I had come across the Thai ALG videos on YouTube earlier this year. It showed some of the Thai AUA Rajadamri teachers giving their lessons. My first impression was that the method required some leap of faith. The idea that we would naturally absorb language skills by seeing it being used in context was one that is not conventional, as far as the other language schools are concerned. It made sense though. Nonetheless I am not still not entirely convinced that the human brain is able to create synapses and connections in adulthood as well as it did in infancy and childhood.
I reflected on my previous learning of English. Many middle-class Malaysians from the cities speak English at home. Mine is bilingual. I must have naturally observed Brother and Sister speaking English, bahasa Inggeris, to my parents for years – the silent period – before one day producing the output, speech.
A factor which affects the time it takes for someone to pick up a foreign language is the Native Language Factor (NLF). The AUA website mentions this by saying..
This takes into consideration your background in language and culture. For example, a Malay has a NLF of .6 while an American has a NLF of 1. This means that the Malay will acquire Thai much faster.
That’s food for thought. Adam Bradshaw speaks fluent Thai. If he can do it, so can I, I say. Equally impressive, his younger, Ben, speaks good Malay!
I do learn Thai from speaking to my friends and Skype Thai language teacher. It may be anathema to the ALG approach, but it’s going to be very difficult not to speak Thai with those around me who do. Nonetheless I still plan to enrol in the AUA course again whilst in Bangkok next year as I believe there is very strong merit in being surrounded by enthusiastic native Thai speakers teaching the language using all the senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste (they do use all these!)