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Friday, August 08, 2008


Can learning a language be bad for self esteem?

The textbook used in my Thai class is in question-and-answer format. The teacher (Khoon Kroo) reads a question and each student takes a turn to read an answer. This has helped to develop my reading skills in Thai but doesn't do a lot for my confidence in speaking when I don't have the book. Sometimes I try to take it a step further and give my own answer rather than the one in the book.

Recently Khoon Kroo started doing something different. From time to time she would take a question and either use it as it is in the book or adapt it and ask each student individually for their personal answer to that question. I like this. If she keeps it up our spoken Thai should improve.

There was a range of new vocab for occupations introduced in the book. And she chose to ask each of us which job we would like to do. Each of the occupation words started with 'nak' which means person or expert. When it was my turn I answered 'nak gaa siian'. It wasn't in the book. I was being creative and saying 'I want to be a retired person' or perhaps 'expertly retired.' But no, she wasn't accepting that. I had to use an answer from the book. I looked down and saw 'nak khiian' expert writer. So that was the answer I gave.

Her response was 'naa beuah' boring. Mmmm.

As the class went on I realised that I was better off giving a frivolous rather than serious answer. We were asked 'What do you do when you are happy?'

'Yim' smile said one student. Each student gave their answer.

When it came to my turn I said, 'juup pheuan kong phom' kiss my friends.

'Pooying reu poochai?' Men or women?

'Mai bpen rai' It doesn't matter.

The next student was Jason, a New Zealander. We often have a joke together probably because we are the only ones in this class from our corner of the world. 'Khoon Jason, khoon bpen pheuan Khoon John?' Jason, are your John's friend? she asked.

'Mai bpen' no answered Jason.

I'm sure my Thai is improving but I wonder if this is good for my self esteem.

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