Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I'm removing a few posts that are no longer interesting to me. You can reach the homepage here.

Thanks for your interest!

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I've been thinking about Thai compounding lately. Many common Thai words are made up of simpler component words. For example, the word for "river" translates to "mother of water". The word for "electricity" translates to "sky fire". (I personally associate "sky fire" with lightning, although the Thai word for "lightning" is different.) Tears are "eye water", calmness is a "cool heart", and so on.

The online dictionaries thai-language.com and thai2english.com give component words along with translations, and it's always interesting to see the components. Component words are often more common, and, while I don't try to use this information in any explicit way, I think the component words provide little automatic hooks for building vocabulary. Once I've associated "sky fire" with electricity, it's hard to forget.

A related phenomenon is "derivational morphology", where Thai words can change their nuance or part of speech by a small set of common prefixes. As I hear these prefixes in different contexts and become more familiar with them, they really contribute to my comprehension.

Between compounding and derivational morphology, vocabulary in much of Thai is pretty logical. The more challenging vocabulary includes proper names, words borrowed from other languages, and "specialized" vocabulary such as that used by and for royalty.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Comfortable and Curious

150 hours:

I've listened to about 38 hours of news so far. Words which have recently become familiar include words for "nuclear reactor", "agency", and "Germany". The Thai system for numbering years is also becoming more familiar.

A colleague tells me that as an undergraduate math major, I claimed that success in mathematics is a matter of getting comfortable with not understanding everything right away. I don't remember making this claim, but I think there's some truth in it. Being comfortable and curious with partial understanding is a great mindset for learning all kinds of things.

To acquire a word or language pattern naturally through "i+1" input, I have to hear it many times. New words and patterns start as meaningless streams of syllables interspersed with better understood context. Gradually, I differentiate each new word or pattern as a sort of "motif" that's appearing over and over in different contexts. As more and more context is understood, and the word continues to recur, it becomes very familiar. Eventually I recognize and understand it immediately, without effort. At some point during this process, I usually verify my understanding of the new word with a dictionary or native speaker. This breaks the input model slightly, but I feel that it's helpful, since I'm studying without the aid of a teacher. Words acquired in this patient manner are easily available to me, without review, effort, or memorization.

This process requires me to be comfortable with not understanding everything right away.