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  1. #1
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    Red face I just canít understand

    Hi guys

    I think this may be a common problem in learning the language but wonder how you got through it. I have been Ďlearning Thaií for quite a few years but I live in the UK and donít have any Thai friends here. I can read and write quite well but my understanding when someone speaks to me is pretty poor. I tried having lessons over the internet with two different teachers from preply.com but it made no difference. I have a friend in Bangkok who I speak with most weeks for an hour and we practice Thai and English but it doesnít get much better.

    I notice that when I speak out in Thai, I understand but when I go to Thailand or speak to my friend, they could say the same thing or something basic and I just donít understand.

    I thought what would be good is an app where you can copy/paste Thai phrases into it and it speaks them back to me with an authentic Thai accent. Google translate just sounds really poor and it doesnít sound like a Thai person is speaking to me.

    Any tips or ideas - I know keep on going is one of them 😂

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Well done for having a crack at it Becky, sounds like your doing all the study but something not quite clicking into gear? I lived in Lao 14 years and was told to learn to write and read it first then the rest would fall into place , but the reading/ writing part was beyond my Ken, at stage there the minesite I worked on in Lao encouraged farangs to learn lao with a one on 1 teacher, which was fantastic,and I was learning a lot until someone changed it to a safety focus, teaching me to say things in lao like, where are my safety boots , where's my hard hat, please conduct a job observation etc, yeah. Nah I lost interest, can speak a bit but it's not great

  3. #3
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    Strangely though. I have an Irish mate in vientiane, that I can barely understand his accent is so broad and the lao folk certainly don't know what he's on about in English but his spoken Lao is fluent yet with the Irish accent.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by BLD View Post
    Strangely though. I have an Irish mate in vientiane, that I can barely understand his accent is so broad and the lao folk certainly don't know what he's on about in English but his spoken Lao is fluent yet with the Irish accent.
    Yes good luck Becky a winter break to a village where English is hardly used is the immersive strategy (A thai partner may be a step too far? )

    As for BLD I a pretty sure I know Paddy McPisshead too, a lovely lad used to "borrow" my condoms, flip flops and whisky in error, ran over a dog one night? He would replace the whiskey with a full one, told no need return the "soiled" items.
    ďWhat contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?Ē

  5. #5
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    Hi Beccky
    I can agree with most of what BLD said. I learned to speak fluent colloquial German fairly quickly.
    I was living and working in country and socialised it’s the natives. It was part of my job too because I had 20 Germans working for me.
    In a place like Bangkok, you might welol find a fairly cosmopolitan crowd, even among the Thai locals. Just like the UK, you wil find regional accents and dialects. Those from NE Thailand speak a different version of Thai altogether.
    In country is the best place to learn, but I find that my abilities with new languages fades as I get older.
    Well done for trying it from home, but the best way to learn is to live it.
    Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.

  6. #6
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    I had intended helping the original poster but then I realised that I could not do so as I would wish. My wife is a typical Isaan woman. Her language is perfect but she mumbles like the rest of the Isaan women. They all understand each other as their ears are attuned to the "mumbling". Listen to Thai newsreaders on TV and they too are perfect. However, they speak at a million miles per hour and although one can hear the occasional word the rest is a blur. My attempts at speaking Thai result in my wife criticising the tone of every other word I utter and this is demoralising.

    I firmly believe that one can never speak a language properly until one can read and write it so all my recent efforts have been directed at these skills. If you are willing to do as I do, I will provide a list of YouTube sites and books which I have found helpful.

    I must have bought every book which is available, most of which rely on transliteration alone. This type is useless. For starters I can recommend "Thai For Beginners" by Benjawan Poomsan Becker. This is easily the best book and is not a waste of money.

    Some YouTube sites feature beautiful Thai women who try their best to get as much money as they can and are best avoided. Unquestionably the best website is thai-language.com Very advanced but beginners can pick out bits and pieces which are of help.I really must make a donation to acknowledge the enormous amount of work put into it.

    Keep at it!

  7. #7
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    I neglected to mention that there is a Thai dictionary app made by Becker and it is superb. I use it on my Android phone although I believe it is available for iPhones too. All my posts are subject to approval by a moderator and there can be delays of a day or so. Please feel free to contact me by message, much quicker.

  8. #8
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    Apologies for another follow up to my own post but I cannot wait for a day for the approval of a moderator. I further neglected to mention the excellent app "Learn 50 Languages". Just select the Thai language. It has the advantage of both male and female pronunciations and, if you buy the accompanying book, you will have all the expressions in Thai, English and in transliteration. The book and application are totally synchronised. There are a few typos but I put up with these as I have to have learned something to have been able to spot them Excellent combination.

    Learn languages online or with Android and iPhone app for free - 50Languages.com

    I tried to write to you but without success as I am a "newbie". I notice that you are the same so you cannot write to me either. Time for me to go back to reading construction posts and the news now and hope that others can help you.

    Very best of luck! It's hard work.

  9. #9
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    Like Switch says, you have to be in the country immersed with folks speaking Thai. Having friends demonstrate the tones and pronunciation when you don't understand is vital. I really don't see how your comprehension would improve without a lot of direct interaction with a Thai speaker. I spent 9 years in Thailand and got fairly good at Central Thai, and then had to start all over again when we moved north of Chiang Mai where they spoke Muang, or Lanna Thai which is very different than Central Thai. Sounds like it time for an extended trip to Thailand Becky!
    Press On Regardless

  10. #10
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    Hey Bob


    Thanks so much for all your help and advice. Yes - still a newbie here!
    I have beginners, intermediate and advanced of the Benjawan series - so its reassuring when someone else mentions them! I have dipped into all three but I could not say that I know everything in the beginners book. Maybe I should make it my goal to master the beginners book?


    I have seen but not properly checked out thai-language.com so I will do that.


    I will also check out Becker’s app.


    I watch a lot of things with (and without to try and understand but inevitably dont) subtitles so I watched a film called Pii Maak which is available on apple tv for about £4. It was very thai and very good (has subs). I recommend. I also watch many thai series on gmmtv on youtube many of which are a bit young for me (I’m in my 40s) but can still manage to enjoy them. I also watch thai youtube channels such as Go Went Go, Woody FM (not really my thing but can take something away) and Thai Talk with Paddy. I’m always on the lookout for more interesting Thai youtube channels if you know any.


    So yes, I hope you are still lurking around here if you have any more good advice. I found these listening videos also if they may help you as they are helping me:









    At one stage I was seriously considering moving to Chiang Mai but the short version is I think with my situation I am better to go every year for three weeks, work in the UK and aim for an early retirement in northern thailand.


    Becky

  11. #11
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    Thanks everyone for taking the time out to reply, I appreciate all your advice. Bob - I have sent you a response also via the forum. I hope you see it!

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Mason View Post
    My attempts at speaking Thai result in my wife criticising the tone of every other word I utter and this is demoralising.

    This trait annoys me so much!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by DrWilly View Post
    This trait annoys me so much!
    Especially when the reproach is done in faulty English



    Quote Originally Posted by thailazer View Post
    you have to be in the country immersed with folks speaking
    Common consensus - absolutely. There's nothing better to learn a language

  14. #14
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    "Common consensus - absolutely. There's nothing better to learn a language". The trouble is that the original poster is not living in Thailand. More important is the fact that very few farangs have any serious Thai language skills even though they have lived here for many years. Also, many seem to be proud that they understand no Thai whatsoever and have no intention of learning it. So, while your statement is generally accepted, it is not true as far as Thailand is concerned. Another major factor is that I don't think I have ever met a Thai person who genuinely wanted me to learn the language. So, if you want to learn French, live in France for while and the French will help you. This is not the case in Thailand.

  15. #15
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    Hi Bob
    Your post may well be applicable to many farang who wish to learn Thai. It ignores the fact that there are many long term expats who have set up in business here, especially in businesses employing Thai staff. Accommodation, resterraunts and bars proliferate to serve the farang community, and right now, many Thai staff are job seeking.
    I have found that the need to speak Thai is usually restricted to understanding business speak in respect of a major purchase, ie property or other expensive items. It’s also true that many farang can get by with minimal language skills because most natives we interact with have at least a smattering of spoken English. That’s just me being lazy, and an inveterate traveler.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Mason View Post
    "Common consensus - absolutely. There's nothing better to learn a language". The trouble is that the original poster is not living in Thailand
    True, that kind of got lost in the discussion. Another good way is to learn it online and get a private tutor online (native speaker) a few times a week for an hour a pop

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Mason View Post
    So, if you want to learn French, live in France for while and the French will help you. This is not the case in Thailand.
    Having lived in both I disagree.
    However I was more motivated to learn French as it useful in so many countries, Standard Thai is not used where i live and the people I interact with daily.

    If you certainly wish to live in far North C Mai , C Rai, Mae Hong Song etc then learn Lanna Thai pronunciation, equally Esan/Isaan is more like Lao than southern Thai.

    I do agree immersion and for oral needs correction by a native speaker is helpful, good luck

  18. #18
    Thailand Expat taxexile's Avatar
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    I notice that when I speak out in Thai, I understand but when I go to Thailand or speak to my friend, they could say the same thing or something basic and I just donít understand.


    Have a look at Stuart Jay Ray on You Tube. There are dozens of videos and lessons, so will need to sift through them to find the most relevant, hehas written some good books on the subject of tones too.

    His advice for correcting pronunciation errors, and training yourself to pick up the correct sounds and tones when listening is second to none.

  19. #19
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    Hello Becky - I have dipped into all three but I could not say that I know everything in the beginners book. Maybe I should make it my goal to master the beginners book?

    Yes, the beginners's book is easily the best in the series and theothers are just an attempt to make more money Mine is held together with Sellotape but I am sure that I will know it all before it falls apart completely. I have rapid progress over the last couple of months and am concentrating on reading. These YouTube videos are good :

    Banana Thai series

    Speak Thai Possible

    Thais have a totally different way of educating their children and their methods of learning by rote do not suit our western brains. My wife has absolutely no idea of the tone rules and thinks I am daft to bother with them. I asked a simple question yesterday about the use of the word "this" and its use as an adjective and a pronoun. She looked at me as though I had horns
    If you want to know how bad some Thai grammar books are, try looking for an explanation of the use of the word "keu". Never covered as far as I can see. Quite an important word!

    Best of luck! I am disappearing now.

  20. #20
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    I have always taken the view that conversation with a Thai unable to communicate in English is probably a pointless endeavour not least because they usually have very little to say of any interest, amusing or otherwise, have a dim perception of the world outside of the Thai milieu and therefore are quite dull, and an incomplete grasp of any reality that may indeed manifest itself in this stupid country.

    I canít recall exactly the source of the report but I did read somewhere that in any typical exchange between Thai speakers their comprehension of what each other may have said is in the order of 70%.

    I think this may well be true but from empirical evidence gleaned from my wife, who after a longish exchange with some Thai stranger or other will often concede she was unsure what was said or meant, I think the proportion of misunderstanding may well be greater.

    In essence, Thai is a crude language that does not lend itself to nuance and subtlety, and probably explains why it has no literature of any worth.

  21. #21
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    I can’t recall exactly the source of the report but I did read somewhere that in any typical exchange between Thai speakers their comprehension of what each other may have said is in the order of 70%.

    I think this may well be true but from empirical evidence gleaned from my wife, who after a longish exchange with some Thai stranger or other will often concede she was unsure what was said or meant, I think the proportion of misunderstanding may well be greater.
    That for the most part is true, especially when trying to make any sense of a conversation with a member the lower orders, and my wife also comes away from exchanges with her countryfolk shaking her head in amazement and wondering how these people manage.

    Self employed tradespeople and independent shopkeepers tend to know their speciality, employees much less so. Well educated professional Thais I find very well read and knowledgeable about world events and the like, mostly fluent in English so our conversations are in English, and my level of Thai is not up to involved exchanges and debate about politics and but when speaking Thai with my wife, their language is clear, concise and expressive.

    So much Thai chat consists of the tiresome and endless analysis of the food they are stuffing their faces with, but at least that avoids the downside of many a falang gathering when politics, family disagreements and sport dominate, often ending in insult, enmity and argument .

  22. #22
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    Indeed, Tax, but out of conflict comes creativity. Diversity expressed in imaginative and intelligent discourse inevitably sparks vigorous debate out of which doctrines and philosophies emerge.

    Thai society is atrophied, dull, predictable and a bore.

    The outgoing British ambassador back in the 60s said it all in his valedictory cable he sent back to the FO. Very amusing and so very, very apt.

    Sir Anthony Rumbold was the chap who went on to Vienna from Bkk and upset the Austrians.
    Last edited by Seekingasylum; 27-03-2023 at 04:33 PM.

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  24. #24
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    For the linky-illiterate

    While these notes were supposed to be top secret, at least one almost made it back to the host country. In his final dispatch, Sir Anthony Rumbold, who was based in Bangkok from 1965 to 1967, wrote:
    "I have very much enjoyed living for a while in Thailand. One would have to be very insensitive or puritanical to take the view that the Thais had nothing to offer. It is true they have no literature, no painting, and only a very odd kind of music — that their sculpture, their ceramics and their dancing are borrowed from others — and that their architecture is monotonous and their interior decorations hideous. Nobody can deny that gambling and golf are the chief pleasures of the rich — and that licentiousness is the main pleasure of them all. But, it does a faded European good to spend some time among such a jolly, extrovert and anti-intellectual people!"

  25. #25
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    The man was spot on. Especially paragraph 19.



    http://https://www.google.com/url?sa...dhIs_oho97uZ0C


    Aah, i see david44 has already posted para.19.

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