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Free Download: Advanced Thai Reading and Vocabulary Building

Advanced Thai

Meeting successful language learners…

One of the many pluses with hosting the Successful Thai Language Learners series is meeting talented (and generous) Thai speakers.

For instance, take Hugh Long of www.retire2thailand.com. Hugh was yesterday’s Successful Thai Language Learner.

In the middle of our back and forth, Hugh released a triple package of free: Advanced Thai Reading and Vocabulary Building.

Like me, you probably went the route of starting with the equivalent of ABC books or the “ก่ ไก่ ข่ ไข่” books, and you’ve been reading everything you can get your eyes on, including street signs, advertising billboards, and restaurant menus. Then you moved on to the “นิทานเด็ก” or Thai children stories including probably all of Aesop’s Fables in Thai. Now it might be time to graduate. Thai newspapers are the logical next step.

Little has been published recently to help the foreign reader of Thai to practice reading at this higher, and quite specific, level. I know, because when I started to try and improve my reading, I looked everywhere. I was able to find some out-of-print texts but nothing of recent publication.I decided to use my teaching experience to help solve the problem (of reading at a more advanced level). I began to produce my own reading materials and exercises to help myself. I developed a system that works for me and I have adapted it into these books with hopes that they will prove useful to those who really want to expand their knowledge of the Thai language.

Thai is an extremely robust and colorful language, full of idioms, slang, and sophisticated word play. Many new learners of Thai don’t realize this since their vocabulary is limited to daily, survival Thai. In Volumes 1 and 2 I have introduced the reader to more than a thousand new, complex, and high level vocabulary words. Hopefully one of the results of these exercises will be to help the learner of Thai to better appreciate the beauty of the Thai language.

And Hugh is so right. There is a ton of reading material for beginners, but as soon as you progress to intermediate and advanced, the pickings are slim.

So if you are beyond beginners in Thai reading, then be sure to download your own copy of Hugh’s Advanced Thai Reading and Vocabulary Building.

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

17 Comments

  1. I’m downloading it for future use…I think it might be a while before it comes in handy.

  2. You might surprise yourself. Thai is made up of little words shoved together. So if you are going for reading practice (over comprehension) then these suit the bill too.

  3. In my opinion, this almost total lack of anything for intermediate- and above levels, speaks volumes about how difficult Thai is to learn for non-Thai speakers (non-tonal language speakers, anyway).

    I think there are not that many foreigners who are interested in learning beyond ‘survival’ Thai. I have met people who have lived in Bangkok for more than a decade and are not able to direct a taxi to where they live.

    Conversely, I am constantly berated by my wife for only speaking Thai (to be fair my Thai is still not all that good, but I have a desire to learn, and the only way to learn is to use it) – she says that she would rather speak English so she can improve her use of the English language.

    Thankfully for me, its easier for her to simply fall back on her native language, so we rarely converse in English anyway :)

    Whatever anyone says, learning a foreign language is *difficult*, and even more so when they are so different. While English is tonal to a certain degree (a fact made clear to me while living in France as a teenager, and hearing French people murder the English language while I murdered theirs), it’s not to the same extent as Thai with its five tones.

    The Thai language and the English language have very little in common with their grammars, and their vocabularies are so different, that it makes learning one from the other extremely difficult.

    So to get back to my point, my feeling is that it’s unfortunate, but the vast majority of people learning Thai will probably stop learning before they get to the point of needing the intermediate or advanced textbooks. for the most part they will decide that it’s too hard and most people around them speak passable English anyway.

    Of course, this is just my opinion based on seeing lots of people (including myself) try to learn Thai. I still keep at it, because I live in Thailand and could not imagine not trying to make the effort of learning the language of the country I am living in – even if I find it very difficult to learn.

  4. Welcome to WLT Scott! I do agree with you, in that most will give up when banging their heads against the intermediate level.

    I do not have any hard and cold facts at my finger tips, but it might be (in part) due to the average age of those moving here. And there is that perceived feeling that languages are more difficult to learn when you are older…

    I realise that I’ll never be fantastic at Thai, but I’m going to pound away regardless. It’s an interesting language and the more I know the more I want to know.

    Also, learning Thai is MUCH more fun than learning French ever was (understatement). I had the pleasure of learning French while living in France, and it was not the same experience as I’m having in Thailand.

  5. I am going to be kind and say that that is probably more down to the environment than the language :)

    After learning French in school for 5 years then moving to France for a year aged 15, I found it remarkably easy to pick up, and was pretty fluent within 3 months.

    But you are also right regarding age – I came to Thailand for the first time aged 38, and found it an exasperating experience. It was a good year and a half before I felt really confident enough to say anything at all in Thai, and so what I did instead was to teach myself the alphabet online. With the help of MSN and QQ, along with my old friends ‘cut’ and ‘paste’, and a dictionary … I learned the language mostly online to start with. Now I am a pretty confident speaker.

    Five and a half years after first coming here, I know I am not yet ‘perfect’ because people still comment on how clear my Thai is (they stop commenting when it’s perfect!), but the basic problems with speaking and writing are behind me (i.e. I have enough confidence, and a good understanding of how important the tones are).

    Now I just need to learn more ‘polite’ Thai, instead of the ‘conversational’ Thai I use every day. Someone on the phone threw me yesterday by asking the equivalent of “and may I ask to whom I am speaking?” instead of the equivalent of “and what is your name please?”. Stuff like that takes ages to master, because in day-to-day life we will hear it so infrequently.

  6. The subject of polite and colloquial Thai comes up often. I’ve always thought that a course with the two side by side would be useful to have.

    ‘I know I am not yet ‘perfect’ because people still comment on how clear my Thai is’

    Isn’t that the truth :-) My Thai teacher has instructions to not let me get away with Farang Thai. And it’s one that she’s taken to with glee as she makes me go over and over and over until I get my accent to her satisfaction.

    Disclaimer: I am not at any great level of Thai but my intentions are all good.

  7. Of course there are many levels of politeness ranging from “gutter speak” all the way to the ornate “royal Thai”, and in casual conversation with friends, spouses etc., we are likely to be exposed to the low-mid range of these on a daily basis. The problem I have is that although to our friends and loved ones this is entirely appropriate (who wants to hold formal conversations with their husband/wife?), it gives us no basis from which to learn the formal language.

    And don’t get me started on the whole subject of taking lessons – personally I found that very difficult, and am not thinking of trying again any time soon.

  8. Catherine Wentworth

    September 11, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Scott, if you can learn without lessons, all the better.

    I do go the lesson route, but I have to set my own structure (materials, breaks, how long, etc).

    I find the proper classroom settings wearing, and that’s why I’ve never shown up at a Thai language school. That and being shy.

    I’ll do one-on-one, I’ll follow a course from books, I’ll even do online courses. But so far I have not participated in a proper classroom with other students.

    Disclaimer: I did attend Stuart Jay Raj’s Cracking Thai Fundamentals course, but he made it so fun that I wouldn’t put it in the same category.

    I’m not saying that I won’t ever try out classroom Thai. Especially as I’d like to see what the schools in BKK are up to. But… more as a fly on the wall than a real student…

  9. A note on “most people around them speak passable English anyway” and the way they just might feel about using it with you.

    Today I was at the golfing range (I’m retired so it’s OK) and an expat asked the attendants there about taking lessons. A nice Thai man tried to be helpful since the expat’s Thai was quite limited. The nice Thai man explained in fairly good English as much as he could about the lessons programs and the expat thanked him and went on his way. After he left the nice Thai man turned to the attendants there and said in Thai (of course), “This guy has been living here for years and he speaks just like a baby. He should be ashamed.”

    I thought that was interesting.

  10. Note on “who wants to hold formal conversations with their husband/wife?”

    I have a number of friends, usually of the highly educated types, who speak to their spouses in quite formal Thai. They even use “Khun”, “phom” and “deechan” with each other as the personal pronoun. Their children also speak to their parents in very formal Thai and use “Khun Mae” and “Khun Paw”. They would never say “kin” when using the word for “eat” but use the more formal “than” and would never say “mia” or “pua” for wife and husband but only use “phanraya” and “samee”. This is quite common.

  11. Hugh, I am very interested in your experiences with educated spoken Thais, as I have yet to solidify which Thai I will aim for.

    While I resist rolling my r’s, I do not want to come off as undereducated.

    I listen quite closely to advice that is given, but I don’t know if the situation is similar to mine.

    There are many in the same quagmire as I’m in, so it would be useful to have some sort of… something we can hang on to.

  12. I still contend that for the most part you will not find people using true formal language with their spouse, and while I am sure there are those that do, they are far more likely to be the very well-heeled, much in the same as in the West. Those ‘very well-heeled’ also tend to be (and again – I am not saying they all are!) educated overseas, and I would not say that they properly reflect the true culture of the majority of Thais.

    But true ‘formal’ language is one of the few things I think that I (as a non-Thai) would need to take lessons for. ‘Street’ Thai is easily picked up, and regular conversational Thai as well as the slightly polite Thai can usually be found in the workplace. It is SO unlikely that I would ever need to actually converse in Royal Thai that if I was expecting to, I would take a crash course somewhere.

    Having said that, you can pick up some Royal Thai (although not all the ornate forms of address, which are almost tailored according to the person whom you are addressing) by watching the TV news about the royal family that is on every evening after the early evening news (try Channel 9 at 20:00 for example). However, it’s not likely to be something you would use on a daily basis!

    The most difficult thing as non-native speakers is to know exactly what ‘level’ of language to use when addressing someone. In the absence of any information at all I always tend to start at the middle (polite, not quite ‘formal’) and work out from how the person responds whether I got it right or not. When addressing monks, doctors, teachers, government officials, police, etc., then try to be more formal. Buying street food or in a taxi, maybe even switch to Lao!

    Of course usually when addressing policemen, always start with profuse apologies and telling them how you forgot your driving licence and will 200 Baht do?

    :)

  13. I think you can be fairly sure that as a foreigner, even if you use *informal* Thai, in an accent that can be understood by the listener – you will NOT come across as uneducated.

    Thai is a difficult language for Westerners (generally) to speak, and if you can manage to make yourself understood without too many “อะไรนะ” and “ไม่เข้าใจ” responses, you will be greeted with a relieved smile at the very least.

    The only way that you are likely to appear ‘uneducated’ would be if you used ‘street’ or ‘gutter’ Thai (using the มึง, กู, มัน pronouns etc.). Sometimes speaking Lao will get you labelled as uneducated, especially if you are male because of the implication that you spend way too much time with bargirls!

  14. Hi Scott. Well, there isn’t a chance of me taking on bar Thai as it’s not my thing. Nor do I see myself using Royal Thai anytime soon. I would like to learn the Thai of my class. Not toffee-nosed, but…

  15. Hehe – I was not suggesting that anyone would knowingly choose to learn bar Thai, but we will all pick up the language that we are actually able to practise day to day.

    For me, this means that I would tend to pick up office Thai at the level of people living in Bangkok aged 24+ with at least a bachelors degree. I would call that almost exactly in the ‘middle ground’, which suits me fine :)

  16. True. And if our parents were here, they’d say that it is yet another reason to watch the company we keep. Sigh. What party poopers :-)

    An author I’ve (finally) started reading is James Eckardt. In Thai Jinks he brings up a buddy who speaks high-class Bangkok Thai.

    James writes how he is visibly impressed at the Thai gals gathering around oooing and awwwing his friend’s classy Thai language skills.

    And if you know James, then you already know where he got his Thai language skills.

    He sounds like a fun guy (and one my mother would not have appreciated me bringing home).

  17. This is a very old post but I just wanted to say thanks for sharing this and thank you Hugh for creating this!

    I’m a heritage speaker of Thai and thanks to frequent trips to Thailand (just went in January), I speak Thai fluently -but- my reading and writing due to the fact that I basically don’t use it in a professional setting.

    I’ve been looking for ways to improve my reading (and thus my writing) via reading the news but find reading news articles in Thai to be very difficult due to the small print, numerous abbreviations and losing my spot while I try to read a string of Thai words.

    It’s gotten to the point where I am more comfortable reading in Japanese, a language I learned in college/study abroad and feel more comfortable reading subtitles in Japanese than Thai!

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