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Thu 27 Apr 2017
Learning Thai
Written by Gor   
Tuesday, 29 July 2003 00:00

Did you know that today is Thai Language Day? It is the day for us to celebrate our national language. I never thought much about our language before. To me, I have always thought that English is more important because it is an “international language”. But, Thai is part of our national heritage and we should be proud of it.

About two years ago, I started a small web site at www.learningthai.com. I didn’t think it would be very popular. But then I started getting letters from foreigners all around the world, which surprised me. I never realised that there were so many people interested in learning our national language. Although most of them wanted to learn some Thai for a holiday, there were also another group that took me by surprise. This is one letter which I received:

“Although I have Thai parents I cannot read or speak any Thai. I have been living in America all my life. I must thank you a hundred times in your effort to help me learn my native tongue. Through your lessons I am now starting to be able to read and speak Thai. My ambition now is to be able to speak some Thai to my grandparents the next time I visit Thailand on holiday.”

Since I posted that letter on my web site, I received dozens and dozens of other letters like this from Thai teenagers living abroad as well as from half-Thais. This following letter is quite typical:

“Ah, it's so sad that more parents don't encourage their children to learn their language. So many of the half-Thais I knew growing up would stare blankly at their Thai mothers and ask, ‘Mom, what are you saying?’ I'm half-Thai and my father forced us to reply to our mother in Thai as children. He'd also send us in to spy on her conversations with our Thai grandmother! My mother did teach us the Thai alphabet, but never taught us to read. So now, for the first time in my life I am learning to read and write Thai.”

Another group of people learning Thai on my web site also took me by surprise. These are the Thai children that were adopted as babies and now live abroad.

“I'm an American with a young orphan daughter adopted from Thailand. We take her to a Thai temple every week for language and culture instruction. She also has a Thai babysitter. However I'm under no illusions that she will ever be fluent in Thai unless she gets the opportunity to live with a Thai speaker. We can only build a foundation; it will have to be her own decision whether to pursue this seriously or not.”

I like that letter a lot as the adopted parents are trying their best to help their child understand her culture and language. Of course, if she stays all her life in America then she won’t get much chance to use any of this knowledge. But, I don’t think that matters. What is important is that the child understands her heritage.

Two years have now passed since I started doing this web site at Sriwittayapaknam School. We now have five different web sites which we use to teach people the Thai language. For example: ethaimusic.com, thaiphrasebook.com, thaiforlovers.com and thaichatbox.com. Altogether, these web sites receive over 3000 visitors every day! It is amazing that there are so many people wanting to learn Thai.

Now it is a big project for students at the school. They all help by typing easy stories in English and Thai, recording their voice and making quizzes. They even chat with foreigners in English and Thai on our forums and in our chat room! Like the students, I too was surprised to meet so many foreigners that could write Thai very fluently! Some even help answer difficult grammar questions on our forums! Questions I cannot answer!

After you have finished reading this, I hope you are now more proud of our national language and will celebrate today properly!