Do I Need to Know THIS Word?

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

One of the challenges of language study is deciding which words to try to remember and which ones to not worry about. Ideally, I would be able to remember and incorporate into my working knowledge all of the new Thai words that I encounter in my reading and conversation. But, there are a LOT of new words that I encounter all the time. In working through a Thai novel about the history of democracy in Thailand, every page has many words that I either have not encountered before or still haven't learned well enough to actually use them. Here's an example: In my novel, the word meru (เมรุ), pronounced "main", has come up a couple times in the context of funerals. The immediate context in the novel didn't give me enough information to figure it out but upon looking it up in the dictionary, I've found out that it means "funeral pyre" or "crematorium". So, I think it is that little building on the temple grounds where they burn the body after a Buddhist funeral. Now, is this something I should make a point of remembering? It's not a word that I hear come up in conversation very often and if I remember correctly, I usually hear people talk

about "the place where you burn the body" (ที่เผาศพ), and not meru (เมรุ) so I could probably get by without bothering to memorize the word. However, now that I have blogged about, the word is probably going to be stuck in my memory whether I intend it to be or not. And besides that I just enjoy learning new words and trying them out in conversation.

One of the strange things about learning new words is that very often after I learn a new word, I start hearing it in conversation whereas before I was completely oblivious to the fact that it existed. I suppose that that can be accounted for by the fact that now that I've been made aware of the word, I pick up on it easily whereas before it was just one more unknown word in the midst of conversation and as long as I was able to get the general flow of the conversation, it wasn't necessary to know every word. I have to say though, that as I continue with language study (a perpetually unfinished task), it is nice to be picking up on more and more details in the conversations that I hear and the things that I read. And the more I understand in detail, the more involved I feel with the people that I am talking with, and the more at home I feel in the Thai language and with Thai people. And since we plan to be here long-term, that is a very good thing.


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