I'll actually need to spend some serious time studying. But one thing I know about myself is that I'm not at all good at self-study. Hopefully I'll get another off-campus class after this course is over, so I'll have some enforced study time.

It's all a bit silly actually, that I'm finally making progress learning Thai right when I'm thinking about leaving. But every new word I learn seems to help at some point. Yesterday in class a student was trying to describe a particular fruit, and when someone said it in Thai, I knew what it was. It is nice that I'm understanding more and more of what's being said around me... even if it is just 2 words in 100.

TAG: Code Watermelon (aka deng mau)


Michael5000 said...

Awesome, possum! And even if you leave Thailand, you something about what works for you in language learning, which might be handy in the next place.

Jonathan said...

Those are sweet flashcards.
I found some hand-written flashcards hidden aware in my bedroom from the last person who lived here. Since then i've added a million others from my lesson.

It works well, but thanks to the French, Vietnam has a similar alphabet to the west, rather than the Chinese alphabet they had before!

Rebel said...

yeah M5K, I'll know better next time

johnathon - do they really use the same alphabet? that might end up being a vote in their favor.