I thought I would post the good news. I am now scoring 94-96% retention on my Thai reviews. The words are sticking (at last), the tones are sticking (at last). I’m expanding my vocabulary by 10 words per day but having done that successfully for about 3 months now, I shall risk all and increase to 12. If 12 is cool I’ll go up from there to either 15 or 20 per day. I’d like to finish with a couple of months of 20 words per day – it’s a very respectable rate of progress.

Cracking Thai has been hard. Here are some of the things I had to do to make this work

  1. Use different review spacing intervals vs for European languages
  2. Learn all the mono-syllabic words first
  3. Ensure no fluency unit is left more than 30 days without review (long term that will change)
  4. Get better at making links between English and Thai
  5. Focus on reading including tone markers – which seems to have integrated the tone into the word in some part of my brain
  6. Slow down. Be patient. Festina lente. Achieve consistent success before expanding the rate of learning.
  7. Monitor my progress even more closely than usual looking for signs of impending doom so it may be avoided. So far so good.
  8. Handle the fact that Thai people when speaking informally change “r” to “l” or miss it out entirely and usually don’t pronounce the last letter of a word.

I wish I could go back knowing what I know now and handle this challenge in one year and a relatively straight line because the hardest component of the job has been not to allow myself to become demoralised. And as someone whose passion is better results with less stress in less time my journey to this point was, to quote Frasier Crane, as much fun as watching a loved one being autopsied. I’d say, I managed worse results (than I wished for) with more stress (than I wished for) and it took more time (than I wished for). Not pretty.

However, I feel like a world war 2 fighter pilot who “made it through” and I’m looking forward to being able to help others with this difficult to learn language. Today, I can learn Thai at a rate of 10 words per day for sure. And the best part is that it is taking me less than 15 minutes per day – and I believe we now have a systematic approach that can achieve the same for other motivated learners.

Now all that appears to be left is a bit of patience. Spend maybe 3 or 4 months more on the job and Thai will be officially cracked. Your heart beats around 100,000 times a day and your body never gets bored of doing it (thankfully). I find that thought helps me when I have something relatively trivial to do like spend another 90 – 120 days to complete my Thai to the level I want to take it. That’s another 18,000 reviews, not even 6 hours worth of heart beats.