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Book Review: by Lang Reid
Speak Like a Thai
Publishing represented in both the US and Bangkok Thailand sent their Speak
Like a Thai Volumes 1 (ISBN 1-887521-39-9) and 2 (ISBN 1-887521-73-9) over.
These are actually audio CDs, with an explanatory booklet with each one.
The concept is that the phrase is spoken first in English, and then you
listen to the translation in Thai, and after you have heard the Thai
enunciation enough times, you will be able to “speak like a Thai” as the CDs
promise. Since almost all farangs who attempt to speak Thai come across the
barriers of tone, syllable emphasis and other such improbables, most give
up. There is also the other problem that formal language schools appear to
concentrate on grammar (does Thai really have any grammar?) over
conversation, and 99 percent of expats just want to be able to speak a few
words which can be understood by the local populace.
I listened to both volumes, and the concept appeared to be a viable
proposition, but I have to say that I found the male Thai voice a little
unclear at times. Perhaps it was my CD player? However, the male American
and the two female speakers were very clear.
The booklets begin the same way with some cultural details, language
characteristics and then several pages on the guide to pronunciation and
tones. This was my first stumbling block (and this is one aspect that the
professional language teachers all ignore) – they will continue to use
phonetic script to indicate the correct sounds, which has all sorts of
strange symbols, like “e” upside down and “c” back to front. This means that
to learn this new language called Thai, the reader has to first learn
another new language called ‘phonetics’. I would direct all Thai language
teachers towards that marvelous little book called Robertson’s Practical
English-Thai Dictionary (ISBN 974-8236-38-2, Asia Books). It is possible to
get the sounds across to the students, without the need to learn the
The first CD is called “Contemporary Thai Expressions” and there are 500 of
them on the CD, and also printed in the booklet. I found that the phrases
did not seem to follow logical progressions, but then, perhaps they were
never supposed to, but I have always found it easier to learn ‘like’
phrases. However, this CD will give you “Get out of here now” followed by
“He is a broker” and “I dislike it”.
Both CDs seemed to have a hefty percentage of what I would call “bar
culture” expressions such as #192 “To undress and get naked” and perhaps
intuitively followed by #193 “I survived”! There is also #216 “Give me all
you have!”, #229 “He can’t be trusted” and #230 “She sneaked out to have
some fun”, with the best being #285 “She is single, but not a virgin”!
Each volume (CD plus booklet) retails for B. 299. It is an inexpensive way
to assist you speak Thai, and many of the phrases are potentially of value,
however despite phrase #136 Vol. 1 saying “I guarantee you will like it”, I
cannot give that guarantee.
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