Hamish Chalmers: Thai Language Series 8 – Bangkok Podcast (1.32)

2017-10-18T21:48:02+07:00December 19th, 2010|Bangkok Podcast Season 1, Thai Language Series|13 Comments

While our regular Thai language Jedi Rikker Dockum takes a well-deserved break, we continue our Thai language series with Hamish Chalmers, another noted Thai speaker, blogger, Tweeter and all-around nice guy.

As a teacher at a well-regarded international school, Hamish has some unique insights into how students of languages (Thai or otherwise) learn, what methodologies work best, and how teachers can shape their lessons to suit each students’ particular needs. Hamish also tells us how he learned Thai through pure stubbornness, how he hopes people use his website, and how much he loves Japanese pears.

In addition, Tony and Greg talk about last night’s Bangkok Podcast Christmas party, and want to give a BIG thanks to Dani and Martin for helping us with registration, as well as a wonderful, awesome gift that they gave us that makes all this podcasting rigmarole worth it.

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  1. Donna ML December 20, 2010 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Another amazingly motivational podcast guys!

    I am moving to Thailand next year from Canada, but for the last 3 months I have been teaching myself Thai. I started by memorizing Thai script (however, when I looked up Thai script in several different fonts it got tricky). I found that this was the best strategy for me, as I am a very visual learner. I wanted to be able to image the Thai consonants and vowels as I started to sound out the words. (I have used many different techniques so far: online sites, flashcards, games, books, discs, Thai radio/TV, etc.). I have also purchased Thai keyboard stickers for my laptop.

    Now I have worked my way up to translating books…children’s books! I ordered a series of Disney books from an online Thai bookstore in Bangkok (very inexpensive), and I have been slowly working my way through the first one.

    The books are great: they are illustrated, and are written in both English and Thai, as well as having an audio version (both English and Thai).

    Using an online dictionary, I meticulously pick through the Thai, figuring out each word or phrase, and then I compare what I have translated to the English version provided. It gives me a great idea of how different or similar some of the language structures are.

    Keep up the good work! (Psst…I voted for a longer podcast).

    • Tony December 21, 2010 at 11:47 pm - Reply

      Hi Donna, sounds like you’re well on your way to learning the language. It will be interesting to hear your experience when you get here and start interacting with the Thai people.

      I had a friend who studied Thai a lot before he came but found once he got here he had a heck of time understanding the spoken Thai. He said it took a few months to get his head around the slang and casual speech.

  2. Brad December 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I wonder if you guys could get David Long on the show? He’s the director of the Thai program at AUA. He’s got a different view on language learning than what’s usually talked about on the podcast.

    It seems that a translation approch to language learning is the preferred method but do you ever learn a language that way? I’ve got friends in Thailand named หมู and that’s an acceptable name in Thailand but if I called a friend from the states “pig” I’d likely get punched. So when I translate หมู to mean pig, I haven’t learned Thai – I’ve only learned a different way to use English.

    I think if you want to learn “taxi Thai” a translation approach is fine but what if you want a native-like command of the language?

    • Tony December 22, 2010 at 8:43 am - Reply

      Funny that you mention him. He was at our Christmas Party and we discussed him coming on the show. Look for that interview in the new year.

  3. Donna M-L December 22, 2010 at 2:05 am - Reply

    You are absolutely right Tony. Comprehension is harder to achieve than reproduction. I have been going to a local Thai restaurant every once in a while for help. One of the waitresses just moved here with her Canadian husband and she has been giving me pointers!

    • Brad December 22, 2010 at 11:05 am - Reply

      I wonder if it’s the non-immersion environment? I’ve lived in Thailand for about 1.5 years and while I can barely string two sentences together, I can understand a lot of what’s being said to me. In my experience comprehension is soooo much easier than production.

      I agree with Tony – it will be interesting to see what it’s like once you arrive. Let us know…

      • Tony December 22, 2010 at 7:27 pm - Reply

        What’s funny is that because comprehension is so much easier than production it’s easy to make the Thais think you understand Thai.

        Something as simple as “mai dai” when asked if I understand Thai has them convinced I’m fluent in the language.

        When I first came here I tried to speak Thai right away but I found it actually counter productive in my daily life. The Thai people would assume I spoke Thai and start speaking it with me, even though I could only speak a couple of words.

        Now I actually start my conversations in English, to see if they speak English and then throw in a few words to Thai to help the conversation along. I find this method is great for getting stuff done but probably not so great at learning the language.

  4. Greg December 22, 2010 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    No, no, no, you guys have it all wrong. What you should do is move here, work mainly among foreigners for ten years, fall victim to the overpowering urge to relax rather than study, and then be embarrassed daily when the true extent of your crappy Thai becomes apparent. It’s worked for me so far. 😛

  5. Tony December 22, 2010 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Greg is learning Thai by osmosis. It’s the most popular method by long term expats. 😀

  6. Donna M-L December 23, 2010 at 5:31 am - Reply

    My experience with comprehension and production comes from a scholastic environment. As a university student I would practice saying the words perfectly, memorize scads of vocabulary, write those little stories, produce well rehearsed answers to familiar questions, talk about the weather, study grammar etc., yet the first time my class was introduced to native speakers going at full speed, all of us ‘A’ students were lost. We might have understood one word every blurb or so. That is why I find full comprehension harder than production. My strength is vocabulary memorization, perfect pronunciation, and symbol recognition. Auditory comprehension at normal conversational speed comes second for me, but everyone is different…

  7. Hamish Chalmers December 23, 2010 at 11:23 am - Reply

    Hi guys, some good discussion going on here. Looked at in isolation I would argue that comprehension tends to have the edge over production. Think of them as recognition over recall. Your brain is far more efficient at recognising something then making a cerebral connection, than it is at dragging information from the depths of your memory banks.
    I think that it sometimes feels more difficult to comprehend because when people talk we are presented with lots of information that we don’t know along with the information we do. Therefore our knowledge seems diluted. When we produce we tend to stick to only things we know and can recall, at the speed at which it is most comfortable for us. The result may feel more of an accomplishment, but necessarily we haven’t included words we don’t know, we aren’t going too fast for ourselves, so inevitably it doesn’t have the diluted feel of comprehension.
    Plus, we are not able to push our boundaries very effectively in production, as we don’t yet have the knowledge of where we are going wrong and the new vocab that we need.
    My suggestion would be to listen for the bits you can recognise (even in normal pace speech there should be a lot you know, or words you don’t but that appear a lot) and congratulate yourself for them, then work out the bits you need to target as next steps in your learning. Listening to a native speaker is the best way to ultimately start to produce like one.

    • Tony December 23, 2010 at 9:10 pm - Reply

      I’ve been making an attempt to listen closely to the Thai that is spoken around me and I’m surprised at how many words I can recognize.

      When I first got here Thai just sounded like a lot of noise to me, I couldn’t hear any separate words but now if I listen closely I can.

      It really does seem that to successfully learn a language it’s almost a 24/7 commitment.

  8. Bangkok Podcast « Tweet Yourself Thai December 24, 2010 at 9:41 am - Reply

    […] a listen to my interview here and have a browse of their other episodes while you’re […]

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