Saturday, September 06, 2008

Thai Video Transcripts

In June, Ricker started a great service for Thai students with a wiki called Thai Video Transcripts (TVT). Here's his blog post about it.

This is the introduction to the wiki from the front page.

TVT is a learning tool for students of the Thai language. There are nearly endless Thai videos on sites like YouTube and KosanaThai. On TVT, users work together to transcribe the text of these videos. This process will help you to improve your understanding of Thai as actually used by native speakers, and makes it simple to copy-and-paste unfamiliar words into websites like,, or

This is a great resource for Thai language students.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


During my recent visit to Thailand, reading became more automatic as I read signs everywhere around me. One challenge with reading signs is that there are many fonts.

This logo that obviously reads "USA" actually reads "Breeze" (บรีส). It's the Thai brand for a laundry detergent called Omo in other parts of the world.

The "Wow" in this movie title is part of the transliteration of the English title "Surf's Up" (เซิร์ฟอัพ). In the official transliteration, the two "W"s are different Thai characters, but it doesn't matter from the standpoint of pronunciation. The second character in the subtitle is an M-shaped thing. My wife had to tell me that it's a ตอ เต่า.

English-looking Thai characters in logos are very common, and I'm sure they are intentionally designed in that way.

I find myself wondering whether, as a child, I had to figure out the differences between English fonts.


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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chulabook and Pocoyo

Prior to leaving Bangkok, we visited the Chulalongkorn University bookstore near Siam Square. They have a lot of materials that are useful to Thai language students. They also have a website that sells books, VCDs, and other materials:

In addition to a few Thai comic books and books for children, we bought Thai language VCDs of Pocoyo (โพโคโย). We bought them for my son, but they are good language acquisition tools for an adult at an intermediate level. Each episode uses and repeats a few words of core vocabulary in a natural way. They're amusing and creative enough that I can watch them without getting bored. I've practiced listening and acquired a few words and phrases this way.

(DVDs have region codes, and many DVDs from Thailand don't work on players for other regions. This is not an issue for VCDs.)


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Friday, August 22, 2008

ALG Level 1 Demonstration

Rikker recently mentioned that there's now an Automatic Language Growth (ALG) video from AUA Thai Level 1. I looked it up, and it's quite good. It illustrates how to teach a second language from the very beginning without translating to the student's native language.

Note that, when the instructors ask questions in Thai, the students reply either with signs or in their native language. This permits a long silent period, during which the students don't speak the new language. Research by Stephen Krashen and others suggests that an initial silent period facilitates better acquisition.

I didn't have a chance to study in the ALG program at AUA from Level 1. By the time I first attended AUA, I had already studied Thai at the University of Oregon and at home. If I were beginning Thai now, I would choose the ALG program.


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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Leaving Bangkok

My study at AUA is finished for now. I'll return to my brother-in-law's house in Chachoensao this morning, and I'll leave for the U.S. tomorrow. The Automatic Language Growth (ALG) approach used at AUA works very well. It's better than "one way" listening, such as listening to radio broadcasts, since the comprehensibility of the classroom content is monitored and adjusted by a live instructor. As always, I have a long way to go, but I can see progress relative to where I was two weeks ago. My comprehension and speaking have improved effortlessly just by listening to interesting content in class.

I understood much more of the spoken content at the AUA classes than I did when I was here two years ago. There were some classes where I understood almost all of the spoken content, which never happened during my previous experience. There were other classes, like the News class at noon, where I had difficulty following the instructor. It was clear that the Level 5-10 classes are taught at different levels of difficulty, depending on the subject, the instructor, and the students in attendance. Last time, I didn't pick up on the varying difficulty. All the classes seemed to be at the same level, namely Hard.

It's unfortunate that the ALG approach isn't used in more language schools, but I think it requires an agreement on basic principles by the teachers and students, and it doesn't lend itself well to an institution where evaluation and examination are central. Still, I think motivated students in other language courses can add a type of ALG approach on their own just by listening to natural content as often as possible.


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Friday, August 08, 2008


Thai uses so-called linguistic particles to communicate secondary meanings in sentences. One such particle is klap. (The word is spelled ครับ -my transliteration is an approximation.) The particle klap is used at the end of sentences by men to convey politeness.

Recently, I've caught myself forgetting to use klap in some situations when it is called for. As a foreigner and visitor, I try to be polite -when I was here two years ago, a few people commented to my wife on how polite I was. I'd like to take this as a compliment on my behavior in general, but I think it was mainly a commentary on how often I would use the particle klap, which was basically after every sentence. My wife recently told me that I don't have to use it so often -it's not necessary to be extremely polite.

Unfortunately, I think I've now gone too far the other way. There have been several recent occasions where I was speaking with someone I didn't know well, and they were using politeness particles with me. Being more interested in the content of the conversation, I forgot to use them in return.

I suppose all this will sort itself out by being aware of it. On one hand, it's embarrassing to forget my manners on several occasions. On the other hand, I think it's a symptom of greater comfort and comprehension in Thai.

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More Time at AUA

My family and I will be in Bangkok for a few days, which gives me a chance to attend Automatic Language Growth (ALG) classes at AUA Ratchadamri.

As I mentioned previously, some of the Level 5-10 classes at AUA seem closer to Level 5, and some closer to Level 10. I've surveyed most of the weekday classes, and I've found a number that seem close to my level (i.e., i+1). Most of the time, I'm just interested in the content, and the language takes care of itself. The instructors do an excellent job of tracking who is understanding what, keeping the material comprehensible, challenging, and fun.

The time at AUA is very good for my Thai language skill. Speaking, listening, reading, and vocabulary are becoming more comfortable without effort.


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Saturday, August 02, 2008


Prior to leaving on this trip, my wife told me that I should spend time listening to different accents.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law was asking me how many spoons I take in my coffee (ใส่กี่ช้อนค่ะ). It's an easy phrase, but I couldn't understand at first. Later, I asked my wife if there are more individual accents in Thai than in English. She said yes, because regional dialects contribute their own accents to the central dialect.

My brother-in-law's family is from the south of Thailand. They relocated to the central region recently because of the separatist insurgency in the south. They have a southern accent, which is a challenge to my ear, even for simple vocabulary. My wife is also from the south, but she lived in the central region for much of her life, so she does not have as strong an accent.

Thai has four major dialects, with the central dialect serving as a common language between them. The dialects are mutually unintelligible, but, from a practical standpoint, the central dialect is intelligible to everybody, because schools everywhere teach the central dialect. Thai people traveling to and from the central region create a rich mix of accents that are a challenge for foreigners learning Thai.*

Most of my listening practice has been the VOA news, which is spoken almost exclusively in a clear, central accent. Since VOA focuses on international news, it's not common that they interview Thai people with regional accents. The teachers at AUA also speak without strong regional accents.

I can understand now that getting familiar with different accents is part of becoming comfortable with the language.

*Corrections and clarifications are most welcome.


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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Passage to Bangkok

My family is staying in Chachoensao, about 80 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, visiting my wife's brother and his family. I think I'm one of very few foreigners in this area.

My son has been attending Thai kindergarten for several weeks with his cousin. He has improved his Thai in a very natural way. My sister-in-law says, "He's better than his father. He doesn't have to think about what he's saying."

To work on my own natural language acquisition, I took a commuter train into Bangkok yesterday and took some classes at AUA. As before, I found the classes, teachers, and approach to be excellent. The subject of one class was the market for stolen goods in Thailand and how to avoid purchasing them. Other classes were on the daily news, a romantic novel, and a Thai movie about ghosts.

When I was at AUA two years ago, a lot of the vocabulary was lost on me, but I was able to understand the gist of classes through nonverbal cues and visual aids. Initially, I wondered whether the classes were too advanced for me, but, after my discussions with the advisor and other students, I gathered that my experience was expected, and that my vocabulary would grow naturally just by paying attention to the classroom experience. Another student told me that, whenever he and his wife started a level, they didn't understand much. Over the course of about 200 hours of class time, the verbal content became more and more clear. Finally, it became much too easy, and they were ready for a new level. My vocabulary did grow a great deal during my previous experience at AUA, but, unfortunately, I had to return home after only 32 hours of class time.

In the two years since my previous experience at AUA, I've continued on my own by listening to a little over 200 hours of Thai content, in movies, news broadcasts, television, and other audio. I've also been exposed to some Thai at home, as my wife uses it with our son, and I've chatted in Thai with friends on the internet. The time I spent has increased my classroom comprehension. I noticed that I wasn't relying as heavily on nonverbal content to understand the classroom experience. I could read the Thai script that was written on the whiteboard, and I had recourse to a much larger vocabulary.

At AUA, Levels 1-4 are taught separately, but Levels 5-10, where I study, are all taught at the same time. I think this might be because there are fewer intermediate and advanced students -I'm guessing that many students reach basic proficiency at Level 5 and are satisfied or move on to other methods. Some of the classes yesterday seemed closer to Level 5 and others closer to Level 10. The class on avoiding stolen goods was nearly perfect for me. There was some new vocabulary, but I could follow most of the verbal content without getting lost. The class on the romantic novel was also close to my level. I found the class about the day's news difficult to follow, and the class about the Thai movie was on the easy side.

I'm hoping to spend more time at AUA later in August before returning to the United States.


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Saturday, February 16, 2008

East and West by Yang Liu

Update: Andrew Hennigan recently posted information about these images.

I found this interesting.

The images were designed by Yang Liu (sometimes spelled Liu Young), who was born in China and educated in Germany and England. Visit Yang Liu's website at

(Images posted with permission.)

Westerners Asians

Expressing Opinions


Handling Problems

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Thursday, January 03, 2008


Update: Moving this to an earlier date so that posts relevant to Thai language show up on the homepage.

Steve Kaufmann is a polyglot and blogger who speaks nine languages fluently. He runs a language education website called LingQ.

I recently signed up for the free membership at LingQ and tried the system for French, a language I enjoy at an intermediate level in my daily life. LingQ is well-designed and well-engineered, and I can see that it's an efficient system for acquiring languages rapidly. Since I'm focused on Thai, I'm not actively trying to improve my French at this time, but the availability of this resource has made me consider taking up French again. Prices for more complete memberships are also very reasonable.

LingQ currently supports English, French, Russian, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, and Swedish, with beta programs for Mandarin and Japanese. I can't wait until Thai is added to the list.