Saturday, February 24, 2007

Language Learning Blues

We have been staying in Thailand for over year. Every one in the family has their own reasons for liking it here. We love Thailand and we hope to stay longer and serve the Lord here. But we all agree that if we want to stay here longer we need to learn the languages. We are working with Myanmar people but we are staying in Thailand, so we have to learn Thai first and Burmese second. Phasa Thai is difficult because we need to learn new characters and although the grammar is relatively simple, the five different tones made it very difficult for us. There are just too many similar words that change their meaning when you change the tones. So even though you know the vocabularies and the syntax, if you say the words in wrong tone, you’ll surely be misunderstood.

We have been very busy the whole time last year that we didn’t put enough time learning it. We’ll be playing catch up this year. Hoping and praying that after six months, we can speak the words with the right tones.

Our effectiveness and usefulness here for the kingdom work really depend on our ability to learn the languages. And we know it will take a lot of hard works and patient.

Here are some of the characteristics of the Thai language that are different from English:
  • There are no variant or plural for adjective and nouns.
  • Adjectives follow the noun. Example, instead of saying “red car”, a Thai would say “car red”.
  • There are no verb conjugations in Thai. Tenses of verbs are understood from the context or from adverb of time. This makes our life easier.
  • There are no articles.
  • There is no verb “to be” with adjectives. So if you want to say, “She is beautiful” Thai would say “she beautiful”. I like that, English is just too complicated.
  • Thai is usually omits the subject of a sentence when it is understood from the context.
  • Thai is a tonal language. If the tone is not correct, you won’t be easily understood, even if your pronunciation is perfect.
This is John 3:16 in Thai:

เพื่อทุกคนที่เชื่อในพระบุตรนั้นจะไม่พินาศ แต่มีชีวิตนิรันดร์


One of Freedom said...

My buddy with YWAM also has been having a rough go with the language. I think he's able to get by now, but it is discouraging when his kids seem to fall into Thai so easily.

Hang in there bro.

Jayred said...

Filipinos, in general, have a high language aptitude. I've met a lot of Filipino missionaries (those who do frontier missions work in China, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, and Ukraine) who could already speak fluently the local language/s of the country where they are currently based. Amazing!

In Switzerland, meanwhile, the Filipino leaders in our international church in Zurich speak Swiss German like the natives! Ang galing.

So, I'm sure you and your family will be fluent in Thai and Burmese pretty soon. First, because you are Christians; second, because you're Pinoys. :-)

Joey said...

Thanks for the encouragement, guys. You're right Frank, kids seem to learn the language effortlessly.

I agree Jayred. Many Filipinos here become fluent in Thai just by staying here in three years. But of course, there are exceptions, and I'll make it sure i'll not be an exception.

More power to both of you. Blessings!