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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Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting again.

Well done on your progress. Isn't it great when your hard work pays off?

Please update us with your progress before leaving Thailand. I'm guessing your comprehension will expand nicely over the next few weeks. Also, I'm curious to know if your speaking will become a lot more automatic with less thinking.

Scott Imig said...

Thanks for stopping by! I've had quite a few language-related experiences on this trip. I'll post about them as I get the opportunity. :)