Redefining Fluency After Losing My Way While Learning Thai

dawn on mae ramphung

Week 15 of my Six Month Attempt to Speak Fluent Thai

This hasn’t been a great week study-wise. For the last couple of days especially, it has just felt like I’ve been going through the motions. I also missed a couple of opportunities to practice speaking because I wasn’t in the mood. I experienced a similar loss of focus six weeks ago, and I see it as sign that I need to make some adjustments to my approach.

My drop in motivation has been triggered by the realisation that I’m doing lots of stuff there isn’t a clear reason for why I’m doing it. I feel a bit like the guy who is in the middle of running an ultramarathon but suddenly realises he doesn’t know in which direction the finishing line is to be found. It is this lack of a clear direction that makes me feel like I’m just going through the motions.

Feedback from Last Audio

I received some useful feedback on my last audio over at Farang Can Learn Thai, and the thing that stood out most was the observation that my way of speaking Thai is ‘unnatural’ in these recordings. One of the commentators suggested I start recording real life conversations, and while I sort of like the idea, I don’t feel much passion to do it – at least at the moment.

I enjoyed making the last two audio clips, but I’ve decided to change the way I do them in the future. I need a clear goal so as to reignite my passion, and this means that any future recordings will need to be part of a larger project. In one of my early posts, I mentioned my dream of being able to make some videos in Thai about my experiences of addiction, and I think directing the remaining three months of this challenge towards turning this into a reality would be a much better use of my time.

This yearning to make my addiction videos in Thai might sound a bit pretentious – why should local people give a damn about anything I’ve got to say on this subject? My goal here is not to become any type of saviour, but I want to make these videos out of gratitude. I ended a 20-year alcohol addiction with the help of a temple here in Thailand, and I want to be able to share my story. In the past, when I’ve been given the opportunity to share my experiences publicly, I’ve relied on somebody else to translate my words into Thai – I feel embarrassed by this.

I know my goal should be that I’m able to spend hours each day chatting with my neighbours, while at the same time ordering pizza on the phone, but these possibilities just don’t make me feel passionate enough. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be able to do these things, but if they happen, they will be more of a side-effect of my progress rather than the actual goal.

In my first post in this series, I wrote down my criteria for the different levels of Thai. My description of fluency included the ability to hold a long conversation on the phone with the other person believing I was a native speaker. I still think this would be a good way to determine fluency, but to be honest, I have no interest in working towards this as my goal (although, I would like another chance at ordering pizza in the future). A more suitable definition of fluency for me would be the ability to tell my story in Thai, and this is what I now want to put my effort into working towards – this is what makes me feel passionate again.

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