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Practicing the Thai Language

Tha Ivanenko Katya Baby Steps Learning Thai

By Katya I., YES Abroad 2019 – 2020, Thailand

I recently had the opportunity to join my host father at the local primary school where he works. We arrived right after the Thai national anthem had been sung, and I was introduced to the teachers and the first-grade students (Prathom 1).

I took a seat in their classroom and their teacher gave me the worksheet with the instructions: copy down what was written on the whiteboard. I was able to copy the Thai characters without too much trouble. Then, we did a reading exercise where the teacher said a word and the whole class (eight students, plus me) repeated it. For me, this exercise was very challenging. The sounds and tones of the Thai language are considered very difficult and I am still learning, so it took me several tries to pronounce a word correctly. All the students around me laughed at my mistakes, but they were so excited to help me practice the language! At the end of the class, the teacher tested the students, calling each student to the whiteboard, one by one, and instructing them to read each word out loud. You can see a photo of my turn at the whiteboard here!

I knew I wasn't expected to be perfect on my first try, but I was still apprehensive about speaking in front of the students. I stumbled over the first few words, but as I kept reading, I grew more confident in my ability. Once I had finished, everyone clapped, and all the kids ran up to me to say "good job!" I was proud of myself. It was fun to be learning alongside young students, and it was the perfect opportunity to improve.

Thai is unlike any language I've learned before, but I'm making progress! At the beginning of my exchange, I could barely introduce myself, and now I'm starting to read. I've realized that small victories, like recognizing a word, count just as much as big victories. My hope is that, by the end of the year, I will be able to speak better, but for now, it's the small steps that count.