How I Make Time to Study Thai


Week 14 of My Six Month Quest to Become Fluent in Thai

For years, my favorite reason for not putting enough effort into learning Thai has been lack of time. This wasn’t just some feeble excuse. I need to work up to 12 hours per day just to pay the bills, and most weeks, I don’t get to take a full day off. I’ve lots of commitments, and before learning Thai become a priority, I just didn’t have room in my schedule for it.

I know plenty of expats who do want to improve their Thai, but they just don’t have the time. Living here is not the same as coming on holiday, where you can spend hours every day on the beach practicing Thai with the som tam sellers, and life has a habit of stuffing commitments into any free time we might have.

At the moment, I’m devoting on average about five hours per day to learning Thai – although, less than three hours of this now involves ‘head in the book’ study. I’ve had a couple of expats ask me about how I can afford to spend so much time on this project, and the answer is I’ve needed to make many sacrifices.

The Sacrifices I Make to Learn Thai

Devoting so much time to learning Thai is a gamble for me. I’m betting that the sacrifices I make now will lead to a bigger pay-off later on. I’m not talking here about any type of financial pay-off, but I do expect my increased proficiency in the language to improve my life and the life of my family.

There are paying-projects I could be doing now rather than devoting so much time to learning Thai. My finances are far from secure, and I do worry taking so much time off is going to be something I later regret, but it just feels like the right thing to do. I had the same qualms a few years ago when I took a few months off to train full-time at Muay Thai – on one level, it was a financially reckless thing to do, but it changed my life in many positive ways. I always suffer when I don’t follow my intuition, and I just have to trust this is going to be worth it.

One of the other sacrifices I’ve made is I no longer have time for my 90 minute afternoon walks on the beach – it actually takes over two hours by the time I get there and come back. I spend all day working on a computer, so these walks are needed to maintain my sanity and health. At the moment, I’m exercising at home, so I can spend more time doing Thai, but it’s not the same as my walks on the beach. I’m reducing the amount of ‘book work’ Thai study, so hopefully I’ll be able to return to my walks soon, and I can listen to my Glossika audio files on the beach.

Giving up all forms of English entertainment felt like a sacrifice at first, but I hardly notice the difference now. It was my birthday last Wednesday, so I decided to give myself a reprieve and allow English music and TV in the evening. I got bored in less than an hour, and I ended up watching a Thai horror movie instead.

Why My Sacrifices is Worth It

Life is unpredictable, but it looks like I’ll be spending the rest of my life in Thailand. I would be happy enough to move back to Europe, and I do get days when I miss it, but my wife would find it struggle, and my son is happy here. I moved to Thailand when I was 31, and I’m now 45, so I’ve already spent a huge chunk of my adult life here. I feel at home, but it doesn’t feel like my home, and one of the main reasons for this has been my limited ability to speak the language.

If you visit any of the Thai-related web forums, you will likely notice how many of the regular posters are suffering from chronic culture shock. These are the guys who are always complaining about Thailand and engage in daily Schadenfreude at any misfortune in the Land of Smiles. I suspect a lot of these people just don’t want to be here anymore, but they feel trapped – maybe, they burned some bridges back home. Despite how vocal these posters can be about all issues related to Thailand and ‘Thainess’, they mostly don’t speak the language at more than an intermediate level, and this is probably one of the prime reasons they feel like disgruntled outsiders. I don’t mean to sound judgmental because I’ve been guilty of the same type off thinking.

There is just something sad about living in Thailand but not learning the language. For years, I only watched English TV, listened to English music, and read English books – there were even days when I used Streetview in Google maps to virtually walk around the streets of my home town. Is it any wonder that I felt out of place here? I don’t want to continue living this way, and this is why I need to improve my Thai.

The reason I’m able to free up so much time for learning Thai is it has become a priority in my life. I need to do this, and it is this need that means I’m able to free up some time. If learning the language didn’t feel so vital to me at the moment, I just wouldn’t have the time to do it. If you feel you must learn Thai, you will be able to do find the time – it’s that simple.

My Second Thai Audio Conversation

I got some fantastic feedback from my first Thai audio – I’d like to especially thank those who left such informative comments on the Farang Can Learn to Speak Thai Language Facebook Page. The feedback highlighted a number of problems with my first audio:

• I spoke too fast
• My low tones were off
• I aspirated the ‘ต’ sound when it should be unaspirated
• My falling tone sounded unnatural
• I didn’t roll the ‘r’ sound
• There was a problem with my pronunciation of the vowel ‘โ-’

I’ve tried to work on these issues over the last week, and I hope there are some improvements. Preparing these audio files is proving to be a much harder challenge than I expected, but it is definitely benefiting me. If I kept working on these audio clips, I’m sure I could eliminate most of the mistakes, but I feel it is important to give myself a deadline to have them completed, and this helps to keep me focused.

This week’s Thai audio is a stress-relief technique I found from the Thai Department of Mental health called ตอน สุขใจ สบายกาย – I’m using the relaxation technique at 2:30. I’m still suffering from the trauma of ordering pizza in Thai, so I’m hoping this technique is going to return me to inner-tranquility – the nature of the topic should also mean I speak more slowly (that’s the plan anyway). Here is the transcript for the audio, and you will find the actual audio below. I’d be delighted if you leave any feedback as a comment here or on Facebook/Twitter – my wife and son have already spotted a couple of mistakes.

วันนี้ ผม ขอเสนอ เทคนิค การคลายเครียด
ด้วยการควบคุม ลม หายใจ แบบ ง่ายๆ
ขั้น แรก ให้ เรา นั่ง ใน ท่า ที่ สบายๆ หลับตา
เอา มือ ประสาน ไว้ บริเวณ ท้อง
จาก นั้น ก็ ค่อยๆ หายใจ เข้า
พร้อมๆ กับ นับ เลข หนึ่ง ถึง สี่ เป็น จังหวะ ช้าๆ
ให้ มือ รู้สึก ว่า ท้อง พอง ออก
กลั้น หาย ใจ เอา ไว้ ชั่วครู่
นับ หนึ่ง ถึง สี่ ช้าๆ
เหมือน ตอน หายใจ เข้า
หนึ่ง สอง สาม สี่
ค่อยๆ ผ่อน ลม หาย ใจ ออก
โดย นับ หนึ่ง ถึง แปด อย่าง ช้าๆ
หนึ่ง สอง สาม สี่ ห้า หก เจ็ด แปด
พยายาม ไล่ ลม หาย ใจ ออก มา ให้ หมด
สังเกตุ ว่า หน้า ท้อง จะ แฟบ ลง ทำ ซ้ำ อีก จน กว่า จะ รู้สึก
ผ่อนคลาย ครับ

Other posts in this series on learning Thai

Week 0- My Quest to Speak Fluent Thai in Six Months
Week 1 -Creating the Right Mental Conditions for Learning Thai
Week 2- Maybe Just Getting Out There and Speaking Thai is Not Enough
Week 3 – 5 Improvements in My Approach to Learning Thai
Week 4 – Generating Enough Passion to Learn Thai
Week 5 – Undoing the Damage from Speaking Thai Badly for Thirteen Years
Week 6 – Early Impressions of Glossika Thai Fluency Course
Week 7 – Introverts Can Learn Thai Too
Week 8 – Winning Strategy for Achieving Fluency in Thai
Week 9 – Thai Fluency in 10,000 Sentences
Week 10 – Problems with Staying Focused Prevent Me from Learning Thai
Week 11 – Importance of Cracking Thai Fundamentals
Week 12 – Painful Lessons while Ordering Pizza in Thai
Week 13- If I Can Become Fluent in Thai, So Can Anyone

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4 thoughts on “How I Make Time to Study Thai

  1. Hi Paul,

    I find it very difficult to say to myself “right Phil, it’s time to spend an hour in front of the computer studying and practicing Thai” because very often I can always find a distraction and something ‘better’ to do.

    What I’ve started to do is to find ways I can combine Thai study with other necessary jobs. Most days, I will spend an hour in the garden (sweeping leaves, pottering around, etc) So I loaded lots of Thai lessons onto my MP3 player and listen to them while I’m working in the garden. OK, it’s not perfect because it’s more difficult to focus on the language learning – but it’s a lot better than doing no study at all.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t want to give up on my daily walk to the beach. I think you need that. So why not listen to some Thai stuff on your MP3 player during this activity?

    1. Hi Phil, I’m envious of your green fingers. I am going to try get back walking soon, and I’ll listen to some Thai on my iPhone – mind you, the weather isn’t that great at the moment.

  2. Paul,

    Reading your testimonials has been an inspiration to commit myself to learning more Thai. Like you, I’ve spent years making excuses why I didn’t have to become a better speaker. Despite having recently purchased a business, I’m going to commit myself to improving my Thai. My project won’t be as ambitious as yours but anything is better than nothing. Thanks for the kick up the “arse”.

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