Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

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RCer
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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by RCer » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:20 pm

I always managed to pick up basic pleasantries everywhere I traveled or lived.

But, that's as far as I ever managed to get. Even with dedicated training. I still have minimal Thai verbally. I can't read or write it.

Seems to me language is an artistic skill. I have zero artistic ability. But have no problem with technical things.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by oakdale160 » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:57 pm

living in China was a very different experience. Firstly you were aware is that Mandarin is one of the worlds major languages as opposed to Thai, a backwater language. Secondly, your Chinese friends, girlfriends even taxi drivers were constantly tutoring you feeling they were doing you a big favor in helping you become fluent. I have heard several ex-pat men who have Thai wives say that the wives have no interest in helping them speak Thai, I NEVER heard of that in China.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by dtaai-maai » Tue Mar 06, 2018 9:03 pm

RCer wrote:
Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:20 pm
Seems to me language is an artistic skill. I have zero artistic ability. But have no problem with technical things.
Exactly! This is so self-evident that it doesn't even need explaining, otherwise with a bit of hard work we could all be concert pianists, opera singers, great authors or international footballers.
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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by vto » Tue Mar 06, 2018 10:57 pm

At first, when I got the urge to learn at least a little bit of Thai, I thought I'd not even bother with reading and writing as it seemed almost impossible with the 44 consonants and 32 vowel combinations that go all over the place. But when I read somewhere that you will never learn to speak properly if you don't know the script, as all transcriptions are just approximations, I decided to give it a shot. And the funny thing is, I found that I started to understand written script much quicker than I'm learning to understand spoken Thai. I already understand quite a lot when I see Thai writing, but when I hear spoken Thai I'm still like "arai na?"

It seems very daunting at first, but it hasn't been impossible even for me, and I am a technical person with not much aptitude for arts or languages. I have, however, had to study other languages before, so Thai isn't the first time I'm trying to learn a language, so I have a little background at studying languages. It just has never been easy for me.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by nil » Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:15 pm

People have told me that you need to learn to read and write in order to speak Thai but I don’t think you do. The dictionary app I use uses different characters for the sounds such as mʉʉ and ɔ̌ɔ so you can say the words correctly with the correct tones. There are so many exceptions in the Thai writing system that makes it difficult work out how to pronounce all the words (so I have been told). And I don’t really have much need to read Thai in daily life. The only thing that would be handy is menus.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by GroveHillWanderer » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:29 pm

nil wrote:
Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:15 pm
There are so many exceptions in the Thai writing system that makes it difficult work out how to pronounce all the words (so I have been told).
I would say you've been told wrong. Thai spelling is almost totally phonetic - apart from a few simple rules about certain consonants being pronounced differently at the end of a word (which actually make things easier as there are less possibilities to deal with). Otherwise there are very few real exceptions - I can only think of one, where the letters that are normally transliterated as 't' and 'r' are pronounced as 's' when used in combination at the beginning of a word. If there are other exceptions, perhaps someone else will tell us.

The main problems with pronunciation (for most westerners, at least) come from the tonal system and the fact that there are some fairly unique consonant and vowel sounds that are just not found in most other languages. The actual spelling is not usually a major difficulty in terms of figuring out how to pronounce a word.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by nil » Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:51 pm

This is what I was told by someone learning to read Thai. But a quick search found these http://www.thai-language.com/ref/irregular-words

Not as bad as English though.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by caller » Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:23 pm

I struggled because of the tones. My teacher felt I just didn't have the ability to reach the 'top two'. I had lessons for one year in Korat before pretty much giving up. I can't even say Korat in a way that most Thais seem to understand and it seems that Thai's themselves pronounce this in many different ways, a bit like brummies, Geordies or scousers (as examples) do with individual words in England. I admire anyone for their ability to have mastered the Thai language (but not necessarily as people, as I have met one or two who ain't nice).
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Re: RE: Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by hhinner » Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:30 pm

GroveHillWanderer wrote:
nil wrote:
Tue Mar 06, 2018 11:15 pm
There are so many exceptions in the Thai writing system that makes it difficult work out how to pronounce all the words (so I have been told).
I would say you've been told wrong. Thai spelling is almost totally phonetic - apart from a few simple rules about certain consonants being pronounced differently at the end of a word (which actually make things easier as there are less possibilities to deal with). Otherwise there are very few real exceptions - I can only think of one, where the letters that are normally transliterated as 't' and 'r' are pronounced as 's' when used in combination at the beginning of a word. If there are other exceptions, perhaps someone else will tell us.

The main problems with pronunciation (for most westerners, at least) come from the tonal system and the fact that there are some fairly unique consonant and vowel sounds that are just not found in most other languages. The actual spelling is not usually a major difficulty in terms of figuring out how to pronounce a word.
รร (rr)

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by 404cameljockey » Wed Mar 07, 2018 5:18 pm

caller wrote:
Wed Mar 07, 2018 2:23 pm
I struggled because of the tones. My teacher felt I just didn't have the ability to reach the 'top two'. I had lessons for one year in Korat before pretty much giving up. I can't even say Korat in a way that most Thais seem to understand and it seems that Thai's themselves pronounce this in many different ways, a bit like brummies, Geordies or scousers (as examples) do with individual words in England. I admire anyone for their ability to have mastered the Thai language (but not necessarily as people, as I have met one or two who ain't nice).
You're right, it is frustrating to say something twice to (say) a waiter the way your Thai friend tells you to, be met with a black look, then the friend says it with totally different pronunciation! I guess teaching is a skill. :D

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by handdrummer » Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:35 am

Then there are the regional pronunciations that even Thais have difficulty with. Sometimes my wife can't understand what southern Thais are saying. Sawadee Krap, swadee krap, swadee kap, or just kap! I also think that the lack of logic in Thai thinking makes it more difficult to learn the language. Some things just don't make sense to me and when things don't make sense to me I have difficulty learning them. Math being an example. I know that musicians are supposed to be good at math and languages but I never looked at music as math and I had no problems with European languages; Spanish, French and Greek. Thai, after 4 1/2 yrs. is still a puzzlement and I've basically given it up as I figure I'll be dead and gone before I ever learn to speak intelligibly.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by Ratsima » Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:14 am

Interesting thread….

Learning to read Thai didn't help me at all. I still can't understand anything I hear. No one can understand anything I say.

I started studying Thai in 1996 with the Becker books and tapes. I moved on to Rosetta Stone, which taught me how to read.

I moved to Thailand in 2005 and continued on with Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur and countless others. I've spent thousands of hours and thousands of dollars studying. I have yet to have my first conversation in Thai.

The other day I was in one of my usual coffee shops. I forgot my "member card" which gives me a 15% discount. I tried to tell the clerk my phone number in Thai, but just couldn't pronounce it in a way that could be understand. I gave up and paid full price. (Stupid me didn't think of writing it down….)

I have no trouble reading a menu in Thai, but the chances of me pronouncing my order correctly are nil, so I usually just point. This confuses the wait staff because they can't understand how someone could be able to read the menu but not understand anything said to them.

My wife watches the Thai TV news every morning. I don't understand anything the newsreaders are talking about, but I can usually get the gist of the story by reading the text that appears on the screen.

I am both embarrassed and humiliated by my inability to speak Thai. My life would be so much more fun and interesting if I could chat with my neighbors, make myself understood at Home Pro, understand what my wife and daughter are talking about, and so on.

My inability to speak Thai is, by far, the greatest failure of my life.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by oakdale160 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:24 am

Congratulations on your efforts but my god, thousands of hours, thousands of dollars and still not able to make yourself understood.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by Gregjam » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:36 am

My learning to read Thai coincided with my kids also learning and I found them both patient and entertained as I read their books about a farmer and his farm to them. This was backed up by what I still feel is one of the best teach yourself (but practice with family and friends) book, The Fundamentals of the Thai Language. I recently managed to obtain a copy again as it has been out of print for years both for sentimental reasons and to try to improve my reading level which is still basic. Having been on the plateau level where I know just enough to get by and am comfortable I now want to improve at my own pace without any commitment. Reading is not easy, letters that are rarely used, double รร's and instances where a letter is used once but both its sound when used as a final and then initial consonant are used. I understand people who do not take on this daunting challenge when they don't need or want to. Far better to speak a little and in general, where money is involved most will get around the issue of language.

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Re: Why do many expats not bother to learn to read?

Post by oakdale160 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:27 am

Foreigners find Vietnamese easier to master than Thai. VNese is written in roman letters. The Catholic church had Jesuit missionaries inVN even before it was colonized and the first VN bible was written in Roman script. When it was colonized, by the french, this became the official way of writing VN rather than the Chinese script that had been used previously. Thailand, of course, was never colonized, sorry about that Thailand,

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