Monday, February 16, 2009

Me talk Thai one day...

Last weekend I asked my family if they would only speak Thai to me (they know some English and it makes communication really great, but then I don’t have to rely so much on my Thai). After the first day I was ready to cry. I picked up a bunch of new words and there was one question from mae that I was delighted to find I could understand straight up, but overall it was incredibly frustrating. I’m excited for those revelations of understanding to happen more often. In the meantime, it is a painful conversion.

School is broken into two parts: four hours of Thai language class in the morning and lectures on Thai society in the afternoon. It’s pretty amazing that after only 16 hours of Thai language class I can already form sentences, ask all of the important questions (and understand the answers), and read many written characters. Never have I been so motivated to learn a language. The intrigue of actually being able to communicate with the people around me has never been so present.

Learning the Thai characters gives me a greater appreciation for the struggle of little kids reading English (or any language for that matter). Here are these arbitrary and ridiculous symbols that are somehow supposed to represent some equally arbitrary and ridiculous sounds

Because Thai is a tonal language, I am often thrown off by the different inflections and intonations. Usually when I think my host sister is being insolent, it turns out that in fact it is the way the words are pronounced. I have been laughed at repeatedly for using the word sawai (beautiful) in the wrong tone. If pronounced in a flat/mid tone, sawai means “unlucky.”

No comments:

Post a Comment