The first day of the Cracking Thai Fundamentals workshop started out with the obligatory introductions. I realized during the introduction that even foreigners who have been living in Thailand already for quite some time still seem to struggle with the same aspects of the language as I did: tonality, vocabulary, reading and writing. I was in good company!
To get the workshop started, Stu Jay set the stage by getting our minds to think outside of words. He made us aware that learning a new language is slowed down when we focus on literal translations, because meaning of words is relative. Stu Jay asked us to “never let words limit our thoughts” and led us through an exercise in which we color-coded a list of words based on how they feel, rather than focusing on their specific meanings. All participants quickly got a better feeling of words as a result of this color-coding exercise.
It then was time for Stu Jay to teach us some basic semantic building blocks of the Thai language. We learned 11 essential words without having them translated into English. We internalized their meaning through gestures and full body motions. I found this highly effective, as it pulled us away from the writing and sound system of our mother tongue. With these building blocks in place, and only two hours into the program, each student was already able to produce complete and proper sentences in Thai.
Next, we learned the Thai vowels. We had lots of good laughs, as Stu Jay taught each of the vowels with a corresponding hand sign. It is impossible, for example, to ever forget the sara aa (า) the way Stu Jay teaches it. These hand signs have been developed by Stu Jay as a way to “lock” the vowels into our body, mind, and throat. This module of the workshop is available on YouTube (Part 1 and Part 2). You will see that you feel quite comfortable with all the vowels in less than 30 minutes.
We then learned about the different consonant classes and the role tone markers play in the Thai alphabet. Stu Jay got us to visualize vivid scenarios and repeat his sounds, body movements, and gestures to ensure the highest possible retention of the learned material. As a result, I will forever know what the low, middle, and high classes are doing in the Thai alphabet, as I vividly remember the funny stories and images Stu Jay used during this module.
After we all had a solid understanding of the classes, we tackled the Thai consonants. As with the vowels, Stu Jay developed a system that teaches these vowels in a fun and easy way. We used his Thai Consonant Map to gain an understanding of each consonant’s class, sound, and where in the mouth it is produced. Through many engaging exercises, we gradually became aware of the muscles used to produce each consonant. Stu Jay ensured that the participants remember each of these consonants by using stories, analogies and metaphors with humor. I now won’t be confusing ผ, ฝ, พ, ฟ anymore and remember how they sound and to what class they belong.
Throughout the entire workshop, Stu Jay taught us not only the Fundamentals of Thai, but also many aspects of Thai culture not typically taught during a language (or even Thai culture) course. Getting such a deep insight into Thai culture has provided many “AHA!” experiences for all participants of the workshop.
Cracking Thai Fundamentals has been an outstanding experience for me. I’m now confident and convinced that I can master the Thai language. I feel Stu Jay has given each participant a very powerful language seed and it is now up to us to make it grow.
More on Stu and Cracking Thai Fundamentals…
Mnidcraft: The Art of Language
Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part One
Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Interview Part Two
Successful Thai Language Learner: Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj
Cracking Thai Fundamentals Meets Mnidcraft Over Songkran
Stu Jay Raj is Back in Bangkok with Cracking Thai Fundamentals
Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Interview With Scott Eddy