It’s Friday morning in Bangkok, Thailand and out my window falls the first sustained rain I’ve experienced since arriving here in late January. In this city, any kind of sustained rainfall means a lot more than puddles – it means both macro- and micro-flooding, insta-ponds forming in what little open space there is, little rivers in the streets, rainwaterfalls pouring off the jagged rooftops. You need to be careful! Checkout time (I’m staying in a small hostel for a night) is about 2 hours from now and I’ll need to be careful heading out. I stayed here last night instead of commuting back out to the suburbs at the in-laws where we’re squatting at the moment so I could attend this talk. And I’m so glad I did. If you look at his bio at the link there, you see he’s a fluent speaker of Thai. In fact, he speaks multiple Thai dialects and has even mastered the rarified vocabulary used by/for Thai royalty, “kham rachasap“. There was a sub-theme of language in the wide- ranging and extremely lively talk including ways in which sensitive issues are ‘talked around’ in Thai society with extensive use of euphemisms and indirect/passive speech acts. During question time, I planned to ask about language learning and perhaps the issue of perceptions of him as a non-Thai near-native speaker, etc. I did end up asking a question but it wasn’t about that (it had to do with his description of an emerging rural-based Thai middle class and a couple other things…it was one of those too-rich talks you can’t figure out which of many, many things you should respond to during your turn). To wrap up, Longfellow is now an inspiring L2 role-model for me as a Thai language learner. I’m very aware how important this is for me just as it is for my own English language students.
He’s also a role-model as a human being; I was sincerely moved by his work and his spirit.