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How to Learn Thai via Skype: The Series

How to Learn Thai via Skype

The series: Learning Thai via Skype…

Welcome to the first post on learning Thai via Skype. At this point I’m not sure how many posts will be in this series. Originally, I’d planned on just a handful: How to use Skype to learn Thai, my Thai Skype experience, an interview with a Skype teacher, finding Skype teachers, etc. But my research into the subject kept exploding from one resource to another, so who knows when this series will end. I don’t.

What I can tell you for sure is that learning a language via Skype is huge. Totally. Polyglot Luca Lampariello raves about learning language via Skype in his two part series, An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages. And just recently I found a government grant funding research to learn languages using resources such as this. Wow. Yes?

Using Skype to learn Thai…

Setting up Skype for language learning is dead easy. The Skype software is available as a free download for your computer, your mobile, and even your wide TV.

But right now I’ll stick with the basics shown below:

How to Learn Thai via Skype

I have a Mac, so a webcam was not needed (just thick white tape to cover that hole).

If you aim to record your Thai lessons, download recording software dedicated to Skype. There are several available, free and not. I’m told that Callburner and Pamela are fine for PC’s, so let me know. After playing around with a few for the Mac, I settled on Call Recorder. It’s not perfect (I lost a recording of an entire class) but after that one hiccup it’s been ok (but I’m keeping an eye on it…)

To improve the sound quality of your recordings, a headset with a mouth piece is advised. And I really mean that – get a mouth piece attached to your headset. That way no yawns or worse will escape into your Thai teacher’s ears without you knowing.

I picked up a Logitech Premium Notebook Headset from Pantip Plaza in Bangkok, but most in that price range will do. Cheaper products will work, but not always for long (I have a tangled stash to attest to that fact).

Ah. And before you run out to buy a headset, check what type of connection you need/want for your computer: USB, wireless, and/or jacks (any more to add?)

While you are waiting for the Skype software to download (or not), why not watch this Ask the Techies video for the basics:

Skype tips from Thai language teachers…

Now that you have Skype loaded on your computer and new earphones plugged into your ears, you are nearly ready to learn Thai online. To ease you into the process, I requested tips from the Skype teachers I know.

Bon ratta: Learn Thai the Bon’s way

  • Ask to Skype or chat with your future Skype teacher first (even if you need to pay for the hour). Learning from a teacher that clicks makes the lesson smoother and you digest better :)

Ladawan Mamak: Thai With Joy

Students starting to learn Thai by Skype need to have a few things:

  • A quiet place to learn.
  • A stable schedule (at least 1 time per week).
  • At least one hour available to dedicate to a lesson.
  • And of course, an internet connection with Skype.
  • Students who want to learn reading and writing should also have a small white board and marker for practicing during a lesson.

Thai Language Hut

  • Treat online training with the same respect as you would face to face training.
  • Interact with the teacher. The more you interact the more you get from the experience.
  • Check all equipment, speakers, microphone and network + general computer performance.
  • Create a quiet professional learning environment with no or minimal disruptions (tell the boyfriend, husband, wife + children not to disrupt you for the duration of the lessons).
  • Turn off phone, msn, Facebook and any other online/offline distractions.
  • Prepare yourself mentally and physically to focus on learning.
  • Block out distractions, go to the toilet before your training, grab that coffee, paper, pens… check that they work, etc.
  • Before the session starts, review previous work and prepare questions.
  • Get copies of the materials. If they are not offered, then ask.

I like where Language Hut instructs us to, “tell the boyfriend, husband, wife + children not to disrupt you for the duration of the lessons”. During the day there is no one else here but Mr Bunt and Duvet. They often use the sofa tops as a racetrack, so I started locking them in the back bedroom during my Skype class. With the earphones on I cannot hear their scratching and howling, so the combo works a charm.

Ah, and as Thailand is hot, hot, hot, I turn on the ac for an hour or so, then off right before the class. That way my recordings don’t have the muffled hum of machinery in the background. Just the gentle whirl of an overhead fan.

There are a couple of fiddly things with Skype you might want to know about as well. For instance, if you are using Thai script during class, you might prefer larger script. I was chatting about this with Tracy, a student of Khun Narisa. She’s on a PC and shared her bits (thanks Tracy!)

PC tip: Tools >> Options >> IM & SMS >> IM Appearance >> Change Font.
Mac tip: Preference >> Chats >> Set fonts >> Chose the size and and font style you prefer.
Mac tip: On your keyboard press Command + or – to increase and decrease the Thai script.

The Skype learning experience from Thai students…

Thai Skype teacher Khun Narisa Naropakorn kindly put me into contact with two of her successful Thai students, Tracy and Anthony. They not only shared kudos (for later) but their experiences with learning Thai via Skype (below).

Tracy

Skype in & of itself is certainly an amazing tool for language learning. I have a few Thai language partners that I connect with on Skype fairly regularly. Using the chatbox to type things out that are getting ‘lost in translation’ is very handy. It’s also fun to look back through the message log and review some of the ‘vocab’ after the fact. I have also scrutinized my pronunciation by using the ‘Pamela recorder’ add-on. It can be excruciating to listen to myself stumbling through all the tones, but it is enlightening none-the-less.

Anthony

The main thing I like about using Skype is that it’s convenient. There’s no need to travel to a teacher’s place of work to learn, which costs money and time. I don’t feel the need to learn face-to-face as there is nothing that she can’t teach me that can’t be done via using Skype.

Being able to contact someone on the other side of the world for free is the main benefit. Learning Thai in the UK would have been a lot more expensive per lesson so I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot more learning via Skype as I’ve used more hours.

How to learn Thai via Skype, the series…

Below what you can expect from this series.

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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.

11 Comments

  1. Hi Cat, I was pleased when you mentioned previously that you were going to do this series. It does sound like an exciting way to learn the language. Even those of us who live in Thailand don’t always have the time to go to classes.

    I would love to do the Pratom six exam (or whatever it is called these days); I wonder if it would be possible to prepare for this using Skype? Anyway best of luck with this series on Skype; I’m sure it is going to interest a lot of people.

  2. Cat, very timely and just what I needed. When I land next week I will be researching schools and at best I will be looking at 2 classes a week about 4 hours a class and I was thinking about private tutoring as well to compliment the classes and the many varied books and programs I have been playing with.

    Learning Thai with skype might just be the ticket and very easy to fit into my schedule. I just down;oaded skpe and set it up so my sister and I can keep in touch with video but it looks like I might be getting much more use out of it now…great post!

  3. Hi Paul, this series has turned into much more than I’d originally planned on. And learning via Skype really is fabulous. There is no traffic to fight. And you can even take classes in your pj’s if you like. Preparing for exams should be totally doable. Some Thai Skype teachers have set courses they use, but others are quite flexible.

    Hey Talen. One week? Whooh. That’s coming fast! With your recent drive to study Thai, I was sure you’d be interested in this series. I don’t take classes with other students, so I don’t know how difficult it is to get questions answered (a must with me, as I always have a ton of questions). But a knowledgeable Skype teacher will put you through your paces as well as clear up any mysteries.

  4. Catherine I have read all the Skype hype before but never such an in depth article like this one on language learning. I will still need some convincing to try it out but this post is a good start and it did get me clicking on the computer and mobile links.

    The language course is the nearest you are going to get to face to face one on one lessons and it really is just about that without the ability to scratch the teacher’s nose.

    I’ll look forward with keen interest to the next post in the series and I’m sure it will take me further down the road to convincing me Skype’s language course could be right for me.

  5. Hey Catherine,

    Though I’m not studying Thai (yet, I may have to pick it up ;) ), I’ve found Skype to be incredibly useful for my language learning. I’m part of a group Skype chat were we’re always talking about languages, and I have a bunch of Russian and Spanish native speakers on there who are more than willing to talk in their native language once in a while, as long as I help them with English or Dutch.

    It’s done wonders for my language learning. :)

  6. Morning Martyn. There is a lot going on with Skype and learning languages so I do hope you are here for the long haul. And I believe you’d like Skype for the same reasons I do – no need to foof or get out of PJ’s, no need to extend a great effort into fighting traffic.

    Welcome to WLT Fiona :-) Language exchange is totally new to me, and an aspect of Skype I have not sampled. I imagine it takes a bit of poking around to find partner(s) who click (personality and timezones). I have a post coming up on the subject so I do hope you’ll stop by and add your knowledgeable two cents!

  7. That is a great way of learning any language. It is especially handy for teachers. Excellent tips on the software too!

  8. Hi, there is a small error in Ladawan Mamak’s website address. It’s http://www.thaiwithjoy.com. You can also replace the ‘coming soon’, because it’s live. I have tried her lessons and they are very good. Thanks Catherine, for the great info provided on this page.

  9. Thank you Maarten. This is an old post but I do like to keep the urls updated where I can. Ladawan (from what I can tell) is one of the top Thai Skype teachers. She is diligent in her approach.

  10. Hi-
    I am an American and learned to speak Thai as an 11, 12 year old in Bangkok, learning on the streets how to speak street Thai. My pronunciation is excellent and I continued my studies using AUA books. I’ve been through book 1 and 2 and part of 3. I do not write or wish to study reading and writing, just conversation. Essentially, I just want someone to ‘cuie’ with. No lesson plans necessary. I can pay $10 an hour. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Ed

  11. Hi Ed, in the top right nav there’s a drop down under ‘Learn Thai’. There you will find Thai teachers, Thai schools, and Thai courses. I believe the first two are the ones you need. There’s also Thai Skype teachers (a hassle free way to go if you don’t like fighting traffic in Bangkok). Good luck.

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