He wanted to study English to help with his university coursework. My motivation was more casual. I was simply interested in learning a little spoken Thai and a little about Thai culture. I wasn't interested in learning to read or to write Thai.
This narrative will concentrate on the application of Cambourne's prerequisites of learning to my language exchange experience. These prerequisites, or conditions of learning, are immersion, demonstration, expectation, responsibility, approximation, employment, response and engagement. As noted by Cambourne, these conditions of learning do not exist in isolation. Rather, these conditions are intertwined. A learner's ability to approximate the target behavior, for instance, may be difficult or impossible absent immersion or demonstration. That said, the eight conditions set forth a clear analytical framework for assessing my Thai-English language exchange.
Immersion refers to the depth and the comprehensiveness of the learning or literacy experience. It refers to the extent to which the learner is saturated by the learning experience. It also involves, in important ways, questions of authenticity. In my case, immersion was gravely lacking. As a result, it was difficult to approximate the modeled behavior, the spoken Thai, and my expectations were consequently diminished.
My instructor was a native-speaker of Thai. He was well-educated and well-prepared for our lessons. From the point of view of immersion, however, he was my sole authentic connection to the Thai language. In the background, during our lessons at the coffee shop, there was English music playing on the radio. Everything, from menus to posters on the wall to the conversations at adjoining tables, was in English. Trying to focus on my Thai lessons was at times a distraction. It seemed external to the physical and cultural environment.
In short, the lack of the immersion element affected in a significant way my total learning experience. The lack of authenticity and the lack of a broader learning exposure to the learning goals left me feeling a bit hopeless about learning to speak Thai.
Demonstration: Creating Realistic and Practical Situations
The second condition of learning, the demonstration prerequisite, concerns the modeling of the target behavior. This modeling may be formal or informal. My Thai instructor was rather creative in this respect. He brought magazines to our meetings and used them as teaching aids. I recall one lesson where we studied shopping and prices. He brought a clothing catalogue, a Thai silk catalogue, and a Thai cooking book as teaching aids. He handed me a worksheet in which he had typed English inquiries such as, "How much is a coke", with the Thai equivalent written alongside in English script. He modeled the correct pronunciation, made relevant grammatical distinctions, and created a salesperson-customer role-play for the clothing and silk catalogues and a waiter-customer role-play for the Thai cooking book. We took turns playing each of the roles.
This was one of the most beneficial aspects of my learning experience. I was able to demonstrate what I had learned in a fairly realistic way. The context in which I was able to demonstrate my knowledge, based upon my instructor's models, was also quite practical. My instructor downplayed the theory in his presentation and modeling. As we were