Learning to read and write a language with a non-Roman script (such as Thai, Arabic, or Hindi) is challenging enough already so the thought of learning to touch type in that language can be daunting. For myself, the time investment involved was considerable but typing in Thai is a ministry skill that I am really glad to have picked up along the way.
Being able to touch type in Thai opens up all sorts of possibilities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. When I need to write up a handout or a Bible study, I am able to do it. When I am preparing my sermon and want to write my notes, or at least key words and phrases in Thai, it is quick and simple. When I type up a lesson plan for our kids club that I want to go over with some Thai helpers, I can do it up neatly and quickly in Thai so that we can all be looking at the same piece of paper. When I want to send an email, leave a comment on Facebook, or chat online with a Thai friend, I can do it. It is really freeing to not be consigned to cutting and pasting from the dictionary on my computer. Cut and paste is so slow and tedious that if that’s the only way I had to do it, I would do very little on the computer in Thai and thus miss out on online opportunities for communicating with Thai friends and co-workers.
I also see typing in Thai as one part of considering the needs of those I am working with ahead of my own needs. Although I can type stuff up in Thai at a somewhat decent speed, it is still not as quick or easy as English. Typing in Thai and checking my spelling takes more time but I think it makes life easier for the Thai Christians that I am doing ministry with. Sure, some of them can understand enough English to make out what I want to say if I send them an email in English but it is much quicker and easier for them to read and process an email in Thai. I was driving to a meeting with some Thai ministry interns and two of them were talking about how hard and time-consuming it was for them to read email in English from their missionary team leader. I can sympathize with that. Doing lots of reading and processing of information in a second language written in a foreign script can be slow to the point of being so overwhelming that you want to give up. However, I can certainly appreciate the missionary side of things as well. Learning to type in a second language that doesn’t use a Roman A-B-C alphabet is a time consuming task in the midst of many other pressing ministry demands.
I am grateful for Thai friends who can communicate with me in English, yet I think that the fundamental nature of the missionary as a cross-cultural worker demands that it is the missionary who needs to go the extra mile to make communication easier for the locals, not the other way around. I don’t say this to criticize long-term missionaries who can’t type in the local language as I appreciate the pressing demands of ministry and the fact that most Bible teaching and Gospel communication is done orally.
Learning to touch type probably doesn’t need to be a top priority for most missionaries. But if ministry is too busy on the field, it’s something that can go on the “to-do” list for later, maybe during home assignment. In the long run learning how to type in the local language is a ministry skill worth investing in. The up front time required is significant but the benefits are considerable.
Thai Typing Drills Online (ฝึกพิมพ์ไทย-องกฤษ กับโยงใยไทยศึกษา) - A missionary friend recently pointed me to this site and it is a phenomenal resource for practicing Thai typing. It simulates old style typing drills and is easy to use.
thai-language.com - This is a great resource for learning Thai language. The dictionary is surprisingly comprehensive and helpful. The forums are particularly good. All the questions that I have posted there have been promptly and helpfully replied to by foreigners and/or Thais who have a good knowledge of the Thai language. They also have a Thai typing game here.
BCC Typing Tutor - a freeware program to increase your typing speed in Thai or English. I have not used it but a missionary friend recommended this as a pretty basic program that works. From their website: "ดาวน์โหลด BCC Typing Tutor (โปรแกรมฝึกพิมพ์ดีด ฝึกพิมพ์ไทย ฝึกพิมพ์อังกฤษ) โปรแกรมฝึกพิมพ์ดีด BCC Typing Tutor เป็น โปรแกรม ฝึกพิมพ์ไทย และ ฝึกพิมพ์อังกฤษ พัฒนาโดยคนไทย แจกฟรี ไม่มีค่าใช้จ่ายใดๆ"
LearnThaiPing - Online Thai typing tutor that you might want to check out. I played with it a little bit. Looks like it could be useful. From their website: "LearnThaiPing.com teaches Thai online with a unique technique, combining typing exercises with visual and audio prompts." https://www.learnthaiping.com