• Ian
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Thursday , May 7 , 2009
Learning English
Posted by Ian , Reader : 4820 , 17:18:49  

Recently Tow and Xena have raised some points about learning English. I think the first thing a person needs to ask themselves what is my purpose?

Is it just to communicate and be understood, or for academic or business reasons, or to achieve excellence as a teacher.

It is possible to learn English and communicate with a small vocabulary and basic grammar. Take this sentence.

Tomorrow go supermarket, back soon, walk to bus, take bus, buy food, look clothes, perhaps buy clothes.


Tomorrow I will go for a quick visit to the supermarket, I will walk to the bustop to catch the bus. At the supermarket I will mainly be buying food, but I will also look in the clothes section and if I see anything I like I will buy it.

Does the longer, grammatically correct version, actually tell you anything extra from the short version?

It has been claimed that one can communicate in a simple style with just 1500 words, see Globish ( http://www.globish.com/ )

Well now a well trained sheepdog has a working vocabulary of about 700 words (sounds), so you just need to be twice as clever as a dog, is that difficult:-)

So that is the first reason covered. How about academic and business reasons. Well first both in industry, science and commerce, there are specialised words, jargon. However whatever your native language, the jargon tends to be English, you already know it. You might have to say it a bit differently, or spell it differently, but you will soon recognise them.

What about the non jargon, you will need a teacher or a self teach course, but you will need to supplement this. Read books, watch films and videos, find native speaker you can talk to. The internet is good for this, you can sit at home with the internet a microphone and webcam and chat to the world.  You might ask why the webcam? A secret to correct speaking is watching the mouth, tongue and lip movements of the native speaker, you will do this automatically, babies can do it so I'm sure you can:-)

Finally the desire for excellence, there is no quick answer here, it has to be total immersion in the right environment. The right environment is important, choose the wrong environment and you English will be like that of HappyJack, acceptable to some but imcomprehensible to most. (Sorry HJ;-)

Read comment

comment 58
naive date : 03/06/2009 time : 00.56
Narrow and wide by "Naive" point of view. ...................................*v*....................................................................For Thai reader visit http://www.oknation.net/blog/wickedgirl

For my own opinion to look for Faran Bf to learn English is shallow idea.

Girls better learn English from another girl or older ladies so can make better accent in girls way.
comment 57
Ian date : 24/05/2009 time : 19.32

Many Thai girls I meet want to learn English so they find a Farang boyfriend/husband, when they find it takes effort they give up. I think the one's that don't give up deserve a nice Farang as a reward
comment 56
notdisappointed date : 24/05/2009 time : 14.45

c52, It's a matter of effort and want. Thais don't put enough effort to learning. It's just a chore to be done and once its done then other more important matters can be taken care of. As Ian mentoned Thais are also xenophobic therefore they see no need to learn and understand a foreign language that they think they will never use.

Another blog of this nature can be found in Krajog's blog now.
comment 55
happyjack date : 22/05/2009 time : 21.26

Why do little ones always pick up silly things you say,perhaps intonation plays a part.I said to a friends 10 Y.O.when waiting in K.F.C.Im a Little Chicken,don't Eat Me,next minute hes got Kids Ive never seen before running about the Place chanting the same.Fortunately,but not surprisingly,the Staff only understood the word Chicken. .My repertoire of Factory Floor Expletives runs to 50000 at least.
comment 54
Ian date : 22/05/2009 time : 09.04

HJ,53, is referring to conversational English or Thai, rather than academic levels. Thai has about 50 thousand words, English has over a million. HJ may not realise it but he probably knows at least three times more words than an educated Thai and probably ten times more than a simple Thai.
Since I started teaching my GF English, she has had to learn many new Thai words that she never knew before.
comment 53
happyjack date : 22/05/2009 time : 07.32

c52.I had a Hardline Piano Teacher,whilst waiting for a Lesson one day i played a tune from ear,she went ballistic.You cant do that,you cant read Music.Well i liken that to Thais learning English,the average Thai wants to just say Hi,not put Ian out of a Job.I Have sat in on English lessons and noted the Teachers seem more concerned with showing of there knowledge of Vowels,and Nouns than being understood and the Kids were bored stiff,so was i.Make it fun,Thai kids learn of me dam quick because i try to identify with what they want to know,not what i think they should know.
comment 52
ernie9 date : 21/05/2009 time : 13.49

Most of Thai people start learning English since grade 5 until they graduate bachelor degree but they can't speak english! neither can't write well. I really don't know why? Even I can't read, write and speak English fluently. On the other hand, Farangs learn Thai less than 6 months but they can speak Thai fluently! What is really the big problem for Thai people in learning English? English books in school? or something that I can't find out.
comment 51
happyjack date : 21/05/2009 time : 07.39

c 50,most informative.
comment 50
djuro123 date : 20/05/2009 time : 22.18

I have sometimes read these blogs, it is the same persons writing, do you have a life, if not get one
comment 49
freedemos date : 20/05/2009 time : 05.59

Thanks Ian, I enjoy the topic and the responses, I'd like to add that before learning it is very wise to step in by the local supermarket to familiarise with the verbs, like;

Make sure you baygon the pantry
"What do ya wont 4 dindins?" answer: a kit kat
Can u do some Omo for us?

I am still trying my best to learn English...
comment 48
Ian date : 19/05/2009 time : 08.54

Xiuxiu, I got your message, but very difficult to delete PMs, I have to go to 75% before I see the delete button, but then too small to read the message.
comment 47
happyjack date : 19/05/2009 time : 07.08

Com 43, Catch, yore comparison of Ian and Idi Amin has just tested my Tea proof rubber keyboard.A picture in words..
comment 46
xiuxiu date : 18/05/2009 time : 16.06

Ian i try to leave a message for you to ask you a question but i think your have too much message in your box already so i cannot. thank you.
comment 45
catch22 date : 15/05/2009 time : 15.26

It sounds as if 'being honoured' comes at a price, which is difficult to pay!
comment 44
Ian date : 15/05/2009 time : 06.38

Catch, the machine was set up outside the front door and was in use all day and all night. It seems they are, by their standards, expensive to hire so it ran continuously. I kept getting called out to listen to any exceptionally good performers. The worse parts were the little kids who screeched into it.
comment 43
catch22 date : 14/05/2009 time : 21.00

Very wise Ian - I understand that a great deal of psychology is taught in those places, especially 'transference'....where you transfer a large some of money from your pocket to theirs. Unfortunately they have not come as far as 'counter transference'.
In Chiangmai, the Karaoke clip joints are owned by Japanese and Koreans (sorry GG) and one street called Chiangmai Land is full of them and I understand some will not let you in if you are a white caucasian - they like only the Japs.....as the girls say; "big wallets and small dicks".......don't know about Koreans though.

When they hold one of these things in your honour, do you sit at the head of the group on a special chair. I can imagine you being perched there just like Idi Amin in his Royal Highlanders outfit.....after all he did declare himself 'The last King of Scotland' but maybe not so eh?
comment 42
Ian date : 14/05/2009 time : 19.24

Catch, I try to avoid karaoke as much as possible, so have not met thai 'karaoke English' , but in Mindanao the village hired a machine for 3 days in my Honour!!! So I was forced to sit and look pleased whilst everyone sang 'Japlish English' it seems all the translations are done by Japs.
comment 41
catch22 date : 13/05/2009 time : 17.47

I know the version you mean Ian - it's the most common form used in Thailand, the numero uno form of spoken English.
It's actually called 'karaoke English' and consists of standard phrases spoken whilst sitting on a black leather couch in a dimly lit room, with a TV spurting out some silly song and the hand groping endlessly up a short skirt whilst the old fella is getting a rub a dub dub to the tune of yellow liver.
Phrases such as; "I love farang you best farang ever" and "I only do this because I very poor and mama very sick" are very common.
comment 40
Ian date : 13/05/2009 time : 10.05

i am told there is a version of English called Kareoke English and also Karaeoke Thai. This uses Roman script anyone have any experience of it?
comment 39
sven date : 09/05/2009 time : 21.52

let's do gardening!

yabua, I replied.
comment 38
yabua date : 09/05/2009 time : 20.20

Oh! Sven, I am sorry. Your comment is C 36.
comment 37
yabua date : 09/05/2009 time : 20.18

Re. C37
Sven: I read blogs from Thai language websites too. I like to compare opinions on similar topics from people of different cultures, mentalities and perspectives. However I am thinking to do less. It consumes so much time and I also want to do other things.
I sent you a msg half an hour ago.
comment 36
sven date : 09/05/2009 time : 17.17

yabua C31, you're right, is highly probable that people reading/writing in here aren't afraid to communicate in English

PS: received your msg, wrote back.
comment 35
notdisappointed date : 09/05/2009 time : 15.00

Ian c.34, thanks. I have been using the two instinctively for awhile now and it appears that my instincts were correct as borne out by your response.
comment 34
Ian date : 09/05/2009 time : 11.48

ND, 30. "than" is a comparative, "he is better than her". "then" is time positional, "everything was fine, then it happened". "what then (i.e now) is the result?"

Netnapit, interesting information, yes I actually remember now about the banana leaves, but did not know the writing tool used.
Western writing evolved as a combination of Mesopotamian cuneiform (wedge shaped marks in clay) and Egyptian hieroglyphs, pictorial shapes.
comment 33
happyjack date : 09/05/2009 time : 10.42

If you put a Clothes Peg on yore Nose,you sound more Thai.
comment 32
netnapit date : 09/05/2009 time : 07.40

C25, Ian.

Permission to have a little deviation from the topic?

Actually the Thai alphabet has the current look because it used to be written with a iron stylus (similar to a pen but without ink), not a brush. It was more like carving than writing. The medium used for writing were specially cut and dried palm leaves (abundant around Thailand). We borrowed the sanskrit script (de moda during those times), but ours have these little rounded head sometimes on the top, bottom, facing in our out for distinguishing different sounds. You have to clearly and carefully carve out these little curved heads or the palm leaves would break since they are composed of several horizontal linings. You also have to take your time to carve words out carefully because there is little room for mistakes. To make a correction you will have to cross out the word and write above it, since that can get pretty messy you don't want to do too much of that.

The University of Pennsylvania (one of the best places in the world to do S.E.Asian studies, btw) have studied the preservation ancient palm manuscripts and found that properly cared for they can last 600-700 years. In Thailand, many of these manuscripts kept for several hundred years are deteriorating for lack of care. The script found on them are ancient Thai script so modern Thai readers cannot read them.

To read the manuscripts you have to brush a powder over the nearly invisible script and like magic the words are revealed.
comment 31
yabua date : 09/05/2009 time : 03.29

Sven: I have already written back to you. I hope I did it correctly, so please check.
I am afraid I don´t really understand your question in C.29. Do you mean you are surprised that all Thai bloggers in this site have spoken English to foreigners somewhen somehow?

I think if we are not used to communicating with foreigners, we would blog in other websites where people write Thai. What do you think?
Actually I even don´t know if I understand your question correctly.
comment 30
notdisappointed date : 09/05/2009 time : 01.26

Ian, hell English is easy as compared to Thai. I still can't write it except for my nickname, which is Geng.

I can read Thai fairly well but give me a good English book anytime. Or should I say American book, Hap?

BTW Hap, that's 30 more Thai songs you know than I do.

I have been wondering though what or when is the correct and proper way to use 'than' and 'then'? I think I'm ok with it but still I wonder.
comment 29
sven date : 08/05/2009 time : 22.00

yabua, thank you very much, I sent you a msg.

Are there any Thais reading in here who haven't spoken English to a foreigner yet? Can you explain the reasons?
comment 28
yabua date : 08/05/2009 time : 20.20

Ian:If you like to know anything and if I know the answer, I am happy to help.
comment 27
Ian date : 08/05/2009 time : 17.44

Yabua, perhaps someone, perhaps you, can start a blog on learning Thai. I cannot for obvious reasons.
comment 26
yabua date : 08/05/2009 time : 17.39

Sven: It´s great that you want to learn reading. Most visiters to Thailand just want to speak. I have a book to help Germans to learn reading Thai. Send me the address, where I can send you the book (via MSG), would you?

I am sorry , Ian. I am out of topic again.
comment 25
Ian date : 08/05/2009 time : 17.17

Sven, to have to encode all the tones in a word is to me an admission of failure, the fact that the same word can have several different meanings according to tone is a negative blessing. Thai has a limited vocabulary which uses tones to compensate.
As for the written alphabet, this is what happens when you write with a brush and not a pen, just like Chinese and Tamil
However, the topic is English not Thai, I like tenses, genders and definite and indefinite pronouns, just for starters
comment 24
sven date : 08/05/2009 time : 15.52

Ian, isn't it encouraging that all vowels and tones are percisely encoded in the Thai alphabet? I already suspected this, as the words have a rather long spelling.

So the only problem will remain the separation of words.
comment 23
sven date : 08/05/2009 time : 15.31

Yabua C17, that's perfect! Most important for me to learn a language is being able to read. Usually I don't have too much trouble with pronunciation, even with vowels I didn't know before.

What troubled me was Hebrew, as they spell only consonants.
comment 22
sven date : 08/05/2009 time : 15.26

Until now, I had no problem understanding Thais who tried English on me.

So for those of you who are afraid of speaking English, don't bother, just try. Farangs will understand and you'll get firmer over time.

Even in case you cannot come up with the word you look for, you won't lose face with a Westerner. Non-native English speakers like me even have sympathy for that.
comment 21
noonin date : 08/05/2009 time : 14.46

Tow, yes. My son is Thai and Thai is his first language, I understand him when he speaks Thai because I know the context, he knows it is useless to speak to me in Thai and with out thinking switches to English. Not grammatically correct English, Tinglish, but who cares , I understand the message is conveyed. For all you Thai out there, FORGET ABOUT GRAMMAR!
comment 20
Tow date : 08/05/2009 time : 10.44
Close to nature ...

I guess that at least you can understand what we say in Thai, right? because most of foreigner I met are able to understand Thai phrase, but they cannot speak.
comment 19
Ian date : 08/05/2009 time : 09.29

Comment 7, Noonin, I totally agree, I am fed up with people like my son telling me I am lazy and just don't try, age is most definitely a factor, when I was young French just dropped into place with ease, it is still there. German came later but was learnt on the road so spelling is a problem, but even Latin anf Greek were not that hard.
I strongly suspect that if Thailand converted to a Roman alphabet I could actually learn it, rather than my currenr level of a few assorted phrases.
Another problem is with the Thai listener, they will not guess, unless you say a word and its tones perfectly they refuse to understand. Conversely when we hear broken English we can often easily guess at the meaning.

Returning to English, strictly speaking there are no rules, rules were invented in the Victorian era for the convenience of grammarians and philologists.
These rules were then adopted by teachers in an attempt to standardise the language. There is nothing wrong with a split infinitive, it is simply that in Latin it impossible to split the infinitive, so pedants applied the same logic to English.
I cannot repeat too often, there is the English to pass muster in an academic exam, and the English to past muster in the supermarket
comment 18
xena date : 08/05/2009 time : 08.47

It is just a joke. However, I have noted that English speakers do have a higher resistance level to learning a foreign language. In part due to the wide use of English. Especially a distance language like Thai. I am quite sure that Ian knows the common conversation in Thai.
comment 17
yabua date : 08/05/2009 time : 03.57

Sven, do you mean the 5 tones we have in Thai language?
If yes, the answer is the tones don´t have anything to do at all with the context. It is totally different from intonation in European languages.

Tones in Thai are fixed with alphabets. To be able to pronounce the tones correctly, you (as foreigner who doesn´t live in Thailand long enough and has no chance to listen to Thai all the time) need to know the rules.
They are pretty complicated but once you master it, you will never lose it.
comment 16
sven date : 08/05/2009 time : 02.25

Sorry for the deviation, I'd like to know whether the tonality is expressed in the letters, or do you need to read the context? If the tonality was expressed, shouldn't it be easy to read Thai?
comment 15
sven date : 08/05/2009 time : 02.18

I'm proud of having detected what I perceive to be "m" and "n" in the Thai alphabet. Guess these are the easiest to write and remember.

Any non-Thai who learned the Thai alphabet have a hint how difficult the other letters are, in comparison?
comment 14
netnapit date : 08/05/2009 time : 00.31

C4, Nong Tow, academic English is like another language on top of coversational English. For conversational English, Kru Ian's suggestion are good. For academic English you will need to read, read, read, and READ!...and write, write, write. More academic stuff than just general stuff, most of that is online too.
comment 13
happyjack date : 07/05/2009 time : 21.19

Com 11,dont worry,they soon heal.
comment 12
happyjack date : 07/05/2009 time : 21.17

One thing that grates like Chalk on a Blackboard to my ears are those Thai Women on T.V. who speak English with a U.S.Accent like shrieking Crows.They love to say, " the P.M., or Prime Minister, said Today in........" Why the Hell don't just say Prime Minister,its just more U.S. words for words sake. . You be Doing just fine Tow, just enjoy, like G.G.. Ian can translate, if my Rustic Drawl gets tough.
comment 11
noonin date : 07/05/2009 time : 21.04

I split an ifinitive!
comment 10
noonin date : 07/05/2009 time : 20.58

I should have added almost all Thai are cognizant with the alphabet and read English on a daily basis due to the prevalence of its use . Also it is taught ( badly often) from kindergarten to whenever formal education ceases.
comment 9
happyjack date : 07/05/2009 time : 20.54

Ian, i memorised 30 or so Thai Songs,translated by my Wife to English,in which she is fluent.Even Thai Lao,happy sad ,a mood mix if you will.We sang them together on the Road,basically our Jobs are travel intensive.Needless to say,im told I'm the best ferang.I think paying their Bar Bills gives me the accolade, seriously, it works
comment 8
happyjack date : 07/05/2009 time : 20.54

Ian, i memorised 30 or so Thai Songs,translated by my Wife to English,in which she is fluent.Even Thai Lao,happy sad ,a mood mix if you will.We sang them together on the Road,basically our Jobs are travel intensive.Needless to say,im told I'm the best ferang.I think paying their Bar Bills gives me the accolade, seriously, it works
comment 7
noonin date : 07/05/2009 time : 20.45

comment 6 True tones make it extremely difficult for any one of an age where whatever portion of the brain is responsible for language acquisition to function ceases to work. Part of the problem also is not being able to read Thai. I recently worked with some students learning French, and though my French is limited I still can decipher much through reading using a common script and context cues. Thai was not a Language taught to me when the brain cells I had were receptive. A language I did learn "French", still is within my weakened brain to decode. That is I can at-least read it if not speak it. Thai I cannot read and thus am deprived of a major tool to comprehension of a language never implanted in my formative years.
comment 6
Ian date : 07/05/2009 time : 20.16

Sorry PJ, lack of proof reading.
I think the first thing a person needs to ask themselves is, "what is my purpose?"

Tow my Thai is terrible, my memory is useless and tones are a major pitfall. Teach me Thai and I'll work on your English for you
comment 5
redandwhitestripes date : 07/05/2009 time : 20.12

Xena, you can take a teacher away from the classroom but that doesn't stop him or her being a teacher :-)
comment 4
Tow date : 07/05/2009 time : 19.42
Close to nature ...

I just want to be able to communicate with others, but academic English is necessary for continue study.

Anyway, how is your Thai, uncle Ian?
comment 3
xena date : 07/05/2009 time : 18.53

Sorry, correction needed.
"Well, since Ian mention me as the co-defendent in this case"
comment 2
xena date : 07/05/2009 time : 18.51

Well, since Ian as the co-defendent in this case, I have to answer. Atleast to satisfy his curiosity and his inability to forget that he is no longer a teacher.
I had no other purpose, just to be able to communicate as a poor student studying at a rather not famous UK university. Otherwise I might go hungry, learn nothing and would have wasted all of my parent's money.
Well does that satisfy you, teacher Ian.
comment 1
Pomjuk date : 07/05/2009 time : 18.05
Windy's number one fan 

I think the first thing a person needs to ask themselves what is my purpose?

Noun and pronoun agreement

I think the first thing a person needs to ask himself/herself is; what his or her purpose is?


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