Stickman Readers' Submissions July 31st, 2006

Delightful SE Asian Wife In Europe – Language And Language School 4

By Hans Meier

He runs his eye down and finds that there are more exceptions to the rule than instances of it. So overboard he goes again, to hunt for another Ararat and find another quicksand.

He Clinic Bangkok

Mark Twain about my language


Three days after the class started, I go to her school's office and ask if Nahlee could switch to a class progressing in slow mode. They don't have such a class. Instead, i get an address list with other institutions who might do slow courses. Money back is no option. Nahlee and i agree that she will do all 100 hours in this school and then change the institute.

On the telephone they sounded like they really care for their students. And they do. Just minutes after my talk in the office one of the office ladies in her silken, "Asian" wardrobe floats into Nahlee's class. She whispers something with the teacher, then sits next to Nahlee and does some dialogue exercises with Nahlee.

CBD bangkok

One week later the same intervention re-occurs. A silk-wrapped office lady attends Nahlee's class and sits down with her, being her partner in the dialogue exercises that are part of the afternoon. This time it's interesting. Why did she come again? On that very day, hours earlier, i had had telephone talks with several schools. One headmaster had recommended Nahlee's current school. I had briefly replied that this school progresses too fast. Obviously, the headmaster had called Nahlee's school to tell them she is about to desert, and they tried to take care.

Nahlee herself is dead-sad about all the attention. Her performance is quite bad, compared to most others, and that in the presence of the "high" school manager.


One evening i take the train into the capital again to meet her teacher. This lady has just performed over three hours, and we have no appointment. But when i ask for a short talk, she agrees happily. Should Nahlee switch to a class with the slow progression scheme, i inquire? She looks honestly baffled: "Nahlee? Slow scheme? No! This class is just good for her! There are other, slower students who might want to change. But Nahlee really should stay."

This is not correct. Nahlee clearly can't cope with the class. First because the more successful participants all arrived with prior knowledge, and second because Nahlee is not the studious eager academic for whom this class seems to cater. (She is not lazy or stupid either. She is not.)

wonderland clinic

When i talk to the teacher, i feel like a parent talking to a teacher about a failing child.

But, in my opinion, *the teacher* is failing here: Failing to offer a class that actually starts from zero and to progress with reasonable pace. The teacher happily relates to the fastest students and to those who already did all the exercises half a year ago. She doesn't even check their homework! I guess this freelancing teacher just wants to keep her students together, so that her class won't get cancelled and mixed with another group.

Little of my severe reserves i reveal to the teacher during our 30 minutes talk. I want her to remain positive towards Nahlee. Very indirectly i mention that some students might already have enjoyed three or twelve months of full-time teaching elsewhere. She declines that idea – "everyone here is new to the language". She really believes that. She goes back to the office and brings a few grammar books she recommends for further studies. She is a dedicated, friendly teacher, but she needs fast, European academics in the classroom – not my poor third-world Nahlee.

The teacher mentions that Nahlee is not required to know *all* the vocabulary from her exercises. Nahlee should just be able to do the exercise. Some words are not necessary to learn, the teacher says and points to several difficult, unusual words in the book which shouldn't be there. "I don't like these words myself", she says.

"We have three different levels of understanding a text", the teacher lectures on. "And on these pages we require only so-called 'global understanding'. Nahlee does not need to check-up all the vocabulary she encounters. It is enough if she gets the idea of the meaning and can answer the questions in the exercises." She suggests to practice the language and to ignore some of the words in the school book. This had been impossible for either Nahlee or me so far. We had tried to look up all the many words being thrown at us.


Our combination of native languages is rather unusal. You can see that from the fact that not one decent dictionairy exists for us – neither electronic nor in print. So in many cases we resort to English dictionaries for her language. That is unproblematic for simple things like "toothbrush" or "spaghetti fork". But some abstract concepts in my language can't be translated 1:1 into English and then into her language.

We do need a dictionary straight from my language into hers. Last year, web mining had revealed that decades ago there had been something – a dictonairy from her language into mine, and a conversation book. After that discovery, I had visited first- and second-hand bookshops in her country, but they didn't know the books. And not one antiquarian or travel bookshop here in Europe holds these volumes. I also made a second-hand reservation at, to no avail.

Well, from my web efforts it seems that one university library in my country has the required books on tap. I visit our local library, and two weeks later they manage to direct the desired volumes into our remote district!

For the first time we see a dictionairy straight from her language into mine. But it's no revelation: This thing is machine-typed, many phrases sound completely outdated, it seems something of a private initiative. Nahlee says the phrases in her language contain a lot of "pagoda language, we never use that".

One book has 1000 thousand pages alone, it doesn't invite any browsing. We have to get it into the laptop.

There is a book scanning service online; they charge at least 10 US cents per page, plus 10 US dollars basic fee. I manage to get in touch with an OCR expert who says: "Scan the books on your own. Get them into an OCR software, and create double-layered PDF files. On the top layer you see the pixel image of the page. Behind that will be the words in text mode – this second layer you can use for text mode searches in Adobe Reader. When you look for a word, the software will scan the text mode pages; but it will present any place of discovery on the photocopy style page of the book, and the pixel image of the requested word will be highlighted. Thus you will always see the real thing and will not have to deal with any OCR mistakes when looking at the pages on the laptop. Still you have a full text search."

I hire the son of my cleaning lady for the dull scanning job. We sit together in the office: he scans, i try to think, and while he makes more progress than i, we discuss Ghana's performance at the world cup. I also make him scan another 700 pages illustrated dictionary i grabbed at the public library – that's great in the laptop too: Nahlee searches a word, and the thing jumps to the according picture.

Then it's my turn: OmniPage 15 and Abbyy FineReader 8 compete for the OCR job on my desktop PC. OmniPage sees more real words in the scanned pages and does better in splitting double pages into single pages. But the dictionairy had been slightly too large for the scanner, and the school boy had been a bit careless; so some words fell beyond the edges. My usually speedy desktop PC needs more than ten hours computing time to OCR it all.

What we get is still quite useful in the Adobe Reader. If you use the advanced search, you can split the books into several files, but still make Reader search all files in one go. It makes sense to search for "whole words" only. For easy words we still stick to the fast English PC dictionairy she has; but all complicated matters are now searched also in the PDFs, and we get a lot of good info from there. Also she is happy to see more of her own language and to explain the shift of meanings that seems to happen everywhere on the way from her language to English to my lingo. I plan to OCR more books soon – they are just handy in the laptop.

Delightful SE Asian Wife In Europe – Language And Language School
























Stickman's thoughts:

No comments today….sorry, so busy.

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