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Thai Language School Review: AUA Chiang mai

AUA Chiang mai

AUA: Chiang mai…

School: AUA Chiang mai
Website: AUA Chiang mai
Tele: 053 214 120, 053 211 377, 082 036 7840, 095 452 7840

Address: 24 Rajadamnern Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50200.

AUA is located on a main through road in Chiang Mai Old Town, yet the setting is quiet and the buildings remind me much of old Thai-style houses. 

They currently have seven six-week modules available: Speaking 1-4 and Reading/Writing 1-3, at THB5300 per course. The lessons are two hours a day, Monday-Friday, with a 15-20 minute break after the first hour. 

This school definitely seems to be good value for money. I found the teachers at AUA very experienced and invested in their students’ progress. The teachers drill words into you, and correct you until you pronounce them the right way, and you’d better do it with a smile on your face.

AUA is definitely not a school just to get the ED visa. AUA requires attendance and participation in classes and that’s a positive because the students participating are motivated and make progress. Plus, the school expects you to study and practice outside the classroom as well. 

What struck me as a bit odd at first was the lack of desks in the classroom. Everyone sits in a semicircle and writes with their notepads balanced on their knees. But at the same time the arrangement makes the exercises requiring speaking to everyone that much easier. You just stand up and walk across the room without having to move desks around or trying to navigate between them. This open system also encourages switching conversation partners and getting used to different accents.

Conversation Level One…

In the Conversation Level One course I attended, all my fellow students were super friendly and motivated; everyone was there to learn Thai. Not one of the 12 students had an ED visa, and on the quietest day attendance was seven. There were only three farang (non-Asians) in my class, which seemed a common theme at AUA. Missing a few lessons is enough to fall behind and AUA gives the impression that if you do miss too many lessons, you’d be politely asked to rethink whether you should continue with the class. This reinforced the idea that Digital Nomads do not often enroll at AUA (could be because avid attendance and participation is expected).

However, the level among students was very different, making it hard at times for lessons to flow at a steady speed. I also found having a dialogue with others in Thai a bit tricky for the same reason. But it does make you concentrate on listening more. At the same time, our teacher made sure to get everyone to understand and follow, so no one was purposefully left behind. In saying that, there was no excessive hand-holding for anyone. 

In the beginner’s course, for the first two weeks we focused on practicing tones and vowels for 30 minutes. We played ‘guess the tone’ games quite a bit and while it was frustrating at first, eventually we all started to agree on the correct tone. 

The teaching was built around repetition. There was a great deal of repeating of words and phrases out loud every day. The teacher expected us to use all new words taught, plus find new words to use on our own. And to make us understand the thinking behind the language our teacher illustrated ‘weird’ words and expressions using her own life experiences and situations.

For this class we didn’t have a book, just handouts and a whiteboard with notes. Not following a set curriculum allowed our teacher to focus on what she felt was relevant, in a way what also suited her, thus making the classes fun and interesting for us. The only wish I have is that they taught more everyday Thai; things you need to say to the street vendor or the taxi driver. What we ended up learning was a bit more sophisticated and didn’t help me when ordering food. But this could very well be my European thinking since I have had to forget every single European language I speak and start from a blank piece of paper. 

While I feel that we could have spoken a bit more in class, thanks to their repetition teaching method, most of what we practiced did stick. We covered a great deal of ground, with everyone managing to follow along. 

I’ve now finished Level One Speaking and have decided to try out Payap. I went for an interview and they said I was ok for Level Two. So stay tuned :)

Conversation Level Three…

AUA Level Three included a small group of nice students from Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China and Europe. In this course the speed and level increased significantly. The teacher spoke at a relatively normal speed, but used words and sentence construction that everyone could understand. This way of teaching has you recognising normal spoken Thai and responding actively.

Again, the time flew by and the lessons were great fun. Everyone was pushed to learn and to try to explain stories and compound sentences. English was not used in class but any new vocabulary was given in Thai / English / phonetic handouts. I found that many of the students could already read and write quite well and took their notes in Thai script only, although there are still a few, including me, who could read but struggled to write.

Despite the fast spoken language and assumption that certain things should be inherently understood, there was surprisingly little homework in this course. In saying that, to be ready for the next lesson all of us appeared to recap at home to some extent.

Same as with the previous course, it’s an untraditional classroom with all pupils sitting in a semicircle around the room, with no desks, taking notes on notebooks balanced on their knees. There’s a lot of work in pairs though, and you’re forced to work with different people every day, which apart from making new friends helps you to hear other people’s pronunciation and see in detail what level they’re at.

Private Lessons…

I went for an intake assessment at AUA in Chiang Mai and was told that while I had a good vocabulary my grammar was messy and unstructured, so was advised to take private lessons before joining the second level. Cost per hour was THB340. This consisted of one hour, two or three times a week, speaking with a teacher who would simply kick off the discussion by asking questions. Each of the lessons actually covered different grammar elements, although it was never presented like this, so I only became aware at the end of the month. The hour flew by, with discussions ranging from immigration and unemployment, to baggy trousers and the Russian mafia.

Because it’s a private session, and you’re one-on-one with the teacher, you simply can’t hide and pretend that you know what’s being discussed, so you learn a lot. It was quite hard work but I enjoyed it and it paid off. At the end of the month the teacher put me not into the second, but the third level.

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The ALG Crosstalk Project

ALG Crosstalk Project

Announcing the Crosstalk Project…

Make new friends – learn a language – develop relationships – really communicate

Imagine for a moment that you are in a far away land. You recently received a job offer to work in a distant city, far from family and friends. Your new city is strange and foreign to you. You have never been there before, have not previously met anyone, and don’t speak the local tongue. Yet, after about a month or so, you are starting to find your bearings. Housing and food are no longer an issue, but is something else missing? Perhaps you wish to learn to communicate with the locals, find some new friends, or even make contacts in the diverse expatriate community there? Maybe you can pick up a few survival phrases as you go? Or would a language course be more useful?

Communicating Abroad…

Many people dream of learning to communicate in a new environment. They arrive in a new place and work to pick up enough survival vocabulary to get by on a day-to-day basis.

They are focused on using words, focused on language.

Over the years, as I’ve seen foreigners trying to use Thai with pre-packaged phrases or patched together words, the realization has grown that there are usually much easier ways to get the point across. I like the story of my very heavy American friend (350 lbs. ~ 159 kg). He had traveled to Seoul, South Korea and needed a laxative. Not only did he not know any Korean language, he was out in the city and didn’t know how to find a pharmacy. He wound up walking down the street until he found what looked like a pharmacy and, walking in, began to ‘demonstrate’ that he was unable to have a bowel movement by squatting in the middle of this store and grunting and groaning! Immediately, the pharmacist understood, left, and in a minute returned with a small packet of pills. He showed my friend to eat a pill, and pointing at his watch, counted 1, 2 and then ran to the toilet! They both communicated, to the great enjoyment of themselves and everyone else in the store, perfectly! Not a word of Korean was needed. In fact, it’s not very difficult to imagine that trying to use words would have really gotten in the way.

It seems to me that the point is this: They were able to easily communicate because they both were focused on communicating rather than focused on trying to use words or sentences. It’s easy to confuse language with communication. But the key here is that communicating opens the door to everything we learn language for. Our tendency to focus on another person’s language may be the very thing that stops us from being effective communicators.

Communication is not about the language…

I’ve been watching my two year old daughter. She has been exposed to Thai, English, Chinese and Khmer since she was born. She apparently never sees someone and thinks, what language should I use here. She simply communicates. And she’s an effective communicator. The only people who have a difficult time are those adults who think that the key to understanding is in the words. While she talks (non-stop, in fact), she is always showing, pointing, giving expressions, and body language that say perfectly whatever it is she wishes to communicate. Tune in and it’s easy. Focus on the sounds coming out of her mouth and it can be quite difficult at times!

We’ve seen the same thing with adults. When we focus on communication, we’re able to communicate, even when we don’t know others’ languages. The ALG Crosstalk Project is designed to assist people to get back in touch with the tools of communication that work and help them to rediscover the fun in communicating with almost anyone – naturally.

Crosstalk gets language out of the way…

One of my first experiments using Crosstalk was with visitors to Thailand who were planning to spend one-to-three months here, working as volunteers with Thai people. Out of all those who came here, the most successful at developing relationships were those who got out and played football, or were somehow engaged with people in real activities where communication was necessary. Normally, the Thais didn’t understand much English, and the foreigners understood no more than a few words of Thai. Context was the important thing, and as people got involved in their activities, communication at times became spontaneous and natural. Each person was ‘speaking’ in their own language, and what everyone was ‘doing’ made communication possible. One really great thing is that, in using Crosstalk, participants get the sort of language input they need to acquire the language naturally!

The ALG Crosstalk Project launched in October 2012 and is set up to enable people to do that very thing, only on purpose. It’s natural and fun. The idea is simple. We are attracting people in Bangkok of different languages and cultures who want to 1) learn a new language or 2) connect with someone of another language. They are passed through a basic skills session and entered into the network. We then work to connect them with partners, much like a dating network.

It is a project designed to enable individuals to make friends, develop language ability, or deepen relationships, all without needing to know the other person’s language. It includes the following components: members, a network, a website, training, and resources. The basic idea of this project is to develop and make available the means to empower individuals to create contexts whereby they will make new friends, acquire a second language, and develop relationships .

Crosstalk allows participants to engage in authentic conversation with speakers of another language immediately, without waiting to become fluent in their language. Crosstalk techniques can be used for storytelling to a group, interactive storytelling involving two or more participants, or as an addition to conversation to help understanding. Crosstalk uses communication strategies we are all familiar with and utilizes them in such a way that very high degrees of understanding, involvement, and interest are maintained.

It’s free to be involved and to participate. If you’re interested send the following information to: crosstalk@algworld.com

  1. name (what you’d like us to call you)
  2. email address
  3. mobile phone number
  4. native language

We will then notify you whenever there’s an introduction session coming up.

ALG World: ALG Crosstalk
Like us on Facebook: ALG Crosstalk Project
YouTube: ALG Crosstalk Demonstration

David Long
AUA Thai | AUA Thai blog | YouTube: ALG World

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Interview Compilation: How Do You Learn Languages?

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

How do you learn languages?…

Over the years I’ve developed a curiosity about how people successfully learn languages. And more than anything else, the methods mentioned in this series have helped me to understand that there is no one right way, there are many ways. And that we can mix and match to suit our own personality, lifestyle, and language level.

Aaron Handel

Aaron Handel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: I was never particularly good at learning languages in school. I was a ‘C’ student in German. Frankly, I did not have much interest in learning.

Thai is different. Thai is a tonal language. This makes it fascinating and challenging for a native English speaker. Because Thai is so different from Western languages, it must be learned with a different method. That method is, essentially, drilling tones. (There are a few consonant and vowel sounds that also need to be practiced.) Develop good tone pronunciation right from the beginning, vocabulary and grammar will follow in due course.

Aaron Le Boutillier

Aaron Le Boutillier: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: By stress, word association coupled with mind-numbing pure memory.

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAdam: Directly from the natives.

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAndrew: With Tylenol and Xanax.

Celia Chessin-Yudin

Celia Chessin-Yudin: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersCelia: By talking with people.

Chris Pirazzi

Chris Pirazzi: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChris Pirazzi: Flashcards. I don’t find software programs or books that attempt to take you through it “step-by-step” and “spoon-feed” you bits of the language very useful. I’d rather be presented with a big, daunting, organized reference volume that analyzes the language and then scoop bits of it out at a time (a “top down” approach). I know others prefer the opposite “bottom-up” approach because it offers (or appears to offer) more instant gratification.

Sadly, there is no such “top-down” reference for Thai, except I guess the Higbie book (and it covers only grammar and needs a little more analysis and organization).

Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersColin: I really wasn’t designed to sit in classrooms and chant conjugations. Funny that, considering the number of years I forced other people to do it.

Daniel B Fraser

Daniel B Fraser: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDaniel: Constantly asking questions and seeking to understand what is being said. Then mimicking the right way to say it.

David Smyth

David Smyth: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid Smyth: One of my Thai teachers very diplomatically described me as a ‘visual learner’; I think my previous answer explains why. When I started learning Thai, audio materials were not readily available and Thais were a bit thin on the ground in London (perhaps they were avoiding me) so my efforts were focused mainly on reading. At first, I used to copy out reading passages – several times – which helped my reading, handwriting, spelling, understanding of grammar and retention of vocabulary. As I progressed to longer passages, I would just copy odd sentences or phrases that appealed to me or which I thought I could inflict upon some unsuspecting Thai.

Learning Thai made me aware how important it is to be able to ask questions. When I was at school the French and German teachers asked the questions and we answered; we never asked a thing. And if you were lucky and kept your head down, you could go for several weeks without even answering a question. A good classroom survival technique, maybe, but not very good preparation for real life. One of my former students, who seemed to have also got it into his head that, as a foreign-language speaker, his role, too, was to answer questions, complained one day, ‘Thais don’t want to talk to me.’ I think he expected that if he just stood somewhere, Thais would gravitate towards him, bombarding him with questions and that way he would learn to speak Thai fluently. It never occurred to him to ask Thais questions, whether out of feigned interest to improve his linguistic skills, or genuine interest in order to gain greater insight into another world and in the process, his own world.

Don Sena

Don Sena: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDon: I prefer scholastically-written books – those that are meant for the college classroom, even though I may intend to learn on my own. After absorbing a good description of the language, reading printed articles and other such items follows. The same block of text needs to be read and reread multiple times until it can be oralized with ease. Contact with native speakers is a further aid in learning to be understood and – hardest of all – to understand the spoken language.

Doug

Doug: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDoug: Practice, practice, practice.

Gareth Marshall

Gareth Marshall: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGareth: I’m not a classroom learner – much better to be out and using the language, making mistakes but finding your way.

Grace Robinson

Grace Robinson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGrace: Practice! Boring but true. Chatting to friends, listening to the language in any form and surrounding yourself with anything vaguely related, things can be learnt even in the most banal situation, so go and dive in at the deep end, immersion is ultimate! Personally, I have benefitted from getting to know the culture at the same time, this is really crucial, as the two cannot be separated. You will find many connections between language and culture and this will really raise interest and pleasure from learning.

Hamish Chalmers

Hamish Chalmers: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHamish: By using them.

Hardie Karges

Hardie Karges: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHardie: STUDY! Nothing is ‘picked up’ unless you’re a one year old with all the time in the world.

Herb Purnell

Herb Purnell: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHerb: I start with listening and getting used to the sounds and the flow of the language, picking out particular sounds that are different and focusing on them. This is probably due to my phonetics training and also because I find pronunciation to be fun and not very difficult for me. I try to learn basic and useful (for me) vocabulary and begin to try out my hypotheses about how the language goes together in these basic ways. This, too, goes back to my training in practical applied linguistics and my desire to talk with people as soon as I can. My goal is to get a reasonable oral proficiency before I start learning to read when the language (like Thai) is not in Romanized script. Reading is crucial for vocabulary development and for seeing how phrases and sentences get put together to form longer integrated texts. But written style is often different from spoken style, so that’s another reason why I focus on oral development first.

I found that reading folktales and short stories that contain interactive conversations was important for me to learn something about how socially-affected particles and pronouns are used in context. These are still challenging for me because the systems are so different from English. But seeing how the different particles reflect attitudes and emotions in the course of a story helps me to get a feel for their use. Then I try some of them out gradually to see if my use is acceptable and appropriate.

My writing was the slowest to develop, but as I found myself in situations where I had to write in Thai, I gradually got better at it. Taking the Prathom 4 exam was a big challenge. The dictation section contained a lot of formal terms to recognize and spell correctly. Then there was a essay to write on a specified theme, and then a personal letter that needed to be written in proper format. Having been away from having to write Thai for quite a few years, I am rusty in spelling, especially words with karan that cancels out letters. But I’ve always enjoyed being able to spell well, so spelling and writing Thai was a challenge that I wanted to succeed at. And a skill that I could still recover if I put my mind to it.

Hugh Leong

Hugh Leong: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHugh: With great difficulty and hard work. Languages do not come easily to me.

Ian Fereday

Ian Fereday: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersIan: By listening, practicing and correcting as I go while immersed in a language with speakers of that language. I also need to see a written, structured method, but I know this doesn’t work for everyone. Drilling doesn’t work for me – I feel stupid repeating myself.

James (Jim) Higbie

James (Jim) Higbie: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJim: I need to learn how to say sentences in a very front brain manner. I can’t pick up a language by letting it wash over me.

Joe Cummings

Joe Cummings: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJoe: My father was in the military so I grew up with neighbours and friends who had lived all over the world, and often spoke languages other than English. When I was 10 my family moved to France and I went to an international school for three years where I learned French. So by the time I came to Thailand as a 23-year-old I had been exposed to foreign languages and appreciated the language learning process. But I don’t think I was a particularly talented language learner.

I believe that since we’re all completely fluent in our own native languages, that that means we have the same capacity to learn other languages. I think most of the obstacles to learning another language are sociolinguistic rather than psycholinguistic. “I can’t speak French because I’m not French,” is the basic problem.

Jonathan Thames

Jonathan Thames: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonathan: Through people; that is the bottom line. I have used different methods for each language due to circumstances, and I think different languages sometimes lend themselves better to different methods. As I said before, though, I really think a combination of things that engage all four basic skills and include all different registers of a language are the most helpful.

Justin Travis Mair

Justin Travis Mair: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJustin: I am a systematic person. I like to follow recipes and create plans. Right now I developed a system for me to learn Spanish, mostly to satisfy my desire to follow formulas.
 

Larry Daks

Larry Daks: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLarry: Hard work, putting myself into situations where speak the language, being proactive by seeking out opportunities to speak and listen.

Luke Cassady-Dorion

Luke Cassady-Dorion: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLuke: Good question. Ever since learning Thai, I’ve experimented with different techniques. Now, in addition to as much immersion as possible, I make use of electronic flashcard programs, online study tools, MP3s, and willing (and unwilling) native speakers. What I don’t do (and probably should) is watch TV. I’m sure that I would have much less of an accent and know more slang if I did watch TV; I just can’t seem to get into it. I do read a lot which helps with vocabulary and culture, but really should get around to getting the TV thing going.

Marc Spiegel

Marc Spiegel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarc: I’ve always learned languages by studying in school and then reinforcing and expanding my capabilities through practice and use.

Marcel Barang

Marcel Barang: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarcel: By parroting, by writing things down, by asking what this or that means.

When I used to teach English to French students, the first thing I did was to have them speak French with an English accent: it worked wonderfully.

One decisive moment was very early in my study of Thai when I overheard an already Thai-fluent Catholic priest friend of mine in Song Phee Nong ask a fellow Thai, ‘How would you say this correctly?’ (Tong Phoot Yanggai Jueng Ja Took): I’ve been using that open-sesame ever since.

Mark Hollow

Mark Hollow: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMark: For the first month or two I was very quiet and said little at school. I would learn vocabulary and language patterns but didn’t start speaking much Thai until I had more vocabulary (and confidence). I saw no benefit in speaking in the classroom unless it was mostly in Thai.

For the first six months I kept a notebook on me and wrote down new vocabulary, at first it would only be words I saw frequently as there were so many words I didn’t know. The notebook was later replaced by a smart phone flashcard application which I found more convenient and sometimes quicker (eg. the ability to take a photo of an advert, sign etc).

Most of my time at home was spent reading reference and course materials. This was very intensive, sometimes up to 10 hours a day. I’d often have the TV or radio on in the background for a few hours too just to let the sounds sink in, regardless of whether I understand or not.

As my reading ability grew I started buying Thai books and reading Thai websites. I’ve found modern poetry to be a fun way to learn as it often evokes an emotional reaction and therefore (for me at least) makes it easier to remember the vocabulary. Contemporary poems are also often quite short – perfect for a quick read on the skytrain.

Martin Clutterbuck

Martin Clutterbuck: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMartin: Mainly, by listening, very, very carefully, with an open mind, that is, without bias or colour from any other language I know. At the same time, paradoxically, I listen for similarities with other languages, particularly those of the same family. Both of these are quite hard for most people, particularly if they are unaware of their own accent.

I feel lucky, because my parents came from working class cockney families, but learned crystal-clear received pronunciation at grammar school. When I was a kid, and lapsed into “lazy” speech, I was corrected, and although at the time it was annoying, I learned to hear small differences between sounds, which is the key to learning foreign languages.

Good text books and especially dictionaries, also help.

Nils Bastedo

Nils Bastedo: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersNils: I learned Swedish as a native speaker. English as a native speaker and as a foreign language. French for 6 years in grade and high-school and again at Harvard, where I became certified by the Paris Chamber of Commerce. Spanish 3 years in high in school and one semester at Harvard as well. Danish by ear and by watching subtitled Danish TV growing up. Norwegian (Oslo dialect) since it is close to Swedish and Danish. I also get by in other European languages (German, Italian) fairly well by using the languages I have to figure out what things mean and to make myself understood. When working as a consultant in Belgium, I was mistaken for French quite frequently, which was of course very flattering.

Paul Garrigan

Paul Garrigan: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPaul: Slowly but surely.

Peter Montalbano

Peter Montalbano: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPeter: For me, at least, it’s got to be a combination of academic study, pattern practice, memorization work, reading and writing in the language, and near-total immersion in a place where that’s the only language spoken. Unless you’re a freak of nature, you’ll have to really put your heart into it (เอาใจใส่จริงจัง): for an adult foreigner, no matter how clever or talented, no language will come just by osmosis. I believe in classroom study and lots of homework, but that can’t be all, either.

Rick Bradford

Rick Bradford: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRick: By natural curiosity — I want to know what is going on in the society I am living in, so I read newspapers, watch the TV, and observe and listen to the people. By the same token, I cannot learn a language unless I am in-country, as the motivation isn’t there.

Rikker Dockum

Rikker Dockum: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRikker: With fear and trepidation. I have never learned any language in depth besides Thai, and I still break into a sweat at the thought of verb conjugation.

Ryan Zander

Ryan Zander: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRyan: The written part just by lots of practice writing, and the speaking part by actively trying to fit new words I’ve learned into sentences, then making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes.

Scott Earle

Scott Earle: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersScott: When I was 15 I lived in France, after learning French in school. I was almost fluent within 3 months. But when I first came to Thailand, it was almost a year and a half before I could make myself understood. Learning languages is *definitely* easier when you’re younger!

I started out by learning to read and ‘hear’ Thai. I listened as much as I could, read as much as I could. Read car number plate provinces, read road signs, read advertising boards, got used to the range of fonts used. Listened to Thai-language radio stations, even the ones that play ‘international’ music, for the inane chatter and ads. Just immersed myself.

Seriously, all that stuff is what I did until I got the hang of the basics and could distinguish what a tone was and how words sounded. Almost two years in, circumstances around me dictated that I needed to decide where I was going to live (UK or Thailand – I lost the contract I had had, and so would be living here without a job unless I could find one, or going ‘home’). That’s when I booked 40 hours at a Thai language school, and struggled with one teacher, then moved to another whose strength was in teaching to read/write.

I already had a bit of vocab by then (mostly food and provinces!), and so some of the words she was teaching me how they ‘worked’ already made sense, and I was just learning the mechanics of the alphabet. After that everything was quite a bit clearer, because I had never learned the ‘rules’ before.

I learned basic phrases, and learned the alphabet. Started putting the two together, and created a crib sheet to use while chatting with friends. Realised that the crib sheet could be the start of actually learning a few more phrases and expanded it, found out about online chat, and chatted with people using the crib sheet initially and then free text later. Eventually forced myself to type everything and not use the crib sheet at all.

Stickman

Stickman: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStickman: We all have our own learning style and I think that it is important that we understand how we learn. I think we can loosely say there are two main learning styles, accuracy and fluency.

Those who prefer fluency tend to hear the language and then repeat it. They are more concerned about being able to communicate and be understood than necessarily being that accurate in their use of the language.

The other style is accuracy. People who prefer this method tend to want to see things written and break them down and then slowly reproduce what they see and then make variants of those sentences and check them for accuracy as they learn. They are most concerned about getting it right.

For me, I tend to be someone who goes down the accuracy path so especially in the early days I needed to see things written and then I would form my own versions of them, sort of like pattern building.

If you learn formally in Thailand the teachers are most concerned about accuracy – especially Thai teachers who really don’t seem to care for the idea of fluency based learning. That suited me perfectly.

If you learn from conversing with the locals, perhaps in the bars as many Western men do, then that is a much more fluency-based approach.

As I have often said, back in 2000 when I really went all out to get my Thai to as high a level as possible, I learned good Thai by day and bad Thai by night. I guess that was the best of both worlds!

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStu: With passion.

Terry Fredrickson

Terry Fredrickson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTerry: Listening and speaking to people, followed by reading.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTom: I am most definitely a visual learner. I learnt how to read by plastering consonants and vowels all over my bedroom walls as a student. In the early stages I would scan these images twice a day, once in the morning before class and in the evening. It worked very well for me, but I stress I did this by consonant class and not all the characters at once. That would have made my bedroom somewhat dizzying. I learnt vocab by repetition.

Vern Lovic

Vern Lovic: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersVern: First visually, then practice with speaking to other natives. I cannot, will not, or should not speak Thai with other foreigners trying to practice. It just doesn’t work for me – the context just isn’t there and I end up looking at them like I’m tripping on Red Bull or something. It just doesn’t add up. My brain goes into freeze-mode and I cannot form a conversation anymore!

Which of the suggestions suit you best? Any?

The series: Successful Thai Language Learners Compilation…

And here you have it, the rest of the series:

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Interview Compilation: Did One Method Stand Out?

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

Did one method stand out over all others?…

Some get downright religious about their language learning method of choice. Me? Well. With so many fun methods to write about, I need jump from one to another. And whenever I come across a new (to me) method, the idea that “this will be THE magic fix” taunts me (but only for a bit).

Ranging from commercial products to systems dreamed up by polyglots and others, there are all sorts of ways to learn Thai: Assimil Thai, AUA, audio, FSI Thai, grammar translation, immersion, Pimsleur Thai, L-Lingo, LAMP, Learn Thai Podcast, Linguaphone Thai, Luca’s Easy Way, one-on-one, Paiboon, reading, Silent Way, Situational, Rosetta Stone, Skype, Shadowing, smart phone apps, Speak Your Language, SRS, Teach Yourself Thai, Total Physical Response, TPR Storytelling, TV, classroom… whew.

But do you know what? After reading through this series, seems to me the most successful are those who didn’t flaff around. They just got on with their Thai studies.

Aaron Handel

Aaron Handel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: I find it difficult to separate the idea of “learning how to learn” from actually learning to speak Thai. I stumbled upon the best method (for me) through a process of trial and error. At first, I ‘picked up’ a little bit of Thai just by traveling in Thailand. Occasionally, I listened to the tapes that Nók and I made. After a few months in Thailand, I could only say a few phrases. My pronunciation was not very good.

I think it was on my second or third trip to Thailand that I made my big breakthrough. I was up in Mâe Săi during the rainy season. It rained all day, everyday. I rented a room for one month. I had assembled the tools to learn Thai. I had a good book with tone marks on every syllable. I had the Thai tapes that Nók and I had made. And I had motivation. I was inspired by the friendliness and generosity of Thai people. I was intrigued by the language and the culture. I told myself, “I’m going to try this. I’m going to learn to speak Thai.” I locked myself in the room for 30 days, going out only for food and water. I drilled the tapes as I read the text. Drill! Say it again. No, that’s not right. Do it again! Drill again, with better pronunciation. Focus on the tone. Even if it is only one syllable, drill that tone again and again.

After 30 days, I emerged from my room, pale and exhausted. Had I learned anything? Yes. Although I didn’t realize it yet, I had broken the tonal barrier. I learned most of the Thai that I now speak, during those 30 days.

Aaron Le Boutillier

Aaron Le Boutillier: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: Helping as a translator at the Local Police Station was the wake up call. There you sink and die if your Thai is not up to speed and the added embarrassment of looking silly in front of a group of tourists and police is enough incentive to study harder.

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAdam: After learning the basics, I found the best method to move to the next level was simply carrying a little notebook around and writing down words, phrases, and sentences that I heard come out of natives’ mouths. Also, if you ask any of my Thai friends they won’t hesitate to tell you that I would sit and ask them questions about the Thai language for hours sometimes. Having patient Thai friends was of great help to me in progressing my Thai.

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAndrew: Immersion, immersion, immersion. Read the newspaper. Watch the hideous Thai soapies. Listen to Thai pop music. Sit quietly with your Thai friends as they open a bottle of whiskey and solve the world’s problems in three hours before passing out. This all helps.

Celia Chessin-Yudin

Celia Chessin-Yudin: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersCelia: Reading and writing really helped me speak clearer.

Christy Gibson

Christy Gibson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChristy: The main thing that helped me though was just speaking, speaking, speaking, and making mistakes. Thai friends were extremely helpful, and for awhile I just asked them constantly how to say things. Thais also, as Jonas said, are often very complimentary, but I asked Thai friends close to me to please correct my incorrect speech and pronunciation at every possible opportunity, and they did. These 2 methods helped me more than anything else—1. Speaking the language with native Thai speakers as often and as much as possible, and 2. Being willing to make mistakes and not be discouraged by them or daunted by the frequency with which I initially made them.

Chris Pirazzi

Chris Pirazzi: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChris Pirazzi: Tutoring and flashcards most useful.

Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersColin: I think language is all about learning acres of vocabulary but I have an awful memory. I learn all my word lists through convoluted mnemonic methods. I did the same thing when I was attempting to learn Japanese ideographs. I had elaborate stories for every stroke of the kanji. Thai was easy by comparison but, as a visual person, I needed to see the words and their meanings. So, for example, the word ‘jeep’ (to flirt) was accompanied in my notebook by the image of an amorous soldier in the back of a jeep attempting to pick up his female companion (in fact my cartoon was a lot dirtier than that but this is a family website). Not all words lend themselves to interpretation but I have a good imagination so I can still see the image of a severed hand on a plate whenever I think of the word ‘ahan’. Being weird helps with this method.

Daniel B Fraser

Daniel B Fraser: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDaniel: Mimicking others for sure was best.

David Smyth

David Smyth: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: What struck me at the time, was not so much the method of the teaching but rather the attitude of my teachers, Manas Chitakasem, Peter Bee and Stuart Simmonds.

At school I had studied French and German to university entrance standard in an atmosphere of fear and trepidation, where mistakes were regarded as evidence of laziness, stupidity or moral turpitude. To then find teachers who were patient, encouraging and eager to share their knowledge was a radically new experience; I shall always feel grateful to them.

Don Sena

Don Sena: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDon: The linguistic orientation of Richard B. Noss of the Foreign Service Institute (1964) with its rigorous analysis proved to be prominent.

Doug

Doug: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDoug: AAUA approach is most excellent, imho.

Gareth Marshall

Gareth Marshall: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGareth: I prefer learning through reading as it presents vocab and phrases in context, helps get your head around the writing structure, and deals with grammar.

Glenn Slayden

Glenn Slayden: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGlenn: A turning point was when I traveled alone in Thailand for several months in 1997. Along with me I had a thin book Reading and Writing Thai by Marie-Hélène Brown (DK Books, out of print) that I studied each night wherever I was. This, combined with being spontaneously invited into homes to live with Thais throughout my trip—not speaking English for days at a time—led to the most dramatic increases in my Thai skills.

Grace Robinson

Grace Robinson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGrace: Being able to read and write with the Thai alphabet system is key to getting the correct pronunciation. Word association and drawing pictures also helped me!

Hamish Chalmers

Hamish Chalmers: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHamish: Criticism notwithstanding, I did find The Rosetta Stone the best for listening and speaking, mainly because it dispenses with transcription and translation. One goes directly from image to sound and back again, with no interference from English, the same way in which we learn our first language. Of course, nothing beats getting out there, talking to Thais, listening to Thais, replicating what you hear and not worrying if you make mistakes, so long as you learn from them. To help my writing I’ve just started experimenting with www.lang-8.com.

Hardie Karges

Hardie Karges: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHardie: Reading, then every time you walk down the street you have a lesson embedded in each and every sign, i.e. life is the lesson.

Herb Purnell

Herb Purnell: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHerb: Most of my learning has been independent self-study, particularly with Northern Thai and Mien. When I had the opportunity for good instruction in Thai, I appreciated it and profited from it. I had a background in phonetics, anthropology, and linguistics which was a great help. I also had the opportunity for working during two summers as a junior staff member at a linguistic institute that taught principles of language and culture learning. So I am comfortable being an independent learner within a language community. However, I wouldn’t call my type of independent learning “picking up the language.” It was a more organized way to approach learning from local speakers, not a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants approach that tends to be more random and sporadic.

Hugh Leong

Hugh Leong: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHugh: When a caveman in Cave A wanted to trade his shells with a caveman across the valley in Cave B he probably had to learn to speak Caveman B’s language. I wonder what method he used.

For me it’s the Becker series, Thai Reference grammar by James Higbie and Snea Thinsan, independent study, real texts, the internet, Speaking Thai the Easy Way, and Learn Thai Podcast.

Ian Fereday

Ian Fereday: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersIan: Yes, cumulative lessons gradually adding to my repertoire of letters and tones, words and rules, and practice, practice, practice. Group study was better over one-on-one or self-study because I could learn from the other students’ mistakes and successes as well as the teacher.

James (Jim) Higbie

James (Jim) Higbie: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJim: Keeping notebooks of vocabulary and phrases was the best method for me. I used to spend weekends at Ko Samet talking to people and writing down new things I heard them say.

Joe Cummings

Joe Cummings: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJoe: Each had its strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve come to the conclusion that we learn language in spite the methods chosen, rather than because of them.

John Boegehold

John Boegehold: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJohn: Not really, they’re all pieces of the puzzle.

Jonas Anderson

Jonas Anderson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonas: I have been lucky to be in situations which naturally enrich my Thai due to the requirements of the situation. This can involve a huge amount of pressure at the time—particularly if I have to use very challenging language with a small amount of preparation time, but those times end up being unique learning situations I am privileged to experience.

Jonathan Thames

Jonathan Thames: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonathan: I would say, as with any language learning in my experience, a combination of several different methods is the most effective. To this end, I have always attempted to create an immersion-like experience when learning, and especially helpful is interaction with fluent speakers. Then again, just the four basic skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) are all important and are ignored only to one’s detriment. I have very much enjoyed my Professional Thai course at MIIS as it has been the most rigorous.

Justin Travis Mair

Justin Travis Mair: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJustin: The sink or swim method and the SYL were the biggest things that helped me I think.

Larry Daks

Larry Daks: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLarry: Initially, I got the basics through endless repetition through pattern practice and memorization.

Marcel Barang

Marcel Barang: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarcel: I need to write things down. Knowing the international phonetic system (learned when I studied English at school in France) helped a lot. I adapted it to Thai in my own way.

Mark Hollow

Mark Hollow: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMark: Well, I can only really comment on my studies at school as my prior attempts weren’t successful.

Except for one month, I’ve only had one-on-one tuition which I’ve enjoyed. The teachers were rotated periodically which gave variety to both the lessons and the learning approach. For the one month that I studied with another student I felt like I was holding him back – he was a Singaporean and, like many of his fellow countrymen, already a polyglot from growing up in a multicultural & multilingual society so I returned to one-to-one lessons.

Martin Clutterbuck

Martin Clutterbuck: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMartin: The Fundamentals of the Thai language is an enigma, because it’s this quaint 1950s thing, doesn’t have any exercises or pictures, yet has a good sequence of pulling you through the language topic by topic, so by the end of it, one has mastered a basic form of the language, and yes, it teaches you to read and write.

Nils Bastedo

Nils Bastedo: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersNils: The book Teach Yourself Thai was very useful. It contains sections on different situations, and I found the romanized script they used very intuitive. Before going out on early excursions, I would look up the vocabulary for the task I wanted to do in advance (giving directions to taxi drivers, buying fruit, and so on) and then go out and implement the knowledge.

I had one CD in particular which, though extremely limited, was very helpful for helping with basic vocabulary. I don’t remember the name, but it offered short quizzes on limited topics. Seeing scores like 8/10 stimulated me to re-do the tests and ‘nail them’.

Wanting to get the best in e-learning, I spent a lot of money getting Rosetta Stone, but with an instruction booklet in Thai and starting with phrases such as ‘The plane flies over the clouds’ or ‘The boy is under the table’ instead of ‘Where is the bank’ or even ‘Hello, how are you?’ I have few positive memories of that particular product. Besides, merely showing Thai script without giving explanations on the writing system is … not the best possible approach.

Paul Garrigan

Paul Garrigan: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPaul: I think that it has been a mixture of all these methods that have gotten me to where I am today. I think that is how it works, you learn a bit here and a bit there.

Peter Montalbano

Peter Montalbano: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPeter: I would recommend the U.S. Foreign Service Institute courses, which our Peace Corps training was modeled on. A lot of the phrases are old-fashioned, but they are dead-on accurate, you can download them as pdf files, and the pronunciation guides are perfect. There are sound files for the lessons, too!

Cat, I noticed that you are involved in a project to revitalize this right now on thailanguagewiki.com. Not complete yet in that form, but a worthy project. Memorize that stuff, do the pattern practices, and you’ve got a great foundation. If you have a teacher to take you through it, but it can be done on one’s own if needed.

There are several English/Thai dictionaries in electronic format that I have found indispensable. Besides Glenn Slayden’s wonderful work on thai-language.com, you can download a multi-university academic project called Lexitron (the English page). It’s free, but you’ll have to create an account in order to download it to your own machine. Download both the program and the data file. When installing or opening it on a Windows machine you’ll have to set your computer’s regional and language settings to Thai, or you won’t be able to see it properly. Once it’s open, you can switch back to whatever other setting you use, and it will work fine.

I also use So Sethaputra’s Thai Software Dictionary, which has a lot of inaccuracies, but a tremendous amount of useful information. You can buy the cd for a ridiculously low price at DCO. The advantage of having the electronic format is that you can just type in a word, and it will come right up, not nearly as hard as looking through the pages of a thick book.

When I was in Peace Corps we had a great Thai writing workbook—can’t remember the name—which is obviously now out of print. It took you through all the rules, high, low, mid consonants, live and dead syllables, tone marks used with which, how and when, exceptions, etc., and step-by-step exercises until you finally got it. You can find these rules all in Mary Haas’ The Thai System of Writing, and it’s amazing to me that this was written over 60 years ago and yet still remains the clearest description I can find in English of the rules you need to understand.

Rick Bradford

Rick Bradford: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRick: No. I think it is a mistake to stick to a single method. Apart from the boredom factor, I find myself learning different things through different methods. There’s some cross-fertilization at play if you employ multiple learning strategies.

Rikker Dockum

Rikker Dockum: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRikker: I still carry pocket notebooks sometimes, because I still run into new and interesting words on a regular basis.

Ryan Zander

Ryan Zander: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRyan: I had a really great first Thai teacher at the University of Wisconsin, Sidhorn Sangdhanoo. She did a good job of drilling the sounds of the language into our heads. She wouldn’t let us get away with doing something wrong. If our tones, consonants, or vowels weren’t right we had to keep repeating something until we got it. Thai people often tell me that my pronunciation is very clear, and if that’s actually true then I owe it to her.

Scott Earle

Scott Earle: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersScott: I think getting familiar with the letters and then learning the alphabet, is a very good way to start. However, casually chatting with people (online, and talking to people you meet everywhere) is the best way to build confidence in both writing and speaking.

Stickman

Stickman: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStickman: I firmly believe that most Westerners learn better – and make more progress – in a classroom environment where you learn from both the teacher and other students. Too many Westerners either elect to study with a teacher one on one or are misled into thinking that one on in instruction is the best approach. It isn’t! One on one teaching is not easy and requires a different skill set from the teacher. I have yet to even hear of a really effective one on one teacher. It also requires the student to be highly motivated, which may or may not be the case with foreigners learning Thai.

I would implore anyone who really wants to develop their Thai language skills to study at one of the better language institutes in Bangkok in a classroom setting and Union and Unity both come to mind. I truly believe that learning at one of these schools in a classroom environment is so much more effective than any other method – and the costs are very reasonable with a one-month course, meaning 80 odd hours instruction, for under 7,000 baht. You cannot complain at that!

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStu: ‘Method’ was living my life in Thai.

Terry Fredrickson

Terry Fredrickson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTerry: When I got in country, I immediately started using my tape recorder. That is how I learned to read. Once I mastered the alphabet and the tone rules, I jumped into the old Mary Haas reader, having previously taped students reading the texts. Within days I could look at long lines of text and see words instead of a jumble of letters needing decoding. Listening while reading also allowed me to see how the parts of sentences fit together.

What about writing Thai? I also used listening in learning to write. I would listen to a line of text and then try to write it out, making corrections after looking at the text.

Thomas Lamosse

Thomas Lamosse: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersThomas: Ajarn Pat Sukatiparote, Roseville Minnesota-Private tutoring on Thai characters, vowels, reading, writing and spelling.

One on one tutoring with someone who has a strong background in teaching and has a command of the English language was key.

Tod Daniels

Tod Daniels: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTod: I have to say, of all the methods I’ve been exposed to learning the Thai language that ‘situational based’ learning is by far the one which provides me with the most bang-4-the-baht. By situational based I mean you learn sentence constructs based on the needs of a particular situation: post office, food court, doctor’s office, in a taxi, etc. These are things you do every day here, over and over, so getting a grasp on what you need to say and where you’re likely to say it is the ‘key’ to beginning to ‘unlock’ this country for a foreigner. Between that and constantly increasing your vocabulary in high frequency words, a person can do quite well.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTom: Not really, I think the key is to use a wide variety of methods and to totally immerse yourself in the language and keep the learning process entertaining. I totally agree with Chris Pirazzi’s advice about the importance of ‘drilling’ the tricky sounds and this is exactly what we did in our first few weeks of Thai study at university.

So how about you? How do you learn best? Or… what are you doing to avoid learning Thai?

The series: Successful Thai Language Learners Compilation…

And here you have it, the rest of the series:

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Interview Compilation: What Language Learning Methods Did You Try?

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

What Thai language learning methods did you try?…

Collecting Thai language learning materials and language learning methods is a hobby of mine. The upside is that I know what’s going on with the Thai language learning industry. The downside? I have way too much fun Thai stuff to play with.

Scrolling through the materials mentioned below, a few resources stick out: The Fundamentals of the Thai Language, anything by Benjawan Poomsan Becker, AUA’s text books, Hibgie’s Thai Reference Grammar, Smyth’s Thai: An Essential Grammar, and Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai. For schools, AUA came out on top.

There’s only one mention of learning Thai on a smart phone or iPad (my favourite method). But, it’s still early days yet. New Thai language apps are appearing monthly (I presently have around 120 apps to review) so I do expect coming interviews to note the trend.

Aaron Handel

Aaron Handel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: Her name was Nók (pronounced with a high tone, it means “Bird”). She was neither a school nor a product, but rather a quiet young woman from a Vietnamese family. She lived in Nong Khai, near the MaeKong River. Her parents spoke very little Thai, but Nok’s Thai was perfect. She was university educated in Bangkok and understood that if you want to fully integrate into Thai society, you have to speak Thai like a Thai. She also seemed to have an instinct for teaching. She spoke slowly and clearly, but with a natural conversational sound.

Nók and I produced our own tapes using the AUA text book, by Marvin J. Brown, 1969. After all these years, I still believe it is the best book for learning Thai, although AUA’s own tapes sound like they were produced under water and there are no CDs. Unfortunately, AUA no longer uses this text book and its drilling methodology in the classroom.

Aaron Le Boutillier

Aaron Le Boutillier: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: I spent some time at Jentanna and Associates in Soi 31 and that was great. They really helped, now I am going at it alone.

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAdam: I started with Smyth’s, Thai: An Essential Grammar, which I found to be an excellent guide to basic Thai.

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAndrew: I started off by learning how to read and write the language, and I think this is the way to do it. The tone rules gave me lots of headaches but once I understood them I felt as though I’d made a major breakthrough. I went to a school very early on but they laughed at me when I told them I wanted to do the Education Ministry’s Grade 6 exam in three months time. They said if I didn’t take their five-day-a-week expensive course I’d fail it for sure. I walked out of that school and got to work by myself with the help of a lovely Thai teacher. I ended up coming first in that exam three months later.

Celia Chessin-Yudin

Celia Chessin-Yudin: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersCelia: I learned the alphabet on my own. I tried transliteration but I didn’t begin speaking clearly until I took a University class.

Chris Pirazzi

Chris Pirazzi: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChris Pirazzi: Mostly tutoring from Thai-American teachers in California (mostly volunteer, some paid). Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Thai for Beginners was useful. Also really liked Higbie and Thinsan’s Thai Reference Grammar. Made lots of stacks of flashcards of consonants, vowels, and words.

Christy Gibson

Christy Gibson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChristy: I used a private teacher for a short time and it was helpful to a point as she gave me tests and assignments and homework. The actual teaching didn’t benefit me as much (though I know many people say that a private tutor has been very helpful for them), but the assignments did me a world of good and forced me to buckle down and do some of the “grunt-work” that I otherwise would not have done on my own.

Some of the resources that I used in my Thai learning experience were the textbooks The Fundamentals of the Thai Language (by Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevongs), and Thai for Advanced Readers (by Khun Benjawan Poomsan Becker). Nowadays I also often use thai2english.com to check my spelling, etc., as I’m trying to work on learning to type in Thai. Wish me luck!:)

Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersColin: I started off with a doorstep of a book called Fundamentals of the Thai Language. It looked like a rather ominous bible but, unlike the actual bible I found it really useful. I haven’t seen it around for a long time. I also learned to read from that book. But the bible was my backup. Most of my real learning came from hanging out with Thais and writing vocab in my little everywhere notebook. I am quite thick skinned when it comes to being laughed at for making linguistic mistakes, but it gets annoying after a while. So you learn to get it right.

Daniel B Fraser

Daniel B Fraser: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDaniel: The way I learned was by mimicking others, using a dictionary daily, and writing words down in a little black book.

David Long

David Long: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: When I arrived, I knew already that I wasn’t a very good student of traditional language programs. For this reason, I sought out what programs might be different and found the AUA Thai Program.

David Smyth

David Smyth: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: Beyond the unpublished materials provided, I also worked through Stuart Campbell’s Fundamentals of the Thai Language on my own in my first year. It was not a book that my teachers had any great fondness for, but I found it very useful as an additional reinforcement. Later, I began to read books in Thai. I found novels were good for dialogue (but the descriptive passages were sometimes best saved for a rainy day) while biographies and autobiographies often had a strong human-interest angle that made it possible to forget the linguistic obstacles.

Don Sena

Don Sena: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDon: I am entirely self-taught. I obtained the best books I could find — those with the most information and generally written in the old style of explicit rule descriptions. Linguistically-oriented books were especially helpful.

Doug

Doug: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDoug: AUA conversation, then reading/writing books, followed by U Hawaii grammar, followed by rewriting Noss’s grammar.

Gareth Marshall

Gareth Marshall: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGareth: I did try a school around Ploenchit – the building is no longer there and I can’t remember the name. It started well, although I had to research and provide most of the materials and advise the teacher on how to best to ‘teach’ me – I was a teacher at the time and I knew how I learned best so just needed someone to take me through things and add extra vocab, explain rules, etc. The teacher moved on to use her own materials but they were irrelevant and usually not pitched at anywhere near my level at all – either too simple or totally impossible. In the end I gave up.

Glenn Slayden

Glenn Slayden: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGlenn: I remember listening to a Lonely Planet CD at one point. I made the most progress by reformulating material from numerous sources in my own way, which turned out to be the website.

Grace Robinson

Grace Robinson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGrace: I studied Thai at the University of Leeds, UK, on a BA course; Thai and Southeast Asian Studies. The course teaches Thai from beginners’ level and progresses to studying Thai at an academic level. We started learning the alphabet and how to formulate the correct tone using a ‘magic key’, which is a kind of mathematical equation the involving consonants and vowels of words. We went on to reading conversations and used role-play. After this we concentrated on reading newspaper articles and listening to news reports, in the final year we studied academic articles and books and did our own presentations in Thai on current world affairs. We constantly learnt new vocabulary and were tested on this weekly. Whilst language learning, we took in depth modules on Thai culture, history and politics, which enhanced and illuminated the language learning process. At home I listen to Thai music and watch films to practice my Thai, I believe that successful language learning should be fun and varied.

Hamish Chalmers

Hamish Chalmers: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHamish: I bought a lot of study aids. My very first was the Lonely Planet Phrase Book. Colloquial Thai by John Moore and Saowalak Rodchue saw me start in earnest, then David Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai and the Rosetta Stone helped me along the way once I was in the country. I got about a quarter of the way through each of them before losing interest in them all. All were useful in their own ways; however they never matched my language needs at any given time. That’s the thing about language learning, it doesn’t follow some nice, preordained structure – you learn what’s important at the time. While was trying to explain that a tourist had fallen over while trekking and fractured her wrist, the Rosetta Stone was telling me that ‘the boy is under the table’ and ‘the airplane is next to the man’.

Hardie Karges

Hardie Karges: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHardie: I took one short course from AUA, the rest self-taught, through books and reading.

Herb Purnell

Herb Purnell: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHerb: As mentioned, my Thai study began with phonograph records, then with a tutor using the U.S. Army Thai course book Spoken Thai along with some lower level Thai children’s school books, and then on my own with reading and speaking. Plus the time with a tutor in Bangkok and finally the specialized intensive course at a language school. Everything else has been learned through lots of listening to news and talk shows on the radio, speaking when I had the opportunity, and reading books.

My Northern Thai study was helped by having a few lessons that a foreign friend had written just before I began. I revised these lessons, added some new lessons, and collected a word file that later became a small dictionary for foreign learners. At first these materials were just to help myself and my wife in our own language study. I used Thai right at the first as a bridge to Northern Thai, but then switched to using only Northern. Living in a Northern Thai farming village was great for motivation. I always carried a small notebook and spent time talking with villagers in their work and home situations, being sure to jot down words and cultural information. I was very motivated because this was a language that I really wanted to learn.

I learned Mien to an intermediate level while living in a Mien village, starting with Northern Thai as a bridge but then switching to Mien. There were even fewer materials for learning Mien so it was independent learning right from the start. I was fortunate to have two Mien men my own age (all in our 20s at the time) who enjoyed using and talking about their language. My notebooks rapidly filled up.

There is little written in Northern Thai (not counting the old Lanna script) that would help a learner, except for small wordlists published years ago, and then several regular dictionaries, leading up to two recent major dictionaries. But only one Northern dictionary (other than my own small one) was specifically compiled to help people learn Northern (by Meth Ratanaprasith, long out of print). Later on, for the most part I kept up by periodically getting back into a Northern Thai situation and speaking. Personally, Thai is a language for my mind and my academic work, but Northern is a language for my heart and “down home” interaction with people.

Progressing in Mien was a little easier because of the influx of Mien refugees from Laos into the States starting in the late 1970s. Moving to California in 1982, I was able to be in touch with several Mien communities for conversation. And once a new Romanized alphabet for Mien became established in the mid-1980s, material written by Mien started to become available. So speaking and reading helped my progress. For quite a few years, however, I have lived further from Mien locations and only occasionally get to be with them. But working on a Mien dictionary, corresponding with Mien, and those occasional times I have been able to visit Mien communities have been the means for my holding steady in Mien, though without the progress I would like to make.

Hugh Leong

Hugh Leong: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHugh: I started using the old audio-lingual method. That basically means listen and repeat. That is the basis of the J. Marvin Brown books from A.U.A. that many people started with. I knew Marvin Brown and towards the end of his life he changed his teaching philosophy away from the audio lingual method. We had some interesting discussions since I agreed with the beginning Marvin Brown and disagreed with the later one. But his books are still very useful when just beginning to study Thai. Lots of listen and repeat.

I am a very audio-centric person, have always been able to hear something and repeat it naturally. That doesn’t mean that I remembered it for very long, I still have trouble with that, but it did help greatly with my learning tones.

I own 7 dictionaries and use 3 online ones. If I hear a new word, or I have a concept that I want to say but don’t know the Thai word yet, I write it down and then look it up later.

Ian Fereday

Ian Fereday: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersIan: Only the Ministry of Education produced series during classes with Patong Language School. The books are still available but have been heavily revised since I used them and have lost direction a little. I don’t think the editor/revisor fully understood the intended method, and consequently spoiled some great books.

I have bought and perused many Thai language books and CD’s over the years to get ideas for my own books. To be brutally honest, most of them are rubbish and some are just phrasebooks. The only two I can recommend are Thai System of Writing and Fundamentals of the Thai Language. These books are from the 50′s or 60′s, so some of the words and constructions are now archaic, but they are clearly laid out, easy to follow and very accurate. It’s surprising that nobody has managed to do a better job after all these years (including me!). The internet wasn’t around when I started learning, but I am sure there is a wealth of information out there now.

James (Jim) Higbie

James (Jim) Higbie: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJim: At first I went through all the books written up to the early 80s, which were mostly Fundamentals and Gordon Allison’s books. They were interesting books but I felt they didn’t have the real language in them – some of it was old-fashioned formal Thai which wasn’t what I was hearing people speak. (Interestingly I heard some of those old fashioned constructions in Laos.) I thought Thai was difficult because of the lack of materials, which was one reason why I wrote the books. I’m sure it would have helped going to a language school but I was living in the country.

Joe Cummings

Joe Cummings: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJoe: The Peace Corps language training used Caleb Gattegno’s Silent Way, where you physically manipulate colored wooden rods (Cuisenaire rods) of various lengths, using them to represent people and things, and also as syntax markers for sentence structure. For reading and pronunciation practice, we used the Silent Way charts where the different letters of the Thai alphabet were colored according to differing sounds and consonant class. At least 15 minutes of every hour of instruction would be spent on pronunciation.

The Silent Way is based on the basic theory that:

  1. Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates rather than remembers and repeats what is to be learned.
  2. Learning is facilitated by accompanying (mediating) physical objects.
  3. Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to be learned.

At Berkeley we used the grammar-translation method, which is pretty much the complete opposite of the Silent Way! After a short period doing grammar exercises followed by sentence-by-sentence translation, I went straight into translating Thai newspaper stories (I spent nine months translating nearly all of Kukrit Pramoj’s Siam Rath columns) and moved from there to Thai epic verse, eg, Phra Aphaimani, Traiphum. After that I could read well enough that I would choose my own material, based on topics I was interested in (politics and Buddhism), and then work on those until my professor was satisfied with the translations.

John Boegehold

John Boegehold: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJohn: When I started, the classes at Wat Thai L.A. were the predominate method, although I tried a few others along the way. On my own I went through the Benjawan Poomsan Becker / Paiboon Publishing beginner, intermediate and advanced books as well as the Speak Like A Thai series. All very helpful. Their Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary for iPhone and iPad is great. I read a lot of other books I bought on Amazon, at a Thai bookstore in L.A. or when I visited Thailand. I’m always snooping around the internet and pick up little bits and pieces of a lot of different websites. I found the vocabulary and grammar lessons at ITS4Thai to be really useful.

One thing that’s been helpful for me is watching Thai TV and trying to follow along. I have a satellite service with a large number of Thai channels and usually have some program on a few hours a day, even if it’s only in the background. Right now, my favorite shows are กินอยู่คือ, which is a cooking show on Thai PBS and วันวานยังหวานอยู่, a talk/entertainment show on Channel 7. I try to watch Thai soap operas, but those can be tough to take.

Jonas Anderson

Jonas Anderson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonas: Mainly just “the school of life”. I have had very little formal study of Thai except what I have learned personally with books—primarily for reading and writing.

Jonathan Thames

Jonathan Thames: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonathan: I have used: the Teach Yourself Thai book and CDs; a textbook authored by Dr. Wiworn Kesavatana-Dohrs (University of Washington – Seattle, USA); a textbook/reader authored by Dr. Thomas Gething (University of Hawai’I – Manoa); and various materials/readings provided by AUA and CMU instructors. From my first class I was also given basic newspaper articles to read, as well – although newspapers can still be fairly challenging.

Justin Travis Mair

Justin Travis Mair: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJustin: I mentioned the 2 months course already, this was created by my church specifically for teaching missionaries Thai. It is surprisingly similar to the FSI Thai Basic course and since they were both created around the same time period, I have a feeling that there may be some common authors in there. Though I have no way of knowing.

During the 2 months we were encouraged to S.Y.L. or Speak Your Language. Meaning as soon as you learn the word in Thai, we have to stop using the English word. This meant we spoke a lot of Thaiglish, but it was surprisingly helpful. We got used to using Thai grammar and patterns. A common joke we would do as missionaries was to speak English using Thai grammar. It was funny, but it actually solidified the Thai grammar in our head even though it was a joke.

Other than that, it was pretty much the sink or swim method. I had to go and communicate in Thai all day everyday. I did have the help from other missionaries, but for the most part they would only help you to save you from drowning. We all knew the best way to learn was to go and do.

Larry Daks

Larry Daks: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLarry: I can’t remember the conversation text we used during our Peace Corps training and which I continued to use in Thailand. However, certain phrases still stand out in my mind, such as สถานีรถไฟอยู่ที่ไหน (where is the railway station), สมบูรณาญาสิทธิราชย์ (absolute monarchy, which I can never forget because the phrase was very long and required extra effort) and ดูโน้น มี เมฆ สอง ก้อน กำลัง ลอย มา (“Look there, two clouds are floating by” which I incorrectly pronounced so it turned “Look there two mothers are floating by”. All of this amused the Thai tutor I hired when I reached Bangkok, which I suppose is why she married me, so she could have a never ending source of amusement.

I taught myself how to read by using A programmed course in reading Thai Syllables by Edward M. Anthony.

Marcel Barang

Marcel Barang: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarcel: Wasted one month in a small school in Sathorn Rd that insisted on the oral method (nothing written down) then hired one of their teachers to teach me how to write, read and speak at home the old-fashioned way, three lessons per week initially (with homework), then two, then one, each lesson lasting one hour and a half – until dear Khun Buaphan decided I was proficient enough to be left to cope with dictionaries all by myself.

Mark Hollow

Mark Hollow: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMark: During 2009 I tried learning more seriously but still largely on my own. That year I also met my now-fiancée who helped whenever I had questions but I was on my own and somewhat lost for structuring my learning: she’s a nurse, not a teacher and I was a project manager, not a student!

I thought learning basic grammar (from David Smyth’s Thai: An Essential Grammar) would help with putting vocabulary together correctly. However, I didn’t really know much vocabulary to put together so that attempt died. I think it’s fair to say 2009 was a failure as far as language-learning was concerned.

It was only since leaving work that I was able to start learning seriously. On returning to Bangkok I immediately signed up with a private language school. I decided on Baan Aksorn because I’d read positive reviews about them and they gave a good impression when I visited. The building itself was different too – a cosy converted house, rather than a dull office in a tower block. It turned out to be a good choice for me.

Martin Clutterbuck

Martin Clutterbuck: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMartin: I looked at some of the NISA and AUA course books, and was quite impressed with them, but didn’t attend their courses. At that time, mostly because I was broke!

Nils Bastedo

Nils Bastedo: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersNils: I have tried books, CDs, practical conversation and even private lessons. As many others, I found that studying on my own by using books or computers was challenging. Having worked with a few outside institutions when at Bumrungrad, I have realized that what makes computer based learning at places like Wall Street Institute relatively successful is that they are good at helping their students study regularly and stick to it. However, based on the students I had at Bumrungrad, it seems that improvement is slower with even the best of programs than with a real-life teacher. I do feel that working with a person is always better than any other approach, though the person you learn from should be chosen with care. Combining personal tutoring with computer-based learning and/or books may offer the best of all words, but practical application – speaking with another person – must take the most prominent place. Without practical application and real-life responses, language training loses its most vital dimension.

Paul Garrigan

Paul Garrigan: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPaul: I used the internet from day one. Places like Speaking Thai the Easy Way and some other I forget. I used to buy every Thai text book I could find including the Benjawan Becker series; I suppose these are the ones that stand out as being really useful. These days I don’t buy any more textbooks but use real texts. I do subscribe to the Learn Thai Podcast and these have been helpful.

Peter Montalbano

Peter Montalbano: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPeter: Peace Corps did a great job, four hours a day, small classes, rotating teachers. Within three months I was able to get around pretty well, and when I hit the ground in Isaan there was nothing else to speak, so conversational Thai came in pretty fast. That said, my Thai back then was much more limited than I knew. I wish I had paid more attention to learning to read then.

When I decided to get serious, I dug into the reading side, and learned how to “touch-type” by sending e-mails. Good thing there was unicode and the internet to help! But that still wasn’t enough. I audited a graduate course at U.C. Berkeley with Susan Kepner, perhaps the best translator of Thai women’s literature, and in class we read stuff, including selections from Kukrit’s สี่แผ่นดิน (Four Reigns), maybe Thailand’s best modern novel. Did translations of a couple of short stories for Susan which she is still threatening to use if she ever publishes an anthology, anyhow I loved doing that, want to do more.

In 2002 I started writing my own dictionary. I was tired of looking up words like “till” and finding Thai telling me it only meant a drawer that held money, or “see” and finding that it meant only an administrative region defined by the Vatican. So I have been adding to my own dictionary and using at as a study guide ever since.

This year I tested into Chula’s (Chulalongkorn University) intensive Thai for foreigners program and have done 2 five-week modules, have two to go. Instead of going straight through like most people, I am doing five weeks at a time, then breaking for several months till the next level comes around again, because it eats one’s entire life when doing it! But worth it. Short answer? Many-pronged, but sharp prongs!

Rick Bradford

Rick Bradford: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRick: My core daily practice is my flashcard (Supermemo) learning, now up to 4500 elements of which I am tasked to remember about 100 each day. I went to a school and quickly realised that was the time of the week when I learnt the least Thai. I began reading the newspapers, watched the TV news, listened to the radio (100.5FM) and to other audio-visual resources in the MOAFTR.

Rikker Dockum

Rikker Dockum: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRikker: I was low tech. I carried around little pocket notebooks which I constantly wrote in. Most any office or stationery store in Thailand sells them for about 8 baht — a little bigger than a business card, with ruled paper and a rugged plastic cover.

At first a lot of the things I jotted down were in roman script, but that was soon replaced by Thai script as my ear got better and I became more comfortable reading and writing Thai. Whenever I came across a noteworthy or interesting word, I wrote it down. Often this was dozens of words per day. Names of people I met, food I ate, random objects that I had asked someone the name of.

This habit was helpful in improving my listening comprehension, too, because whenever I heard some word repeatedly, but I didn’t know it, I’d write down what I thought it sounded like, and then ask a friend what that word I kept hearing was, explaining the general context. Sometimes I got it right, sometimes I got it wrong, but my ear kept getting better.

Ryan Zander

Ryan Zander: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRyan: At the University of Wisconsin we used a set of textbooks put out by AUA. Then when I did a year of study abroad at Chiang Mai University I had private Thai lessons with one of the professors, who catered the lessons towards my interest by using articles about Buddhism. Some years later, to refreshen up my reading, I studied on my own using Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s books and also Thai Reference Grammar by James Higbie & Snea Thinsan.

Scott Earle

Scott Earle: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersScott: When I first came here, I used a website (no longer in existence, sadly) to learn the basic letters, and that allowed me to read some basic things like road signs and the provinces on car registration plates. After that, I started to read menus at restaurants – they have a limited vocabulary, and tend to have similar contents. I took a course of 40 hours at a Thai school in late 2005, initially learning to speak, but then switched teachers and learned the alphabet. After that, I started to chat with people online, which is a very good way of meeting Thai people willing to chat.

Stephen Thomas

Stephen Thomas: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStephen: The first method I used was the book and CD set Teach Yourself which I think does a very good job, though I’ve been told some of what I learned is “old fashioned”. One thing I think is invaluable in that book is that it teaches you to read and write Thai which is vital for correct pronunciation.

The next method was picking it up in the streets or at work which will give you listening skills, teach you which words people actually use, rather than the overly formal words you often find in phrase books, and you’ll learn words they wouldn’t necessarily print in language books. :) However, a pitfall here is that you can pick up the wrong pronunciation or else use a rude word in the wrong setting.

Finally I went to Walen School which uses Thai script and teaches vocabulary with question and answer exercises. The teachers are entertaining and will stray from the book to show other uses of the word or to teach other words that could mean the same thing. Conversation is best way to learn a language, and I often converse with the teachers outside of class also.

Stickman

Stickman: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStickman: I started at the Thai temple in West Auckland using some homemade – but excellent – materials. The Linguaphone course was the only self-study course I used. It was very good, but so it should be for it was very expensive. Still, as a language teacher myself, I appreciated the structure and a lot of thought clearly went into the way it was put together and the methodology.

I spent seven months at Union Language School in 2000 which was when I made the best progress. Prior to studying there, my Thai language skills had plateaued and I needed the formal environment of what is actually a very strict school to progress.

Terry Fredrickson

Terry Fredrickson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTerry: Our training [Peace Corps] was quite old-fashioned — memorizing dialogues and lots of repetition. I made it a point of talking to our teachers constantly, which was easy since we lived together.

Thomas Lamosse

Thomas Lamosse: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersThomas: AUA language Bangkok-Immersion program, BEC language Pattaya-Sentence structure and Thai alphabet, Ajarn Pat Sukatiparote Roseville Minnesota-Private tutoring on Thai characters, vowels, reading, writing and spelling, Long Paw Pai Sit Wat Thai Minnesota-Sanskrit, Benawan Poosan Beckers Thai for Beginners…Thai characters and vowels, Chulalongorn University PhD Program on Thai culture and language, Individual studies/field research

Tod Daniels

Tod Daniels: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTod: Heck, I’ve got more Thai language learning resources than I’m willing to admit. Benjawan Becker’s books &, C/D’s , Mathew Courage’s DVD, Rosetta Stone, many ‘borrowed’ copies of private Thai language schools material, countless books by other authors about learning Thai, etc.

I’m using an unconventional method for learning insofar as I taught myself to read/understand Thai before I could speak or understand spoken Thai all that well. I could recognize written Thai words, know their meanings, even if I couldn’t accurately reproduce the toning of them when I spoke Thai.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTom: At my first university we used the Thai ‘Linguaphone’ by Dr David Smyth, in addition to worksheets provided by the teacher. In the second year we also used Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s course which at the time had just been published. In Thailand we used a language course written by the tutor which has not been published. At MA level we read and studied popular Thai novels.

Many varied techniques were used throughout this learning process, notably flashcards, conversation, lots of reading – starting with children’s books, watching Thai TV, listening to Thai songs etc.

Vern Lovic

Vern Lovic: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersVern: Notecards, as noted. I also hired a girl in Isaan for 100 THB per hour to help me with pronunciation three times per week. I guess we did about 25 sessions. It was a great help… she’d pronounce the word and I’d write it phonetically and sometimes record the sessions with my Nokia phone.

I studied a Thai dictionary that was very helpful and I have it here on my bookshelf, it’s the Robertson’s Practical English-Thai Dictionary, by Richard G. Robertson. The phonetic pronunciation tips in the book made the most sense to me, and though there were some errors, it’s the best resource I found for helping me find new vocabulary I should use. It’s a small book too – highly recommended.

The series: Successful Thai Language Learners Compilation…

And here you have it, the rest of the series:

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AUA Thai: FREE Reading and Writing Videos

AUA Thai: FREE Reading and Writing Videos

AUA’s FREE Thai reading and writing videos…

Here’s a bit of fabulous news for Thai students. You already know about AUA’s Thai class videos being available for free download. Right? Well, David Long just uploaded AUA’s Reading and Writing videos. For free!

David Long: Following the idea of Sal Khan of Khan Academy. They cover the content of our first 2 R&W courses.

AUA: These videos are available for free and include the main content of each class hour. They can be used for review, or as a self-study program. They should be used together with the books below, and if you are not able to attend our classes, you can study on your own and meet on-line with one of our teachers.

The books mentioned are AUA’s Reading and Writing-Text and Reading and Writing-Workbook and can be ordered through AUA or amazon.com/co.uk. The books might be getting long in the tooth but the materials are totally solid. Some Thai teachers and students swear that these two books are the best for learning how to read and write Thai. How’s that?

The videos can be downloaded in either FLV or MP4. To test them out, I uploaded the first four Mp4 files to my iPad via iTunes and dusted off both books.

The first video starts on page 1 in the workbook and the textbook so I skipped past the lessons on transcription (bane of my life) and went straight to the lessons shown in the video.

The real value of the reading and writing videos is that you get to hear the Thai alphabet and vocabulary spoken as it’s being written on the board. Because with Thai being a tonal language, reading from books just isn’t good enough. You need to get the sounds into your head.

What I absolutely love about these videos is that unlike the books, there is NO transliteration. You get the audio explanation in Thai and the Thai in actual script. That’s it. But if you can’t understand Thai you are still covered because the books have the explanations in English.

A personal note: My writing in English is atrocious so you can just imagine what my Thai looks like! Following AUA’s Thai writing workbook, my Thai teacher demanded that I write in perfectly formed TINY Thai. That just wasn’t going to happen. My fingers cramped up and I grew frustrated. So what I’m saying is that while the writing books are wonderful, don’t sweat the small stuff. If tiny Thai grade school script isn’t your style then don’t quit – buy a ruled notebook to use instead. And if you want to see samples of a free-form style of writing Thai, purchase Reading Thai is Fun mentioned in my post The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write Thai. Btw, I’ll be rewriting that post to include the wonderful AUA materials…

Seriously, if you are going the self-study route by learning to read and write Thai on your own, or if you are attending AUA’s reading and writing course, then AUA’s Reading and Writing Thai videos will be a boon for you.

Edit: I checked with David and the rest of the videos should be online before the Xmas holidays. So ho ho ho everyone :-)

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Learn Thai with SpeedUpTV + AUA Thai

Learn Thai with SpeedUpTV

SpeedUpTV + AUA Thai = reading Thai…

I’ve got some exciting news. I love the AUA Thai language videos. They are great fun as well as packed with Thai vocabulary and phrases to learn. And here’s the exciting news. Awhile back I got a wild hair about reading along with the AUA Thai language video so I asked a Thai typist to transcribe Level 1.

The first part of the typist’s transcript looked pretty good. Then shortly after the transcripts arrived I was contacted by Peter Song, a SpeedUpTV rep. What fabulous timing!

SpeedUpTV is an iPhone app that slows down videos like AUA Thai. Excellent. This means that Thai readers won’t freak out. THEY will be in control of the speed of the conversation. Readers can go back, loop, whatever they need.

So I had the Thai videos. I had the transcripts in the works. And I even had SpeedUpTV. Now all I needed was permission from AUA to set a Thai reading project in motion.

David Long (head of AUA) is nice guy. So nice, he even thought a reading series using AUA’s Thai language videos was a great idea too! Fabulous. Permission granted.

It’s going to take a bit to get sorted so in the meantime, here’s the SpeedUpTV iPhone app review from Peter Song.

Peter Song: SpeedUpTV iPhone app review…

SpeedUpTV for iOS is a file viewer application focusing mainly on video and image files. SpeedUpTV is not just a glorified video viewer as it allows the user to have greater control over their videos including storage and playback as well as other features most other players for the iOS platform lack.

Learn Thai with SpeedUpTV

Some of the main features of SpeedUpTV include the ability to playback videos at variable speeds, 0.5X – 2.0X. This can be an invaluable feature for those students who are trying to improve their proficiency in second or third language. This can be useful for foreign language students because they can slow down the speech of the dialogue in their favorite dramas or movies to understand more clearly what is being said. In addition, SpeedUpTV preserves the audio pitch while slowing down or speeding up the video playback speed. Users can use the standard pinch-to-zoom gesture to browse scenes and by swiping, users can skip and jump between scenes. Other playback features include scrubbing for more precise time control. There is also support for A-B repeat. Support for SMI subtitles is also supported.

With SpeedUpTV, learning a foreign language is much easier as video files can not only be watched at their normal rate, but they can be slowed down without distorting the voice of the speaker which is imperative for proper pronunciation. Transferring files to the app is simple and can be done via a USB cable. Novelty features such as remote controls and the pausing of video playback when headphones are unplugged add to the appeal of SpeedUpTV as well.

For iPhone and iPad users, this app will help them in many different ways, and it is a must for students trying to learn foreign new languages. It’s moderately priced, making it a great choice for students (and everyone else), and it’s a fantastic way to make learning fun and efficient.

SpeedUpTVSpeedUpTV - mix1009
Price: US$$2.99 | £1.99
Seller: Chun-Koo Park
Date: Updated 15 June 2011
Version: 1.6.3
Internet connection required: No
iVersions: iPhone, iPad, iPod

More on AUA and the SpeedUpTV iPhone app…

Here’s another review of SpeedUpTV from missiontolearn.com: Learning Apps – SpeedUpTV

And here are previous posts featuring AUA’s wonderful videos:

AUA Thai Videos on YouTube
HandBreak Thai Language Videos for the iPhone
AUA’s ALG Thai YouTube Videos at AUAthai.com

I’m going to end with a HUGE thank you to David Long from AUA. What a great gift to the Thai language learning community! And a sweet thanks also goes to Peter Song from SpeedUpTV. Without SpeedUpTV’s ability to control videos, I’d have to look for an alternative. Thanks you two!

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Thai Language School Review: AUA Thai Language Program

Thai Language School Review:AUA-Thai Language Program

AUA Thai Language Program…

School: AUA Thai Language Program
Website: AUA Thai
Address: 21st floor, Chamchuri Square, Rachadamri Road, Bangkok Thailand 10330
Telephone Number: 02-252-8398

Location: Take the MRT to the Sam Yan Station and use exit #2 (the Chula Uni exit).

Basic Info: This is quite an established school and has been around a long time. The primary AUA campus is devoted to teaching English to Thai nationals, and most of the classrooms are utilized for this purpose. The Thai Language Department is located at the back of the building on the 3rd Floor. This campus has a library, a Book Store, and a pretty good food court too. There are ample places to sit in the shade outside, relax, interact with other students before class, etc.

Materials: Early on (as in a fair few years back) they used a set of books written by Marvin Brown, which taught Thai the conventional way. By that, I mean via karaoke or phonetics, with the English and Thai translations. However that stopped some time ago (although those books are still for sale at the AUA Book Store and well worth purchasing). Now there are NO materials, as in no textbooks, no hand outs, no vocabulary sheets, really no nothing at all! (read below to see why)

Method: AUA Thai now teaches via a method called ‘ALG’ (Automatic Language Growth). It is a totally passive learning methodology. It’s based around the concept that children learn a language by watching and listening to adults interact. What this means is there’s no verbal interaction between the students and the teachers; as in you can’t ask questions and there’s no ‘repeat after me’ or question/answer stuff in Thai with this type of learning. Students just sit in the class and the two Thai teachers use a variety of props, white board examples, and mime to convey the meaning of what they’re saying in Thai to the students.

I’ve sat a class in every level they offer and to say the least, they are entertaining! Even a person with a limited Thai vocabulary can get the idea of what the teachers are talking about. They talk about a wide variety of subjects with differing degrees of difficulty based what level you’re in. Some of the topics are: Thai Culture, Current Thai News, Thai Holidays, Provinces in Thailand, Buddhism, Ghosts, etc.

They also offer a Reading & Writing Thai course. If you haven’t progressed to at least their level 5 via the ALG method you hafta test into the class. They use the same two book set Marvin Brown developed. They don’t follow them page by page but use supplemental support material for learning. I like both the Reading and Writing books because they’re typeset in a ‘handwritten’ style of font, making it a little bit more difficult to read initially. However once you can read it, you can read about anything written in any font in Thailand (well except maybe that super-stylized one they use in adverts which looks like backwards English letters).

The writing course is equally good. There are ample practice exercises to get your hand used to writing Thai characters. They also teach you to write Thai script in a more ‘Thai-sized’ manner than those kids books you can buy to practice writing Thai where you’re writing in 1 inch script. Is it only me or do Thais seem to write really, REALLY small, yet have no difficulty reading it?

Teachers: Honestly, even though I was (and still am) totally flummoxed by their passive learning methodology I’d be hard pressed to find more motivated Thai teachers. I’ve rarely met such good actors, ones who could mime out meanings of words to a group of foreigners better than the group of teachers they have there. The props are multi purpose. An umbrella can become a sword or a cane, given the need. Really, the teachers are quite the creative lot! My hat’s off to them for their skills in this area.

Classes: This school wins on availability of classes HANDS DOWN. You can show up about any time they’re open (which is a good number of hours a day and on Saturday too) and find your level of class to sit. It’s one of the most versatile schools in that regard I’ve ever toured, and even a quick perusal of their website bears this out. The Reading and Writing classes are a little more structured versus the listening ones, and are given at defined times throughout the day.

ED Visa: This school most definitely does NOT fall into the ‘visa-mill’ category in any way shape or form! In fact, AUA seems to go out of its way insofar as not hawking ED visas as a means to an end to stay in Thailand. With that being said, they do offer visa assistance service but you must pay tuition and attend I believe a minimum of 15 hours a WEEK for the entire year! This is far more hours than most private Thai language schools require. Most schools usually follow the Ministry of Education’s minimum guidelines which is 4 hours a week of class time.

Miscellaneous: AUA recently started a program known as Real Life Bangkok (no longer online). It’s a 30 hour course with 30% class-time and the other 70% spent traveling around Bangkok learning situational Thai in the actual situations! It’s broken down like this:

Orientation & Group Language Classes (4 Hours): This covers basic techniques, and gives insightful methods of communication.
Getting Around (10 Hours): Taxis, Trains, Boats, Busses, and Motorcycles
The Market (3 Hours): Trips to various markets, learning bargaining techniques, etc.
Food & Eating (13 Hours): Food stands to restaurants, noodles to rice, food from the North to the South.

The price point for this class is quite low especially as the classes are done either 1-on-1 or in groups no larger than 3 people. I think the value should be quite good and if I had money to spare I’d enroll just for the novelty of trying to speak Thai with Thais in unfamiliar situations. It’s about the most innovative thing I’ve seen come down the pike in the ‘learn Thai as a foreigner’ market in a while. I’ve know some private schools to do field-trips with students, etc. However, I’ve never seen a class designed totally around learning Thai in situ like AUA’s offering.

Bang-4-The-Baht: This school also wins hands down on price point! AFAIK, there is no school in Bangkok offering hourly rates or ‘blocks of time’ as inexpensively as AUA does and the more hours you buy, the cheaper it gets! This alone would make me pick it as a good investment ONCE you have some basic Thai under your belt.

I say this after witnessing more than a few newbie students exiting a level 1’s class (and even some exiting level 3 classes too). They had the ‘deer in the headlights’ look you see so often on Thai language students. It’s that totally overwhelmed glazed over expression. I think this is exacerbated because you, as a student, can’t ask questions during (or after class), there’s no formal vocab, no hand outs, etc. I most definitely am NOT downing their methodology! If it didn’t work I doubt they’d continue teaching it. I’m only saying, for a ‘fresh off the boat’ foreigner wanting to get a handle on the Thai language it might not be the best choice or course of action. Even though it’s cheap as chips to attend AUA I think a newbie would be better served taking one of the crash courses offered at a myriad of private Thai language schools BEFORE enrolling in AUA’s program.

Did I get anything out of the classes I sat? Yes, most definitely! It increased my comprehension of ‘normal speed’ spoken Thai (versus that over enunciated ‘retard speed’ some schools teach but not a single Thai speaks). I sat every level up to 5 and understood them all quite well. Perhaps I’m no longer the best judge of how much bang-4-the-baht a new Thai language learner would receive.

Hope you found this of some marginal value.

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
(who BTW: is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)

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AUA’s ALG Thai YouTube Videos at AUAthai.com

AUA videos now at AUAthai.com

AUA’s ALG videos now at AUAthai.com…

Welcome to Monday everyone. This is just a short post to point you to a new location for AUA’s videos. Formerly, AUA’s ALG Thai videos were only found on their YouTube channel: ALGWorld.

They’ve now created a home for the videos on their site: Learn Thai Language Videos. Just scroll down to the level you need. At the moment they only go to level 2, but please be assured that the rest are being added.

And from what I understand, David Long has plans for much more…

AUA videos on YouTube

More about AUA…

Being a Monday is no excuse for a short short post (or is it?) So here are a handful of links for you to cruise:

AUA online:
Twitter: @auathai
Blog: AUA Thai
Website: AUA Language Centre
YouTube: ALGWorld

AUA bloggers:
Bakunin Learns Thai (no longer online)
Dan’s Adventure in Bangkok
Journey to Thai
sweet and coolbeans: learning Thai

AUA on WLT:
Successful Thai Language Learner: David Long
Review: Thai Language Schools in Bangkok
AUA Thai Videos on YouTube
HandBreak Thai Language Videos for the iPhone

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HandBreak Thai Language Videos for the iPhone

Convert Thai language videos to watch on the iPhone

Download AUA Thai language videos…

In my last post, AUA Thai Videos on YouTube, I shared where to view the over one hundred FREE AUA Thai videos. And while that’s all well and good, there is a slow loading problem if you live in a country that has a naff Internet speed, such as Thailand.

But if you download the videos from YouTube, they can be played on your computer with no lag time at all.

I was discussing this very subject with David Long (director of AUA) this weekend.

There is a a Firefox plug-in that I always use for videos called flashgot. It places a small icon in the lower right hand corner of your browser and when you get to a video or something, clicking on the icon will automatically download it – this allows me to browse on for a bit while the video downloads and then watch it easily without the breaks.

I tried the plugin on my Mac and it works fine.

UPDATE: The best downloader these days (for me anyway) is ClipConverter.

After I spent a day or two downloading all 100+ AUA videos, I copied them to an external and promptly forgot (busy, busy).

So, what’s a busy gal to do? What’s a busy gal who just happens to have an iPhone to do?

Entre: HandBrake (thanks Scott :-)

Using HandBreak to convert AUA YouTube videos for the iPhone…

What’s a HandBreak?

HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.

In plain English, HandBreak converts video (movies, YouTube) into a format that is easier for regular people to use. People like me.

And while HandBrake does offer a number of clever conversions and presets – thanks again Scott :-) – I didn’t have the time to figure everything out. Instead, here are the bare basics of how I got AUA’s YouTube videos into my iPhone.

  1. Start HandBreak.
  2. Select video to convert.
  3. Wait for HandBreak to scan.
  4. Set constant quality to 60%.
  5. Under presets, select iPhone & Apple Touch.
  6. Change destination and title.
  7. Click the start button.
  8. Wait for the HandBrake alert.
  9. Suck the file into iTunes.
  10. Transfer the file to an iPhone.

And for the basics of converting AUA YouTube videos to iPhone, that’s pretty much it.

Thank you David Long, for being so generous with AUA’s fabulous Thai videos. And a thanks again to Scott, for introducing me to HandBreak.

But WAIT! You can do even more with HandBreak…

When you start looking around at the available resources to convert with HandBreak, the choices are limitless. Maybe not so much for Thai language videos, but enough.

Andrej Nitsche (Thai Recordings) had several posts on Thai VCD’s: APS Intermusic – educational videos for kids and misbook.com. On his advice, I purchased some of those as well.

Another option is The Adventures of TINTIN 80th Anniversary Boxset, in Thai. I have the TINTIN set but I’m having problems converting 1 gig files. Suggestions?

And remember the Thai version of Sesame Street? That’s right. You can covert those for your iPhone too. And btw: Villa Market in Ari (Bangkok) has Thai Sesame Street videos (but not all). Rush, or they will be gone. And when a product is gone it Thailand, it sometimes never ever returns. A second btw: If you contact Sesame Street to purchase their Thai versions, they won’t know what you are on about. Yeah.

For a megga list, Josh from Sweet and Coolbeans is compiling Thai TV shows (and other videos). Besides YouTube, he mentions fukduk.tv (offline for now).

There are a few sites selling Thai movies and soaps. ThaiCDexpress and ethaicd.com have hundreds of products to choose from.

And if you want to know what’s going on with Thai movies before you buy or download, visit Wise Kwai’s Thai Film Journal and Enjoy Thai Movies. For Lakorn’s, start with Anothaidara.com (no longer online but read the interview on WLT) and work out from there.

Note: Before you rip, check for copyrights.

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