Take a break and improve your Thai
In traditional language programs it’s common to forget. In fact if you wait long enough, you may forget everything you studied. Many years ago, one of our students had ‘studied’ (I never like using the word study in relation to our program because it doesn’t represent what we do very well.) for about 6 months and was in level 3. He was going to return to his home country for another half a year and hoped to come back to take more classes. He asked Dr. Brown what he should do in order to maintain his Thai – in order not to lose what he’d learned. At that time, Dr. Brown imagined that he wouldn’t lose a thing and he’d be able to start right back from where he’d left off.
The next year he returned. He had not been exposed to any Thai, and hadn’t practiced any form of study. He went into level 3 where he’d left off. After about 1 week, he went to visit Dr. Brown, reporting that the classes were actually too easy. The result of this break was that he moved to level 5, completely skipping level 4 altogether.
What happened? How can this be? We think there are a few things related to this phenomenon.
First, people normally remember things that happen. Because our Thai program is based entirely on experiences, you automatically retain them. What is an experience made up of? Many happenings – and in our program, Thai language is a part. So the first thing to understand is if you were there as part of the experience, you’ve got that experience in your head.
Secondly, processing those experiences cannot possibly take place all at once. How many times have you been unable to recall something, or understand a new thing that happened, and couldn’t understand it until setting it aside completely? Your mind was still at work, and what you were trying to figure out, connected seemingly all on its own. When you collect the language pieces in experiences, your brain doesn’t connect everything immediately – this is a process that apparently takes some time. I like to think of this process as a from of digestion. In fact, it’s more like a linking up of the different parts in the hundreds of ways each part might be linked up to other things already in your mind.
What we have noticed and especially for those who study 5 or 6 hours each day, is that during breaks away from the program, these students actually report improvement. They often understand things that they didn’t before. Vocabulary seems to ‘click’ into place. My own most vivid experience with this was one day, while driving down the street, a word on the radio stood out to me as if I was hearing it for the very first time – except that it took my back to a class that I’d had in room 421 where the teacher was explaining that word. It hadn’t connected at that time, but it remained as a part of the experience. While listening to the radio, I ‘experienced’ that word again and it was the link my brain needed to help it fit in. This was a full 8 years after the class!
My advice to our full time language students is this: Don’t push yourself by thinking that getting away is going to hurt your progress. If you’re studying for 30 hours a week, a week or two week break every month or two will do you good. Try it and don’t forget to tell what happened here. 🙂