Fi3M Stories: How Randal Learned Conversational Thai in 90 Days
Here’s a question I often get from language learners about learning a new language in 90 days with the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge:
“What about a language like Chinese? Korean Or Thai? If I’m learning a language like that, can I do the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge?”
As someone who speaks Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Russian, I can understand where these questions are coming from.
Languages like Korean, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai often get a bad rap as “difficult” languages.
Can you really get the same results in 90 days with a difficult language as you can with an “easier” language like French, German, or Italian?
I’ve watched hundreds of learners of these languages do it. And I have even done it myself with Korean and Japanese. But don’t take my word for it. Here are excerpts of an interview I did with Randal Rhoade, an Fi3M student who took on Thai.
Note that the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge was previously called the Add1Challenge.
Learning Thai to Conversational Level in 90 Days
Randal Rhoade: Hello everyone. My name is Randal. I am currently living in Bangkok, and I learned Thai because I just got a new job and I was moving to Bangkok from Lao.
Shannon Kennedy: What drew you to the Add1Challenge?
RR: I had been frustrated with learning Lao [a language spoken in Laos], and it was very difficult to find some teachers who were adequate. So I started searching online to see what was available. I never thought to go online as a resource. Then I started seeing this community out there, and Benny and the Add1Challenge… so I just started. I love to challenge myself on my own, and I thought this was a good opportunity to do a challenge with a community.
Watch Randal’s Progress from Day 0 to Day 90
How Randal Succeeded and Learned Thai in 90 Days
SK: When you started the challenge what were your initial plans? What did you think you would be doing to study the language?
RR: I had fortunately already made contact with a tutor, a Thai tutor, and it was great timing that we just started lessons the week that the challenge started. Tutoring with her became the fundamental aspect of my training.
SK: What was your weekly study commitment? How many days per week did you study, and how many minutes?
RR: Because I was working full time, which is more than normal hours, I wasn't sure at first, but I had committed to 45 minutes, 5, 6 days a week, I believe. I was very determined to learn Thai, because I wasn't learning Lao very easily.
I love to challenge myself on my own, and I thought this was a good opportunity to do a challenge with a community.
I ended up doing well over an hour a day. I had determined what worked well early in the morning, and then what I could do during lunch hour, for example, and then my heaviest study times were usually in the evening.
My commute to work would be listening to audio. Pimsleur was what seemed to be the easiest because it was an audio recording, they're very short excerpts, and it had me actually speaking, not just working something through my mind. I would actually have to verbalize what they would be saying on the audio.
Just do enough to make you feel excited about learning more tomorrow.
Then lunchtime, sometimes I would have flashcards or I would just start practicing a word that I had learned for the day, and then the evening was much more studious lecture-type study. Writing the words, trying to learn the vocabulary, and sentence structure.
Randal’s Top Resources for Learning Thai
SK: As far as what other specific resources you found helpful to you in the challenge, what would those be?
RR: The tutor became the core investment. Then I purchased Pimsleur, and then I purchased a few books.
How Randal Broke Through His Anxiety to Speak Thai on Video
Note: For *Add1, students create videos of themselves speaking their target language on Day 0, 30, 60 and 90. The Day 90 video is a recording of them having a 15 minute conversation with a native speaker.*
SK: Tell me about how you approached making the videos. What your feelings were going into making them, and what your feelings were after you had made them.
RR: Initially I was anxious and nervous, and what worked for me is meditation. I try to incorporate that into my daily life, so I just relaxed. I would be nervous and then I would work myself through a relaxation period, and then became comfortable with just focusing on what I was able to speak.
I just determined, in my mind, that I'm not performing for anyone. [The videos are] an exercise just to indicate your progress, and it should be more celebratory than anything, because you should always be better than you were before and introducing new vocabulary. I would just relax, and then most of the time I was quite spontaneous. I didn't want anything too scripted. I would make sure I was familiar with the subject and the words I was going to use, just run it through my mind, and then I just would record.
Randal’s Obstacles in Learning Thai — And How He Overcame Them
SK: What about any obstacles you might have faced during the challenge. Did you have anything like that come up during the challenge, and if it did, how did you overcome it?
RR: I had to travel twice around the world, going back to the US, which is a long haul. I prepared some materials that I knew I would be able to handle on the plane. I just did some preparation I knew I couldn't push myself too much because it's very tiresome to travel that far, and that long.
I knew I couldn't push myself too much because it's very tiresome to travel that far, and that long.
I think the biggest challenge to that was taking a break. I became quite determined, and I was thinking of taking a break. It was hard for me to actually take the break because I was just so persistent and determined to do the best I could with this experience.
SK: Did you end up taking your break, or did you end up pushing through and studying anyways?
RR: Over the 90 days I think I took three days off. I didn't do any study, and I realized I was about three weeks into the challenge before I decided to take my first break. I didn't really feel like I needed it because I was excited.
There was a quote that I saw in the beginning of the challenge that someone posted and I thought it was really neat. It was the saying, it said “Do enough to make you excited to do more tomorrow.”
If you have work, and you have a family, and you have other demands, it's very difficult to do it any faster than just in small increments.
Randal’s 15-Minute Conversation in Thai after 90 Days
SK: Let's talk about your 90 day video. How did you feel going into your video? What did you expect? Were you worried about making it to the 15 minutes? Were you confident that you were going to make it to the 15 minutes? How did it go?
RR: Yes, I was concerned. This was the big one and I had been frustrated with myself the whole process, because this has been a very difficult language for me.
I was using a few italki teachers to speak more frequently, and I just let the teacher know beforehand, this is roughly my vocabulary levels, these are the subjects I can speak about, if we can keep the conversation around this particular subject that I would stand a better chance at reaching 15 minutes. Because the conversations can go off into different directions and you're not really prepared with the vocabulary. To go from zero to 15 minutes within 90 days, you need to focus.
SK: What were some of these specific subjects that you prepared, that you were working on during the challenge that you felt comfortable discussing during your 90 day video?
RR: Some of the subjects were my free time, interactions I would have with people in the street, food, taking a taxi, what are my daily routines. That was a big part of the conversation. What do I do on a daily basis?
Randal’s Biggest Takeaway from Add1
*SK: What would you say your biggest takeaway was from the *Add1Challenge?*
RR: Focusing on small wins is really what this helped me. If you open a book for example, and you just have all this vocabulary, it really doesn't mean anything to you, or to me. It's gotta be relevant.
Randal’s Advice to Future Add1 Students
SK: If you have advice to someone just starting the Add1Challenge now, what would that be?
RR: Get a tutor. I would invest in a tutor.
Being part of the community of people who are also interested in doing something similar was also motivating. Winning or not, being focused, having that accountability, and having a team leader who was sending out encouraging notes, sending out guidelines, you were very responsive with emails and questions about the challenge. I think it was a very worthwhile investment if you're serious about learning a language.
It was a very worthwhile investment if you're serious about learning a language.
The challenge is a great place to start to get the motivation and keep the motivation with accountability.
Learn a New Language in 90 Days with Add1
Thanks for sharing your story with us Randal! Randal is one of thousands of people who’ve learned a new language with Add1.
Would you like to have a 15 minute conversation in your target language after 90 days? Then join us in Add1. You can find out more here.