“Sarah, are you interested to teach Alan (a regular customer) Thai?” asked the manager at the restaurant I was working at in 2011.
“Sure, I never taught Thai lessons. But I should be able to,” I replied, being confident that it shouldn’t be that hard to teach my native language. I thought to myself I have been teaching English for 12 years and English is my second language, I should be able to teach Thai easily. glûay glûay mak (an old-fashioned expression in Thai, meaning very easy).
Well, I was wrong. It wasn’t easy. It was actually much harder than I thought or would expect. It was really difficult to explain Thai nuances even though I was already fluent in English back then. It wasn’t glûay glûay at all!
As a native Thai, I learned Thai alphabet and the structure of the language much differently than what was written or planned for non-Thai speakers. We start from gor gài ก (chicken), kŏr kài ข (egg), kŏr kùat ฃ (bottle), kor kwaai ค (buffalo) all the way to hor nók hôok ฮ (owl). For non-Thai learners, they usually start with the middle consonant class: gor gài ก (chicken), jor jaan จ (plate), dor dèk ด (child), dtor dtào ต (turtle) and so on.
Thai is a tonal and high-context language. The tones are crucial and as a native Thai, I never really paid attention to the tones until I got to teach my first student, Alan. Due to our high-context culture, Thai speakers also drop or omit a lot of words such as pronouns, words signifying tenses, objects, and so on while adding a lot of seemingly unnecessary words at the end of the sentences such as ná or rŏr and those are so powerful as they can change the meaning or soften the speaker’s tone in a very amazing way.
I fell in love with my native language since I started teaching Thai. There are also a number of cultural references and nuances that I find challenging, yet fun to explain to non-Thai students. I’m a kind of person who loves to make sense of the world, the languages, and people in general so whenever I get asked any questions in regards to the Thai language, I usually do a lot of research and ask my Thai friends and family why we use some particular words the way we do while also trying to make sense of every single word we use in Thai. Of course, some of them can’t be explained by just one English adjective and need at least 5 sentences to get the core of the meaning and that allows me to explore my own language in the way that I never did before I started teaching Thai.
I started Thai With Sarah Channel on YouTube late July 2019 and I’ve produced over 100 videos that cover a variety of topics. In these past 7 months, I have learned to explore my interests and how I would grow my channel. You can see that my channel is a combination of 1) Thai lessons–both live and edited videos, 2) my own insights on many topics including dating, sin sod or dowry, the concept of greng jai, etc, as well as 3) my own stories/experiences as someone who had the opportunity to study abroad and get to embrace herself in different cultures in Canada. I’m certain the direction I’m taking for my channel will be most beneficial for my audience as I believe my own experience in teaching together with understanding of intercultural differences and approaches to present the language, culture, and the country altogether instead of focusing on one aspect, will allow the audience to gain in-depth understanding of learning while also enjoying Thailand’s scenery and real life of people here.
All the materials and content used in the video have been adapted from some Thai textbooks and I use my own teaching techniques together with a lot of input from Praewa to ensure that the audience can understand it easily and enable them to use the phrases in real conversation while interacting with Thai people.
I also would like to express my sincere thanks to all of my collaborators including Benny enough for being guests on my channel a numerous time and helping create content for my audience to enjoy and maximize their Thai learning skills.
If you like my content, definitely subscribe and make sure you also smash that bell icon because I do spontaneous livestreams often and in order to be notified, you’ll need to make sure that bell turns grey! 🙂