Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mog Software TV and Radio

A couple of weeks ago, Kikiat suggested a great web resource in a comment.

With a broadband connection, you can stream Thai TV or radio from the Mog Software site for free. If you're using Internet Explorer, navigate to one of these links:

Then click on one of the Windows Media Player icons.

Windows Media Icon

This allows you to stream the television or radio station right on the page.

There are also links for Firefox and Opera users, and a few of the channels and stations open an external Real Player. Among the configurations I tried, my experience was the best in Internet Explorer with the embedded Windows Media Player.

Remember to click on a Windows Media Player icon. If, instead, you click on the name of a channel or station, you are redirected to that station's website, after which you get a lot of unexpected practice reading Thai script.

Friday, December 29, 2006

When to Speak

Steve Kaufmann posted a provocative thought on his blog.

I guess I would summarize my philosophy as follows; until I can read and listen to a novel, news programs, and recorded conversations... and enjoy doing so, I have no desire to speak with anyone.

This criterion takes the idea much farther than I have ever tried to take it personally, but I've read a lot recently about the advantages of an initial silent period. Understanding a large amount of input before trying to speak has been shown to result in better grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary for most students. As I've mentioned, I think this can probably be generalized to a behavior that's useful indefinitely in a second language, even after the initial acquisition takes place.

AUA advises students not to speak during the first 800 hours of class time. Steve says he has no desire to speak until he can read and understand a novel. I wonder what other criteria people advise or use for the duration of an initial silent period.


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Wednesday, December 27, 2006


What are the best language acquisition blogs on the internet?

These are the blogs I currently follow.

Aspiring Polyglot
Effortless Language Acquisition
Foreign Language Acquisition
Japanese for Life
Steve Kaufmann

I'm especially interested in finding blogs which discuss theory and research in second language acquisition along the lines of Stephen Krashen's work.


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Sunday, December 24, 2006


Update 7.23.2010: I'm removing a few posts that are no longer interesting to me. You can reach the homepage here.

Thanks for your interest!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Gallery of Obscure Patents

This is an amusing VOA Thai clip about the online Gallery of Obscure Patents.

Click here to listen. Posted with permission.


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Friday, December 22, 2006

Thai Typing Resources

All of my Skype language exchanges have involved text instant messaging (IM) as well as voice chat.

I've been able to participate a little in Thai text IM by copy-pasting text from this tool and online dictionaries, but that's obviously very limited. So I now have another reason to learn to type Thai. Lleij Samuel Schwartz mentioned in a comment that a Thai keyboard helps a lot. I found a Thai keyboard in our house, but the cable is PS2, and my PC only accepts USB.

If I'm motivated, having no keyboard may be a good thing, since it will force me to learn touch-typing. Even so, I will need a USB keyboard for the long run.

I did find some resources online.

1. Set-up instructions for non-English typing.
2. A Thai typing tutor.
3. Thai keyboards for sale. I haven't ordered one yet.

Update: I solved my keyboard problem by buying a PS2/USB adapter. Even before attaching the Thai keyboard, I used this image of the Kedmanee keyboard layout along with these mnemonics, and typing didn't look like a lost cause. I'm a decent touch typist in English, which may help. I'm now practicing with this useful list of common phrases. Fortunately, you don't have to type very quickly in an IM session.


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Thursday, December 21, 2006

AUA Small Talk

The AUA materials include a great book of dialogues entitled "Small Talk" by Adrian S. Palmer. Since I am experimenting with Skype language exchanges through Mixxer, I am working with this book and CDs again.

The CDs were originally intended for practice drills, but I am using them primarily as a source of comprehensible input. I focus on listening and understanding the phrases and dialogues, rather than trying to follow the drills out loud. If past experience is any indication, new words and phrases will find their own way into my speech after sufficient listening. At times, I do find myself speaking along with the tape, but I don't try to make that happen.

The presence of repetition and substitution drills means that most of the input is not exactly natural, but that drawback is counterbalanced by the fact that, for me, the level is almost perfectly i+1. Also, as with all the AUA CDs, there's very little L1, which is great.


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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Practicing Output

Steve Kaufmann posted an interesting abstract from a study* showing that practicing speech does not appear to improve fluency.

This study investigated whether giving learners an opportunity for oral output has any positive effect on the L2 learners' acquisition of a grammatical form. Twenty-four adult ESL learners were randomly assigned to one of three groups: an output group, which engaged in a picture description task that involved input comprehension and output production; a non-output group, which engaged in a picture sequencing task that required input comprehension only; and a placebo control group. The two treatment groups were exposed to the same aural input for the same amount of time. Learning was assessed by means of a pre-test and a post-test consisting of production and reception parts. The results indicated that, contrary to our expectations, the output group failed to outperform the non-output group. On the contrary, it was the non-output group that showed greater overall gains in learning. A careful post-hoc re-examination of the treatment tasks revealed that the output task failed to engage learners in the syntactic processing that is necessary to trigger L2 learning, while the task for the non-output group appeared to promote better form-meaning mapping.

More and more, I perceive my ability to speak emerging automatically after sufficient listening with understanding. For example, there are certain things my wife says in Thai to my son every day. Having heard them for years, I now also say them, automatically, without thinking or having practiced. The first few times I said them may have been a little awkward, but my speech quickly zeroed in on the sounds I was approximating.

The idea of speech emerging automatically from listening is a radical departure from the way I used to think about language study. Even the way we describe language acquisition in English shows a bias toward practicing speech. When asking whether someone is fluent in another language, we say, "Do you speak French?". Maybe a better question is, "Do you understand French?". If the Comprehension Hypothesis is true, understanding will eventually lead to speech, but speaking doesn't necessarily lead to understanding.

It's very interesting to experiment with this as I study Thai, and I'm sure my ideas about this will continue to change as I read more and gather new experiences.

(*Investigating the Effects of Oral Output on the Learning of Relative Clauses in English: Issues in the Psycholinguistic Requirements for Effective Output Tasks, Canadian Modern Language Review, Yukiko Izumi, MA, Shinichi Izumi, PhD.)


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Sunday, December 17, 2006


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

Thanks for your interest!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Superman Again

A while back, I posted a VOA news clip about Superman.

With a lot of help from my Thai wife, I have posted a transcript at the link below. I'm using it as a supplement to the audio. I hope it's helpful to other people as well.

Superman บินได้...

Transcribing this made me realize:

1. I need to learn to type Thai properly, so that I don't have to copy-paste from this tool and the online dictionaries at thai2english and
2. When listening, I still often confuse the short and long "a" sounds อะ and อา.
3. I don't understand spacing rules in Thai very well.
4. Transcription takes a lot of time. :)

(VOA clip used with permission.)

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

How to Do A Language Exchange

Yesterday, I posted about my first Mixxer language exchange.

Omniglot recently mentioned another language exchange site, which has an interesting page on how to do a language exchange. The site also has lesson plans, which include good ideas for things to talk about.

Do you have experience with Skype language exchanges? I would be interested to get tips and pointers on how to get started. How often do you meet? Do you follow a structured format? How many people do you meet with? What do you talk about?


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Saturday, December 09, 2006


By reading, I learned about Mixxer, a language exchange site that makes it easy to find partners for conversation practice. Last night, I contacted a Thai speaker from Bangkok and practiced conversation a little with him on Skype. We chatted for about half an hour, switching back and forth between languages, so that we both had a chance to practice in the other language. Everything was free, including the Skype call to Bangkok.

This will be a great resource for conversation practice. It's amazing how the internet has revolutionized language acquisition.


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tone Sandhi and Cursive Speech

There is an interesting, detailed description of Thai tones from a learner's perspective at this webpage. I'm especially interested in the last couple of paragraphs:

What is cursive writing? That's when we write letters together in a string without lifting the pen up - the "b" runs into the "a" which runs into the "d". Why do we do such a lazy thing? Because it is faster. The same holds true for speech and tones in Thai. If Thai speakers were required to make a pure flat "high" tone followed by a pure flat "low" tone just as the Thai guide books imply, then they'd have to literally stop their voice & restart it at each tone at the exact level required.

So in cursive, natural speed speech, Thais need tones which can run from one to the next.

I don't normally think about tones in this much detail. But I have noticed that tones used in normal speech are more fluid than I used to think.

A linguist was recently telling me about "tone sandhi", a term for tonal pronunciation which changes depending on surrounding words. He compared this to an English speaker pronouncing the acronym "NPR" (a public radio network in the U.S.), which is often pronounced "em P R".

Much of the language acquisition material that I've read suggests focusing on phrases when acquiring words. Tone sandhi seems like one good reason to emphasize phrases.


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