Your Dog Can Help Coach Your Tones when Learning a Tonal Language

Your Dog Can Help Coach Your Tones when Learning a Tonal Language

“You Speak So Well!”

Have you ever been learning a language like Thai, Chinese or Vietnamese and received a compliment in the very beginning stages along the lines of “You speak so well!”

While providing that much needed motivation to keep going in the language, receiving such compliments can start to be detrimental to your learning as you go further and further down the learning path and struggle to get real feedback from native speakers.

In Cracking Thai Fundamentals, we train our minds, ears and mouths to become acutely aware of what we are saying and how we’re saying it so that we can then start to ‘self correct’. It’s always better to have a coach that can really let us know whether we’re ‘hitting the mark’ or not. I have found that one amazing coach that we have is our little dog ‘Bear’.

Animals Don’t Lie

Bear only speaks (understands) Thai, and it would seem that she will only react to the vocabulary that she knows when the Thai words are pronounced in the correct way and with the correct tones.
In this clip, you can see how when the Thai word ขนม ‘kʰa-nǒm’ meaning ‘cake’, ‘candy’ or in this case ‘dog treat’, is pronounced with the wrong (Farang) tones, Bear doesn’t react in the expected manner. When the correct tones in Thai are used however (kʰa – High Tone | nǒm – Rising Tone), bear responds excitedly with HER word for treat – that is, to spin around anti-clockwise.
If you are living in a household that speaks the language that you’re learning, try spending time with the household dog (if there is one). If there isn’t one, suggest buying one and have them speak to it in the language you’re learning. As the dog grows, you will be able to use it as a great language learning tool and get some REAL feedback for your language progress.
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Stuart Jay Raj is a polyglot who specializes in the languages and dialects spoken in South East Asia and China. His talents have allowed him to earn a professional living as a simultaneous interpreter in Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Indonesian, among others, providing language and cultural training for multinational companies in the region and hosting his own TV programme on Thailand's Channel 5. He holds a degree in Cognitive and Applied Linguistics from Griffith University and has become an expert in the field of language acquisition with a strong track record of success. Stuart's background knowledge of Sanskrit, Khmer, Lao and various Chinese dialects and minority languages enables him to present a fascinating and unique perspective on the Thai language which makes everything fall logically into place.

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