One of my favourite polyglots, Moses McCormick, often records videos of himself “levelling up”(practising and improving in a language) on his youtube channel. Moses frequently says that you don’t need to travel to a country in order to practise a language: you just need to seek out native speakers of your target language, seize the moment and get some practice in. So when I was on a bus earlier this week, and I overheard some Thai people talking, I was delighted to practise some Thai with them.
I’d consider myself firmly at an intermediate level of Thai, but far from fluent. However, I am adept at ‘icebreaker’ conversation material – telling a story about how I met lifelong Thai friends while studying at University, discussing difficulties with learning the language, saying what I love about Thai culture, etc.
We had a conversation with absolutely no hesitation or awkward moments… apart from very early on in the interaction. They had recently got on the bus, we were suddenly talking in Thai and then they asked (in Thai) “where have you been?”
I was a little thrown off by this question – did they mean where I had been earlier before I got on the bus, or where I had been in Thailand? It turns out they were asking me about Thailand. But I think it just goes to show that sometimes misunderstandings are not actually to do with the foreign language, it can simply be someone misreading the situation!
Overall, I was very satisfied with my Thai conversation skills in this interaction. Usually when I have a conversation in Thai I quickly hit a roadblock: unable to remember a crucial word or simply unable to generally express myself. At this point the conversation lulls to an awkward halt. Although I have a long way to go until I feel like I’m truly proficient in the language, I feel like I have truly come a long way from when I had my humble beginnings with the language 3 years ago.