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I've said this before, and wish to do so again. The most often asked questions I receive goes something like this, “when will I begin to speak?”
Before I once more offer my thoughts about this, let's define the word “speak”. What does it mean to be able to speak?
Many things set the Thai Program at AUA apart from other language study programs. When I was a student here, I enjoyed the fact that there were no tests - but I wasn't sure how students were assessed! Several years later, many students are still unware of how we assess progress. I also liked the flexibility the program offered and flexibility is something we've increased over the years.
The distance from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by car is about 695 kilometers. If I travel by bus it's the same distance, but it takes longer. I can also fly, and though it's probably less distance, if I factor in travel to and waiting at the airport, it's questionable whether or not it's faster.
I'm getting older. Some say I'm already old. Today is my 50th birthday. I don't feel old. But to think about going back to say, 30 and live the past 20 years again is not something I'd like to do either. So perhaps that means I am old. I think that by the time I get to the end of my life, whenever that end comes, I'll be satisfied. In fact, I'm satisifed already, with the distance I've come. There's more ahead, but I'll get to that part when I get to it.
I've been thinking about Rubiks Cubes lately. If you Google "Rubiks Cube" you will find many instructions on how to solve the puzzle. This wasn't possible 10 years ago. In fact, I never knew there were instructions. I've asked many people (not hundreds but several at least), "How did you learn to do that?" and they all answered the same - "...just played with it until I figured it out."
I'm always amazed when I talk to people about language learning, how much pressure we needlessly place on ourselves. Ego, paradigm, we just don't like to wait... call it whatever you want - when it comes to language, people seldom claim that learning a foreign language is easy! Words like "Fast" and "Easy" are the by words of language schools who are trying to convince you that their program is better than the rest.
The other day I walked into a KhaoMunGai Shop. (KhaoMunGai is one of the best chicken dishes imaginable!) I was quite hungry, so I walked in and ordered (in Thai) 1 plate of KhaoMunGai Special. Now my Thai is at least understandable, and after over 20 years in "The Kingdom" some say I sound just like a Thai. So what? The lady, a middle aged woman, not difficult to look at but well past her prime, asked me in English, "Do you want skin."
How often have you heard something like, "The reason that we can't do well using a new language is that we have hard tongues", or "Our brains don't work like they used to." or, "language can only be learned when you're a child - adults can't - period."
The fact seems to be that analysis gets in the way of native language acquisition. Can a three year old child feel that his language development is slow?
Thai people are the same people you've known and loved. Rather than be surprised, disappointed or let down, realize that they are working out some very difficult issues and let them have space to do so without judgement or criticism.
Learning costs much, but ignorance costs a fortune!
Values shape us in more ways that we'd probably care to realize. They are the why, underlying everything we do. Our values are largely shaped by social groups. And there's nothing that sticks out like a sore thumb more than when someone shows up with different values into our little worlds! Children growing up join into groups based on the groups values. Sometimes, those groups can be defined by that fact that they don't subscribe to the values of that other group. With young people, it appears to me that group values are rather obvious. This group values popular music and clothes.
The propensity that we adults have to 'test' everything is not realistic. Though so fast we're normally not even conscious of most of what our brains do - still time is required for the linking up of information.
The expectation that we can learn a language through practice demonstrates the need for increased understanding about how language works.I have conversations with people from time to time that indicate some misunderstanding about what we're saying when we talk about speaking. We have observed that for a native English speaker, it's an average that one begins speaking at about 700-800 hours. So the other day, a friend came into my office and asked to see some of those students who speak perfectly at 600 hours. I was a bit set-back by this. No where do we even make suc
While perfection doesn't need to be the goal for the language student, there's not a good reason I can see as to why adults shouldn't strive for the levels of fluency that children achieve.
A few comments related to Steve's and Benny's podcast.
When should we start to speak in a foreign language? - The Linguist - language learning should be fun
A link to Steve The Linguist.Listen to Steve's video about input based language learning - especially when it comes to when you should begin speaking a new language. When should we start to speak in a foreign language? - The Linguist - language learning should be fun. Many thanks to our friend Phil, for sending me this link.
Sometimes it's best to accept what is: http://auathai.wordpress.com/2010/02/28/faith-and-language-learning/
Language acquisition is a natural process that entails stages in the growth process. While some people believe that faith is necessary in order to give the natural process time, my sense of things is that it requires faith to believe that hard work and study will produce anything acceptable.
Our students actually experience improvement in their language ability after breaks away from the program. Why is this?
How successful are the students of the AUA Thai Program? Can we claim more success than other programs? What does success mean for a language student? Read here for my ideas about this.
All over the world, young children move to foreign countries and through play and exposure, become native in that new language. At the same time, their parents spend time and money in language schools and with the exception of the first few months, never rise to the ability of their kids.
From this I am seeing two basic ways to think about language learning. The first way, the adult way, is how schools have been trying to teach language - structured and lots and lots of practice. The second way or child's way, is to do what ever it is those young kids do - and NOT do the things they don'
Man's commitment to language study is something that's never made sense to me. A statistic that I've never heard argued is this one: Over 95% of those who study a foreign language fail! Wow!
If I said to you that I have a business opportunity, and that you must invest for a year to become moderately profitable, and you only have a 5% chance of that, would you invest? Of course not!
So what is it about language study that is so attractive? Classes tend to be hard work, students always make mistakes that are embarrassing, and it's tedious.
This is an introduction to a series of blogs focusing on differences between what young children and adults do in gaining a new language. If we want to gain the same results as children, we need to be doing the same things!Sometimes, when I tell adults that they have the ability to acquire a language in very much the same way as young children, I get these looks like I'd just fallen off some distant star.
Just as rubber trees takes several years to begin to produce, so the process of natural language acquisition takes time as well, before production begins. Even though we have synthetics of both, to date, we have never found a substitute that comes close to either real rubber or real language!
If you've an interest in education, this article offers much to think about: http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/national.htm
As a student, how did I stop thinking about language?
Students often ask whether or not they should study using a particular method or program. To me this seems like a Cost to Benefit question. Below are the things I would consider.
My recommendations for anyone depend on their goals.
A new language cannot properly be acquired by borrowing from another language. It is only through exposure to experiences that a person can truly acquire a new language/culture.
Language acquisition is a natural process. By comparing it with other natural growth processes, we can better understand and accept the plateaus that we experience.
This question comes up again and again. Perhaps my experience as an ALG student many years ago is instructive. When I began, I took about three months to settle into the program. The first three months were frustrating as it was a complete paradigm shift – from hard work, home work and study, to entertainment, and letting the brain do whatever it does. It's not that I was passive – My role was to actively guess about what was going on, and to avoid trying to speak or even think about words.
Both children and adults alike naturally record what happens to them. Try forgetting a bad experience if you don't think so! Somehow, whatever happens to us becomes a part of us. This isn't something we must apply effort to – things naturally work that way.
Are YOU too old to do what the child does? Can you do what the child does?
When we experience things that include a language, that language is naturally recorded as a part of the whole experience. We don't need to think about it – we don't need to try to remember anything. It simply happens.
How much does it cost?
The basic price is 107 Baht per hour. There are discounts, and other promotional bonuses as well. The details are available at: http://www.auathai.com/tuition.html
When can I begin to study?
Our program is not based on terms. Students may begin study at any time. Classes at all levels are always available, except during our holidays.
How do I apply?
The application process is simple.
Q - "What books do you recommend to learn Thai?"
A - The answer will all depend on your purpose for studying Thai. I will try to outline some typical reasons here for you.
1. ALG was designed for real language acquisition. We don't use, nor recommend books at all, as authentic language cannot be gained from books. Once an ALG student is able to speak somewhat, we then used books for teaching reading and writing.
Taken from Long in Asia - david long: Culture Shock
"One thing I realized as a student in the AUA Thai Program is that through sharing their lives, our teachers gave us more understanding of culture than was even imaginable. I realized that in fact, understanding culture was more important than being able to use Thai, and preliminary to being able to use Thai as a Thai. There is so much added value in that, the for me, becoming fluent in Thai was merely a by-product."
I was 26 years old when I entered the Thai Program at AUA in September of 1987. I'd just moved into a house on Ladphrao Rd - a large private home with a large yard ant it took about 45 minutes one way to get to school. The greatest difficulty I had in learning Thai was navigating the traffic!
Thank you Kevin, for your question: "What advice could you give me regarding my incorrect approach to learning Spanish by talking from the very first day, and not receiving correct input. I also translated word for word and still have a lot of problems having to think about almost every word before speaking. Any tips would be appreciated."
I'd like to say thanks to "choaphray" for these questions on our youtube channel: "hmm do these classes actually work? how long before i get to understand what they are on about?"
In 1987 I entered the Thai Program and these were my two big questions. They are often asked and so I'd like to address them here.
Q. Do these classes really work?
Language is made up of sounds, words and phrases. Right? It has a grammar involves things like pronunciation and vocabulary.
Sounds, words, and phrases, grammar, pronunciation, vocabluary, all have one thing in common - we find them with our ears coming at us! Adult language teaching tends to focus on these parts - the ones we hear. All of them are located on the airside of our lives.
Interestingly, of all the brain research in the world, there seems to be no indication that any of these parts exist in our brains.
Nature has provided us with the best, most efficient way to gain a new language. We should use the innate and natural abilities we've been born with in order to gain the best results.
Life experience is the greatest teacher we have. Schooling however, has taught us that learning requires hard work and study (mainly to prepare us to be adults who were expected to work in boring routine factory jobs).
At ALG, we believe that learning is as natural as breathing. We are born to learn. Acquiring a language is as natural as most of the other skills we've already acquired in our lives.
Do you want to learn using the natural process?
would you rather stay in the hard work and study mode?