Week 11 of my Six Month Challenge to Speak Fluent Thai
I have benefited from so much good fortune during this quest to achieve fluency in Thai. It is like everything I need to make this happen is just falling in my path. The Glossika Thai fluency course is perfect for my needs and that was only released a few weeks ago. I’ve also been lucky enough to find new Facebook communities like Farang Can Learn Thai Language and the Glossika Discussion Group.
The most fortunate thing to happen so far on this journey was Stuart Jay Raj reading my first post in the series. He is an incredibly talented language teacher and polyglot, and he offered to coach me for free. He also gave me access to his Cracking Thai Fundamentals (CFT) course, and this has turned out to be the missing link I needed to become unstuck. If I’m honest, I probably wouldn’t have made much progress without this input from Stu. I would have ended up just gravitating back to the language learning tools I’ve used in the past, and this would have been an exercise in frustration and disappointment. Not that there was anything necessarily wrong with these methods, just they were not enough to get me to the next level.
CFT (including Thai Bites) has worked well for me because it explains things in a way that I can understand. My wife and son have been correcting my pronunciation and tones for years, but I just didn’t get what they were saying. I used the excuse of being tone deaf, but I actually had no problem hearing the tones – I just didn’t know how to accurately reproduce them using my vocal equipment.
The great thing about CFT is it simplified everything, and Stu told me exactly what I needed to do to speak Thai more like a Thai. I began training my vocal system to produce sounds the same way a Thai does rather than trying to produce these sounds using vocal muscles designed for speaking English. I spent weeks doing pronunciation drills, hours every day, and it felt more like going to the gym than learning a language. I still make mistakes because of old habits, but I can now speak Thai using the right tones and sounds so long as I don’t slip into speaking too fast (something I’m still prone to do, but I’m getting better).
Stu also gave me a sneak preview of the new module 6 of CTF, and this has also had a huge impact on my progress. He shared this material with me over the course of one lesson on Skype and by the end of it, I had internalized all the tone rules. I can now look at most Thai words and know the tone instantly most of the time. This makes a huge difference to me because up until now there has been so many words I could recognize in writing, but I didn’t know how to pronounce properly because I just ignored the tone.
No Right Way to Learn Thai
What is happening during this six month challenge to learn Thai is I’m picking up the right tools to help me achieve fluency. A mistake I’ve made in the past is that I’ve assumed there is one right way to learn Thai – an easy mistake to make considering so many claim this to be true. I tried to follow the advice of the language experts and when their approach didn’t work, I blamed it on lack of effort or my inability to learn. This was a mistake. I now know that the problem wasn’t my ineptitude for Thai, but my failure to find the right tools that would work for me.
We are all different, and it is naive to suggest that what works for one person is going to work for somebody else. I have no problem believing a person can become fluent by just getting out there and spending a lot of time imitating native speakers, but it doesn’t mean this approach is going to work for me too. In fact, I know it isn’t because I tried it for years. Some of us are good at imitation and some of us suck at it, but thankfully imitation isn’t the only way to learn a language. I have found a combination of different approaches works best for me because this is what is producing results.
Thai Bites Live with Stuart Jay Raj
Stuart Jay Raj is hosting event this week in Bangkok along with Mike from Glossika and Arthit Juyaso from Duke Language School. It’s free to attend, but you need to let them know in advance. Stuart is going to be using me as his guinea pig, so I’m a bit nervous because I’ve no real idea what to expect. I do worry I might make an arse of myself, but it has been my reluctance to risk making a fool of myself that also stopped me from making progress in Thai for a long time. It is much better for me to look bad trying than to be bad because I’ve stopped trying.
You can find out more about this event here: Thai Bites Live – Road to Fluency
It’s also going to be broadcast live on Google Hangouts, and I expect the video will later be available on YouTube.
Phil form Ajarn.com is also working hard to get his Thai skills up to scratch, and you can follow his exciting journey here – My struggles with the Thai language part 1
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