So, I’m around a week into my ‘Learn Thai in 2 weeks challenge’ now and I’m starting to get a better feel for the language.
I’ve realised a couple of things about language learning:
No single method of study is sufficient on it’s own
Language learning goes much faster if you do multiple methods. I’ve been doing online courses, watching Thai videos, researching on the internet, doodling my own memes (see Learning foreign symbols with memes – The confused sheep fish), speaking to my nanny, speaking to shop keepers, practicing writing and doing tone drills. All of it together is starting to help me learn, but I doubt I’d have got anywhere with any one thing.
Your brain needs ‘hooks’ to remember things. Hooks can be anything, but they need to be something you’re already familiar with.
Examples of hooks to help learn language:
- Creating cartoons to help learn letters
- Associating a word with a familiar sound
- Association with an event
If learn language in lots of contexts and with lots of different methods you’re naturally going to create these hooks. This’ll make language learning, faster, more enjoyable and less effort.
Speaking to people in their own language is enjoyable!
I never, never, never would have thought this before. I’m completely shy, always get Karl to order food in restaurants (so I don’t have to talk to strangers) and generally avoid all contact with people I don’t know. The idea of doing this in a language that I wasn’t even fluent it would have sent me running a mere few months ago.
However, I figured that the only way I’d learn Thai is by speaking it. So I did. I’ve found that almost everyone I’ve tried to speak with has been delighted (and slightly amused) I’m attempting their language. Sadly it seems uncommon for foreigners to attempt Thai, so I guess they don’t get it a lot.
I think it’s a real shame that there’s so much negativity around learning a language at school. When children start to speak, their incoherent babbles are met with delight and praise. When learning a second language, though, it seems common for anything but prefect grammar and pronounciation to be met with criticism.
Now I’m using language for communication not academia (as it should be) it’s clear that you don’t need to be perfect. It’s totally fine to enjoy communicating – mastery of language will come with time.
It’s much easier to learn a language when you need it
When I studied French at school, I had a bored teacher, who gave us boring tasks with boring phrases. We’d then continue the tedium by repeating these phrases no one cared about at each other.
It’s unsurprising, really, that few of us continued language education past the mandatory time.
Now, I want to know how to order iced green bubble tea without milk or sugar (Thai people find this totally weird so you need to get the pronunciation right for them to believe you!).
And the results so far:
Ordering unsweetened bubble tea without milk = SUCCESS
Asking for the bill and understanding the answer = SUCCESS
Asking what time Jack went down for his nap = SUCCESS