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soc.culture.thai Language FAQ
Section - L.2) Learning Thai abroad

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From: Thinakorn Tabtieng
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1993 16:45:30 -0500

   Apart from going to Thailand to study thai, you can also study it at
   University of Washington. I know someone who took an intensive program
   on Thai language called SEASSI (South East Asian Summer Studies
   Institute) which was held at U of Washington during the summer. I
   think the university also offers Thai courses during the regular
   semesters as well. Anyway, here is some basics about Thai language
   which you may find useful:

   The Thai language, or Phasa Thai, basically consists of monosyllable
   words, whose meanings are complete by themselves. Its alphabet was
   created by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great in 1283 by modelling it on the
   ancient Indian alphabets of Sanskrit and Pali through the medium of
   old Khmer characters. After a history of over 700 years, the Thai
   alphabet today comprises 44 letters (including 2 obsolete ones),
   representing 20 consonant phonemes, and 15 vowel signs, denoting 22
   vowels, diphthongs and triphthongs.

   As Thai is a tonal language with five different tones, it often
   confuses foreigners who are unused to this kind of language. For
   example, they have difficulty in distinguishing these 3 words from
   each other --

    * Suea (with rising tone) which means tiger in english
    * Suea (with low tone) which means mat in English
    * Suea (with falling tone) which means clothes in English

   Like most languages of the world, the Thai language is a complicated
   mixture of several sources. Many Thai words used today were derived
   from Pali, Sanskrit, Khmer, Malayan, English, and Chinese.

From: (Matt Barney)
Date: 20 Dec 1993 17:47:10 -0600

   Suwasdee Krap

   I am going to be attending the South-East Asian Studies Summer
   (SEASSI) Institue's program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
   this summer.

   About SEASSI:

    * Fellowships are available for both tuition and stipend
    * Cost to non fellows: $1600.00 U.S. dollars
    * Dates Held: June 13, 1994 to August 12, 1994.

   This is intensive study for Thai, and many other S-E Asian languages
   that equivalealent to 2 full semesters of learning.

   Teive an application call or write: Center for Southeast Asian
   Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 4115 Helen C. White Hall,
   600 N. Park St. , Madison, WI 53706; internet:

From: (Andrew Atzert)
Date: 16 Dec 1993 13:27:16 GMT
Organization: University of Pennsylvania, School of Arts and Sciences

   There are Thai language tapes produced by the U.S. government (the
   Foreign Service Institute). They're old, use an outmoded methodology,
   and don't (I'm told) reflect many changes that have occurred with Thai
   since the 60's, when the tapes were produced. They also do not cover
   the Thai writing system, using transcription instead. Nonetheless, I
   and others have found them useful as a supplement to other means of
   study. There are two levels available, with about twenty tapes each;
   they sell for about $140.00 a set. They can be ordered from:

   The National AudioVisual Center
   8700 Edgeworth Drive
   Capitol Heights, MD 20743-3701
   Phone: 800-638-1300
   Fax:   301-763-6025

   As for the writing system, you might try getting hold of two volumes
   by William Kuo: "A Workbook for Writing Thai" and (if I remember
   correctly) "Teaching Grammar of Thai." They're available from:

   Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies
   University of California
   Berkeley, CA 94720

From: (Putnam Barber)
Organization: Eskimo North (206) For-Ever
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1993 12:53:18 GMT

   The Seattle Public Library has two 20-cassette sets called "Basic
   Thai" and created by the Foreign Service Institute. Each comes with a
   text that reproduces and extends what's on the tapes.

   Mary Haas, "Thai Reader", is a progressive introduction to written
   Thai that can be used by a student working alone. It comes from Spoken
   Language Services, PO Box 783, Ithaca, NY 14850.

   She is also the author of "Thai-English Student's Dictionary",

   After getting myself to the point where I could pretty much find
   things in Haas' dictionary (not always a straightforward task, as
   spelling is sometimes flexible), I got a lot out of struggling with a
   book on how to learn English that seems to be aimed at a non-academic
   reader. I won't try to transliterate the title. In English it's "How
   to Learn English in 75 Hours" by Manit Manitcharoen. An 'hour' turns
   out to be a chapter, and there are 75 of them.... Using the
   dictionary, it took me longer than an hour to read through a chapter,
   but it was useful and interesting to see how familiar quirks of the
   English language are explained in terms of Thai examples. I suspect it
   would be a 'challenge' to get this book in North America. It does have
   an ISBN in it, so you could try: 974 245 413 2. That's just about the
   only English outside of the examples.

   Speaking of transliteration, the FSI "Basic Thai" books do not use the
   Thai written language at all (!). Instead, they depend on a careful
   transliteration scheme that seems to be all their own and which I
   found as hard to learn as Thai writing (and +much+ less useful -- they
   don't publish any newspapers or magazines for the general reader :-)

   There are also numerous publications and tapes from AUA's language
   school in Bangkok. The copies at the Seattle Public Library were only
   intermittantly on the shelf, and vol. I was +never+ there for me to
   sample it to see if I wanted to launch myself on their self-study
   programs. I have listened to a couple of their tapes (courtesy of the
   Univ. of Washington language lab); they were very methodical and
   clear, even without the texts.

   There are probably many University Thai courses around. I know that UW
   has one, because there are texts in the bookstore at the start of
   every semester and lots of tapes available at the lab. I don't know
   anything about the program. Write for info to UW, Seattle, WA 98195.

   There are at least two non-profit language training centers in Seattle
   that offer lessons in Thai in their catalogs. I've never been to one,
   but it seems like a good idea (and now that I'm heading back to
   Thailand -- today! -- I wish I had).

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