Teaching myself Thai

Since the last post on this blog, I have given up on taking Thai classes at UH (I did pass Thai 101 in the fall thanks to a cram session the night before the final exam), but don’t want to give up on learning Thai. I arrived in Thailand yesterday and have already settled into my dorm/hotel room at the university where my grad students will be teaching English. I do have to get to work planning the two seminar classes they will also be taking with me, but first, I wanted to get to work on my own language learning.

We took the song taew (pickup truck-base fixed route taxi) out to Big C, the Walmart of Thailand, for supplies. I bought a pile of children’s books, including an alphabet book (with space to practice writing letters), a numbers book (with space to practice making the shapes of Thai numbers), a book about Thailand, a children’s English-Thai dictionary with the words in categorical lists (including a list of shellfish and one of insects), and a bunch of bilingual English-Thai story books.

My haul from the children’s books section of Big C today.

IMG_0563I wonder what kind of shellfish a hippopotamus is.

Since the rainy season has already started with a vengeance, I anticipate there will be a lot of time where I am confined indoors and need to entertain myself. Here’s my language-learning plan:

  1. Review the consonants that I already know and then make sure I know the sounds made by the ones I don’t know.
  2. Make sure I remember all the vowels.
  3. Start reading! The bilingual books should be useful because I can also work on deducing grammar and word order by comparing the sentences in Thai and English. One of my books is called “Fruity Sports Day” and tells the story of a group of anthropomorphic fruits (grouped by color) who like to wrestle and take breaks to eat vegetables.
    There’s something just a bit disconcerting about this group of fruits getting excited about eating vegetables. Does this count as cannibalism?
  4. The book about Thailand does not have any English connected to it, so I imagine it will be a bit harder. I will be very happy if I can read it by the end of this summer.
    An added reward will be getting to read about elephants, which are awesome.
  5. And as an added bonus, I also bought a book that will teach me how to draw tropical fruits as well as how to write their names. This should come in handy when I go to the fruit stand and want to order some chopped fruit without resorting to pointing.
    I must confess that I will probably do better at learning to read Thai than I will at drawing bananas.

I’ll try to post some updates on my progress. In the meantime, now I need to start thinking about what I will teach my grad students next week.


I also bought some cute penguin office supplies (plastic folders and a notebook) in which to keep my research and teaching materials.


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