Thai Language and TPRS

February, 2014

Back to my Thai language learning venture …

Play GolfAs I mentioned previously, I have learned quite a few words in the Thai language, but the pronunciation is a challenge. Sometimes the same word has 2-3 different tonal sounds which gives each sound a different meaning. For example, the word “maa” has three different tonal sounds which can be “pig, horse or friend.” So it is important that you don’t call a person a pig or horse, right? Fortunately, we falangs are forgiven many pronunciation sins and contextual situations help a lot.

Another obstacle to learning Thai is that the language is written in Sanscript and we try to write the language phonetically. Each person hears and would, therefore, write that word according to their phonetic interpretation. Quite a challenge. I tried to learn the Lao language some years ago and confronted the same challenges, so I did have exposure to the tonal sounds and am aware of the obstacles to learning a language which does not use our letters.

After a lot of thinking and mulling over my pronunciation problem, I found a solution and decided to try it out. White I was teaching at the International School in Copenhagen, Denmark, I was introduced to a system of language learning by a colleague. She was a wonderful teacher, enthusiastic, adventuresome, entertaining and a most motivating teacher. Her students absolutely loved her German classes. Heidi presented a short session on TPRS story telling and I was converted. However, I did lack the skills she had and was so very fortunate when the school allowed me to attend a TPRS session presented by Blane Ray in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. Blane presented four languages in 2-3 days: Japanese, German, Italian and Spanish. Unfortunately, for me I was lost after the German. But decided that this was a good lesson for me, as I could understand the problems a student might have when teaching using the TPRS method.

I used this TPRStorytelling method in my German classes. Loved it. I had a lot of fun teaching and, hopefully, from the response of my students, they also enjoyed it. I tried to reduce the language-learning stress, concentration on grammar and used simple vocabulary in a meaningful way. My favorite approach was to write stories about my students. I usually wrote a story about two students at a time.

So, here I am in Thailand trying to learn/teach a language completely alien to me with the assistance of a local who has no teaching background and does not speak English fluently!

I am not allowed to work here in Thailand. Firstly, I am retired and secondly, I do not have a working permit. To circumvent these obstacles, I contacted our “juristic person” here who manages our apartment complex. We found one of the staff, who was willing to work with us – us, meaning a Swedish friend and me. We pay this Thai lady who wants to improve her English and will, therefore, help us with our pronunciation, word order and vocabulary in the Thai language. How about that?

I tried my first short story which related to activities we engage in here but trying to put humor into it. We have been playing golf with friends here. So, for my birthday, our friends gave me a tiger cover for my driver. My friend also had animal covers for two of her clubs, so I embarked upon a story in which we could learn the names of these animals. I have not quite followed the TPRS program, which encourages the total use of the learning language, but because I do not have enough knowledge of the Thai language, I have adapted it to my style.

And, here is my first TPR Story.


Golf in Thailand – Lesson 

Four animals play golf on Wanjuntr.          Sat si dua gop ku Wanjuntr.

Who plays golf?                                               sat si dua (play)

How many animals play golf?                      sat si

What do the animals play?                           dua golf

The four animals are the tiger, the monkey, the sheep and the dog.    Sat si (dua ku) suea, ling, ge, maa.

What is tiger in Thai?                   suea

What is monkey in Thai?            ling

What is sheep in Thai?                ge

What is dog in thai?                      maa

Who plays golf?          The tiger – suea / the monkey – ling / the sheep – ge / the dog – maa

The tiger is very big           Suea yai mak (tiger big very)

The monkey is small         Ling lek (monkey small)

The sheep is very small    Ga lek mak (sheep small very)

The dog is big                     Maa yai (dog big)

Is the tiger very big?         Suea yai mak (tiger big very)

Is the monkey small?        Ling lek (monkey small)

Is the sheep very small?   Ge lek mak (sheep small very)

Is the dog big?                    Maa yai (dog big)

The tiger hits the ball             Suea ti gop (tiger hit golf (ball)) *Note below

The monkey hits the ball      Ling ti gop (monkey hit golf (ball))

The sheep hits the ball         Ge ti gop (sheep hit golf (ball))

The dog hits the ball            Maa ti gop (dog hit golf (ball))

Female                        Male

Does the tiger hit the ball?                Ka, suea ti gop / Khrap, suea ti gop

Does the monkey hit the ball?          Ka, ling ti gop / Khrap, ling ti gop

Does the sheep hit the ball?              Ka, ge ti gop / Khrap, ge ti gop

Does the dog hit the ball?                  Ka, maa ti gop / Khrap, maa ti gop

Mot lao – Finished!

* I don’t have brackets so am using double parenthesis to indicate that in Thai when you hit golf, it assumes ball golf.

Blane Ray Workshops

What is TPRStorytelling?