Learning Thai language
PHUKET: Three foreigners speak to Claire Connell about how they successfully became fluent in Thai language.
Friday 5 October 2012, 10:51AM
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Stefano Colombo, Events, Sales and Marketing Manager for Events Thailand
I arrived in Thailand from America in October 1988. I first worked for Siangtai (a Southern Thai newspaper) in 2000. I called up the editor and pointed out that he knew no foreigner so fluent in both languages and thus needed to know me. He agreed.
I’ve worked for Siangtai’s English publication off and on since then. For Siangtai, I generally have used their original Thai copy. When that’s wrong (it usually is) I try to correct it. When it lacks important detail, I find that.
How do I go about translating? I usually open one text editor with the Thai copy, and another with my English translation, the two editors splitting the screen roughly 50/50, one atop the other. I then read the Thai, think about how to phrase it in English, and write.
On route to Penang while living in Pattaya was where I first started learning Thai, with my Thai girlfriend.
Being bookish I had, while still in Bangkok, picked up a number of dictionaries and phrase books. We took the train down to Penang and, as Boom (my girlfriend) spoke little English, we had great opportunity, sitting opposite each other about forty hours, to converse in Thai.
It was, of necessity, slow, each of us taking turns searching through the dictionaries and phrase books so that one might know what the other was talking about. But by the time I got back to Pattaya, I could – with patient interlocutors – make my way in Thai conversation.
I avoided the alphabet for a few months, till I got a job teaching English in 1989 at what was then the Pansea hotel in Phuket (then the Chedi, and now The Surin). It was most embarrassing, for when called upon to translate any part of the English text into Thai, or to use the dictionary, I quickly showed myself illiterate.