Wednesday, May 31, 2006

In my search for "comprehensible input", I have been delighted to find excellent Thai language audio resources at The link labeled "Listen" navigates to dialogs, essays, and stories written and read by primary school students.

I'm currently listening to the story called "Red Boat". As I repeatedly listen over time, it is becoming more and more comprehensible, reminding me of the way features used to slowly appear in old Polaroid photographs. At first, I thought I would need to work to "make" this process happen, but it doesn't seem to be necessary. I listen over and over, between watching Thai DVDs and listening to my Thai wife speak, and the stream of nonsense is starting to acquire meaning. Even if some of the story is beyond my "i+1" level at any given time, parts of the narrative are always at the proper level. This method turns everything I thought I knew about language study on its head.

I am studying Thai language once a week at the Buddhist temple near my house. It's great to meet other friendly farang who are interested in learning Thai, and to chat with the monks and Thai people who stop by the temple. I have some interest in Buddhism and Eastern philosophy, and it's wonderful to keep in touch with Buddhism as I study Thai.

The temple lessons emphasize reading and writing, which is very helpful to me. However, there is also a tendency to want to build vocabulary through translation and memorization. Since study is entirely self-directed, I may start to de-emphasize memorization for myself. Words and phrases acquired through translation and memorization are different from words acquired naturally through listening. Memorized words tend not to "stick", and there is often little internalized context for how to use them correctly. Words and phrases that I have acquired slowly through listening are "just there", along with their usage.

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