New Language Challenge

Week 43 of the Indie Travel Challenge in fact challenges you to learn a new language.

First off, what languages do I already speak? Well, English, of course. I took Spanish in high school and even remembered a bit when we went to Costa Rica back in 2010. And I learned a fair bit of Korean while living in South Korea. But this challenge is about learning a new language altogether.

Initially, I was going to write about learning some Vietnamese, since we were supposed to be in Vietnam all month. But due to some crap that happened, we will be in Bangkok by the time this post goes up.

So instead, I’m trying to learn some Thai.

First, I’ve been trying to learn to read it. Thai has an alphabet of 44 consonants and 15 vowels (which combine to make 28 vowel forms) and 4 tone marks. This seems a little bit daunting, I guess. But luckily for learners there are quite a few letters that are entirely or almost entirely obsolete, or so rare they don’t need to be remembered. It also is an alphabet, each letter makes a particular sound, which makes it easier than learning to read, say, Mandarin Chinese. I have been using these tutorials; you can also take a look at Fluent in Three Months’ tips for learning to read a phonetic alphabet.

I have no doubt I will be able to read Thai fairly soon, at least a little bit. I can read several alphabets already: the Roman one of course, plus Greek, Cyrillic, and Korean. I know I can do it, and this is an area where attitude really helps!

So, next, I need some of the basics. Here are a few essential Thai phrases, from Omniglot – click for pronunciation:

Those are the basics I first try to pick up in a new language, along with, of course, numbers 1-10, which I’ve listed below. Thai has its own set of numerals which makes numbers slightly more difficult:

  • ๑ = หนึ่ง (neung), one
  • ๒ = สอง (song), two
  • ๓ = สาม (saam), three
  • ๔ = สี่ (see), four
  • ๕ = ห้า (haa), five
  • ๖ = หก (hok), six
  • ๗ = เจ็ด (jet), seven
  • ๘ = แปด (bpaet), eight
  • ๙ = เก้า (gao), nine
  • ๑๐ = สิบ (sip), ten

Luckily enough, they are formulaic from there. Also lucky from my point of view is that they appear (at least from 3 onwards) to be closely related to Chinese numbers, which I learned quickly due to knowing Korean numbers.

Looks like I have a bit of studying ahead of me.

How much of a language do you try to learn before visiting the country? Ever tried to learn a new alphabet?

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