A Woman Learning Thai...and some men too ;)

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Author: Catherine Wentworth (page 1 of 65)

Happy Birthday Bab.la! – Celebrating TEN Years and TEN Days!

Happy Birthday Bab.la

Happy Birthday Bab.la!…

What better way to spend a lazy Sunday than by passing on birthday congrats? Ten years and ten days ago, Bab.la launched the Top 100 Language Lovers Competition (amongst other important things).

About Bab.la: The language portal bab.la is a free online platform for language lovers and an online community of global citizens. We have 44 dictionaries for 28 languages, blog articles about life abroad, language games and quizzes, verb conjugation for 12 languages, phrase books for university, business or travel, an internship platform and many other language-related products.

In April 2015 bab.la joined the Oxford Dictionaries family when Oxford University Press became our parent company. Oxford and bab.la share a vision and mission to deliver quality language-related content to a global community.

In 2017, bab.la launched its online magazine Living Abroad for young multilingual expats coming to grips with life in a foreign country.

Bab.la also gave us the Bloggers Abroad competition, the Language World Cup competition, and … as already mentioned … [drumroll] … the Top 100 Language Lovers Competition.

Ten years. Talk about staying power! Each year Bab.la scours the internet for the best of the best, and then painstakingly has to decide which ones make the final cut. Ouch. That can’t be easy.

Bottom line, the competition serves as an inspiring platform for language lovers (via blogs, twitter, Youtube, and Facebook) to strut their stuff. And inspiring, it is.

I’ve always imagined that the criteria for entry into the competition is along the lines of “what have you done for the language world lately”. That’s how I look at it anyway. And with that in mind, each year I use the Top 100 LL Competition to spiff up WLT.

For 2017 it’s freebies for everyone (for details, check out Please Vote THAI | 2017: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition). I’ve also decided to share my new toy, Flashcards Deluxe!

WLT has a LOT of free audio files for download (recorded with a native speaker) but that still leaves people having to put in work before they can play. Fiddling files is an often mentioned bane of learning languages, so to make prep time less painful, I’m creating spreadsheet files to suck into Flashcards Deluxe (and Anki, if that’s your poison).

To see what I mean, go to HouseTalk: Learn Basic Thai Cleaning Instructions* (more will appear during the giveaway and after). And there you have it. Fiddle free files for 2017.

So bottoms up to Bab.la’s TEN years and TEN days! Thank you so much for inspiring me yet again!

Website (English): bab.la
Google+: +babla
Facebook: babla.languages
Instagram: babla.languages
Dictionary (En-Th): English-Thai
Twitter: @babla (great fun to be had here)

Please vote Thai…

Top Language Lovers 2017If you haven’t voted please click on the Top 100 Language Learning logo to your right. Thanks in advance!

Pssst… thanks also goes to clipartfox.com for their ten candle cake :)

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Please Vote THAI | 2017: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2017

Pleeeeease vote Thai…

Top Language Lovers 2017The Top 100 Language Lovers Competition is here once again! If you want to get straight to voting, just click the logo to the right.

The Top 100 Language Lovers Competition, hosted by the amazing team from bab.la and Lexiophiles, is where WLT pits Thai against other languages such as English, Chinese, French, German, etc. Scary.

When the call goes out, almost a thousand blogs, twitter accounts, Facebook pages and YouTube accounts are submitted to the hardworking competition team who then whittle the count down to a mere 100 in each section.

This year five Thai resources made the cut: Language Learning Blogs (A Women Learning Thai), Language Facebook Pages (Learn Thai with พร, Thai Language Hut, Wondrous Thai), Language Twitter Accounts (0 Thai entries), and Language YouTube Channels (Adam Bradshaw).

Competition rules: You get one vote per section (for a total of four votes).

I hope you can help out as every vote for Thai puts the Thai language that bit closer to the top. Ta in advance!

And now for WLT’s FREE Thai giveaways…

In past Language Lovers Competitions I’ve celebrated with free draws but for WLT’s ninth year, I wanted to do something different. Instead of a select few winners getting free stuff, thanks to the sponsors below, everyone will be a winner.

PickupThai Podcast: Anki flashcard decks to go with select courses. Each lesson comes with two decks (Thai script and transliteration). Audio included in the decks.

Duke Language School and Arthit: One chapter from each of Duke’s Journey books (1-3) created by Arthit. Bingo-Lingo’s DLS String Method from Arthit’s Read Thai In 10 Days ebook. Audio downloads included with both.

Paiboon Publishing: Audio files for Benjawan Becker’s Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced vocabulary lists (mentioned on WLT’s Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions).

L-Lingo: 1000 top Thai words with sentences from their recent course update (English, Thai script, and transliteration). Audio downloads included.

Learn Thai with พร: Compilation of Wannaporn Muangkham’s popular series, 65 Thai Useful Thai Phrases You Won’t find in a Phrasebook. Audio downloads included.

Quick & Dirty Thai: I’ve also taken this opportunity to update Quick & Dirty Thai. And yes, audio downloads will be included here as well.

And there you have it – plenty of free stuff for everyone.

Please vote Thai…

Top Language Lovers 2017If you haven’t voted please click on the TLL (Top 100 Language Lovers) competition logo to your right. Thanks in advance!

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Cat Cartoons Episode Eighty Three: Learn and Love the Thai Language

รู้รักภาษาไทย: Cat Cartoons…

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

ผู้บรรยาย: ตอน ไช้เท้า
Narrator: Episode – ‘Chai tao’.

เก้าแต้ม: นี่อะไรอ่ะ
Kao Taem: What’s this?

วิเชียรมาศ: ตีนแมว
Wi-chian maat: A cat burglar.

วิเชียรมาศ: นี่ล่ะ
Wi-chian maat: What about this?

เก้าแต้ม: นางกวัก
Kao Taem: A Naang Gwak.

วิเชียรมาศ: เอ่อ หัว เอ่อ เท้า เอ
Wi-chian maat: Hmm! ‘Hua’. Hmm. ‘Tao’. Hmm!

เก้าแต้ม: ตอบไม่ได้ล่ะซี่(สิ) เฮอะๆๆ
Kao Taem: Can’t figure it out, can you? Hahaha!

วิเชียรมาศ: จ้าๆๆ ยอมแล้ว เฉลยหน่อยซิ(สิ)
Wi-chian maat: OK, OK, I give up. Tell me!

เก้าแต้ม: ก็ หัวไชเท้า ไงเล่า
Kao Taem: Well, it’s a ‘Hua chai tao’ of course.

วิเชียรมาศ: มีที่ไหนล่ะหัวไชเท้า ผักกาดหัวชนิดนั้นน่ะเค้า(เขา)เรียกว่า หัวไช้เท้า ตังหาก(ต่างหาก)เล่า เวลาเขียนก็เป็น สระไอไม้มลาย ช ช้าง ไม้โท ไช้
Wi-chian maat: There’s no such thing as a ‘Hua chai tao’. That type of radish is called a ‘Hua chai tao’, you know?! It’s written as ‘Sara ai maai ma-laai’, ‘Chor chaang’, and ‘Maai toh’: ‘Chai’.

เก้าแต้ม: อ้าว หลอ(หรือ) งั้นตามะกี้(เมื่อกี้)เราก็แพ้อ่ะซี่(นะสิ) เหมี๋ยว
Kao Taem: Oh! Is that a fact? In that case, I definitely did not win that last turn. Meow!

ผู้บรรยาย: คำว่า ไช้เท้า เป็นชื่อผักกาดหัวชนิดหนึ่ง ไช้ เขียน สระไอไม้มลาย ช ช้าง ไม้โท
Narrator: The word ‘Chai tao’ is the name of a type of radish, written as ‘Sara ai maai ma-laai’, ‘Chor chaang’, and ‘Maai toh’.

แมวทั้งสามตัว: แล้วพบกันใหม่นะครับบบ (ครับ)
All Three Cats: See you again next time!

เสียงเด็ก ๆ ร้องเพลง: รู้รักภาษาไทย
Sound of children singing: Learn and Love the Thai Language.

PDF Downloads…

Below is a pdf download (created by Catherine) to help with your studies. It has Thai script, transliteration, and English.

Download: Cat Cartoons Episode Eighty Three: Conversation

The Cat Cartoon Series…

Original transcript and translation provided by Sean Harley. Transliterations via T2E (thai2english.com).

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Trash Hero Kids of Thailand: Say NO to Plastic Bags

How to say NO in Thai to plastic bags…

Now, who watched that video without a smile on their face? No one, I’m betting!

Here are two more possibilities for saying NO to plastic bags: ไม่ใส่ถุง ครับ/ค่ะ /mâi sài tŭng kráp/kâ/ Or ไม่เอาถุง ครับ/ค่ะ /mâi ao tŭng kráp/kâ/

Thailand has an awful problem with plastic bags polluting the countryside and waterways and those at Trash Hero Ao Nang are certainly doing their bit.

If you can’t physically help out, get the attention of 7/11 (also known as Thailand’s Trashy Problem Child) via this online petition: You love Thailand: Demand 7/11 to stop polluting it.

Stay tuned for Episode Two, “Say NO to straws!”

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Help Nominate the Top 100 Language Lovers of 2017!


For the TENTH year running, BAB.LA & LEXIOPHILES are hosting their inspiring Top 100 Language Lovers 2017 (#TLL17) Competition and need our help.


Last year’s participants will be automatically nominated. Take a peek at last year’s competition here: TLL 2016.

The blogs and social media channels can be nominated in the four following categories:

Language Blogs: blogs about the language learning process, language enthusiasts and blogs by language professionals.
Language Facebook Pages: Facebook Pages dealing with language topics, such as dictionaries, translation tools, language lover communities, etc.
Language Twitter accounts: Twitterers who create and share content about languages.
Language YouTube channels: YouTubers vlogging about languages.

The nominations are open from from May 04–15. Voting starts on May 17 and ends on June 06. The results will be announced on June 09. Exciting stuff!

After placing last year, WLT has automatically been entered. But, if you know of any other blogs, Facebook pages, twitter accounts or Youtube channels, please show your support by nominating via the doc HERE.

HINT HINT … it’d be especially great if they have a Thai language focus ;)

If you have one of the language resources mentioned and are wavering about entering the competition, just let me say that it’s been great experience. This will be my eighth year participating and each year it has inspired me to improve WLT. Whether a new site design, additional guest authors, free downloads, giveaways and draws, all have made this site a better resource for learning Thai.

Good luck to everyone who is joining the competition this year – it’s guaranteed to be loads of fun!

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Introducing Tamago: PickUpThai’s E-Picture Book for Learning Thai

PickUpThai Podcast

It’s here! After putting in loads of time and having a heap of fun while she was at it, Yuki from PickUpThai released Tamago, a colourfully designed picture ebook for learning Thai.

Tamago comes with a LOT of stuff! The book comes in two formats, PDF and Kindle. There are cute books for each version (Thai, transliteration, and English), a plain pdf English with translations, plus three different sound sets (the story, extra sentences and vocabulary).

The Thai PDF version starts out with the story in Thai, then the vocabulary with English translations, followed by the story in English only, and ending with extra phrases to use the sentence patterns. The Kindle version is different in that the story is shown once and when you double click the Thai text the English translation for each paragraph appears in a pop-up text box. A sample is shown below.


Who is it for: This picture book is particularly made for non-Thai adults learning the Thai language (beginner to intermediate), especially those who learn better visually with images. However, the story was written and the illustrations were deliberately created to also appeal to children. Since the book is bilingual, Thai children can learn English from it as easily as non-Thai speaking kids can use it to learn Thai.

Difficulty: The story is written at an intermediate level using mostly simple vocabulary and simple, short, sentences. The vocabulary is correspondingly basic, and drawn from everyday life situations. But learners will still find a few more complex sentences and complicated vocabulary words included to challenge them, maintain their interest, and help build their skills.

Thai Script: $9.99
Transliteration: $9.99
Thai Script & Transliteration: $15.99

NOTE: Sample pages for each version (Thai script, Transliteration and English) with audio files can be downloaded from Tamago: E-Picture Book for Learning Thai.

Website: PickupThai
YouTube: PickupThai
Facebook: PickUpThai
twitter: @PickupThai

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Successful Thai Language Learner: David Algeo Smith

Tomas Drayton

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: David Algeo Smith
Nationality: American
Age range: 50-60
Sex: Male
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Profession: Violin/fiddle teacher
Website/blog: I have a couple start-stop travel blogs which may have some interesting writing, not exclusively about Thailand, but I’d rather share my music here (there are 2-3 Thai traditional tunes on the album including Khang Khao Kin Kluay–“Bats Eating Bananas”): ค้างคาวกินกล้วย

What is your Thai level?

Intermediate spoken, beginner reading.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?

I’ve always tried to speak polite standard Thai. Although I lived primarily in Chiangmai I didn’t learn “kham muang” or any dialects apart from the odd phrase.

I know some curse words and other “mai phraw” words but even with friends I’d go there only very rarely.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

Necessity! When I first arrived in Thailand in late 1989 I quickly realized I needed to learn the language if I wanted to stay–and I really wanted to stay for awhile.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I lived in Chiangmai from December 1989 until about November 1994, then in Bangkok until late 1995. Then I spent about another year in the North in 1997-1998 and another six months in the North and Isaan in early 2001. During those years I often explored the South when on visa runs to Malaysia and I did several runs to Laos in the early ’90s– when it was very different from today.

Sadly, since 2001 I’ve only been able to manage about five 2-month visits up to my most recent in 2014. I feel as if I’ve really been trying to move back toThailand for 20 years now! Without success 😔

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

I started learning almost immediately–within the first month of my arrival in December 1989–and I continued learning for my entire immersion experience through 1995.

Actually I’ve never been a formal student in the academic sense but feel I’ve never stopped learning since I caught the “Thai bug”, and I probably will always be an eager student of this language.

That said, since I’m not the world’s best language student, I find it difficult–even almost pointless–to continue to study the language when I’m not living in Thailand. So since 1998 I haven’t progressed much past the low to mid intermediate level, to my increasing regret today.

But every time I return for a visit the skills come back quickly and within days I’m improving to advanced intermediate levels. That tells me I can reach higher levels–if only I were to apply myself to more disciplined study.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

It was right for me! But I never took formal lessons. I was very lucky to have a good Thai friend whose mission in life was to pull Westerners into the Thai cultural orbit, and I learned my first words and sounds from her.

I used a notebook to create my own transliteration which eventually made a lot more sense to me than the others available at the time. And I was fascinated by the alphabet early but concluded that I’d be better off focusing on listening and pronouncing words first.

I started with my friend to get to the market (beginner), then I continued with other friends I made in the music world (intermediate beginner), then finally with my girlfriend (advanced beginner).

This was during my early immersion period from 1990-1993. When I returned to the States for a year in 1996 I stopped studying completely and really missed it.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

No, but I was living and playing with Thai musicians on a daily basis then later I had a Thai girlfriend. None of my closest friends at that time had any more than basic English–not even enough for “Thaienglish”, really!

My friends were all Chiangmai or Phrae musicians with very little experience dealing with farang. I learned a lot from them even though they always talked in Chiangmai dialect with each other–very graciously they spoke “Bangkok” with me.

My girlfriend was from Lopburi so her “mother tongue” was the one I was trying to learn: Central Thai. I have her to thank for teaching me in the most patient, empathetic manner imaginable. I was so lucky to meet her, and my years with her were my best in Thailand.

To succeed in love and in music in a totally foreign culture I had to rely on these friends/colleagues/lovers to be my teachers, and they all taught me so much more than just the language. I learned about food and family and phu yai/phu noi and about Thai music and politics, and about jai rawn/jai yen and grengjai, and so much more.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

As a beginner I tried my “teacher/friend’s method–hers was an excellent way to get me quickly comfortable, on my own, in the neighborhood market😀

But seriously it was a total immersion situation and as a young musician on a Thai salary I never had the resources to try school or take AUA classes. I learned from the friends and acquaintances I made.

Did one method stand out over all others?

I grew up as a Suzuki violin student. Suzuki music students can achieve a high level of ability on the instrument with listening, imitation, repetition, review, and delayed music reading. I applied those childhood skills in my Thai learning.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

I started basic reading almost immediately but I still can’t write today because I don’t know how to spell and I’m too lazy to work on improving my “five-year old’s” handwriting.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I could see right away that Thai is an alphabet and not an inscrutable “script”. And since I love reading I didn’t find that particularly difficult.

After learning the basics of the consonants and vowels from my first “friend/teacher” I largely taught myself to read. I was familiar with the “black book”–we had one lying around–but as I’ve already mentioned I was rather lazy. So I did not study the tone rules used in word construction ( that’s on my extensive to do list now–thank you Ajaan Smyth and Khun Cat for making some very fine resources available). Instead I used my “Suzuki ear” to learn the correct pronunciation.

Reading for me was all about what I could gain just running around in daily life. I learned to read all the “changwat” on the “thabien rot”, street signs, billboards, any other signs (bus signboards were so much fun to figure out, even if I wasn’t particularly waiting for a bus!), and of course menus.

By this point (maybe 2-3 years in) I completely ditched most transliterations. I simply didn’t need them anymore, and most of them aren’t helpful past the beginner stage. I recommend the beginner create her own if needed.

Oddities like the positioning of the vowels and the many dipthongs/tripthongs never threw me for a loop because I thought it was a fascinating way to construct words–if nothing else, Thai words on the written page are memorable, even if you don’t know what the word means or precisely how to pronounce it.

And off the page, all those weird vowel sounds were a lot of fun to try out loud with friends–lots of laughs there, and lots of successful learning too.

By the end of my initial 5-6 years of immersion I was reading trashy magazines and comic books, but I never really graduated to newspapers–too many abstract concepts for me! And I was too often stubbornly lazy with the dictionary even though I usually had two or three handy. If a friend tried explaining it to me and I still didn’t understand a written word, I’d might look it up. Or, more often, I’d forget to do so if I didn’t have the “dik” with me.

But my instinct during that period told me to delay serious reading study until I could speak somewhat competently, so that’s what I did.

Unfortunately at that point I had to return to the West. Which was a huge culture shock, by the way. In fact I’m still recovering 😂

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

I saved this question for last because I’ve had several and want to relate this to you right.

Thais compliment foreigners way too much so they always say “geng” even when we’re not. But when they start saying (about you) “phud phraw maak” or “phud chat maak” then you can be sure you are making at least some progress. In Khorat I met a shopkeeper who asked me if I worked for “sathan thoot” (the embassy). That bowled me over.

Another moment was when I could read everything in a 20-page menu (no English) and ask the waiter to explain a new (for me) dish and understand everything he said and decide how to order competently–and humorously!

But my first “ah hah” moment was a very beautiful moment one morning in Chiangmai when my girlfriend woke up and said: เมื่อคืนฉันฝัน (Last night I had a dream…) and I understood everything she said to follow. This was my first experience truly grasping abstract concepts in Thai.

How do you learn languages?

I’ve outlined above a little about how I learned Thai. I listen a lot and don’t talk much at first. I’ve been fortunate to have had the time and inclination to get immersed in new cultures and stay awhile.

In Thailand I learned from friends, then colleagues, then intimate partners, and finally from everyone I encountered in dozens of provinces of Thailand.

But to reach the next levels I know I have to stop being lazy with reading and dictionaries and go back to creating vocabulary lists. This is the hard work that everyone must do to advance.

But then there’s the fun stuff: watch TV, the dumber the material the better (don’t be put off by soap operas and reality TV), listen to the radio, watch Thai content with English subtitles and Western content with Thai subtitles, watch the news. Graduate to Thai content with Thai subtitles, if you can get that kind of material now.

I can see from this blog that a whole new world of Thai learning has opened up, and I’m really impressed–and inspired. We didn’t have all those resources in the ’90s.

I recently spent about six months in France and I learned right away what I needed to do: get out of my comfort zones, speak French as much as possible, and watch TV–lots of it. Before long I had the best beginner French I’ve had in 40 years of interest in that beautiful, funny language.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I think my Thai pronunciation is pretty good because of my music background. I can hear and imitate the tones easily. Maybe they’re not even “tones”– just distinct, unique “sounds”.

Taw Tao, Paw Plaa and Ngaw Ngu are very foreign sounds for Western speakers, but they are not impossible–just a nice challenge to get right.

Also, while I’m somewhat shy and not really gregarious, I found in Thailand I really loved engaging verbally with people on a daily basis. Maybe this is why I loved everything about Thailand. It awakened something new in me which gradually turned into a strength that I utilized everyday.

As for weaknesses, there’s no question: reading and my non-existent writing.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

I’m not sure, but this is an important question I’d like to answer thoughtfully. Perhaps I’m a good example for some of how not to learn!

I’ve had a lifelong love of languages but I always found the Latin languages and German far too difficult. In Thailand, however, I discovered I can easily reach a level, that with increased, more serious study would lead to certain advancement–even for a B-C student like me.

The tones are conquerable, even for a lackadaisical reader, and the reading itself is really fun, especially if you like reading but aren’t a stellar student.

Learning Thai, as a young adult, was for me like being a five year old again, in only the most positive sense of that universal experience. The entire world is yours once more, a marvelous place of wonder, which is how I’ve always felt about Thailand.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I was a C student in French in high school but gradually gained a beginner level over several visits to France over the years. I have very basic Spanish and even poorer German but only because of my extensive travel in Europe and in Mexico and Central America.

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

When I first arrived in Thailand I was just coming from several months in France.

But no, Thai was all I could wrap my head around once I’d left Europe, “for good”, I thought at the time.

This might be the right place for me to mention that in the ’91-’95 period I did not return to the West for about four years. In that period, life was just Southeast Asia for me–apart from a couple quick trips to Japan and Korea during the latter part of my 5-6 year immersion.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Every student is different: just explore a lot and find out the many different methods and resources that work best for you.

What worked best for me was having close Thai friends early in my experience. Get a job with Thais and hang out with people who don’t know English.

Find an intimate partner and meet everyone in her/his family and learn as much as possible about relationships and why they matter in Thai society.

Like everyone the world over, Thais love to gossip about friends, family and workmates. Don’t be afraid to join in! In my years with the band I learned so much about band politics and the internal hierarchy of that small world, and it really helped me to gain wider comprehension of the culture and the language–which are two things we can’t separate anyway​.

Get out of your city and/or schooling bubble, or comfort zones, and travel as much as possible to remote areas or “ban nawk”. That’s where I learned the most.

But even in the towns and cities you can learn a lot by getting out to market or “bai theeo khon deeo”. Go out solo and engage with women in the market and with songthaeo drivers and motorcycle mechanics and the woman who does your laundry. Ultimately I probably learned more from the general public than I did from my many wonderful friends.

Use humor, follow the Thai penchant for sanuk and “law lehn” and don’t be afraid when they laugh at your mistakes. Thais are way too complimentary of foreigners but they appreciate​ us too–and for good reason, I believe. We all have much to offer each other.

I like having a Thai-Thai dictionary and a good three-way, if available. Lately I’ve been carrying Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s brilliant Thai-English/English-Thai dictionary and her Thai for Intermediate Learners in my travels.

David Algeo Smith

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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Successful Thai Language Learner: Tomas Drayton

Tomas Drayton

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Tomas Drayton
Nationality: British
Age range: 26
Sex: Male
Location: London, UK.
Profession: BA South East Asian Studies Student at SOAS, University of London.

What is your Thai level?


Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?

In the beginning I tried to learn as much slang and ‘Thai-isms’ as possible in some vain hope of speaking exactly like a Thai. However, when I started studying at SOAS the best advice I got was that as foreign Thai speakers, regardless of how good your Thai can be there will always be slight communication barriers, therefore it’s best to accept your role as a foreign Thai speaker, and compensate by veering into the more polite and formal ways of speaking.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

Initially I went to Thailand on holiday, and as a vegetarian I learnt about three phrases. I ended up staying much longer than planned and just slowly built up more and more, so it was more circumstantial than anything else. I then applied to study at SOAS as there was a year abroad programme at Thammasat University, which sounded much more appealing than working!

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

Not currently.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

I have been a Thai language student at University level since September 2013. Previous to that I had been learning independently for about two years.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

I was very keen to learn Thai at first and stuck at it for a good six months which built a good foundation of basic spoken Thai. I bought a book and just used to look at it every day while in Thailand, trying to learn and use one new phrase or expression each day.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

More so just as and when I could than a rigid timetable. However once I started learning it at university level of course I had to do much more controlled study in order to pass exams etc.

What Thai language learning methods did you try? Did one method stand out over all others?

I don’t buy into or even understand various language learning ‘methods’, some seem absolutely insane! Perhaps they do work for some people, but getting too deep into scientific language learning technique comparisons seems to me a waste of learning time!

I think for a grammatically uncomplicated language like Thai in which much of the emphasis is in speech and pronunciation, the best bet is to be practising speaking as much as possible. The only way to remember a language for me is to use it!

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

Not soon enough! I think the earlier you can start learning to read and write the better, as it makes pronunciation so easy. I started properly being able to read and write at SOAS once I started studying there, as it is absolutely the first thing you do.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

Thankfully I had David Smyth to teach me so it was relatively easy. I’d say after a month or so of learning it becomes easy.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Probably the first time I was ever understood asking for vegetarian food by a Thai person!

How do you learn languages?

Speak ๆๆๆๆ

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

I think putting off learning to read and write is a big one, as being able to read just makes everything so much easier. Also, I think the idea that it is very hard is quite a misconception. If you think it’s very hard and you won’t be able to do it, you won’t.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I learnt French to quite a good level in school, but cannot remember any now!

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No I think I’d find that very hard.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

I truly believe that the best way to learn is through friendly chit-chat with Thai people. If you are in Thailand, go out and about and try to chat to people. If you aren’t in Thailand but are preparing to go, get practising specific phrases you are going to use. Once you can get a basic framework of Thai conversation and confidence in speaking and using Thai, the rest just follows.

I started by going out and trying to make small talk about the weather, inevitably someone would say something I didn’t understand, so I would go back, check my book to try and work out what they had said, and then would just try again the next day with someone else.

I think getting over the confidence barrier in speaking and getting the belief that you probably can learn Thai is the trick.

Tomas Drayton

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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New Thai Course at the Andrew Biggs Academy: Sap Khao Ngai Nid Deow

Sap Khao

Although the Andrew Biggs Academy mostly focuses on teaching English, Andrew’s new course can be used by both Thais learning English and those learning Thai: ทราบข่าวง่ายนิดเดียว /sâap kàao ngâai nít dieow/.

“Sap Khao” is a service for Thai learners of English as a second language … but it is also an excellent tool for anybody interested in learning Thai.

Andrew Biggs, who is fluent in both Thai and English, explains the headlines of the day. This is a perfect opportunity for non-Thais to learn new Thai words and phrases.

Every day, Monday to Friday (9am), you receive a 10-minute video in the morning explaining the day’s news. You can watch it as many times as you like, and at any time you like for a period of 90 days. And at 1,599 Baht per year, it works out to the cheapest Thai lesson you are ever going to have!

To acquire the course you first sign up at Sap Khao.
See you there!

Website: Andrew Biggs Academy
Facebook: Andrew Biggs Academy
YouTube: Andrew Biggs TV
twitter: @AndrewBiggs

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Review: 5000 Thai Phrases – Seriously Addictive iOS + Android Apps


5000 Thai Phrases: Learn the Thai Language for FREE…

Last week I reviewed FunEasyLearn’s 6000 Thai Words App. As the 5000 Thai Phrases app is similar (and to stop you from having to bounce between the two reviews) I’ve duplicated parts of the post.

Earlier I mentioned that the 6000 Thai Words app is “a seriously addictive smartphone app!” and the same is true for this one as well. When playing with FunEasyLearn’s apps, Albert Einstein’s advice to his son comes to mind:

“That is the way to learn the most, that when you are doing something with such enjoyment that you don’t notice that the time passes”.

Motivation really is as simple as that. Find a language learning method you love and you won’t need to force-feed vocabulary and phrases – studying should come naturally!

And now, on to the review…

Tutorial from FunEasyLearn…

Here’s the quick tutorial from the gang at FunEasyLearn:

Our apps help you to learn most common words and phrases. These words and phrases are useful when travelling, meeting new people, developing life-long friendships or simply in any daily conversation.

Easy Steps to Use our App:

  1. When you run the app you can find three rows: Topic, Subtopic and Game.
  2. Just choose the Topic you want to learn first (for example Topic: Shopping).
  3. Then choose Subtopic (for example Subtopic: supermarket).
  4. After this choose the game you want to play (we recommend to start with Vocabulary game).
  5. Tap “Play” button and that’s it!

Besides the fact that you learn many useful words and phrases, these games help you to improve your writing, reading and pronunciation.

Tips for you:

  1. Spin Categories – allows the app to choose a random topic, subtopic and game for you.
  2. Review Manager – helps you to review your wrong answers, right answers, or even all the phrases.
  3. Favourite words or phrases – permits you to choose your difficult words/phrases, set as favourite and revise them later. After you selected your favorite words/phrases just go to Main Menu, choose Review words/phrases and tap Review Words/Favorite Phrases button.

TIP: When going to the next level (say, from beginner to intermediate), to see the new vocabulary, under ‘Level’ in xxx, make sure ‘Learn words from previous level’ is turned off.

Walk-through of the Beginner level: 500 Words…

As in the previous review of the sister app, 6000 Thai Words, I’ve mapped out the Beginner Level for you. Intermediate, Advanced and Expert aren’t out yet – I’ll announce them when they arrive.


Across the top of the main screen there are three icons: 1) Manage App, 2) Search Phrase, and 3) to the far right, a Flower.

Manage App (circle icon):


  1. Level: Select level (Beginner 500 phrases, Intermediate 1000 phrases, Advanced 1500 phrases, Expert 2000 phrases), turn on/off learn words from previous levels. Unlike in the Vocab app, there is no way to turn on/off Thai script and transliteration.
  2. Statistics: Scores, overall stats, current streak, streak targets, levels completed, words reviewed, your skills, learned word target.
  3. Store: This is where you can get more levels by paying to get rid of ads. The Intermediate, Advanced and Expert levels are coming soon (I’ll be sure to let you know).
  4. Restore purchases: Just as it says.
  5. Support: FAQs and making contact (plus reporting any mistakes you find).
  6. Settings: Native language, sounds, reset tutorials (the animated walk through), one word a day notification (haven’t figured it out yet), review word notification (haven’t figured it out yet).
  7. App: Rate the app, more language apps, about this app. Icons across the bottom go to Facebook, twitter, Google+, and YouTube.

Search Phrase (search bar):

FunEasyLearnWhen you click on the phrase search bar the vocabulary for the Topic you are studying appears (you can see Basic Phrases and Saying hello & goodbye highlighted to the right).

There are two ways to scroll up and down the phrase lists: 1) via the phrase list on the left, or the Topic and SubTopic list on the right. To select a different topic scroll to the left or right then click on a Topic. To select a SubTopic scroll down and click on each graphic. Either way, the phrase list switches to that lesson. At the end of each Subtopic are totals of the phrases found in other levels.

In the left column each phrase first shows the English and the Thai script. To the right is a Favourites star. Below that are four bars that denote which level the word comes from (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert).

Click inside a box and it expands while saying the phrase using a real Thai voice (not machine generated). The transliteration now appears below the Thai. I just noticed they are using Google Translate for their transliteration. Ouch. But, all the better to get people interested in learning how to read Thai script!

At the bottom of the expanded box are three icons: 1) audio (repeats the phrase), 2) book (takes you to the phrase’s dedicated Phrase page – clicking the left arrow takes you back), and 3) the Favourites star again.

Flowers (flower icon): As you play the game, you earn flowers that you can then redeem inside the app. Flowers are what makes the app free. For now there aren’t any levels after beginner but there will be.

The main guts of the app…

FunEasyLearnThe app operates around three main nav sections: 1) Topic, 2) Subtopic, and 3) Games.

In the graphic to the right the selected Topic is Basic Phrases, the Subtopic is Saying hello & goodbye, and the Game is Vocabulary.

To work the app you slide each nav section to the left or right to line up different choices. When working your way through a section, reaching the end automatically moves you to the next one.

Tip 1: Unless you freewheel it, the beginning of the app starts with Basic Phrases and each section automatically leads you into the next, and the next, and the next, until you make it to the end of the course. But that’s only if you follow a set route.

Tip 2: Also important to know is that clicking on a Topic/Subtopic/Game running down the middle either selects or deselects that item. You need to have one icon from each section selected (Topic/Subtopic/Game) before the bottom arrow allows you to play a game. If three are not selected and you double click on the arrow, it will select for you.

So now, on to the guts of the app…

Below is the route to take if you plan on working from the beginning of the app to the very end.

1) Topic (top nav slider): Basic phrases, Making friends, Conversation, Travel, Plane, Car, Other transport, Hotel, Places to stay, Bar and Cafe, Restaurant, Food, Shopping, Health, Work, Services, Education, Leisure time, Communications, Reference, Review phrases,

2) Subtopic (middle nav slider): Same as the app above, the middle nav swings around so I decided to create a map of the subjects here.

Subtopic – Basic phrases: Saying hello and goodbye, Well-wishing, Languages, Thanks, Apologising, Common questions, Expressing feelings, Instructions, Emergencies, More expressions, Congratulations, Basic phrases Review Favourites, Basic phrases Review Wrong, Review Basic Phrases >> Introductions…

Subtopic – Making friends: Introductions, Ages & birthdays, Nationality, Place of residence, Family, Preferences, Dislikes, Describing people, Dating, Romance, Making friends Review Favourite, Making friends Review Wrong, Review Making friends >> Starting a conversation…

Subtopic – Conversation: Starting a conversation, Ending a conversation, Making an invitation, Accepting an invitation, Declining an invitation, Agreeing and disagreeing, Asking for information, Giving your opinion, Asking for help & advice, Permission, Suggestion, Conversation Review Favourite, Conversation Review Wrong, Review Conversation >> Asking directions…

Subtopic – Travel: Asking directions, Giving directions, Tickets, On tour, Signs, Travel Review Favourite, Travel Review Wrong, Review travel >> Airport…

Subtopic – Plane: Airport, Checking in, On the plane, Passport control, Airport signs, Plane Review Favourite, Plane Review Wrong, Review Plane >> Driving…

Subtopic – Car: Driving, Car hire, Problems, Road signs, Car Review Favourite, Car Review Wrong, Review Car >> Train…

Subtopic – Other transport: Train, Bus, Taxi, Bicycle and motorbike, Ship, Signs, Other transport Review Favourite, Other transport Review Wrong, Review Other transport >> Making a booking…

Subtopic – Hotel: Making a booking, Room, Checking in, During your stay, Checking out, Problems, Signs, Hotel Review Favourite, Hotel Review Wrong, Review Hotel >> At home…

Subtopic – Places to stay: At home, Renting, Going camping, Hostel, House, Estate agent, Places to stay Review Favourite, Places to stay Review Wrong, Review Places to stay >> Ordering drinks…

Subtopic – Bar and Cafe: Ordering drinks, Drinks, Ordering snacks, Bar & cafe Review Favourite, Bar and cafe Review Wrong, Review Bar and cafe >> Where to eat…

Subtopic – Restaurant: Where to eat, Booking a table, Ordering a meal, During the meal, Complaining, Paying, Fast food, Restaurant Review Favourite, Restaurant Review Wrong, Review Restaurant >> Breakfast…

Subtopic – Food: Breakfast, Soup, Meat, Fish, Vegetables, Staples, Fruit, Dessert, Herbs and spices, Food Review Favourite, Food Review Wrong, Review Food >> Department store…

Subtopic – Shopping: Department store, Shopping for clothes, Finding the right size, Buying goods, Supermarket, Payment & returns, Perfumery & cosmetics, Florist’s, Bookshop, Signs, Shopping Review Favourite, Shopping Review Wrong, Review Shopping >> Pharmacy…

Subtopic – Health: Pharmacy, Symptoms, Doctor, Dentist, Optician, Human body, Health Review Favourite, Health Review Wrong, Review Health >> Professions…

Subtopic – Work: Professions, Employee, Alternatives, Workplace, Interview, CV, Work Review Favourite, Work Review Wrong, Review Work >> Bank…

Subtopic – Services: Bank, Cash machine, Hairdresser’s, Repair, Other services, Police, Agriculture, Services Review Favourite, Services Review Wrong, Review Services >> School…

Subtopic – Education: University, Student, Exams, Library, Conference, Science, Education Review Favourite, Education Review Wrong, Review Education >> Cinema…

Subtopic – Leisure time: Cinema, Film, Theatre, Museum & gallery, Nightclub, Concert, Music, Sport, Holidays, Woods, Leisure time Review Favourite, Leisure time Review Wrong, Review Leisure time >> Phone…

Subtopic – Communications: Phone, Talking on the phone, Making the connection, Problems, Internet, Radio & TV, Newspapers, Post office, Communications Review Favourite, Communications Review Wrong, Review Communications >> Telling the time…

Subtopic – Reference: Telling the time, Time expressions, Calendar, Numbers, Colours, Weather, Writing letters, Reference Review Favourite, Reference Review Wrong, Review Reference >> Review all wrong answers…

Subtopic – Review Phrases: Review All Wrong Answers, Review All Phrases, Review All Right Answers, Review All Favourite Phrases >> Saying hello and goodbye…

3) Games (bottom slider nav): Vocabulary, Choose Phrase, Listen and Choose, Match Phrases, Translate & Listen, Complete Phrases, Listen & write, Find the Mistake, Translate Phrases, Fill in the Blank, Make Phrases.



FunEasyLearnGames – Vocabulary (dictionary icon): Here you study the information, record your voice to see how close you can get to the Thai (and OMG I love this! – the app converts your voice into Thai script!), create favourites, then move onto the next phrase in the series. This section introduces each phrase with a graphic, Thai script, transliteration, and audio recorded by real people.

Note: Although there are particles (polite and otherwise) used throughout the games there’s no explanation (that I came across) about the male/female polite particles. For instance, in the Vocabulary game the polite (ending) particles are female. Not a biggie but it’s worthwhile to take note of as you work through the app.

FunEasyLearnGames – Choose Phrase (two rectangles icon): This is a simple listening exercise where you match the English phrase to one of the two Thai phrases. Clicking on the right phrase gives you the audio and advances you to the next screen. Clicking the wrong phrase and the box turns red. You can’t advance until you make the correct selection.

FunEasyLearnGames – Listen and Choose (four squares icon): This is a listening exercise where you hear the phrase spoken in Thai and match it to one of the four English phrases. Get it right and the box turns light turquoise and you advance. Get it wrong and the box turns red with an X in the middle. There is a cheat icon on the bottom right that gives you Thai transliteration from Google Translate.

FunEasyLearnGames – Match Phrases (horizontal rectangle icon): This is a reading exercise. You match one of the four Thai phrases to its English translation. Get it right and the boxes turn light turquoise and disappear. Get it wrong and the boxes briefly flash light red then go back to white. Click on the ? in the middle of the two sections to cheat one set at a time.

FunEasyLearnGames – Translate & Listen (audio icon): This is a listening exercise. Your job is to match one of the three spoken Thai phrases with the single English phrase. The audio for each Thai phrase can be repeated and slowed down. Get it right and the circle turns light turquoise and you advance to the next screen. Get it wrong and a red circle replaces the green. There are not cheats (unless you call repeating the phrases cheating).

FunEasyLearnGames – Complete Phrases (vertical rectangle icon): This is a reading exercise (no audio). You are given four Thai written phrases that have been cut in half. Your job is to put the halves back together by selecting the boxes. When you get it right the phrase joins and turns light turquoise then disappears. Get it wrong and the boxes flash light red then go back to white. Same as with Match Phrases, you click on the ? in the middle of the two sections to cheat one set at a time.

FunEasyLearnGames – Listen & write (sound and pencil icon): This is a listening, reading, spelling exercise. Your job is to fill in the missing letters in the Thai phrase. You first hear the phrase spoken in Thai then select what’s missing from the white boxes below. If your spelling is poor (like mine is) you are just going to love the challenge! You can repeat the audio at the same speed or slower. Get it right and it changes to light turquoise and goes onto the next section. Get it wrong and the box flashes light red then goes back to white. The cheat is a ? on the bottom right of the screen.

FunEasyLearnGames – Find the Mistake (multi-boxes icon): This is a reading exercise. You are presented with several boxes filled with Thai script and one English phrase. The challenge is to choose which one of the boxes with Thai is incorrect. Select the incorrect box and you are given a range of boxes to choose the correct replacement from. Pick the right replacement and it changes to light turquoise and goes onto the next section. Pick the wrong replacement and the box flashes light red then goes back to white. As usual, you can cheat by clicking on the ? symbol.

FunEasyLearnGames – Translate Phrases (box, circles, arrow icon): This is another reading exercise. You are faced with a blank box to fill in (scary). The English sentence you need to translate is underneath, and underneath that are boxes of Thai words to select, one by one. Same as before, click the wrong box and it briefly flashes red. Click the right box and it goes light green then advances to the next screen. The ? cheat gives you the correct words one by one.

FunEasyLearnGames – Fill in the Blanks (sardine can icon): This is a reading, listening, spelling exercise where you fill in blanks by clicking on the correct boxes. Select the wrong box and it briefly flashes red. Select the right box and it goes light green and then you go on to the next screen. The ? cheat gives you the correct letter one by one.

FunEasyLearnGames – Make Phrases (pencil in papers icon): This is a reading/writing exercise where you find out why you were supposed to be paying attention to the graphics all along. At the top there’s a large graphic depicting a scene. The challenge is to create a phrase matching the graphic by clicking on different words. After you get it right, the phrase is spoken. The ? cheat gives you the correct words one by one. Ditto on the flashing red for wrong and green for right.

FunEasyLearnBasic navigation inside each game: When you start playing a game, across the top there’s an arrow on the left that takes you back to the home screen. There’s also a round icon on the right that tells your game progress, game score, and what Topic and Subtopic you are in (see the graphic to the right). Depending on the game, across the bottom the icons change.


Game Wheel: You only get the screen that has all of the game icons (shown above) when you’ve completed a game. The circular icon with the arrow on the end replaces the icon of the game you just completed – click to repeat the game. The home icon takes you back to the main screen. The centre icon takes you to the next game on the list. And I just noticed that you can flip the wheel to make it spin. So fun!

Learn 6000 Thai Words on iOS, Android and Windows 10…

This app has it all. Listening, reading, writing, spelling, and taking a stab at translating.

As I mentioned before, this app is brilliant for those who can read Thai or are learning how to read Thai and want improve their spelling using Thai script. It’s fun. It’s addictive. What more could you ask for? Ok, besides Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert levels – but all three are on the way.

Here’s the Thai phrase app on iTunes and Google Play:

iOS: 5000 Phrases – Learn Thai Language for Free
Android: 5000 Phrases – Learn Thai Language for Free

And here’s the Thai vocabulary app:

iOS: 6000 Words – Learn Thai Language for Free
Android: 6000 Words – Learn Thai Language for Free
Windows 10 (mobile, tablet, PC): 6000 Words – Learn Thai Language for Free

NOTE: You can report mistakes from inside the app (Manage App >> support >> contact us) or send them to support@funeasylearn.com

FunEasyLearn around and about:

Twitter: @FunEasyLearn
Facebook: Fun Easy Learn
YouTube: Fun Easy Learn
Website: FunEasyLearn

If I find anything new I’ll add it to this review. And if you find anything please let me know either by leaving comments below or via my contact form.

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