Daily Archives: September 7, 2004

Learning to read and write Thai

[b]A Complete Beginner[/b]
I am a novice when it comes to learning to read and write Thai. Even though I have been visiting Thailand for 7 years on the trot, I never seem to be able to find enough time to learn to read Thai script, I have always relied on the romanised words.

This year is going to be different. I am determined to impress all my Thai friends and learn to read properly. I think it will help me speak Thai too.

[b]Panic Stations![/b]
I have always panicked at the sight of the number of constonants and vowels to remember. There is sooooo many! And to make things worse some of the letters change sounds depending on where they are in the word and now I have discovered ห which is sometimes not spoken! Aaargh!

Another fear I have is the TONES! OMG! I could actually be saying something quite different to what I intend to say. That is so frightening to me.

My first Steps at Learning Thai I use learningthai.com a lot as well as ethaimusic.com. Both these sites have been a godsend to me in helping learn Thai. I am continually amazed how such a vast resource can still be free and I hope they will continue to be free!

I also use the Forums alot especially the learning thai forum. Although, I must admit some of the topics are way too advance for little old me!

I have a good library of Thai books. Infact I think I must have nearly all the Thai language leartning books on the market! Maybe if I just stuck to one, I might be further ahead than I am now. My excuse for the huge number is that most of them teach me to say ‘touristy’ phrases like ‘Where is the Dusit Thani Hotel?’. I don’t need such words, as I always stay with my brother and friends in Thailand.

All these resources and still I am not any further learning Thai. Why? I guess it is time. This year will different.! (I think I have heard myself say this before, infact I think I have said it every year upon returning to England)

[b]How I am learning to read[/b]
I find it easier to remember the letters by reading words I know. I have written out words with similar sounds and have grouped them together. This has helped me enormously to remember the different sounds.

A daily dose of listening to the vowels is helping too. I use the following page www.sriwittayapaknam.ac.th/thailanguage/lesson_01.htm

I am also using the Thai lyrics to practise reading. I love listening to Thai music. I play the music on my mp3 player which allows me to slow down the music so that I can read and sing.

I have also downloaded and listen to all the mp3 resources on learning.com. I believe that saturating myself in Thai will help.

I have recently discovered this fantastic website. It not only has many children’s stories written in Thai but also some of them have the story on mp3. www.childthai.org/cie/nithan01.htm.

Mike’s site has been an invaluable tool for me. It not only helps romanise the thai script for me but also it separates the words for me too. This is so useful to me as I am still finding it hard to spot where each word ends and begins. http://www.thai2english.com/ Thanks Mike

Any tips welcome!

Thai teaching discipline

[b]What you see is what you get?[/b]

The other day I was watching Channel 3 (Thai TV), the local news. A schoolteacher became so enraged by a Primary student’s haircode violation, that he cut her hair – along with her earlobe. A few days thereafter, another astonishing cruelty made headlines in the newspaper: a teacher kicked a student on the neck and broke it. (I guess the student was laying on the ground). From these events one could get the impression that Thai teachers learned school discipline from Nazi prison camps, so here I take the opportunity to show you another side of the picture.

Unlike in the United States, corporal punishment of students is allowed in Thailand. However, whether it is used or not, depends entirely on the teacher. During my teaching days I’ve seen some Thai teachers hitting their students, sometimes painfully, but there was no emotional distress visible on either side. On the other hand, I avoided meting out any physical punishment, because I doubt its long-term effectiveness. I believe that wit and reasoning go a longer way. To illustrate this, let me tell you two examples from the past, and how Thai students reacted to it.

1. The pep talk

Homework is almost always a problem in classes. When I went around checking it, there were always quite a few students who just didn’t do their work. However, one assignment caused unusual problems in my class. I was teaching them how to ask intelligent questions from visiting foreigners. (This school is frequented by foreign visitors who occasionally pop into classes while teaching is going on).

For two consecutive weeks, my students couldn’t ask the required eight questions from memory. I was a bit frustrated. Should I just go around and hit the students as many times as they failed a question? That didn’t seem like a good idea. I suspected that the reason was not really laziness, but merely a lack of interest. So, on the Friday of the second week, I stopped my usual teaching routine and explained them why it is so important to learn these questions. I told them that their failure would not only embarrass themselves, but also their teachers and their school. I emphasized that a visitor would have a negative opinion about education in Thailand. On the other hand, I continued, their success will elevate the prestige of Thailand, her people, and the school in the visitor’s eyes. When he/she goes back home, the story of smart Thai students will be told. Next week I went to class with mixed expectations, but lo and behold: nearly all students recalled their eight questions effortlessly! I felt really good that day.

2. If all else fails…

This story also involves the teachers’ nightmare: homework, but in a different class. This time, out of the 40 or so students, only five did it. I was stunned. It’s not like it was anything difficult – all they had to do was bring the lyrics of their favorite English song to class. I decided to use an unusual method of discipline. I called the five up to the front of the classroom, made them read their completed assignments. While they were reading, I filled the blackboard with a short story from my textbook, with some essential words omitted. When finished, the blackboard was completely covered by the sentences. I told the rest of the students to copy the story down to their notebook and fill in the blanks, while I took the five diligent students to have ice cream. A Thai teacher stayed behind to maintain order in the classroom while I was away. I am sure that class is still pretty good at completing assignments on time…

It would seem from these two stories that Thai students are very lazy. That’s not really true. In fact, they work harder than the university students I was teaching in the US. One Friday afternoon, in the seventh period, I went to a Mattayom 3 class looking for the teacher. There I found out that she was absent. She went to a temple. What would a typical class in the West do, if they know that their last class on Friday has no teacher? Well, I am certain those students wouldn’t ask another teacher who just drifted in, to hold the class instead. Imagine my surprise when this happened! The students asked me to substitute. Luckily, it was an English class, and I was free at that time, so I happily obliged. That period was one of my most memorable teaching experiences. I knew that the entire class was genuinely interested and truly learning. It makes a lot of difference!

Moving into my house

Sunday was the big day. Much of the furniture (beds/wardrobes and dressing tables for two bedrooms, the book cases for the office, the t.v. cabinet and most importantly the sofa!) was scheduled to arrive throughout the day. In addition, we arranged for some friends who had a pick-up truck to help with moving not only my own things but also all of the office equipment and the books for Thai Hypermarket. This was important to complete on a Sunday so that Gor could get everything sorted out before the post office re-opened on Monday.

The first to arrive was the book cases and the t.v. cabinet. I asked them to set up the t.v. cabinet first before they went up to the office on the second floor to set up the bookcases. While they were doing that, we set up the t.v. which just only squeezed into the cabinet. It was actually a perfect fit. There were no chairs to sit on yet but at least we now had some entertainment!

Next to arrive were about 4 guys with the furniture for the bedrooms. They carried all of this up to the bedrooms on the 3rd and 4th floor and got started assemblying everything. I am glad we didn’t have to do anything! I left Gor to supervise while I went to the school to arrange for everything to be brought to the townhouse. There were about five people helping so it didn’t take much longer than an hour to bring over all of the books and office equipment.

The fridge arrived by mid afternoon. We were looking forward to start making some ice by this time. But they gave us the bad news that we had to wait 3 hours before we could turn it! So, we had to keep going out to the Family Mart to buy cold drinks. Both Gor and his wife were drinking water from the tap. Personally I wouldn’t do that. I’d rather buy bottled water until the water filter arrived on Wednesday.

The three piece sofa finally arrived at 6 p.m. Better late than never. It had been a long day. At last we could sit down and rest our feet. We put in a DVD and started to watch a movie. About 20 minutes later I could hear some of the neighbours outside talking about my house. I could hear them speculating what it was like. So, we pressed pause and went out to invite them in for a grand tour. I’ll take some pictures at the weekend so that you too will get a grand tour!