Some Language Learning
Reading for Meaning
I. Reading for Meaning
The collection of SEAsite readings, many of which have an audio component for listening as well, are designed to teach you to read Thai and to help you enjoy it. As you develop your mastery of the Thai language, you should know that your capacity to read in a foreign language will always outpace your ability to speak and write. The readings will expose you to more advanced grammatical structures and vocabulary than you will encounter in speaking. You will see that you can recognize in reading much more than you can produce in speaking. Thus the readings will challenge you to go beyond the subject matter of your basic Thai lessons. Remember the goal is to recognize and find ideas in order to understand a reading selection. In each reading, you should search for meaning intelligently. After each reading session (whether you complete it in its entirety or only a portion thereof in one sitting), you should have been able to grasp its content in a general sense and to form an opinion about your overall understanding. As you progress, you will be able to recognize words, expressions, and grammatical forms from your previous study as well as those that you knew at one time but may have forgotten, or new words that are essential to the comprehension of the selection. The meaning of many words are to be discovered in context; that is words whose significance can be determined by their postion or function in a sentence or paragraph.
Be alert, attentive, and active as you read, and always search for meaning. Guess intelligently when you come across a new or unfamiliar word or expression. If you can, determine its grammatical function. Is it a noun, a verb, an adjective? If it is a noun, how can you determine if it is singular or plural? If it is a verb, is it a main verb, pre-verb, post-verb, or a verb that has another grammatical function, e.g., as a preposition? How does an unknown word fit in with the rest of the sentence? Because Thai, like other Southeast Asian languages, is a "pro-drop" language, what clues can you find as to who is "talking" (the "agent" or "actor") or "being talked about" (the "patient")? Can you find general meaning even if you do not grasp every single detail? In your reading, DO NOT LOOK UP ANY WORDS until you have exhausted every resource to find meaning through context!
II. Vocabulary Acquisition Strategies
Strategies for acquiring new vocabulary can include:
1. categorization (e.g., according to meaning, part of speech, formal vs. informal language forms, alphabetical order, or types of clothing or food);
2. keyword mnemonics (that is, finding a native-language word or phrase with similar sounds, and creating a visual image that ties the word or phrase to the target-language word; learning pato in Spanish by selecting the similar-sounding English word "pot" and by creating a mental image of a duck with a pot on its head);
3. visualization (e.g., through mental images, photographs, charts, graphs, or the drawing of pictures);
4. rhyme/rhythm (e.g., making up songs or short ditties);
5. language transfer (e.g., using prior knowledge of native, target, or other language structures);
6. repetition (e.g., repeating words over and over to improve pronunciation or spelling, trying to practice the words using all four skills: writing new sentences, making up stories using as many new words as possible, reading texts that contain those new words, purposely using the words in conversation and listening for them as they are used by native speakers).
You can also:
1. mentally visualize or draw pictures of a reading, lecture, or conversation to help remember it;
2. use charts to check if your writing is balanced ("I only have two advantages in this essay, but six disadvantages. Should I change my topic or should I add more advantages?");
3. create flashcards or a list of key words/phrases to help you when giving an oral presentation in class or to organize your writing;
4. learn grammar or spelling rules by making up rhymes or songs ("i before e . . .").
Other useful activities for learning new vocabulary:
1. Make vocabulary flashcards or keep a vocabulary notebook that contains not just lists of words and their meanings or translations, but also some of the following: pictures, sentences comparing different meanings of the same word, charts, words sorted by category, various grammatical forms of the same word, the mnemonics used to remember the words, where the word was found or who said it and in what context, contrasting of formal and informal words. The advantage of flashcards is that they are small and can fit into a pocket or purse easily.
It may also be useful to keep a tiny notebook to jot words down, along with an example of their use in a sentence and possibly a mnemonic to help remember them. Later they could be transferred to a more complete notebook and/or to flashcards;
2. Have your teacher or tutor make audiotapes (vs. written lists) of the vocabulary in order to practice the pronunciation of the words --- or to help "auditory" learners learn more efficiently;
3. Select new words according to: interest, frequency, ease of learning, relative usefulness (professional, personal, or academic), language topic, "it's on the exam," etc.
III. SEAsite Interactive Vocabulary Practice in Context
SEAsite has several resources for learning vocabulary in context. All of the beginning level materials have a vocabulary component that lets the learner interactively listen to the Thai pronunciation of words while reading the English definition. There is also a "flashcard" and "matching" section that assists the learner in rapid vocabulary building incorporated into many of the lessson materials: Maanii Reader, Thai Reader, and Spoken Thai.. Research shows that the learner needs to be exposed to a new word at least an average 10 times before the item crosses an acquisition threshold. It goes without saying that focused repetition is essential to language learning.
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