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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rikker said...

I feel your pain. And while the ultimate answer is "practice makes perfect," I've occasionally used silly devices to help me remember certain words.

For example, to remember the last letters of words like ประกาศ and อากาศ versus โอกาส, I came up things like: "Make an announcement at the pavilion" and "The weather is nice at the pavilion" to associate ประกาศ and อากาศ with ศ.ศาลา in my mind, and "Don't give a tiger the opportunity to eat you" to associate โอกาส with ส.เสือ.

I don't like to use that technique too often, but it worked for me with some words.

Scott Imig said...

Hi, Rikker,

Thanks for the suggestions! I like the idea of using some sort of mnemonic, especially for words I need a lot or tend to misspell a lot.

Learning has some poems to help remember usage of ใ-. I suppose it would help to learn one of those, too.

Peter said...

Rikker said:, " remember the last letters of words ... I came up things like: "Make an announcement at the pavilion" and "The weather is nice at the pavilion" ... "Don't give a tiger the opportunity to eat you".


That's an excellent idea. Thank you Rikker. Lots of uses. For example:

Sunday we saw a giant (yaw-yahk + ga-ran). วันอาทติย์

Monday a soldier rides in a boat (taw-ta-han, raw-reua + ga-ran). วันจันทร์

February is Flag Month. (taw-thong + ga-ran). กุมภาพันธ์

Thanks again, Rikker: no more pain on those silent finals.

-- Peter
-- Bangkok

Scott Imig said...

Hi, Peter, those are great!