Thursday, August 15, 2013

How Difficult is it to Learn Thai?

Thai script is difficult enough to master, but throw in the reading difficulty, word placement, no space between words, no capitalization, no plurals or punctuation and you've got a perfect storm.  To try to illustrate I will translate one of our recent reading exercises in the way you would see it on the written page except the lines would not be separated, only a space between sentences.

yesterdaywednesdaymistertimlearnthaiatschool actuallymistertimlearnthaiperweekgofivedays classroommistertimhaveeverybodypersonhimthinklearnthaidifficult todaygolearnthai teacherwithstudentgoplaysporttogether teacherlikeplaywallyballmuchbuthesametimelikeplaybasketballmorethan intwodaysdayholidaythinkhegotowaterfall waterfallbenearwithwatnaihousingcommunity misterrtimandgovisitwithfriendpeoplethaitwopeople hisfriendofmistertimwantgowaterfallfinishedalsodrinkbeeratwaterfallalso  mistertimthinkholidaythiswillgofun

It reads:
yesterday Wednesday mister tim learn thai at school  actually mister tim learn thai per week go five days classroom  mister tim have everybody person him think learn thai difficult  today go learn thai teacher with student go play sport together  teacher like play vallyball much but he same time like play basketball more than  in two days day holiday think he go to waterfall  waterfall be near with wat nai housing community  mister tim go visit with friend people thai two people his friend of mister tim want go waterfall finished also drink beer at waterfall also  mister tim think holiday this will go fun 

In order to ever to be able to speak this language with any fluency one would have to "think in Thai" which will take many years!

I can now see why Google Translate does such a terrible job.  It tries to do literal translation which doesn't work well.