Saturday, January 30, 2010

students of AUA Thai use ALG method

While I have searched for blogs or experiences of students at AUA, I could not find any good ones through my own Google searches. But they do exist! And finally a good one has turned up. It was there all along but still it does not come up in my searches. Shame on Google! Searches always turn up with so many results that have very little to do with what you searched on. Google is not magic. Google doesn't have all the answers, and it certainly doesn't always give you the best results.

Thankfully we do have a nicely documented case of an AUA Thai student who progressed through 1500 hours in the ALG course. His name is Dan. Every month he wrote one post to document his progress and describe his level. If you are interested, you should read it. I'm going to quote some of the most interesting things he wrote. Outside of class he would speak Thai only when he knew how to speak without making up sentences. He started out attending about 5 hours a day (25 hours per week).

He attended from the end of August 2006 until March 2008.

-- Begin Quoted Text --

15 hours - Although it is a very subtle difference, and I still have NO idea what anyone is saying, I noticed today that Thai is beginning to sound more like a string of words than completely unbroken garble.

215 hours - AUA’s method is not about vocabulary and even in my final AT1 hours I still did NOT understand the majority of the words themselves. But I was following nearly everything, and understanding it intuitively, without any Thai to English translation in my head, and indeed, without any real "effort" at all.

Progress is very slow outside of class, but still perceptible. Each week, I pick up a tiny fraction more of what is being spoken around me, and it is automatic and intuitive, just like in class. I understand many of the very simple, common questions asked me and can automatically respond a nod or single word answer, without thinking about it or translating.

750 hours - All told, I spent 283 hours in AT3-4 and moved to AT5-10 at 683 hours total.

It is pretty amazing that the ALG system has resulted in an almost identical progression in each of the three levels I've been through. Leaving aside the first 30 hours or so of AT1 when I didn't know or understand ANY Thai, in each level I've experienced the same process.

920 hours - Fluency. It all depends on how you define it, but I think I’ve reached the early stages of fluency. I can now converse quite naturally with people, and I can normally understand regular conversation with me and around me. I get lost on idioms and slang, and if someone speaks very quickly I have trouble following, but typically I get it.

1120 hours - So, this means in less than one year, I've gone from being completely clueless in AT1 to being bored in AT 5-10. This ALG thing really works.

Progress is also slowing outside of class, but it's still quite noticeable. Day to day Thai (taxi directions, food orders, chit chat with fruit vendors, etc.) is rarely a problem anymore, and real conversations in Thai are almost a daily occurrence now too. Group settings where I am in the middle of a bunch of Thais talking are still a problem, but it's all slowly getting easier.

1200 hours - It finally happened... I've decided to stop attending so many hours at AUA. It's a little sad, actually, as AUA has become like a home to me, but the fact is that AT5-10 is too easy for me now and I believe that my Thai will improve more quickly through watching TV and movies and interacting with people outside of class.

-- End Quoted Text --

The above text is only a fraction of what he wrote, so if you have any questions, please go to his blog and read all that he wrote. If you want to know what he did or didn't do, I don't have any more information than what is written on the blog, so please look for it and if it's not there then contact the author. Do not speculate or hypothesize about what he did. Read for yourself and if there is no answer already there, please contact the author. I am not here to answer what he did or how he defines fluency. If you ask me any questions about him, I will probably ignore them.

In my next post, I will reveal where I found a link to Dan's blog. His first post where he documents his experiences learning Thai through Automatic Language Growth is here. He has a total of 17 posts entitled Attempting to learn Thai.


  1. Great find Keith. Read through all of his ALG posts. Wish I had the time and money to go to Thailand for a year and try it out myself.

  2. don't know why that comment lists me as "id". Thomas from babelhut.

  3. どうもありがとう for the link to that blog, incredible!

  4. Thanks for finding this link, Keith! Having spent 50 hours at AUA last November, I can relate to Dan's experiences to some extent.
    Apart from the linguistic side of things, which is being discussed here and elsewhere, the ALG approach teaches or shows you a lot about the culture, which would be impossible to cram into a text book. I mean taboos, social norms, family relations, beliefs, non-verbal communication conventions, etc. All of this is probably essential to understanding the culture, and ultimately, the language. The AUA concept quite naturally ensures that you get a lot of exposure to this as well.

  5. Keith, What a fantastic find! I get quite frustrated with Google's inability to come up with Thai blogs too.

    I now have Bakunin because he linked to me (thanks for adding me to your sidebar) but others are not so easy to find.

    And I know they are out there...

  6. I like this concept. I visited your blog for the first time and just been your fan. Keep posting as I am gonna come to read it everyday

  7. Tough question- if you match up your TV Method hours to Dan's AUA hours, would you say that your abilities roughly approximate to his, or did AUA prove to be a faster method (for him)?

    By the way, your blog rocks. Out of all the language blogs and their methods, I really hope yours turns out to work (it's certainly the most pleasant) :)

  8. Oh, I meant to add that I've logged around 270 hours of Japanese TV, and I feel that pretty much syncs up with Dan's self assessment at that point. I definitely have a very small vocabulary, but can intuitively "feel" what's going on more or less most of the time. Then again, you can "feel" what's going on with pretty much any TV show in any language, even when it's muted, so... we shall see.


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