2012 Fall Cambriae Bates External Programs Thailand

This is Foriegn to Me

Thai Writing

It is hard to learn Thai. I don’t think I can make this statement any clearer. Thai language is so distant from English that at first I had no idea where to begin when learning it. The writing looked like art to me, not words or letters. When writing Thai there aren’t even any spaces between words so it looks so confusing. The journey to learning this language is truly a hard one.

I have never been any good at language to begin with. I always loved writing, reading, math, and although I didn’t like science, I could do it well, but language has been the one subject where I find myself tilting my head. I thought that I would be good at it, but when I took Italian in high school I learned nothing. It was partially because my Italian teacher wasn’t qualified for his job so he handed out A’s like promoters hand out flyers. Therefore, I thought that maybe it wasn’t my fault that I was so bad at language. I thought that I could redeem myself on my quest to learn Thai, but the language has not been sticking.

In Thai class we learn so many words and phrases so fast that by the end my head is all jumbled. It’s a two-hour class and my professor is the most energized man you could ever meet, but despite how much he makes me smile I still struggle with hearing the difference between B and Bp. So many sounds are very similar in Thai and so many words are the same.  Maa can mean dog, horse, or come depending on the tone in which you say it. And then when learning to read and write it can be difficult as well because some characters make the same sounds. And you learn that high-class consonants have high tones and low-class consonants have low tones, but when a high-class consonant is with a short vowel it has a low tone, and when a low-class consonant is with a short vowel it has a high tone?

Sometimes when my professor walks into the class and just jumps right in with asking questions in Thai and he looks at me expecting an answer in Thai I just want to put down my head and say “once I leave here this is useless to me.” But for some reason I keep on trying because I want to feel accomplished, and I know that  will take some time, but I’ll be happy at the end.

After learning how to say and order different foods I began trying it at food stands. At first I wanted to hit myself because I would learn words and then as soon as I walked up to a cart and looked around all of those words vanished from my mind, and all I could do is point and order in English. Or whenever I tried the Thai person standing in front of me would just stare as if I was saying words that never existed even though I was saying the exact words that I learned in class. But recently I made a breakthrough.  When I recently went to order a pork omelet, I walked up to the Thai woman at the stand and said “Sawadii kha. Muu kai jiaw” and she didn’t scratch her head and stare at me she just nodded and began cracking eggs.

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