It was February 2009 when I bravely went public with my intention to learn to read Thai. I'd been in Thailand for less than 6 months and having developed the basics of spoken Thai fairly reasonably, thanks in particular to my mother-in-law's patience and help, I set my sight on the unknown land of Thai script.
At that point I could not read a single letter of Thai, and had taken to learning the shape of the words that spelt the town names I needed to known in order to catch my bus to work and back. Hardly an efficient system as I found out when I bordered the wrong bus one day.
I titled my post 'Learning Thai - the long road starts here' but the truth of the matter is that getting the basics of Thai is not so difficult after all, and within weeks of my post I had learnt the basic pronunciation of the most common Thai letters.
Fast forward to now, October 2010, and I'm (surprisingly) making good ground through Becker's Thai for Advanced Readers.
I am by no means fluent (the 'advanced' book was chosen as the intermediate was sold out) and have a long way to go before I can be anything like satisfied with my ability but I am able to read a number of things from menus, to adverts, to Facebook and Twitter updates, and write fairly substantial messages in Thai, though reading books and larger chunks of text is takes me longer, practice and time should help me improve.
My point is that, to get to my level I didn't take any classes, I didn't buy DVDs, extensive arrays of books or MP3 series. I didn't attend workshops, get a tutor or pester the wife for tips... heck I didn't even study regularly (such are the responsibilities of fatherhood) and this book is my first proper learning material, excluding the horribly Romanicised Thai handbook that every expat must buy within their first month of arriving.
But for me, learning Thai is a mindset not an academic course, and it is there where I score top marks.
Living in Thailand the language is all around you. If you curious about life like me then you will want to know what you are missing, what the beautiful squiggles and lines really mean.
The basic task of learning to pronounce the Thai characters was as hard a shift as I put it, and it is the grounding which has helped me develop in my own way. The truth is, I've been at this level for a while - hence the use of the book to advance me - which shows that the 'long road' is not so far after all.
With the aim of being helpful and not self-indulgent (as mentioned, I feel I still have a long way to go), I'm going to pen a series of posts explaining what worked for me and helped me get to the level I am at now.
I won't say I have learnt every aspect of Thai well - cough cough...the tones - and I could do with a visit to a Stu Jay workshop, for example, but I've reached a level I wouldn't have dreamed of back in February 2009 through a 'workload' that could suit (or be bettered by) anyone.