In this Episode of Talking Thailand with Khun Pleum (M.L. Nattakorn Devakula), Grace Robinson and Adam Bradshaw interview Polyglot Stuart Jay Raj.
Languages that Stuart or ‘Jay’ use during the interview include English, Thai, Indonesian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Danish and Spanish.
Stuart or Khun ‘Jay’ talks about how to best approach learning languages like Thai and Chinese and talks about techniques that can help foreign learners overcome obstacles like tones and grammar.
He also talks about what he sees as the top challenges that foreigners face learning Thai, as well as challenges that Thais face when learning English and other foreign languages.
The interview is Bilingual (about 80% English), with English subtitles for the whole interview.
To watch the full original episode, you can view it on VoiceTV’s site at:
or Watch the full episode on Youtube at:
You can follow Stuart Raj and Jcademy on Twitter at:
or Facebook at :
To tweet about the show, use hashtag #TalkingThailand and #Jcademy
Welcome back to Talking Thailand.
Thailand from the inside out and outside in.
Looking at Thailand through a new international perspective.
Talking Thailand on Voice TV.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have a guest –
Adam and Grace, sitting between them
is Mr. Stuart Jay Raj. สจวท เจ ราช
Sawatdee Khrap (Hello)
Wow, you Wai very nicely Stuart.
Let me commend you on that.
You speak very fluent Thai.
I use it every day.
No, but Stuart –
did you learn Thai from Adam or …?
No, actually it’s the other way around.
I learnt Thai from Stuart.
Today we have invited Stuart to come here.
Or (Khun) ‘Jay’. เจ
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Some of us know you,
but for the viewers,
we know you speak many languages.
But you’re now living in Thailand.
Thailand is home.
Thailand is home.
I’ve been a resident here for a long time now.
I came to Thailand about 17 years ago.
What brought you here?
Originally, when the monetary crisis in Indonesia happened,
I jumped back briefly to Australia and then over here to Thailand.
And then this became home.
I wanted to talk to you about the use of many, many languages that you have
come to learn over the past years in your everyday life.
This is a show where we talk about the usage of the English language.
The Thai language.
A couple of weeks ago, the French language.
But you speak many languages.
A ‘polyglot’ I think is the term there.
This is a new word for the listeners.
It’s someone who can speak many languages.
More than 3 languages.
Actually, 3 or more languages.
3 or more languages.
So how many languages can you actually speak?
How do you count them?
I guess that you would call fluent being able speak like this.
Probably about 15 or 16.
15 or 16 languages.
But if you’re talking about being able to write the script or read,
but maybe not fluently
That is truly amazing.
That’s a real talent. It’s amazing.
I mean, how many people in the world can do this?
Now there are …
wait, which language do we use?
We have a big polyglot community around the world.
It’s growing and growing.
I think that I went on another TV show here back in 2007 originally.
And still, the polyglot community wasn’t there then.
But after that there has been more and more happening around the world.
So now there are people learning 15, 20, 30 languages.
I read about …
is it a Peruvian 12 year-old boy that could learn 10 or so languages.
I haven’t seen that one, but there are people that …
I get emails every day from people who have seen clips on Youtube,
or they’re part of this and they’re inspired.
I had one university professor who was in Italy.
He was a linguist and he spoke languages,
but he never knew that he could do anything other than be a professor.
And so he saw what I do with the languages with companies
and travelling around the world
and he quit his job as a professor.
Do you use it in your work? If so, how?
What line of work?
Ok, so for many years I have been a trainer / facilitator.
Originally with –
I don’t know if you know Dale Carnegie.
And then I came out of there and ran my own (business).
So I would go into companies …
I don’t know if I can say the companies’ names,
but multi-national companies.
An first of all run training.
But then, they said
“Well wait a minute, rather than you just train our guys at the top,
why don’t we train you in our business,
and then you can go in and be one of us with our people in China, Malaysia, Indonesia etc”.
And so this happened and if it was in Oil and Gas,
they trained me up in Health and Safety.
If it’s in Modern Trade, they trained me up in the Retail business.
And then I go through to their local people on the ground,
whether it’s China, Indonesia ..
Supposing they’re having problems or Leadership training,
I’ll go in and find out what’s going on.
And we work with them to help integrate with the foreigners.
So are you saying that you’re something of a ‘go-between’
with two languages and cultures?
Because obviously when you learn a language you learn the culture?
I think in regard to my job,
you could probably call it as well as being a ‘วิทยากร ‘Trainer’
I am also a กันชน** ‘kan chon’**** ‘buffer’**
In Thai you would call it ‘kan chon’ กันชน
A ‘buffer’ between the locals and foreigners working there.
For example, if there was a company that had foreign policies that need to be introduced
and implemented locally,
how do you get them to ‘gel’ with the local culture?
Because they won’t understand it.
So you’re a great …
And it’s not just their understanding.
Suppose you think of what a good leader is in the US.
It might be somebody who speaks their mind and gets things done.
Business is business.
Relationships are relationships.
But Thailand isn’t like that.
You have to look at everything.
You have ‘Phradech’พระเดช (authoritarian father figure) and ‘Phrakhun’ พระคุณ (graceful father figure)
for a good leader.
And they have to think of their people as a family.
And so to transpose the leadership from the US to Thai,
you need something that will be a ‘buffer’.
So you have to be very sensitive to both cultures.
Yeah, and see what’s happening.
The good thing about being a third party is that when you go in there,
my deal is that
supposing that the Farang tell me to go in there and I’m listening to what’s going on,
the deal is
Okay, I’ll listen,
but what goes through finally to the foreign management
is what I think might be okay to go through.
So the people down here are safe.
They can say whatever they want.
They don’t have to worry.
If they don’t want it to reach the ear of the foreign management
or their boss,
then, they don’t need to worry.
So growing up, how did you learn so many languages?
Is it just something within your DNA?
Are you born with this skill?
I think your grandfather was a big inspiration to you wasn’t he?
My grandfather was amazing.
So, that’s on the ‘white’ side of my family.
He spoke 13 languages.
Well, 11 or 13 languages.
So it is in the DNA?
I told you.
Well he says it’s not.
He says it’s not just talent.
Well this is it.
If you’re a sportsman.
If you’re somebody who plays sport really well,
of course you will like it.
My grandfather showed me
1. How the mouth works,
and how your body produces language.
2. And then showed me how to look at meanings.
And so for an example…
I can give you an example.
If in Thai.
When I teach Thai, you’ve got this word ขึ้น kheun
and ลง long.
Ok, so I call them ‘Black Words’ and ‘White Words’.
Kheun is a ‘white word’.
Long is a ‘black word’.
I’ll give you an example.
If we say ‘beautiful’.
I couldn’t say to you –
You are สวยลง ‘suay long’
I would have to say สวยชึ้น ‘suay kheun’ (more beautiful)
‘More beautiful’ right?
Because สวยลง ‘suay long’ doesn’t make sense.
Because ‘suay’ (Beautiful) is something that is ‘white’.
So ขึ้น ‘kheun’ added to it means it’s getting ‘whiter and whiter’.
You can สวยน้อยลง ‘suay noi long’ – Less beautiful (than before)
But ‘noi’ น้อย is ‘black’.
But this is a totally different concept than what we have in English.
You just say –
Pretty, Prettier, Prettiest.
Big, Bigger, Biggest.
And so when a foreigner comes in and they try to apply these principles from their mother tongue,
And when it doesn’t work, they say –
‘Oh that’s too hard’.
So you have to know all the little intricacies of each of these languages to use them right.
I don’t know if it’s just about knowing intricacies.
It’s putting another operating system down.
Ok, so this operating system –
you have multi-operating systems in yourself.
Do you believe that normal people can learn to adapt languages like this?
I think you’re talking about losing pre-conceptions of your own language.
Well it’s starting to think ‘out of language’.
From now on, instead of thinking
“I need to add -er to make ‘prettier'”,
สวย ‘suay’ (beautiful) – สวยขึ้น ‘suay kheun’ – (more beautiful – than before).
You don’t have to think in English anymore.
You just think ‘Suay Kheun’ สวยขึ้น
That’s ขึ้น kheun
When you understand the operating system,
you can think in that operating system.
You can ‘feel’ in that system.
But you must forget your own language or you’ll ….
You’re just not conscious of it as you’re speaking.
So if I’m speaking Thai,
“If I speak Thai, then everything inside of me becomes ‘Thai'”.
In that case, can we try …
Wow – it goes as far as that?
You totally change systems.
There’s a Thai system and a Chinese system.
If you’re speaking in Indonesian.
All of my experiences,
everything I have ever been speaking in Indonesian …
[Indonesian] So if I speak in Indonesian, I’ll be speaking like this.
[Indonesian] So everything inside of me becomes that which I have been while having spoken Indonesian.
What is that?
If I speak in Indonesian,
every experience that I have ever been with in Indonesia,
with my Indonesian family,
or growing up,
that’s who I become when I speak.
In Chinese it’s the same.
Let’s give him one sentence that he can just change into five different languages.
What’s a good sentence?
Maybe we could just speak?
In that case, could I ask for a little more Indonesian?
How would you say เมืองไทยน่าอยู่ ‘Thailand is a really livable place’ (Thailand’s a great place to live).
[Indonesian] It’s great living in Thailand.
How about Chinese?
[Mandarin] It’s so great living in Thailand.
What? You speak Chinese?
And you can speak Danish as well?
[Danish] Yes, I speak Danish.
Alright. This is not bad.
So you speak Mandarin and Cantonese?
[Cantonese] Yes, I speak Cantonese.
And Sign Language?
Yes, that’s Signed English.
There’s all different types of Sign Language.
With the Chinese, my grandfather spoke Mandarin.
So I spoke more Mandarin.
Then with my Indonesian surrogate family,
they spoke Mandarin.
Then later on I came and learnt many different dialects,
like Cantonese and different ‘fang yan’
Or dialects in China.
But you have Mandarin and you have other dialects that you can also speak?
Now the beautiful thing about China is that if you go and you look at
the Old Chinese 上古漢語and Middle Chinese中古漢語,
In Old Chinese, you can trace the same system that we have here in Thai.
If you go to Xishuang Banna (Yunan Province)
and all these –
I have actually got lists out on the internet there,
hundreds of words that have the same roots.
So the tones –
everything that we have in Thai,
it’s the same ‘system’.
Let’s ask this question.
For our foreign viewers out there,
What’s one of the biggest obstacles for a foreigner learning Thai?
Obviously it depends on what their native tongue is.
But let’s just say that their native tongue is English.
So if you’re a foreigner learning Thai,
the first thing is that you’re thinking in English.
And so as soon as I say –
or you hear somebody sayฝรั่ง (Caucasian Foreigner)
They might write down
And that’s fine if they’ve just heard somebody say
But then look at this.
I speak Australian English and you speak American.
So I say ‘Can’t’ [kha:nt] and you say [khaent]
I say ‘Farang’ and you say ‘Faraeng’
And so when the guy goes home and he reads F-A-R-A-N-G,
If he’s coming from (USA), he’ll say ‘oh, FARAENG’.
So one of the main things is separating yourself from your mother tongue’s sound system
and getting straight into the sound system and having it
live in your body.
Or like you inherit a differnet soul.
It’s almost like being ‘possessed’.
When Grace speaks Thai,
she has this ‘Thainess’.
Like – placed on her.
It’s almost like …
She’s a Thai lady.
Okay, so what’s happening with you now?
You’re living here,
you’re doing work here.
You’re enjoying life as a multi-lingual person.
Yeah. I live that.
We’ve just actually launched …
and will be launching the new version of it …
it’s an online learning academy.
We can talk about that.
It’s going to be everybody,
so hopefully you and anybody else who loves language
or has anything that they want to teach,
you can use this as a vehicle to teach it.
But I’ve put all my stuff that I’ve done over the years for language
that normally I would do face-to-face,
now we have the amazing tools to make interactive learning.
So you make apps and all of these things.
So we have done and and we’ve launched a platform where
you can come in and learn the Thai Operating System –
you can call it ‘Thai OS’ if you like.
Instead of running the ‘E.OS’ – English Operating System’
You can learn the Thai Operating System so that then when you speak …
have you ever heard many foreigners when they learn Thai,
they might give up because they say
“I thought I said it right but they say they don’t understand me”.
Same with the Thai people learning English.
Learning English, Thai people will say
ลิ้นแข็ง ‘I have a stiff tongue’.
But I don’t believe that you have a ‘stiff tongue’.
It’s just because everything that you’ve learnt from a kid in your operating system,
**like the word ‘Shopping’ **ช็อบปิ้ง
You need to use a ช ‘ch’ (because there’s no ‘sh’)
And then ‘ปิ้ง is written with a mai tho tone marker over a Middle Class consonant
making it a falling tone – ‘ping’ ปิ้ง.
So you always think that it’s ‘ChoppIng’ ช็อบปิ้ง
And when somebody says ‘Shopping’,
what you’ve learnt is filtered out.
So what we do is put that new OS down
So that then you can speak it more like a native speaker.
Is this a website?
** So my name is Jay – Stuart ‘Jay’ Raj.**
It’s like the word Academy
with the ‘A’ changed to a ‘J’ – Jcademy.com
So it’s Jcademy.com
Do you have a favourite language?
It depends what I’m thinking in.
You can speak Spanish?
I speak Spanish.
Is Thai not as passionate for you?
Thai is passionate in other ways.
This gives you an advantage when you’re like trying to ask a woman out ..
All of these countries you go to.
I get this question all the time.
What language do you dream in?
For me the answer is I dream in the language that –
if I meet a Thai person I’ll speak in Thai.
So is that how it is for you?
I had a bizarre dream a couple of nights ago.
Where I was speaking in Thai and in the dream I was trying to ask somebody what the word in English was
and then finally remembered.
It’s all over the place.
supposing this ‘kheun’, ‘long’ thing.
Sometimes it’s even about just thinking in meanings.
So it’s an amazing liberation to be able to ‘think’ without words.
So you’ve even used your language and cultural understanding for humanitarian causes?
Because I saw you on Al Jazeera. (101 East The People Smugglers)
You’ve done some work involving Human Trafficking?
This one was People Smuggling.
There’s a difference –
If it’s trafficking, it’s mainly them making money off of their labour.
People smuggling is smuggling people who want to go (somewhere).
This was was…
Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia.
There are many people from Afghanistan and Iran that want to get through
They pay up to USD$40,000 per person
to go to Australia.
The last little person that gets on a boat
they go and get these kids – they’re from fishing villages.
They get a 14 or 15 year old kid in Indonesia and say
oh – we have some tourists.
Take them on your boat.
And then they say you’ll meet our friend.
The ‘friend’ happens to be the Australian Navy.
And then they get put in jail for five years.
So what my partner and I would do is that we go through
Indonesia and we would go to these kids families –
the kids were sitting in maximum security prisons in Australia
and find out how they were recruited by the gangs,
So they’re being exploited and they’re under age ..
And they’re ending up in prison.
And their families get about USD$300 from these people who are paying USD$40,000
to get to Australia.
So they’re big criminals these people smugglers are they?
The people smuggling rings are very profitable.
They’re very powerful – that go through here.
So I would go into the villages in the deepest parts of Indonesia,
find their families,
find out how they were recruited
get their birth certificates to prove their age.
That they were under 18.
And we got released – I think over 25 cases in the Supreme Court of Australia.
So that’s when language can really make a difference.
There are many roles that you can play in society.
We thank you very much Khun Stuart Jay Raj.
You can check him out on the website.
Thank you very much.
We’ll take a short break.
I can only speak two languages.
—– End of Interview —–