Agricultural and Applied Economics
I became interested in learning Thai mainly from having studied abroad in Bangkok, Thailland for a semester. Meeting and developing friendships with Thai people there has driven me to try to acquire a working knowledge of their language in order to create more meaningful interpersonal exchanges with them.
I don't have any hard and fast plans to live or work in Thailand in the future, so I'm uncertain the extent to which a working knowledge of Thai will have practical application for my life. I fully intend to return to Bangkok periodically in order to visit my friends there, but these trips might only last three or four weeks at a time. I've asked myself the question, "Is it worth it then for me to put in all this work to develop a skill that I might use for a few weeks every couple years or so?" Practically speaking, probably not, however, practicality is only one piece of the equation. I've found studying Thai language to be quite intrinsically rewarding. Truthfully, the whole process has been just a lot of fun. It's very challenging demanding a mix of logic and creativity. There's also an interesting dynamic in the fact that the language is both the subject of study and, at the same time, the means by which to understand it. In this way, learning more of it improves your capacity to decipher it. The process feeds on itself as you recognize patterns and begin to understand the mechanisms by which the language combines smaller words to construct more complex ones.
I've also come to understand the power of language as tool to enhance personal connections. Learning a language isn't something that just happens by accident; there's a tremendous amount of time and energy involved. A guy who ventures into a foreign country able to command some of the language already has a bit more credibility than a tourist just stopping over for a week. It indicates to some degree that you have invested yourself in that place, that you have a stake in the country and in the people, which provides an excellent platform for developing deeper relationships. This factor has proven to be a strong incentive for me to advance my knowledge of Thai. Overall, I've thoroughly enjoyed developing this aspect of my life.