Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Bit About Thai

My dear friend Karen posted a comment on the last post about my Thai language learning. Here is a (lengthy) response to her questions. Maybe others of you are interested also.

I have enrolled in an intensive language school which teaches Thai in 20 day modules. I study everyday for 3 hours with a teacher and 2 other students. My teacher is a 20 something Thai lady who speaks minimal English and constantly pushes us to speak Thai even when we are asking questions. Good, but frustrating. Overall, she is an excellent teacher.

The other 2 students are from the US and Korea. The Korean doesn't speak English and our teacher doesn't speak Korean. You can imagine his frustration. The American is tone deaf and can't hear well. Poor guy...but he tries hard. Thai is difficult enough without these challenges.

I feel I have every advantage right now. I have been living with a Thai family for 9 months, so I am constantly exposed to the sounds of Thai as well as picking up repetitious phrases. I also have a husband who is more than willing to help me, and correct me until I get it right! :) I am also deeply indebted to my phonetics/linguistics teacher at Moody for giving me such a great foundation in these subjects. It has been a tremendous help. I feel I should send the professor a fruit basket or something to say thank you!

Yet, with all these advantages, learning a language is still a challenge which takes a strong commitment to success. I study an average of an hour a day, but this really isn't enough. In the first 3 levels of classes ( I am in level 1) there is no official homework other than to practice and memorize. If you do that, no problem. I understand most of what I am learning, it is just the mass of info that needs to be memorized. There are some difficult sounds for me, but they are getting easier. Once you master levels 1-3, you begin reading and writing. In levels 4-6, there is 3-4 hours of homework a day I am told. Ouch! How will I ever find time for that? By the way, each of these levels can theoretically be accomlished in 20 days, assuming you pass the oral exam at the end of the class and don't have to repeat the level. If you finish all 6 classes, you should be able to speak, read and write at a 6th grade level.

The Thai Alphabet:

Here are the 44 consonants. I spared you the vowels!

There are 44 consonants and 32 vowels. This is not as bad as it sounds since many of the consonant sounds are repeated and only used for differences in spelling. The vowel sounds, unlike English, are each represented by a unique character. In English, the word hat and the word hate both use and a to represent two different sounds, whereas in Thai, the characters are different for every different sound. This, I think, is an advantage to learning Thai. There is little guess work in pronunciation. Of course, there are the 5 tones. I think of Thai as listening to a song. You need to hear the music of the speech. This just takes practice, practice, practice.

My Goal:

Of course I would love to be fluent in speaking, reading, and writing. Who wouldn't? But, with a baby on the way, I only have few months left. I am really hoping to complete the first 3 levels (all of the listening/speaking classes) and maybe try level 4 to get an intro into writing. We will see. Of course, that means I must pass every class in one try. Some do, many don't.

All this said, just as I enjoyed phonetics and linguistics in college, I really enjoy language learning now. I am not gifted in it by any means, but it is fun to learn something new. More than this, it seems like I have been living in a dark room for 9 months, but now, the lights are coming on dimly as I begin to understand more and more around me. My vocabulary is growing, and as I work on grammar, the world around me is opening up. What HOPE!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Warning: Excuses Ahead

Well, if you want an excuse (which you probably don't, but I am very good at excusing myself!) here it is:

1. I have been sick for 2 weeks with a severe cold and the flu,

2. while taking care of Daniel ( who is finally doing much better with the mosquitoes, although on his second fever in less than 2 weeks),

3. and like a valiant soldier, I continue to push ahead in language study. Honestly, there has been more than one night that I struggle to sleep because I cannot turn off the Thai words running around in my head. Sometimes I even wake up in the middle of the night hearing them! Aagghhh!

Ok, now that I have done my best to get your sympathy :)......

The Guardians

My friend Cristi wrote an excellent tribute to our modern day war heroes. Please take time to read it if you can.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Poor Daniel"

If you were here with us now, that is what you would be hearing a lot of this past week or so. Poor little guy...moving to a new place (especially a new country) means new germs and new "bugs" for your body to get used to. He rarely got sick in Utah, now he is sick ever other week it seems with fevers and colds! This last week he has been battling a particularly vicious attack from the mosquitoes. It seems that his little body is allergic to them and when they bite him their saliva gets into his blood and produces even more sores which then get infected. His legs have had no less than 30 sores on them. He is even getting them on his head!

After two visits to the doctor and an impressive regimen of washing, scrubbing, applying ointments and creams, taking oral medicines and sleeping under a mosquitoe net we are starting to see an improvement. We are told eventually his body will develop an immunity to these nasty little bugs. But for now "Poor Daniel..."

Friday, May 18, 2007

Three Light Bulbs

I have been working for the biggest ready-mixed concrete supplier in Thailand for 2.5 months and found two other believers. Out of some 1480 employees, there are only three Christians including me. That's 3 light bulbs to shine throughout the company. It's great to know that there are Jesus' followers everywhere, especially in a country where over 95% of its population profess Buddhism.

Please pray for these three light bulbs to reflect our Lord Jesus and bring Him glory in our conducts.

Shalom - PP

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Just Wondering....

Is anyone still interested in hearing from us after so long??? I have been down with morning sickness for the last 9 weeks. Starting to feel a little better, but just when I think it is over, it comes around again. I also started language school this last week. After 3 hours of Thai a day and another of traveling, I come home wiped out.

Yet, there are so many things on my mind to share. I still haven't even posted pictures from my parents visit in January!! Ouch! So, if you are still watching, hold on, there is much I want to tell you about. Coming very soon....
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