Wednesday, January 31, 2007


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!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Thai Word of the Week

A couple of the language blogs I follow have recently posted about "overlearning" (see AJ's post and Jeremy's posts). "Overlearning", as I understand it, is reviewing material beyond the point where it is understood, in order to acquire it at a much deeper level. I had not heard of this previously, but it sounds like a good idea.

I want to experiment with posting a weekly vocabulary word to this blog. I'll also post an audio clip and transcript of a sentence from a news broadcast that uses the word. This gives me the chance to overlearn the word by listening intensively to a native speaker saying the word in context. As part of my Thai study for the week, I'll spend at least a cumulative half-hour repeatedly listening to the clip.

By the way, if you have any other references on overlearning itself, I'd be interested to read them.


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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Taking a Forced Break


I dropped my Ipod, and it stopped working. I've tried toggling the hold button and resetting.

It's dead, Jim.

Update: I replaced the busted Ipod, so I'm ready to go again. Be nice to your microelectronics, and they will be nice to you!


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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Is This Heaven? No, It's the Internet

Here are my top nine* reasons the internet rocks as a tool for the study of a second language.

9. Online lessons.

8. Availability of research, theory, and personal accounts about what approaches work best.

7. Online shopping, through which it's possible to acquire media, books, and other items to facilitate study.

6. Support, motivation, and other help from online language forums.

5. Ditto for the blogosphere.

4. Tools like and Audacity.

3. Online dictionaries.

2. Skype-based language exchanges.

1. Availability of streaming media, mp3s, and text.

*Listing the top 10 reasons would have been more conventional, but I think I have 9 good ones here.


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Friday, January 19, 2007

Thai Websites for Children

My son loves the activities and games at and

Are there any sites like this for children in Thai or French?

Update: Over on, a forum member recommended these sites. I haven't spent much time with them, but they look pretty good. (Stories) (Flash cartoon)

A friend also suggested these sites:


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Thursday, January 18, 2007


AJ mentioned a new language exchange site called KanTalk on his blog. I registered, and it looks pretty good.

I've been chatting on Skype once a week with a couple of Thai people I met through Mixxer, which has been great.

I believe the research that shows the benefit of an initial silent period in a second language. More generally, I don't think conversation practice contributes to fluency. Spending time listening is the best way to develop speaking ability.

However, if a student has acquired enough of a language to speak without having to think about it, and conversation is done in a relaxed way, it can build confidence and give a checkpoint for progress. And, of course, conversation is fun. For most of us, it's one of the reasons we study a second language.


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

Thanks for your interest!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I have listened to about 91 hours of news at this time. Recent words include "contest" (ประกวด) and "category" (ประเภท).

VOA recently started making mp3s with transcripts available, which makes a huge difference to me. The online dictionary Thai2English has a feature that allows submission of text from an entire document and easily lookup of any word in the document. Together with transcripts from VOA, this makes it very efficient to find and research new words.

Steve Kaufmann was kind enough to comment on a recent post and give some suggestions about building vocabulary and flashcards. I'm experimenting with new approaches, including modified flashcard practice. I emphasize listening over everything else, but I've recently been uploading unfamiliar words from VOA mp3s to the excellent WordLearner website and practicing them there. This really helps my listening and reading comprehension. I then use repeated listening to help "acquire" what I've "learned".

Since I'm looking up more words and practicing them in an unnatural way, I'm breaking the input model slightly more now than I was before. The upside is that my listening comprehension is much better. On balance, I think this approach is a big improvement. I'm still experimenting and changing it quite a lot.


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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Spelling is Hard

Now that I'm chatting occasionally on instant messenger, I realize how difficult spelling can be. Reading in Thai is very phonetic most of the time, but writing is more difficult. There are often many different choices of letter for a phoneme (like initial ศ, ษ, ศ, final พ, ฟ, ภ, บ, ป, and so on). Words borrowed from other languages can also have a silent letter at the end that's "cancelled out" (as in "คอมพิวเตอร์"). I suppose this is still much easier than English. In English, even the rules for reading are ambiguous.

Usually, my chat partner can tell what I'm trying to spell, but I need to get better at this. Here's what I'm planning. If anyone else has had to learn to spell in a new language, I'd be interested to get advice.

1. Probably the best thing I can do for my spelling is a lot of reading. Eventually, this should provide the necessary intuition for whether a word "looks" right. Unfortunately, my reading is so slow and my vocabulary is still so small that a lot of reading is going to take a lot of time. But I'd like to get faster, so this seems like a good thing to try.

2. There are certain phrases that come up all the time, like "Hello", "Did you eat rice yet?", and "What time is it in Thailand". My name comes up all the time, and the names of the people I chat with come up all the time. For these sorts of words and phrases, I can practice typing them until correct spelling becomes more automatic.

Between these two approaches, I think I'll eventually learn to spell.

Any thoughts?


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Monday, January 08, 2007

Rosetta Stone

The other day, I learned that my local public library has a site license for Rosetta Stone, which allows patrons to use language courses for free through the library's website. This costs about $50 per month if you subscribe individually, so it's a nice discovery.

I had read some critical reviews of Rosetta Stone, but I've been pleasantly surprised. The majority of each lesson is based on comprehensible input. For example, you hear or read a sentence and select a matching picture from four pictures on the page. This is the technique used by Winitz and Reeds in the papers referenced here*. The exercises are well thought-out and fun.

My main disappointment is that the Thai Level I course (the only Thai course that's available) is much too easy for me. I wish I had learned about this resource 8-9 months ago, when I could have benefited more from it.

I agree with some of the criticisms I've read, but they seem pretty minor. For example, it looks like the authors are using the same sentences and pictures for many different courses, so there's little linguistic or cultural specificity to what is presented.

I have been introduced or re-introduced to a few unfamiliar words (such as the word for "skirt" and certain classifiers). The reading practice is also helpful. But unfortunately, I think I found this resource too late to get a lot of mileage out of it.

I'll be interested to try a course sometime for a language I don't know at all, like Spanish or Japanese.


* Winitz and Reeds' papers:

Winitz, Harris. 1981. A reconsideration of comprehension and production in language training. The comprehension approach to foreign language instruction, ed. by H. Winitz, 101-40. Rowley: Newburry House Publishers.

Winitz, Harris, and Reeds, James A. 1973. Rapid acquisition of a foreign language (German) by the avoidance of speaking. International Review of Applied Linguistics 11.4.295-317.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Best News All Year

This made my day.

I noticed this morning that VOA Thai is now posting mp3s with transcripts on their homepage. The availability of transcripts makes their site one of the best sources of comprehensible Thai input on the internet.

I don't know how long they've been doing this, but it's great. Welcome to 2007!


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