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Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Suggestions and references for self-study, including bookstores and libraries

Moderator: acloudmovingby

Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby acloudmovingby » Tue Mar 01, 2016 11:22 pm

So I am native English speaker who's been learning Thai pretty consistently on my own for 3.5 years now (starting at the age of 22), with 2.5 years spent in rural Thailand. I've worked very hard to learn as best I can. I now read newspapers and books with some frequency. While I used to be very easily confused by Thai writing, I now find such puzzlement occurring less and less often. Recently I decided to start an effort to dramatically increase my daily Thai reading.

It's been very good for me, but as I've been reading more frequently, even in texts where I understand all of the vocab/grammar, I notice that reading Thai...

1) Is slower than reading English. Much slower. In English, reading is effortless, rapid, and automatic. For example, if a sign pops up in English, I simply cannot stop my brain from reading it.
2) Takes more mental energy My mind easily wanders.
3) Less enjoyableWhen the ambitious excitement of improving my Thai wears off, Thai text can sometimes feel a bit flat or uninteresting to read. The words often don't hit me in the gut like they do in my native language. I've had the experience of where I understand a Thai sentence perfectly, but when I translate it, the English version will strike me so much more poignantly, even though it is based directly on what the Thai says! It's not even someone else's translation, but my own!

Veteran Thai learners, what are your thoughts? I assume all things in due time? If you just keep progressing, do you find that it becomes more natural?
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Re: Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby David and Bui » Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:57 am

Let me make a recommendation to make your reading more enjoyable. I recommend the short stories of ...คึกฤทธิ์ ปราโมช [M.R. Kukrit Pramoj]. Here are some book reviews:

ช้างในชีวิตของผม [The Elephants in My Life] - http://www.thai-language.com/book-reviews#9
ตลาดนัด [The Flea Market] ISBN : 974-690-482-5, 120 baht
เพื่อนนอน [Bedtime Stories] ISBN 974-690-081-1, 175 baht

Kukrit has written others but I would suggest the short stories as they are interesting and you can feel fulfilled in a short time period. I think of Kukrit as being the O. Henry of Thailand for his creative sense and relatively simple language.

You can find them most easily at the Chula Book Center behind Siam Square. If you are outside of Bangkok, you can order the books at www.chulabook.com : http://www.chulabook.com/speedsearch.as ... &x=30&y=13
David in Houston
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Re: Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby Tgeezer » Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:23 am

Gosh a very deep subject. Three and a half years is no time at all when it comes to learning a language, especially a second language. It is interesting that you find Thai text flat and uninteresting to read yet are able to translate it, which begs the question; How did you manage to translate it? Naturally words in your native language mean more because they have more associations and that is what gives them 'colour' but if they represent a Thai word, surely the Thai word must be similarly poignant to you.

However, welcome!
You probably have less time than OAPs like me but don't be shy, join in our attempts at translation. I posed a question in another thread which is unlikely to be addressed, on which you may have an opinion.
Can คุยกัน or คุย for that matter be used n the same way as 'discuss? eg. We discussed the floods. เราคุยกันภาวะนำ้ท่วม

Edit: commas added!
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Re: Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby acloudmovingby » Wed Mar 02, 2016 3:37 pm

It's funny, people seem to be reacting to the "enjoyability" point I mentioned. I do enjoy reading Thai, quite a bit actually.

I agree with Tgeezer that words have a certain "colour" to them. Different words intrinsically evoke a unique mental image or sensory experience. You already understand this, but just as an exercise, I played around in English with words for falling:
He fell.
A man drops vertically to the floor. Basic enough.
He toppled over.
The word "topple" makes me imagine a pile of bricks suddenly getting knocked over; there's a sense of the top part fallling forward or of the whole thing tilting as it collapses. If I had to guess at the context, it would be either that he tripped or was punched in the gut causing him to keel forward.
He collapsed.
This seems to describe the man's internal state more, as if his body's own life force has disappeared into thin air; his muscles just lose their tension. I also don't feel much side-to-side motion with this word, just a sudden drop
He crumpled to the floor.
Similar to "collapsed," but here I get a stronger feeling of the joints bending, of limbs splaying haphazardly; in other words, of the body's parts "crumpling" as if you were to crumple a piece of paper.
He sunk [to the floor]
With this one you can feel the weight of his body. The descent seems slower, as if he were leaning against a wall and just slid down heavily

These are just some random examples off the top of my head, and different people may form different mental images with different words, but my point is that different words for "falling" can have very subtle connotations: the mechanics/physics of the fall, how quickly the person falls, what causes the fall, the person's emotion, etc.

So when reading Thai I find that some of those connotations are just not there for me, that in a sense my brain just gets "he fell." This is especially the case because while Thai words for falling have various connotations, they don't match up cleanly with the equivalent set of "fall" words in English. So dictionaries inevitably translate words imprecisely or too broadly. You'll notice that most dictionaries give a variety of English definitions for a single Thai word.

P.S. Tgeezer: what is OAP?
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Re: Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby Tgeezer » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:21 pm

OAP is old age pensioner, able to spend hours on the Internet.

I see what you mean, but you won't find that on this forum; if it can be recognised in the Thai the person is incapable of putting it in English and vice versa but welcome, I hope that you can help.
Edit: On the subject of dictionaries and Thai and Englaih not "matching up". Most dictionaries are out of date. The Royal Institute's dictionary is universally blasted but it is no more out of date than many Thai-English dictionaries yet people are quite happy to take them as 'gospel truth' .
Last edited by Tgeezer on Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby acloudmovingby » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:43 pm

I guess that makes me a YUU (young age unemployed)...also able to spend hours on the internet :lol:

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but what do you mean by "but you won't find that on this forum." Find what exactly?
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Re: Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby Tgeezer » Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:05 pm

acloudmovingby wrote:I guess that makes me a YUU (young age unemployed)...also able to spend hours on the internet :lol:

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but what do you mean by "but you won't find that on this forum." Find what exactly?

The nuance and colour which perhaps exists. Take my current 'peeve' from Prelude to a movie review.
ตั้งใจดูหนังอย่างเป็นเรื่องเป็นราวเสียที If เสียที means 'seriously', it is not a word I would apply to 'movie going' especially if hitherto the only movies you have been watching were as a critic. So หนังอย่างเป็นเรื่องเป็นราว simply means going to the movies, that is OK if you take all movies as stories, but that would be ดูหนัง wouldn't it?
So "you won't find it here" means that although I ask, no body answers, not even to explain why they all agree, this makes me feel like a dummy because I am the only one who sees the problem!
Going to golf now so don't expect an answer if you comment.
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Re: Veterans: How to improve reading speed/enjoyability?

Postby Toffeeman » Thu Mar 03, 2016 8:20 am

A very interesting thread. I'd like to add my 2 pennies worth.

I can read Thai fairly fluently and understand a good proportion of what I read but I have to agree with Cloud that the I don't get the same emotional feeling as I get in English. I guess it's mainly as it isn't my mother tongue but I think there is another issue for me. I find that the adjectives sort of get in the way of my understanding instead of enriching it. English adjectives go before the noun so you build up a sense of anticipation for the noun that is coming at the end.

With Thai I understand the verb and the noun and I have the main thought in my head and then the adjectives after it don't add much emotion to me as I already have the main thought. I'm not so interested in the fact that it is old, brown, tall, ugly or beautiful. To me those words sort of get in the way of the story.

I wonder if others have the same feeling with other languages like French where the adjectives come after the noun. If so perhaps they can comfort me that, as I get to know Thai more, the adjectives will come to have more meaning for me.
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