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  • Understanding Spoken Thai

    I've been trying to learn Thai for decades and have lived here since 2005. I've spent lots of money on courses, books, CDs, etc. After all that time and effort I still can't make heads or tails out of spoken Thai. I've never had any sort of conversation with anyone in Thai.

    If we're out and about and I hear something I don't understand (around 100% of the time), I ask my wife about it. She usually translates the Thai from standard spoken Thai in to what we call "Rosetta Stone Thai" which I readily understand. I'm sure you can see that this approach is impractical.

    Yesterday we were at lunch when one of the patrons asked for the bill. I only know he asked for the bill because soon after he spoke one of the waiters delivered the check to his table. I understood none of what he said. I could pick out no familiar words.

    I asked my wife to "tell me exactly what he said". I amended that by telling her to text it to me instead. This is what she sent:
    น้องครับ เช็คบิลด้วยครับ

    Of course, as soon as I read that I did indeed know exactly what he said.

    How can I persuade my ear/brain to do as well with spoken Thai as I do with written Thai?
    mgnewman.com -|- Out and About Thailand - A Photo Blog

  • #2
    Some of those courses only teach you one dimensional ways of speaking. Keep it up though. At least you're making the effort and the natives will appreciate it.

    My Thai is far from perfect despite being a half breed in my early 40s
    Last edited by Pat; 06-10-2018, 11:45 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Buadhai View Post
      How can I persuade my ear/brain to do as well with spoken Thai as I do with written Thai?
      Watch a lot of Thai tv, and repeat what you hear even if you don't understand it. It's the immersion way that children learn.

      A Hong kong friend of mine who grew up in England learned English that way in his infant years as his parents used no English at home.

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      • #4
        No offense but perhaps you need a hearing aid. Or possibly you’re doing the same thing as me which is filtering out the surrounding conversation as it’s a distraction.
        I visited TC a few times as a guest but had to stop. It is a sickening place. - Aging One

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Exexpat View Post
          Watch a lot of Thai tv, and repeat what you hear even if you don't understand it. It's the immersion way that children learn.
          But, that’s the problem. I don’t hear any words at all. Just an unintelligible buzz. How can I repeat what I hear when I can’t pick out individual words?

          I watch quite a bit of Thai TV. News in the mornings and evenings with the occasional soap opera. During the news shows I can usually figure out what’s going on by reading the words on the screen. I don’t pick up anything from the news readers.

          Originally posted by lamphun View Post
          No offense but perhaps you need a hearing aid. Or possibly you’re doing the same thing as me which is filtering out the surrounding conversation as it’s a distraction.
          I bought a language course. When it didn’t help at all, the author suggested a hearing test. I had one at Bangkok Hospital. The audiologist told me hat my hearing was better than expected for someone my age. Just a slight loss at higher frequencies.
          mgnewman.com -|- Out and About Thailand - A Photo Blog

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          • #6
            I had some success, since lapsed, with a conversation class with about five others Everyone was “forced” to speak often in the form of asking questions and you had to reply. It made you speak slowly and in the approximatly correct tone and grammar as well as trying to make sense of what was being said.

            The following I do not recommend.

            Learning from your wife. Possible grounds for divorce.
            Learning from television. Works with small kids, grown ups need not apply.
            Learning conversation from a book. Been doing that for decades. I can read Thai almost perfectly but it’s never helped with conversation.
            I visited TC a few times as a guest but had to stop. It is a sickening place. - Aging One

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            • #7
              Originally posted by lamphun View Post
              The following I do not recommend.

              Learning from your wife. Possible grounds for divorce.
              Learning from television. Works with small kids, grown ups need not apply.
              Learning conversation from a book. Been doing that for decades. I can read Thai almost perfectly but it’s never helped with conversation.
              That’s pretty much my experience, as well.

              I think the Rosetta Stone method is good (if you buy into it), but the version of Thai it teaches is spoken only by people who learned Thai from Rosetta Stone. I’d give Rosetta Stone another chance if it taught "real" ordinary Thai.
              mgnewman.com -|- Out and About Thailand - A Photo Blog

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              • #8
                Been here long enough to be proficient in Thai but I can't say I am. For the last 12 years I listen and speak Lao/Isaan mostly so much better at it.
                Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

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                • #9
                  Take into consideration different social classes and their way of speaking

                  Example:


                  ''You come my room?'' or ''farang''


                  The high classes lean towards the 'R' sound a little bit more, and sometimes even roll their R's.... Listen to the newsreaders. Any farang who has mastered this obstacle deserves respect, it ain't easy, man.

                  ''You come my loom?'' or ''falang''

                  The lower classes lean towards the 'L' rather than an 'R' sound, as do many farang who talk Thai. In general it's the middle/lower classes who find it easier to understand a farangs version of their language, while the hisos will squint their eyes, pull a face and grunt 'what?'






                  The lower class whores generally refuse to understand a farangs pidgen Thai as their motto is ''Not like falang can speak Thai''
                  Last edited by Pat; 06-10-2018, 09:29 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pat View Post

                    The lower class whores generally refuse to understand a farangs pidgen Thai as their motto is ''Not like falang can speak Thai''
                    Bloody hell Pat, can’t beat your experience.

                    Anyways love your photoshop efforts.
                    I visited TC a few times as a guest but had to stop. It is a sickening place. - Aging One

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Pat View Post
                      Take into consideration different social classes and their way of speaking

                      ''farang'' or ''falang''

                      The lower classes lean towards the 'L' rather than an 'R' sound, as do many farang who talk Thai. In general it's the middle/lower classes who find it easier to understand a farangs version of their language, while the hisos will squint their eyes, pull a face and grunt 'what?'
                      My listening skills have never progressed to the point where I could hear the difference between ฝรั่ง and ฝลั่ง.

                      I suppose that if I were to try to speak (which rarely happens) I would use ฝรั่ง because I happen to know how it's spelled.
                      mgnewman.com -|- Out and About Thailand - A Photo Blog

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Buadhai View Post
                        But, that’s the problem. I don’t hear any words at all. Just an unintelligible buzz. How can I repeat what I hear when I can’t pick out individual words?

                        I watch quite a bit of Thai TV. News in the mornings and evenings with the occasional soap opera. During the news shows I can usually figure out what’s going on by reading the words on the screen. I don’t pick up anything from the news readers.



                        I bought a language course. When it didn’t help at all, the author suggested a hearing test. I had one at Bangkok Hospital. The audiologist told me hat my hearing was better than expected for someone my age. Just a slight loss at higher frequencies.
                        I am in a similar boat! Lived here 15 years but I cannot strike up a conversation in Thai. I can get a taxi, go shopping and say a few commands but my Thai is very poor and I often ask my 5-year old daughter to help. My issue is I have been surrounded by English speaking Thais mainly.

                        Embarrassing considering I learned to read and write Russian within a year yet I’ve to visit there.

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                        • #13
                          Staff a immigration or banks assume I am fluent when they know about my background. Many luuk kreung are indeed fluent and me telling them ''I grew up and studied in England and my mum died aged 11'' is really a piss poor excuse.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Jesus Jones View Post
                            I am in a similar boat! Lived here 15 years but I cannot strike up a conversation in Thai. I can get a taxi, go shopping and say a few commands but my Thai is very poor and I often ask my 5-year old daughter to help. My issue is I have been surrounded by English speaking Thais mainly.
                            Yeah, pretty much my situation except that I don't have the five year old with whom to consult!

                            To be perfectly honest, I feel horrible and embarassed about this failure to learn Thai.

                            When I arrived here I was naively confident. I had studied for years and thought, erroneously, that I had made great progress in learning Thai. But, after a few months I realized that almost everything I'd done was a complete waste of time. I would have been better off had I not studied at all.
                            mgnewman.com -|- Out and About Thailand - A Photo Blog

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                            • #15
                              Not sure I agree with Pat regarding pronouncing รor ล. I notice that the television soapies speak with an ร but most people in Bangkok use ล. It appears to be a regional thing rather than class.

                              Another passing thought which may help. I always speak better Thai after drinking. Very similar to my performance when playing darts. Loss of inhibition helps with tones.
                              I visited TC a few times as a guest but had to stop. It is a sickening place. - Aging One

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