Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rosetta Stone

My dad bought me the Rosetta Stone ไทย Level 1 program for Christmas. I'd heard about Rosetta Stone, of course, but didn't know much about it; I heard it was overpriced but that's all. It's pretty interesting. No English is used, and no romanization. It simply gives you lines of Thai (spoken and written) with corresponding pictures (or vice versa.) It does it in a clever order that lets you infer the meaning of words, and it slowly builds in complexity. The first few lessons are elementary to me, but the structured repetition is just what I need to drill things in to my brain. I think it will help enormously with remembering simple sentence structure (I get confused on placement of กัน, for instance), classifiers, and pronunciation... and no doubt a lot of other things.

While I appreciate the lack of romanization, the program conveys absolutely no phonetic infomation. Since Thai is a tonal language with a complicated orthography and no spaces between words, I think the program would be pretty difficult for someone starting from scratch. Similarly, all the grammar is learned from inference- nothing is explicetly "taught". This is a different approach from what I'm used to- I'm interested to see how I do with it.

RS comes with a headset, which can supposedly be used to record your voice. It shows the waveform and pitch of both the speaker's example and your attempts. Supposedly. I haven't really gotten it to work well.

Verdict? Looks like a great study tool. ขอบคุณพ่อ

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Thai music came. I really love DOObaDOO. Modern Dog is more standard alt-rock but it's defiently listenable.

I obviously can't understand much of the lyrics; it sounds like a babble of vaguely familiar words. The only phrases I've gleamed on early listens is กี่วันกี่คืน ("How many days? How many nights?") and the ubiquitous ฉันรักเทอ ("I love you"). More will come...

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Quick update:
Still working through Thai for Advanced Readers. Just finished 1st go at the last reading; now it's on to newspaper articles, translations not included. It's been going pretty well; the vocabulary is difficult but I've been able to grasp most of it. Once in a while there's a sentence I can't grok even after checking the translation, but it's really just once in a while.

As for listening: currently watching Rak Nee Hua Jai Rao Jong; the two characters are stranded on a desert island. Wacky hijinks ensue. Still only grasping words here and there.

Bought two CDs from eThaiCD.com. Doobadoo and Modern Dog. Putting some Thai music in my iPod rotation should help things.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I'm on the 5th episode of a Thai "lakorn" (prime-time soap opera mini-series?) called หัวใจ (heart of) Chocolate. Started watching to improve my "ear" for the spoken language and it's helped a lot. But I've also honestly gotten sucked in to the story. The destied couple is kind of boring but I like the tomboy and the "wacky" guy that talks fast.

I mostly read the subtitles and try to anticipate what will be said. They're fan-made and sort of overly literal, which is actually a bonus. I can now "hear" common phrases pretty consistantly,. (Noticing a lot of english loanwords peppered in- "tomboy" being one!) Any sentence longer than a few words and I can only catch bits and pieces. Which is to be expected, obviously. My vocab is scant and even if I know every word in a sentence, that doesn't mean I can parse the grammar quickly enough. ANOTHER problem is the frequent use of names as pronouns, so you have to remember each character's name. Which are usually short and mistakable for words. But getting tuned to the sounds is making my reading faster and that's helping the other areas. Still should do some vocab drills though! Half-assed and haphazard is right.

Also argh I learned ร as a trilled [r], knowing it sometimes was pronounced [l], but it seems [l] is more common so I need to adjust for this. The dropping of the 2nd consonants in consonant clusters also vexes me. But OH WELL that's the way language works, there's no "standard."

Been reading on linguistics recently. I'll try to write some posts connecting the things I'm learning to Thai. Some of it is esoteric and more interesting than useful to me, but some of it really helps snap things into focus. Obviously you can learn a language while knowing nonce about how it works: all children aquire spoken language automatically. But as busy adults, I'm starting to think a passing knowledge in linguistics really helps.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The aspects of Aspect

In English, tense and aspect are usually conflated. Thai doesn't grammatically mark tense at all, but it has an "extremely rich" system for marking aspect. ARGT outlines 19 "aspectual auxiliaries."

This is an exercise identical to the one I did on pragmatic particles- I've hunted for "real" examples of usage from my Doraemon manga. My standard disclaimer of "I don't know what I'm doing" applies to both my translations and interpretations of my reference grammar's explanations.

I've bolded the auxileries and bolded the words they translate to, when applicable. Often it's just not possible.

1. _แล้ว
This shouldn't be confused with the perfect/anterior usage of แล้ว (see below @ 11.) It "shouldn't", but honestly, I'm finding the distinction difficult to understand in certain contexts. I may have this example backwards.
Anyway, in this form, it indicates a completed event. Sometimes translated in ARGT with "after".

อ๋อ...! นายกินโกหก 800 เข้าไป... แล้วพูดว่าฉันคงไม่ได้กลับมาแล้วใช่มั้ยล่ะ
"Oh! You drank the Liar 800... and said that I wouldn't return, right?"
Notice the 2nd use of แล้ว, which I believe is the #11 usage. I'm probably overthinking this, because I do seem to grasp the meaning in either use. It doesn't really matter that I can't discern the precise linguistic difference.

2. _อยู่
This is "used post-verbally for all types of continuous aspect". Other pre-verbal auxiliaries can be used in conjunction- ARGT details กำลัง, ยัง, นั่ง, and คอย.

อยู่ can be used on it's own.
"Why is it sleeping?"

กำลัง _ (อยู่)
"Emphasises a continuous situation"
"I'm thinking the same way!"

ยัง _ (อยู่)
"Indicates no change in a situation."
"Then Perro will still be alive."

3. นั่ง _ (อยู่)
This is used with either stative or "low-energy" verbs and must have a human subject.

"You're absentminded every day."

(This is a bad example, as นั่ง also means "sit" and can be interpreted as a serial verb- this is more probably "You sit here absentminded every day." ARGT notes the ambiguity.)

4. คอย (อยู่)
คอย also means "wait" but I couldn't find any example of it being used aspectually.

5. _ไป
ไป is a very common verb, but here it's used as a "continuative" auxilery which implies more deliberate continuation than the regular progressive aspect.
"Keep watching!"
(There is another usage of ไป, (see #13) but the contexts are so different you can't confuse them.)

8. กำลังจะ _ อยู่
Inceptive. "refers to the phase which leads to, or may lead to, an event."
"You're about to go to school on your own."

9. จวนจะ _
This is similar but "can be used for a less intentional event with inanimate subjects."

10. _ จบ, _ เสร็จ
Terminative- "finish doing". จบ focuses on "completion", while เสร็จ focuses on "the ending of an activity, not necessarily the completion."
"When our task is done, we'll take you down."
(I don't see how this differs from just being a resultative sequential verb but oh well.)


11. _ แล้ว
This is what ARGT says: "Perfect/anterior aspect concerns the 'relevance' of a particular situation with respect to the current situation." It translates the examples with the word "have", as in "I have eaten" vs "I ate."

"You had promised Doraemon this."

With stative verbs (adjectives), it "indicates that the critical point has been reached".

"Now I'm serious."

"I know!" ("Eureka!")

12. มา
Similar to the previously mentioned แล้ว but doesn't fall at the end of the sentence. In some cases emphasizes the fact that a situation has been continuing up to the reference time."
"I raised it since it was an egg."
13. _ ไป
When used with "destruction or disappearance" verbs, this emphasizes the destruction or disappearance.

"The elephant is gone!"

14. _ (ไป)เสีย
"Indicates that an event has taken place completely with an irreversible result."

"I couldn't find you for the longest time."
This is another swiss-army word, so I'm not 100% on this one.

15. _ ไว้
"Indicates a completed event which is considered beneficial in the future."
"Last year you promised!"
16. เพิ่ง(จะ) _
An action that has just happened- "immediate perfect/anterior"

"He's just recieved freedom for the first time."

17. เคย_
"have an experience of doing". Basically "ever."
"We once were happy (had happiness) like this."

18. ได้ _
When ได้ is pre-verbal, it basically means "get to do" (the more common post-verbal usage conveys ability.)

"And I got to evacuate to the countryside with my family.
It seems more common in the negative, where it "normally refers to the past time frame." IIRC, it often sort of acts like a general past-tense, which is why I'm not translating the following sentence with "get".

"The cats weren't speaking truthfully."
The translation doesn't really contain any hint of the inchoactive ได้, but its effects is there. If you take ได้ out of the sentence, you get แมวไม่พูดจริงๆ, "The cats aren't speaking truthfully." The inchoactive ได้ defiently alters the aspect, marking the event (the cats lying) as completed.

19. _ ขึ้น & _ ลง
"Change-of-state" verbs that apply to stative verbs (adjectives). The former means "increase" and the later "decrease", although they act differently on some words.
The wind's strength has increased.
Then, the war ended. (Lit: got quieter (สงบลง).
This text appears over a mushroom cloud. Assuming that สงบ acts the same as it's synonym เงียบ, these auxs have an interesting effect. With ขึ่น it "implies that the degree of silence has increased" while with ลง that "the degree of noise has decreased". Seems an apropos way to describe the effect of an atomic bomb.

Next: Question-word-questions, which are giving me a bit of trouble due to their ability to also be indefinite expressions. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

ลึลๆ ในใจ

This is the first Thai song to get stuck in my head. I found it on eThaiMusic and on first 23 listens I didn't understand anything but the chorus. But yesterday I combed through the lyrics and realized there was only a handful of words I didn't know. Otherwise, after one read-through, I could comprehend the lyrics completely. I think this has been very helpful in connecting the written word to the spoken.

As for the written word: I've gotten to the point where the Doraemon comic book is starting to actually seem like the children's comic book it is. Parts are still challenging, but I'm taking a break from it. I picked up Thai for Advanced Readers for the first time in a while and was surprised to find how much easier it is. I'm confident my reading is good enough to work through it until the end. (I'd made it about halfway before.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

exciting opportunities in rote memorization

I just discovered Study Stack.

The site is a little clunky, but it's awesome.

It lets you import simple simple data... and generates a bunch of helpful or stupid study aids. It's absolutely *perfect* for studying vocabulary. I've inputed a lot of margin notes.

I have 80+ words in the stack now. I figure I'll weed out words as I learn them (already a few, like หนี, I have down) and add new ones as needed. Also trying to use mnemonics to memorize vocab (never tried this.)

Monday, October 13, 2008


I've made an effort to include more listening in my studies. I have neglected the spoken language and it is messing things up- it's just not natural to be able to read a language better than you hear it. 

I've been going through eThaiMusic's list of songs. I used to have trouble following along; now I'm pretty fluent (with the script, *not* comprehension.) The majority of the songs are bad love songs, but the upshot is they use a simple vocabulary and I am able to comprehend bits without much effort. Mostly though I'm concerned with tuning my ear to the spoken language. When I listen to colloquial Thai it's pretty opaque, which is really annoying.

Also a friend tuned me into Crunchy Roll, which has Thai movies with English subtitles. I'd only seen a few (6ixtynin9, Tears of the Black Tiger) through Netflix's paltry online selection, but they are damn helpful.

Also been trying to reach out and be more active online. I am currently in conversation with a girl from Bangkok, we're going to try some language exchange. I really have no clue how it will work, but it should be fun.

Still at the grammar and reading Doraemon. Read an entire story in one sitting today. But I've been so bad about studying vocab. I'm absorbing a trickle but really I need to get serious and learn some words.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Pragmatic Particles

I've come up with a productive exercise- summarizing chapters from my reference grammar (A Reference Grammar of Thai, ARGT) by finding examples in my Doraemon manga (which is the only natural text I have which I can read.)

This post regards pragmatic particles, a topic I had previously pretty much ignored. Bad idea- these are intrinsic to the language. Chapter 15 of ARGT details 14 PPs. They are distinct from speech-level (politeness) and question particles

Since I don't use phonetic transcriptions, and they're a pain to type (all the accents), I'm going to stick with Thai, even though there's a lot of pronunciation variability. On some the initial consonant is sometimes dropped, meaning ล่ะ and น่ะ are both sometimes pronounced อ่ะ.

Also the variations listed in the reference grammar aren't exhaustive.
Also a general "I don't know what I'm doing" disclaimer applies to my translations.

General particles.
These work with statements/questions, and commands.

1. น่ะ / นะ / นา
Common ground. This particle is extremely common. When it's directly translated in ARGT, they use phrases like "okay?", "you know?", "isn't it?", "right?"
Apparently, the high tone "tends to solicit a response"; the low tone is more forceful.
หวังว่าคงถูกคนดีๆ มาเก็บไปนะ
"I hope they might be taken by a good person."

"What did you do?"

2. สิ / ซิ
"The primary function of this particle is to confirm information with some authority in tone."
This seems to be most common in commands and replies.

"Come help me grab it."

"Keep watching."

3. เลย
"Emphasizes the excessiveness of the situation as the speaker sees it"
I thought it was just an intensifier (like จัง) but I guess it's more subjective. It can also be used in commands.

"(You) sit around absent-minded every day."

"It's coming directly (at us)."

4. เชียว
Similar to เลย, but also can indicate surprise or suspicion-confirmation.

"I've raised it from when it was an egg."

5. ซะ
Derived from/shortened form of เสีย, and acts like an aspect marker... unless it's a command, then it's a "mild encourangement" PP.
"If you're hurt, then practice fooling some other people."

Information-oriented particles
These are limited to statements and questions.

6. ล่ะ / เล่า
"Elaboration request," usually used with questions.
"Presents!" (What'd you bring me?!)
"What fib could you think up?" (mockingly)
7. และ / แหละ
(This is where this gets confusing.)
This is derived from แล้ว, and when used with a verb/adjective, it has its original perfect/anterior aspectual usage.
But when used after a "verb/adjective phrase or a noun phrase", it indicates that the noun concept it follows is the "focused element" or the "sole alternative."

"If he isn't better, then it'll stay this way."

"So that we could flee those bombs."

8. ล่ะ / ละ / (and หละ ?)
Similar to #7 (and a homonym of #6), but conveys "the speaker's evaluation of the inevitability of an action."

"We need to go down into the nest."

(ARGT notes that while ล่ะ is derived from แล้ว, it has become a distinct word- this is an example of them co-existing.)

9. หรอก
Counter argument; correct assumption. Usually used with a negative statement.

"No, we don't have time to do it that way."

10. นี่
Discovery- points out a critical fact just discovered.

"Doraemon hasn't returned yet."

11. ไง
directing attention- to an object or fact

"(something) that will give me more strength."

12. แน่ะ
Similar to #11, but also used to emphasize "notable amounts" when there is a quantity expression.

"My friends are calling me."

(Since this sentence doesn't contain any quantity, I'm not sure if the "notable amount" meaning applies, but it would fit the context- "my friends are calling me a lot", or something like that.)

13. ล่ะมั้ง / มั้ง
"Maybe he already returned."

Action-oriented particles
These (well, ARGT only mentions one) are only used with commands.

14. ถอะ / เถอะ / เหอะ
Hortative ("lets")

"Let it go!"

"Let's go help!"

ARGT further details a common combination, นี่ + น่ะ, which is usually mushed together into:

15. (นี่ + น่ะ =) เนี้ย เนี่ย เงี้ย
"What's this!?"
I am now really sick of particles! Next: aspect (which I have mostly finished) and then probably question-word questions.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Translating Doraemon

"สุนัขจิ้งจอก" is used repeatedly in the Doraemon story I'm working through. It wasn't in my dictionary, and I assumed it meant something like "hallucinating". But apparently it just means "fox". Hah oops.

The first couple pages of the story are difficult- Doraemon produces the "magic leaf", which does the following when you place it on your head: พลังจิตก็จะแผ่ออกมา. I'm pretty sure this a if-then type sentence. If พลังจิต, then แผ่ออกมา. The former means "brain power" and I'm not sure about the second. Something like "spread out" or "emerge"? If I had to guess, I'd say the leaf makes you smarter- expand brainpower, or something. I'm not sure at all, but that's fine. I know I'm going to encounter stuff I just can't make heads or tails of. I'm more worried about building basic vocab at this point.

Anyway, the leaf only works on dogs, and it only works on emo dogs. So they find the most pitiful dog... that's as far as I've gotten.

I'm only positive that สุนัขจิ้งจอก actually refers to a real fox because at one point Doraemon says "สุนัขจิ้งจอกก็เป็นสุนัขประเภทหนี่งน่ะ"- "The sòo-nák jîng-jòk(fox) is just one sort of sòo-nák (~canine). I'm thinking there must be some trickster fox spirit in Japanese folklore?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Doraemon Vocab #1

need to start drilling myself on vocabulary. I'm going to start with 20 words a week and adjust from there.
These are taken from the Doraemon manga; basically it's a list of the words I had to look up as I read the 2nd story.

อพยพ migrate/evacuate
หนี escape
ใด้ยิน hear
ซาก corpse/debris
ไฟไหม้ fire
เป็นห่วง to worry
สงบ to be quiet
เชื่อง tame/gentle
ลินชัก drawer
ย้อม to return/retrace
คำสั่ง order/instruction
ประหลาด strange
เงียบ silent
กรง cage
ผอม skinny/emaciated
ซีโครง rib
ว้าก (exclamation)
ยาพิษ poison
ปน to mix
ใจร้าย cruel
อาสะวาด disturb/cause trouble

Monday, September 15, 2008


As a first post, here is a quick summary of the Thai books I own and have used in my self-study. (Roughly in order of purchase.)

Teach Yourself Thai (with CDs)- David Smyth
This was what I used to get myself off the ground. In terms of reading, I've outgrown it.

(I never noticed this was written by the same guy.)

A Thai manga I bought in Thailand. I can read a good percentage. Even though my vocab is horrible, my grammar is solid enough that I can follow the stories without using reference.

SE-ED's Modern Thai-English Dictionary Mini Edition (purchased in Thailand)
My only problem with this is the lack of pronunciation info.

Thai for Advanced Readers- Benjawan Poomsan Becker
I dug into this prematurely, but it really helped me progress. I've worked through maybe half of it so far.

A Reference Grammar of Thai- Shoichi Iwasaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom
This is very linguistics-orientated (and expensive), but it's by far my favorite resource.