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This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai. New out? If you are looking for a good mobile application to learn Thai, you can check out Ling. Through this application, you can learn Thai with games, flash cards, and puzzles. It can help to improve your speaking, listening, reading, and even writing skills. And those are just the products for the Thai language learning market. I know. And as you will soon read in the interview below, there is still more to come.
At what age did you discover your talent for languages? I started learning basic English in grade 5 when I was about 10 years old. Everyone in school was required to learn English at that age and although I excelled in my studies I did not think I had any particular talents in learning languages. I was able to learn French very quickly and it was then that I realized I had a special talent as far as learning and speaking foreign languages was concerned.
What was your path to the Thai language teaching profession? I liked the experience of inventing ways to help people learn Thai. Although I ended up teaching many Thai classes I found out that I enjoy the process of writing books to teach the Thai language more than the actual teaching in a classroom situation. What are your favourite Thai language books? Who are your Thai language heroes, and how did they influence the design of your courses? I consider him my Thai literary hero and to me he is equal in talent to Shakespeare in his ability to craft the language.
Plus he had the extra complication of a tonal language in his rhyming poems. But most foreigners will have a difficult time appreciating his work since it is highly developed Thai poetry.
The poetry of Sunthornphu has inspired me in my development of my latest Thai language learning product, Thai Hit Songs Vol. Writing the lyrics to the songs and working on the melodies with the musicians I can definitely feel that influence from the greatest Thai poet. I admired their structure, the step-by-step approach and how easy it was to follow. In designing my Thai language learning materials those were some of the main ideas that guided me to developing Thai for Beginners. On the subject of language methods, what are you thoughts on: roll playing, SRS flash cards , a crash course, and the natural approach?
Every person learns a language differently and whatever works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Personally I never used flashcards but I know it is a helpful device for many people.
And roll playing works well if you have someone to practice with. For me the natural approach is the best. Your three core books, Thai for Beginners, Thai for Intermediate Learners, and Thai for Advance Readers have different approaches, would you please briefly explain your thought process for each?
I spent a lot of time developing Thai for Beginners, thinking about the structure, what to include in each chapter and how to have each lesson build upon the preceding one. For the intermediate level book, I was not as concerned about each chapter building on the previous one since the students already have a command of the Thai language.
Therefore, each chapter can pretty much stand on its own. I felt that learning more about the Thai culture while learning new language material would be beneficial so I included information on Thai holidays and events.
Thai for Advanced Readers is a collection of essays I wrote about my life and family and is a completely different structure that the first two. I thought using personal essays of my life as a woman growing up in Thailand would make it more interesting to my readers.
Consequently, I structured the essays to include more complex vocabulary related to Thai culture and family life, but tried to make them interesting and informative as a reflection of everyday life growing up in Thailand. As I am struggling to compile a list of the top Thai vocabulary words a learner must know, I am especially interested in how you chose the vocabulary for your Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced Learners courses.
To develop the vocabulary lists in my Thai language books, I imagined what types of interactions people would encounter on their daily excursions in Thailand. I tried to include words that would be useful but also inject some humorous words and words specific to the Thai culture into the list.
I would visualize a conversation for each situation and then determine the sentences and words that someone would need to successfully interact in that context. The advantage of designing Thai for Beginners from the ground up was that it was developed specifically for the Thai language market rather than having been written for one language and then simply translate the vocabulary list into Thai the way some language programs have been developed.
From what I am seeing, Thai For Beginners is especially popular with students and Thai teachers alike. What aspects of the book do you believe makes this so? Thai for Beginners is uncomplicated, well structured and each chapter builds on the previous chapter. Both students and teachers like an organized, logical approach since it makes their tasks clear.
Nothing discourages language learning more than a textbook that is inconsistent and provides confusing direction. Also, the transliteration system I have developed, which we use in all of our Thai learning materials, is easy to understand, can be learned quickly and is extremely consistent. I believe these are some of the contributing factors to the popularity of the book. What gave you the idea to produce so many products for learning Thai?
Did one lead to the other, or was a series planned from the beginning? Everybody learns a language differently. When I was learning Spanish I used over 20 different books, each provided new insight. No book can teach a student all the aspects of a new language so we provide a variety of ways to learn Thai. As for the specific product development for our materials, when I wrote Thai for Beginners I had no idea that I would write the intermediate and advanced books. I may have organized them differently if I planned this from the beginning.
They just developed organically when it became apparent to me that they were needed by my students. But now we put more thought into looking at each new product as a potential new series.
For our series Speak like a Thai I envisioned about 10 volumes with specific titles before we even started the series. The sequence in which they were eventually released changed and I modified some of the titles and content, but the basic format remains the same as the day we developed the original concept for the series.
What energized you to start your own publishing company, Paiboon Publishing? My experience is probably similar to many first time writers. I wrote Thai for Beginners and then attempted to get it published. My manuscript was rejected by almost all of the publishing companies I approached.
So I decided to publish my own book and distribute it myself. Fortunately I had some friends that were very knowledgeable and experienced in the publishing business and they tutored and guided through the process. We will be coming out with a variety of new products and expanding the types of language learning materials we produce. Our Thai Hit Songs Vol.
The DVD music video version of our first music will be out in early We have more plans for digital downloads and podcasts of Thai language lessons that will be available from our website and iTunes. Interested students should check our website for announcements of future releases, or get on our mailing email list.
My Thai teacher mentioned that her overall objective for each student is to find what their main obstacles to learning Thai are. What obstacles do you address in your courses? I have found that one of the biggest obstacles to successfully learning Thai is the ability to read and write the language.
Many people learn enough phrases in Thai to communicate well enough to satisfy their basic needs. But to learn Thai effectively you really should be able to read and write it. Although my transliteration system is well designed and extremely helpful for the beginning student it is only a crutch and should be discarded as soon as possible. If students put the effort to overcome the obstacle of reading and writing Thai, the rewards will be tremendous.
What are the typical mistakes made by students of the Thai language, and what advice can you give? As you know most students have a problem with tones in the Thai language.
Unfortunately, even with the correct word, the incorrect tone will make the word incomprehensible. Learning a little vocabulary with the proper tones is better than having a huge vocabulary pronounced incorrectly. Any method to be more cognoscente of and sensitive to the tone changes will be helpful. Another common mistake is misplaced words in sentences in using Thai. For this condition memorization is the solution. A Thai grammar book might be a good future product for Paiboon Publishing.
In your experience, what are the biggest challenges facing students of the Thai language? There are challenges in learning any new language but with enough time, energy and desire most students can overcome them. For Thai the writing is a great challenge, and of course the tones. Mastering the 5 tones also takes practice and determination. What background do you find more successful for a student learning Thai: A student who has first absorbed the language via audio, tv, radio, living in Thailand; or a student coming in fresh?
I would say that living in Thailand and studying the language would achieve the most success in leaning Thai. Someone can live in Thailand for many years but without a serious effort to learn the language they will never expand beyond the basic conversation level. Again, each person learns a language differently and listening to songs, the radio and watching TV may be helpful to some.
Whatever the method a serious, determined approach to the task is required. How often do you advise students to study Thai each week, and for how long each time? I would recommend spending 10 hours a week studying Thai. One to two hours each session from 4 to 6 days a week and the student should definitely see progress. Review is the key to retention.
Benjawan Poomsan Becker เบญจวรรณ ภูมิแสน เบกเกอร์
Books by Benjawan Poomsan Becker