Learning Thai can be a bit like playing a really long RPG game where vocab is the little gold coins you pick up along the way.
Sometimes you can feel a bit stuck like your not progressing and then all of a sudden you learn a key word or phrase that opens up a whole lot more information and suddenly your on a whole new level of Thai.
Maybe it's a new way of expressing a feeling, or a conversation starter, or being able to read a sign you walk past every day, or understanding the true meaning behind a common word. Whatever the trigger is, those eureka moments are the most satisfying moments when learning a new language.
The big challenge of course is to keep the eureka moments coming, keep up the learning momentum and not to stagnate. Below are a few tips to help along the way.
1. Don't avoid the gaps you know about
If you know about a particular gap in your knowledge or vocab, don't put off learning it because it is difficult. That key to the next level might be hidden in there somewhere. Study, cram, push past it and move on up.
2. Use a variety of learning tools and work on all the language skills
Talk, listen, read and write. Each of these skills assist the others so they all need some practice. Focussing too long on one aspect without working on the others can lead to stagnation.
One big one here is learning the Thai alphabet and beginning to read and write in Thai rather than using a Roman character phonetic alphabet (official or otherwise). Starting to read does wonders for improving your pronunciation and for being able to pickup new vocab wherever you go around Thailand.
3. Think carefully about where the key to the next level might be hidden
Know where your language skills are limited and focus on those gaps.
Where did a conversation fail when you would have liked to continue?
What were you trying to communicate but couldn't get the meaning across properly?
What is that word you keep hearing but don't know the meaning of?
What was that person saying when you responded ไมเข้าใจ?
What is that street sign you keep walking past and can't work out?
Taking some notes after moments like these happen can be really helpful. Play the scenario back to yourself later and work out the right words to use. Next time the conversation plays out it might go a little further, it might open up an opportunity to pick up more vocab or it might open up a whole new realm of understanding.