A couple of my favorite pastimes are learning new things and travelling. A month ago my family combined the two: we came to Chiang mai, Thailand to finish a Thai language course. And it's awesome! Extremely difficult, but very exciting at the same time.
The Thai language is a tonal and analytic language, which makes it both easier and harder to pick up. Easier, because analytic means the grammar is much less complicated than your average Indo-European language. Harder, because tonal languages use pitch to distinguish words. There are five different tones in Thai, five different ways to say the same thing equaling five different meanings. European ears have a difficult time recognizing them, and don't even get me started on pronouncing. And the orthography? Now, that's crazy. But don't take my word for it, here's an example:
That beauty right there says that my name is Hermina. The literal translations is something like this: I name Hermina. That's some pretty basic grammar. The tiny things on top of the main letters are SOME of the vowels, the rest is mingled with the consonants. I don't want to bore you with tone markers, that's why I used this particular example, because it doesn't have any. They are as tiny as the vowels and are written on top of them.
At first glance you get the impression there's no way you can do this. But, just like with all languages, patience and practice brings results. Just after three weeks of learning I recognize the letters, usually can read the words (except for the ones with hidden vowels, yeah, you read it right, HIDDEN vowels) and have the basic vocabulary I need in restaurants. I can say a couple of things about myself, too. But boy, do I have troubles understanding the locals. Anyway, I'm getting there.
The Thai language school we are attending is Effective Thai. If you ever decide to follow our lead and learn the language, this school is the best way to go. Not only they are very helpful and attentive, they let you design the schedule of your course. Once you pay the 50% deposit, they provide you the necessary documents to get your one year Education visa. When we arrived we needed to find a good nursery for our son, Alex. They helped with that too, which was a really nice gesture in a city we have no friends, not even acquaintances. Well now, we do.
We do quite a bit of sightseeing as well, but that's another story.