If you’ve never been to a BarCamp you’re missing out on something. I spent last Saturday and Sunday at BarCamp 4.
It’s mostly a geek event – and more than one person commented on the fact that they didn’t ‘know’ I was a geek. Of course I’m not. However, the event has much to learn from in many fields. I like the format – and would love to see it applied to education in general. Basically, people show up around 9 AM, and write tiles of things they’d like to speak or present on large cards. Then, for about 1 or 2 hours, people walk around, mingle, and leave a mark on any topic that looks interesting. The topics with the most votes gets the space, a schedule is put up and people filter around to where they’d like to go. Time limits are adhered to and it’s a great opportunity to gain ideas and interact with people of different interests.
So Saturday evening I happened into a person who introduced himself as a Thai teacher. This wasn’t unusual except for the fact that he’s a ‘white guy’. Of course this caught my interest, and I spent a bit of time getting to know Brett Whiteside. Brett has a unique and interesting approach to learning Thai – but what we seemed to really connect on was the fact that both he and I believe that language study, as it’s normally understood, is normally a waste of time. While there are a few people who will get upset with me for saying so, the fact remains that well over 90% of those who study a second language as an adult fail.
We decided to hold a talk together – the title? “Why Language Study Sucks”. I know that’s not a very exciting sounding topic, but we had a good dialog about ways that the average foreigner in a place like Thailand can learn a language without a teacher or school.
We don’t really stop to think about it much, I think. We’re surrounded by Thais speaking Thai, but they’re not speaking to us. When we do have conversations with Thais, we foreigners tend to dominate them. Both of these realities tend to make gaining input a difficult thing.
Brett and I also agreed that input was vital. How can we gain input?
– Learn a few sentences in Thai well enough, so that Thais will respond to you above your level. (Don’t forget to keep smiling as if you know everything they’re saying, but rather than to focus on the words, focus on the meaning as much as possible.)
– Learn to read some words you know, and from those branch out into ones you don’t.
– When someone brought up the fact that even when they speak in Thai, the Thai they’re speaking with insists on speaking English. To this, Brett recommended the language wars game. Just keep plugging away in Thai and don’t give in!
– FukDuk.tv – this is an online programming site with many different demonstrations and great material and production.
If you have other ideas on how to get Thais involved in conversations with foreigners, please leave them here in comments.
Check out Brett’s blog at http://learnthaifromawhiteguy.com