The Nation

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It's all in the language for Adam

American Adam Bradshaw shows Thais and farang how it's done by conquering the local lingo in just two years

He has blond hair, a pale skin and blue eyes so when he starts speaking, the last thing I am expecting to hear is a sentence in fluent Thai. Maybe, I think, to speak, John Adam Bradshaw was born and raised here, the son of an international businessman who chose to make Thailand his home. But that's not the case. Ajarn (professor) Adam, as he calls himself, is a 26-year-old American hailing from Utah who's passionate about Thailand and the Thai language. I first came across him on Youtube. He'd posted a video clip of himself speaking Thai titled "Farang who can speak Thai clearly" and I had to admit he scored high. Like many Thais, I'm always impressed with foreigners who try to learn the language, not least because it shows a sense of open-mindedness and a great deal of respect. Bradshaw has also posted more videos about teaching English to Thai people using Thai as the teaching medium, which seems like a very good idea. A volunteer missionary for his church who first came to Thailand to about the bible and Christianity, Bradshaw instinctively knew that if he was to reach Thais, he needed to speak the language. He says he's enjoyed learning Thai from his very first lesson because it's so very different from English. "I don't want to be like so many of the farang who come here and expects everybody to speak English. That's not respecting Thai culture. In order to absorb everything, I needed to adapt myself to the culture, weather and the food too. I couldn't eat spicy food when I first arrived," he says. Bradshaw started learning Thai in the US with an American who'd lived in the Kingdom for two years. That gave him basic conversation and enough vocabulary to survive. Once here, he focused on the alphabet. Learning to read, he says, took more than six months. "Every morning, I would read out loud for at least an hour. I also came up with 'od phasa angrit' or 'no English moments'. I forced myself to speak as little English as possible â?? only Thai," he says. His advice to anyone wanting to learn the language is to speak to their Thai friends, never be afraid to ask questions, teach them English in return, carry a pocket dictionary and read. Reading, he stresses, is essential to get past the basic conversation stage, and it's also helpful in understanding the tones. And it's also a gradual process. Bradshaw notes that the key is to stop formulating your own sentences and follow the way the Thais speak. After three months, Bradshaw could understand what people were saying, order food and ask directions. After six months, his Thai accent had improved. At that point, he stopped translating from English to Thai. "I took a notebook and recorder with me everywhere. By then I could write. Every time I heard a Thai say something that I knew didn't come automatically, I wrote it down. I also recorded Thai conversations. I feel that if a Thai person said it, it was how it was said â?? not with more words like you learn in a book," he adds. He reckons it took about two years before he was fluent in Thai and that's when he switched to teaching English in Thai. He posted videos on Facebook and Youtube, then Twitter, teaching English slang in Thai that earned him positive feedback from Thai learners. Today, Bradshaw has almost a million viewers on his Youtube channel and more than 20,000 fans on Facebook. He sees social media as the ideal media to promote his teaching and his beliefs. Asked whether he's intending to become a celebrity English teacher like Andrew Biggs or Chris Delivery, Bradshaw grins. "Andrew Biggs is my inspiration," he says. "I've read Chris Delivery's books too. "Andrew Biggs teaches Australian English, but I'm different because I teach American English. With American pop culture becoming more widespread and the constant evolution in the language, the way Thais learn English from a foreigner who speaks Thai needs to be updated," he says. Bradshaw's teaching techniques are unlike those of Biggs or Delivery. He focuses on the slang and idioms that American native speakers use in daily conversation as well as colloquialisms, and applies his methods for learning Thai to his teaching style. "People don't speak text book language. I want to separate myself from those two by teaching idioms and yes, slang too," he says. And how does he teach his English language students to overcome their shyness in actually speaking? "My advice to them is just do it. "Tell yourself this is not your language and if you say things wrong, who cares. Take it as a lesson. You have to speak wrong at first in order to speak right. The same thing happened to me when I first learned Thai. I made mistakes but Thai people understood and helped by correcting me. Bradshaw now has his own 10-minute English teaching spot called "Wink Wink English" on TV Channel 5. It goes out Monday to Friday at 5.45pm.

On the web Watch an exclusive interview with Adam Bradshaw


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