For two weeks this summer, I'm going to take on a language challenge with a difference!
I've teamed up with my friend Jan Van Der Aa to learn Thai, and we're going head-to-head, using two very different methods…
Then we'll be heading out around Bangkok in the evening to put what we've learned into practice.
So, although this might sound like a bit like a competition, it's not really.
Here's the deal…
The background to this challenge is that both Jan and I had a few weeks free this summer, and we fancied going to Thailand – a country we both know well and enjoy visiting.
As relatively experienced language learners, we both have established methods that we've used before to learn many languages. But this time, we decided to put ourselves in the position of a first-time learner…
“If someone wants to travel abroad, and learn a language for just a couple of weeks… what are their options?”
Most people's first choice is usually to sign up to a language school.
However, it's been our experience that studying independently on location can yield better results.
So we decided to take one method each, and compare notes at the end!
If you've ever considered travelling abroad for a short time to learn a language, hopefully this will provide some inspiration and ideas!
I'm a complete beginner in Thai.
Although I've been to Thailand many times, and eaten more Thai food than I can remember, I have zero knowledge of the language.
This week, before flying to Bangkok, I've spent a few hours going through Pimsleur Thai in order to get my ear used to the language, which has been a useful introduction.
Other than that, though, these two weeks really will be a “Thai for beginners” experience!
Jan, on the other hand, already knows some Thai. In his own words…
Last year I studied Thai almost every day for about two months. I learned the tones, the alphabet, and I took about 10 to 15 classes at Italki. I also went through the first 1300 entries of the Glossika Thai course. I probably reached an A2 level when I was at my best.
Now I can still recognise some words and basic structures but I’m not able to make proper sentences.
As you can see, Jan has a considerable head-start over me.
(To read Jan's blog post introducing this challenge, click here.)
Goal-setting is one of the most under-appreciated aspects of language learning.
Especially if you're learning a language for such a short period, like we are, you've got to have some clearly defined goals, or you're bound to be disappointed at the end.
So here are ours…
Now, although we're both starting at different levels, we've each got our respective goals.
And for both of us, it will be easy to fail.
To succeed, in only 2 week (10 days) we have to remember what we're aiming for during the challenge.
For me, I'll need to communicate this clearly to my teacher in the language school.
For Jan, he'll need to plan and organise his time well, as he studies by himself.
When Jan visited me in Cairo, we made a video about my approach to language learning, which is very much based on independent, self-directed study.
To be honest, I'm kind of scared to give up control, and let a teacher tell me what to do!
However, it seems to make a lot of sense to do it this way right at the beginning of a new language, where there are lots of formulaic things to learn.
So, I'm up for it! And I'm looking forward to discussing the experience!
My plan-of-attack is simple, and is designed to be exactly what YOU would experience if you were to do something similar:
As for Jan, here's what he's planning…
One other thing… both of us will also working while we're there. So it won't be anything like a full-immersion experience.
However, we are both strong believers in the need to speak to people when learning a language. So, one thing we will definitely be doing is sampling the local nightlife in Bangkok, and practising our Thai with the locals.
To be honest, this is something I don't usually do when I'm a complete beginner. This is because communication is very hard when you don't know much of a language (obviously!), slipping into English becomes all too easy, and I end up feeling self-conscious and not really enjoying myself.
However, Jan is better at this than me, so I'm going to try my best, and learn from his example!
So, there you go!
We're super excited about the project, and we're going to be documenting what we're up to every step of the way, so you can follow along at home.
You'll get daily video updates of our experiences, pictures of cool things we see and do, and any other random things that happen! (It is Bangkok, after all!)
Here's how to follow along at home – subscribe to each of the channels to get automatic updates!
So there you have it!
We're excited to see what happens, and to show you the results!
Do you have any tips for us on learning Thai? Let us know in the comments below!
Do you know someone interested in learning a language abroad? Share this post with them to let them know!
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