Preparation and foundations are key when beginning to learn a new language, especially one of the top ten most difficult languages in the world! And that’s what my (Sarah’s) three-week Beginners Language Acquisition Course through Wheaton was all about.
Contrary to what I would’ve thought, my first two weeks of the course were spent learning English phonetics. Only during the last week did my professor touch on the basics of Thai phonetics.
But of course there’s a rhyme and reason for it! As a native English speaker, I take for granted my ability to converse fluently. Simmering down to the core of English phonetics has been key to understanding how I speak and what mistakes I may tend to carry over into my target language – Thai.
I not only learned basic phonetics but also dissected a language itself, looking at all the aspects that make up a language in order to see what’s involved in truly being able to communicate clearly and meaningfully.
This reminded me of my time spent on the last day of the course with my language helper. For our final lesson, she taught me how to make Thai green curry and had me rehearse a couple of phrases I had learned in our lessons together.
But what I was reminded of was how learning a language was like learning to cook! There were many necessary ingredients, but they had to all come together to make the delicious meal that was Thai green curry. In language learning, it’s important not only to know all the different aspects (ingredients) of a language, like grammar, phonetics, sentence structure, etc. but to simultaneously work on bringing them together (fluency) in order to be able to communicate with the Thai people in an understandable way. I want to be speaking their language (both verbally and non-verbally), just like I wanted to make a meal that indeed tasted like and was in fact, green curry!
I certainly feel off to a good start after taking this course! What’s next for language learning? Next is setting language learning goals for my state-side time and beginning to work towards them. Afterward, goals will be set for language learning for our first term on the field in Thailand. I definitely look forward to when we can be immersed in the Thai language, but I also consider it a great advantage to have a head start with learning Thai on this side of the globe.
Thank you so much for praying with me on this exciting and challenging journey of language learning; and a big thank you to my director, professor and language helper for generously sharing your time, knowledge and expertise with me!
Sawatdee ka (Hello), Sarah Lynn