With the exception of a trip to Malta aged 2 (and a return there at the age of about 19), I have never visited a country without making some effort to learn the language. It might not have been very much of the language, and I might have forgotten most of it as soon as I got back home, but I have done it. My bookshelves are awash with mini dictionaries and teach-yourself books from the days before the internet was commonplace. These days, my phone and tablet are crammed with apps; my Memrise account boasts introductory courses ranging from Turkish to Korean; Duolingo awards me ‘lingots’ for my efforts in Norwegian and Catalan (learned through the medium of Spanish, as there’s no option to learn it through English). And yes, yes, yes, Thailand is very very well set up for western tourists. And yes, yes, yes, there’s no need whatsoever to learn Thai.
But that’s hardly the point. I am an insatiable polyglot. And now I have an excuse to attempt to sate my polyglottism just a little bit. To gain an extra insight into a culture, the way a language works, the way another people organises the way they see the world.
This one’s going to be extra interesting, though, I sense. When I did Spanish (kedilearnsspanish.wordpress.com) I was just about to embark on modern languages teacher training. My journey to Iceland took place after I had been teaching a year – and in kedilearnsicelandic.wordpress.com I used my experiences to reflect on my students’ experiences in the classroom. But my teacher training was a bit odd – heavy on the ‘here’s year nine, off you go and do it’ and very light on the theory of second language acquisition – which led me to a part-time Master’s in applied linguistics beginning in autumn 2015, and which I will have finished two days before we fly to Thailand.
So what I am to do here is to chart my attempts to learn Thai, reflecting on my own experiences, thinking about what I now know about second language acquisition, and also attempting to draw parallels with my students’ learning of French, German and Spanish.