“Learning thai, the hard way…”


This is not a Wit blog. I didn’t write it nor inspire it or any other such thing other than receive it. This was actually an e-mail sent to everyone on the listserv of our DC Thai Language Meetup Group from John a fellow member. I thought it was well written and worthy of a blog so I convinced John he should post it here on Thai-blogs for everyone to read. He agreed with me and didn’t even put up an arguement! I was disappointed I didn’t have to twist his arm, err persuade him to post it. He even asked me to post it for him, something about mentioning he was too kii giat to do it himself. Be that as it may John is mai kii giat when it comes to the drive to master the Thai langauge and don’t let him kid you he is a lot better than he lets on (so be warned ladies)! In addition he also builds robotic fish for the United States Navy, yeah, he’s got coolness in spades! So here it is, unedited and worthy of a good read and perhaps even an inspiration to some of you aspiring Thai speakers out there so take heart and enjoy.

And for those that remember I have not fallen off the face of the earth although some mornings it can feel like it if I haven’t had my coffee. Look for a long overdue blog of my own coming soon, maybe this weekend if all the words finally come..


“Learning Thai the hard way…

Watdee tuk kon krab (whats up, everyone)

So I figure this should be of some interest to those in this email list.

A little more than 2 years ago a Thai friend of mine asked me to come
stay with him in Thailand. I decided to start studying a little
survival Thai two weeks before my trip, just to get by and all . . .

But for some reason I kept saying, ‘well, ive done all this work, cant
quit now or it would have been a waste . . . gotta study more!!! gonna
be fluent any time now!’

And motivated by a 2nd trip to Thailand 6 months later, I continued to
study . . . Was really fun to do things a typical tourist couldnt, to
not just be with locals, but to almost be one myself . . .

I am about a week or two from my 2 year anniversary studying the crazy
language we call Thai . . . And I am still going with that carrot on a
stick dream of one day being able to confidently call myself fluent .
. .

Being such a momentous occasion, I have been reflecting . . . So what
have I learned from all this?


I would admit even infinitely harder than building a robot to get a
Singha beer out of the fridge (yes, I would know).

I studied 1 hour a day for 1.5 years, and for a 6 month period even
managed 2 hours a day. That comes out to about 900+ hours of studying.
Extensive research shows that one must study at least 600 to 1000
hours of anything complex to become a so-called ‘expert.’ Whether it
be chess, the guitar, or multi-variate calculus – doesnt matter.
Unfortunately, no research says how many hours a farang needs to learn
thai fluently, but I can assure you it isnt less than 1000 hours. That
means if you are really dedicated and study one hour a day for 3
years, you still wont be fluent. Sorry =P

Then again if your nuts like Cornell and study 6 hours a day . . . you
would reach fluency in like 6 months . . . =P

So why am I writing this? This email may sound more of like a
discouragement to those who are learning, but I think it is more of
useful knowledge to those who want to learn. These are the facts,
being bilingual just isnt an American trait =P

A bit of encouragement . . . those who have studied an equivalent of
about 210 hours (an hour a day for 7 months) know that you can
communicate in complete Thai sentences. Perhaps you can just barely
get by, but at least you can. Its a much easier, much more tangible,
yet still very rewarding goal for many on this list to reach. At least
3 or 4 of you already have passed this point. I highly encourage
everyone to set this goal.

Anyway, being my two year mark, I have decided to dedicate myself for
the big plunge . . . I am going to move and live in Thailand for a
year. This new journey will happen around March of next year. Fits
perfectly between a career transition, and right after I finally pay
off my gagillion dollar tuition. Still gotta iron out tee rak issues
tho (thats you, Jenny).

I pray it will finally help me catch the carrot thats so elusive.

Anyway, signing out, and best wishes to those who desire to undertake
probably the hardest single task anyone can undertake. =)

Choke Dee Krab (good luck)

John Palmisano

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