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Duke Thai Language School: Materials Review

Duke Language School

Duke Thai Language School’s updated materials…

When I first wrote the review for Duke Thai Language School I mentioned they were a Union Clone version 2.0 type of school. By that I meant they used the Union methodology and format albeit with new re-vamped, re-written text books. That has changed.

After more than a year in the making, Duke Language School’s new conversational Thai material is done and currently being taught. These were the books that Bingo (Arthit Juyaso) poured his blood, sweat and tears into writing from scratch. They are IMHO, the best, most comprehensive and information filled books on Thai conversation I’ve ever seen being taught in any school! They’re broken into three books (modules).

Journey 1: Survival “Practical Thai for everyday life”…

Duke Language School

The essential tools you need to survive in this country and go about your business independently. This coursebook covers the following topics:

  • Understanding the sound system and the numbers of the Thai language.
  • Introducing yourself, greeting and saying goodbye.
  • Getting a taxi and giving simple directions.
  • Buying street food.
  • Asking for directions inside a building.
  • Using public transportation and talking about locations.
  • Ordering food and solving difficult situations at a restaurant.
  • Buying clothes and describing colours, shapes and sizes.
  • Telling time and making appointments.
  • Getting a haircut and expressing degrees.
  • Buying things and using services at convenience stores.
  • Buying medicines and describing symptoms.
  • Solving communication breakdowns.
  • Talking about personal life.
  • Starting and holding a casual chit-chat in Thai.

Total number of unique words: 764
Core vocabulary (essential words): 584

As you can see these first 15 lessons teach you the survival Thai you’ll need. It provides a great foundation vocabulary which you will build on in the subsequent modules. In many ways learning a language is like building a house. IF you don’t start with a good foundation your house will be rickety and unstable. It’s the same with learning Thai, a good solid foundation is needed to build on.

Journey 2: Conversational “The basics of communicative Thai”…

Duke Language School

Develop your understanding of the Thai language and learn to say exactly what you want to say. This coursebook covers the following topics:

  • Expressing frequency, quantity, and number-related concepts.
  • Describing things using adjectives and expressing degrees.
  • Expressing similarities, differences, and comparing things.
  • Understanding the concept of Thai time expression.
  • Talking about people’s appearance and personality.
  • Describing directions of movements and changes of things.
  • Expressing perceptions, emotions, and feelings.
  • Talking about your skills and abilities, and the limit of them.
  • Giving instruction, expressing order or events, and describing purpose of things.
  • Making requests and commands.
  • Offering suggestions and expressing opinions.
  • Describing actions and consequences, causes and effects.
  • Making guesses and talking about probability.
  • Expressing likes and dislikes.
  • Talking about future plans, expectations and hopes.

Total number of unique words: 602
Core vocabulary (essential words): 497

This book is where you take the survival Thai from the previous module and start the building process from basic to more advanced structure. You learn to construct more complex sentences as well as how to sound more like a Thai when you say things. This last point is critical when trying to get Thais to understand you. The more you can say things which Thais are used to hearing, the better their comprehension of what you’re saying is.

Journey 3: Fluency “Real Thai in cultural context”…

Duke Language School

Learn about different aspects of Thai culture to help you speak Thai in a natural way with confidence. This coursebook covers the following topics:

  • Extended family and kinship terms.
  • Social status and its impact on Thai pronouns.
  • Understanding “face” and “greeng jai”.
  • Regions of Thailand and Thai dialects.
  • Thai food and table etiquette.
  • Buddhism in Thailand.
  • Ghosts, spirits, and superstitions.
  • Thai ceremonies and rituals.
  • Thai festivals and national holidays.
  • Thai entertainment, arts, and pop culture.
  • Formal Thai in formal situations.
  • Understanding “sabaai-sabaai” attitude.
  • Thai slangs, idioms, and proverbs.
  • Thai pride, and an introduction to Thai history.
  • Cross-cultural topics and discussions.

Total number of unique words: 607
Core vocabulary (essential words): 402

In reviewing the material in this book I was taken aback at just how many “fox-paws” (faux pas) I’ve made here in regards to the way I speak Thai (which I call “Todz-Thai”). I was shocked at how little I let Thai cultural restrictions during interactions affect how I speak Thai. I almost felt sad (for a second), for some of the Thai people I’ve interacted with over the years. Reading this book certainly gave me a much deeper understanding of language’s cultural aspects. It made me see that in order to really understand how the language works you need to invest a good portion of time understanding Thai culture which impacts how the language is used.

Duke Language School: Journey 1-3…

The books are character and situation driven, which is a trend we’re starting to see by more and more thai language schools. What sets this material apart from the rest is the supplemental material which is interspersed within each lesson. They touch on everything from culture, fun facts and interesting tidbits of how the language goes together. In all the years I’ve been touring Thai language schools, this is some of the best material I’ve ever seen.

It also seems that they’re not resting on their laurels with just these books and have plans for more – Explore 2, 3, and Discover. Explore 3 in particular, is all about learning Thai through media, e.g. Facebook, blogs, ads, emails, letters, articles, songs, video clips, movies, etc. It’s contemporary and shows how Thai is used in a multi-media context today. As far as I know, no other Thai language school has such a course. Explore 3 will be the link that connects the Journey series (speaking) with Explore (reading & writing) before moving on to Discover (the advanced levels).

I’m behind this paradigm shift in how Thai is taught to foreigner 100%. Gone are the pages and pages of straight text and in its place are interesting, relevant, contemporary presentations of the Thai language to non-native learners.

Three thumbs up!

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok
(BTW: Tod is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)

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Thai Language School Review: The Knowledge

Thai Language School Review: UTL Unity Thai Language School

The Knowledge…

School: The Knowledge
Website: The Knowledge
Address: 193/28 Lake Rachada Office Complex 5th floor
Rachadapisek Road, Khlongtoei, Khlongtoei Bangkok 10110
Email: study@theknowledge.in.th
Telephone Number: 02-264-0276
Facebook: The.Knowledge.Bangkok

Location: It’s about the same walk coming from the Queen Sirikit MRT station as it is coming from the Asok BTS station. It’s across from Queen Sirikit Park almost right next to a big open air Thai food market. Take the lift to the 5th floor of Lake Rachada and you’re there.

Basic Info: I had been to this school when they first opened, but at that time they were still developing their curriculum so I didn’t review it. Now they appear to have their “sea legs” and are up-n-running with their material. What this isn’t, is a Union Clone school. Instead it takes a fairly new approach to how the language is presented to students. About the closest I can compare it to is Language Express’ (L/X) format. In fact I’d almost go so far as to say it’s an “L/X Clone” school, but that could be simply because both schools have owners or directors who are Brits.

The school is quite large with a very open floor plan and a modern look, versus some of the older Thai schools which haven’t been remodelled in years and are dark dingy hole in the walls. Their front staff all seems super competent and have a good grasp of English (as they should seeing as it’s an English school too). They are more than helpful, know the courses offered and can explain them in detail. The classrooms are carpeted, which cuts down on the echo in the rooms. In tile floor classrooms sometimes (for me) it’s too echo-y (ambient) and I can’t really hear the subtle differences in pronunciation clearly.

Materials: Their material is broken down into Speaking/Listening 2 levels/2 books). Level 1 Book 1 and Level 1 Book 2 Speaking/Listening are 80 hour courses each and Level 2 Speaking/Listening is 100 hours. The curriculum is well thought out and introduces question words quite early in the course (a plus seeing as foreigners here tend to ask questions a LOT!). Each lesson also has accompanying flash cards which the teacher uses in class as review to check vocab retention. Granted it’s a simple thing, but I don’t recall seeing any other schools use them to the degree The Knowledge does. After every 4 lessons there’s a quiz covering the materials taught in the previous 4 lessons. This is also a technique which helps ‘cement’ vocab and structure rather than a review at the end of a module where material can be forgotten too easily.

I would be doing a disservice to potential students if I didn’t at least mention the HUGE disconnect between any karaoke system I’ve seen and the one used by this school. It is without question possibly the worst ‘karaoke system’ I’ve ever seen, with no diacritics for intonation. They also have some sketchy renditions of words. There seems to be no or very little distinction between long/short vowels ญี่ปุ่น is yii-bpOOn. Now thankfully they do have the words in Thai script too in all their books. This is a plus and can help students start recognizing how Thai is written before they take a reading/writing class. Now for some of you ‘gotta read Thai to speak clear Thai’ purists out there, this could be looked at as a good thing, because the faster you can start to read, the faster you can forget this karaoke system. The work around is to write down what you think you hear, like students do in text books no matter what karaoke system is taught.

The Reading/Writing Level 1 course is broken down into three modules with two 12 hour modules and a final one of 16 hours. All in there are 40 lessons. It is pretty well put together and is a no nonsense way to go about learning to read Thai. The Reading/Writing level 2 course has 25 units, each in 2 hour lessons. The main textbook is “Everyday Thai for Beginners” (easily one of the best learn Thai books IF you can already read Thai), and there is also a supplemental exercise book. As the lessons progress they get more involved as far as the difficulty and the amount of writing you do.

Method: First off, no matter what course you sign up for at this school; IF you’ve never studied Thai with them before you must attend a 8 hour orientation class. (FWIW: I’ve told schools for a long time they should do this, but this is the only one I know that actually is, not that they got it from me though.). The orientation covers, how the class will be taught, an overview to the pronunciation of their karaoke system, what is expected of the students as far as conduct/attendance and a ‘sample class’ where a few basic classroom terms are taught showing the methodology at work. I think if more schools did this there wouldn’t be that 1-2 day ‘deer in the head-lites’ dazed/glazed look students have comin’ outta the beginning class.

They also teach in a cycle where every 4 lessons they let new enrollees join in. Of course that’s AFTER that student has gone thru orientation. Now, this is done to stop the incredible time lag from enrollment to attending at module based schools, especially Union Clone ones. If I sign up at a Union Clone school but the term is already 4 days in, I can’t start until the following term (month). By running their modules in cycles The Knowledge gets around this. There will be some vocab students who just started don’t know versus ones who started on Lesson One but it appears the lessons are for the most part stand alones not daisy-chained together. Vocab is covered, pronunciation is practiced, dialog is gone over, then practiced between students and with the teacher. Topics early on are as expected; What is your name? Where do you come from? As I said earlier though, question words are introduced early in these lessons, AND covered with a variety of ways to say them.

Teachers: In the class I observed I thought the teacher was more than competent in controlling the class, in catching errant pronunciation, in really making sure the students practiced the dialog and understood what was being covered. They certainly seemed to be dedicated to what they’re doing. They also seem totally at ease with big, loud foreigners and not at all reticent to call one to task or get them back on target if they stray too far afield.

Classes: Class sizes are limited so as not to over tax the teacher but more importantly NOT to short change the student by having a teacher spread too thin and unable to spend time individually. At this time they offer afternoon and evening classes. However they’re prepared to offer morning classes if the demand is there. They offer private lessons as well, either with their material or material supplied by the students.

ED Visa: This school does offer ED visa support on their 400 hour yearlong Thai program. Now with that being said, due to the train wreck of the ED visa system as it relates to private Thai language schools, the school cannot guarantee a student will get a 90 day extension at the Thai immigration office, even with perfect attendance. Still they do offer an ED visa program. Please note that there are quizzes which the students must take on their own time which are submitted to the Ministry of Education to garner paperwork for extensions of stay.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I give this school a high bang-4-the-baht rating. For a school which isn’t a “Union Clone” (although it might be a close “L/X Clone”) they seem sincerely interested in teaching foreigners Thai rather than just going thru the motions. I’d recommend you stop by and check them out.

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok
(BTW: Tod is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)

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An Ideal Weekend Getaway in Bangkok or Expat Disasters Guaranteed?

Expat Disasters

An ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok or expat disasters guaranteed?…

Just what would your ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok be? I’ve lived in the city nine years so you’d think that there wouldn’t be much left of the city for me to experience fresh. After ticking off touristy things that everyone ends up doing, and local things usually not found in guidebooks, for sure, I’m left with things that are either too boring to bother with, or exciting and possibly dangerous even.

But back in 2012, snafus ranging from being merely uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing, to potentially life threatening, forced me to step away from the “exciting and possibly dangerous” options. And not just in Bangkok.

Here are highlights (only) of my expat disasters in 2012:

Expat Disasters

  • On the night before a return flight from Italy the man decided to partake of beef Carpaccio (thinly sliced raw meat). He was violently ill from Dohar all the way to Bangkok. It was awful for him (bless his heart). And with nowhere to hide, embarrassing for me.
  • Continuing on with food poisoning … When scouting my neighbourhood in Ari for a post about eating street food, both of us (the man and me) ended up with the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever had (I’ll skip the visuals). The man suffered for three days – I lasted six.
  • On trips to Singapore (where they had to cut the lock off my luggage), Penang, and Chiang mai, due to smog from regional burning I was mostly confined to hotel rooms and rented condos. Being an asthmatic, not being able to breath was no holiday.
  • There were booking snafus to both Siem Reap and the Thai Ghost Festival (minor irritations, but when setbacks like this keep happening they can change the tone of a trip).
  • Then, in Cambodia, after friends and I went for a long-awaited fish spa experience, I broke out in oozing blisters from my knees to my toes (sexy – not).
  • And on a visit to Laos (by myself – my dear friend bailed due to an injury acquired from an overly ambitious Thai massage), I was bedridden with formaldehyde poisoning from a bogus bottle of white wine. My first episode of formaldehyde poisoning was in Cairo, so luckily, my tongue (but not my head – that came later) recognised the taste and I didn’t finish more than a small glass. Still, I couldn’t move from my hotel room let alone crawl far from my bed.

Expat DisastersEven after all that, it was only after I got fogged in for three extra (expensive) days in San Francisco that I emailed Talen to protest “ENOUGH ALREADY!” and that I was backing out of our planned skydiving adventure. Oh. And any other adventures that involved even the slightest potential of landing in the hospital or being out of commision for any length of time.

I’m terrified of heights, and being terrified is exciting. But with that long run of mishaps, I figured being miles off the ground was tempting fate. Not being superstitious either, Talen agreed.

Yet here we are, two years later, and the run of bad luck has mostly ceased shifted focus. My crazy desire to jump out of planes never fully went away, so of course I’ll include it in my ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok. Talen, are you ready for this?

Skydive Bangkok: On your life changing Tandem Skydive, you will be briefed by your Tandem Instructor about the jump, and then you’ll be on the aircraft enjoying the scenic ride up to altitude … enjoy the freefall and the adrenaline rush as you fall at speeds up to 200-220 kilometers per hour!!

For an additional fee you can get videos of your long decent to the ground. I’ll pass. The real possibility of screaming and/or upchucking at 200 kilometres per hour isn’t something I’d want anyone else to see. Landing in one piece after a 16,000 foot drop would be enough of a memory for me!

My next thrill of the weekend would be sampling a few drinks at the tallest bars in Bangkok. “What kind of thrill is that” you say? But you have to remember, this is Thailand. And Thais don’t worry so much about safety. How exciting is that?

Rooftop bars are all over the city so I’ve compiled a shortlist from bangkok.com’s top 20 rooftop bars in Bangkok. Throwing out the wimpy under 40’s, eight are left:

63rd Floor: Sky Bar (lebua at State Tower Riverside)
63rd Floor: Distil Rooftop Bar (Riverside)
61st Floor: Vertigo and Moon Bar (Banyan Tree Hotel Sathorn)
55th Floor: Red Sky (Centara Grand at CentralWorld Siam)
47th Floor: Cloud 47 Silom (United Center office tower)
46th Floor: Zeppelin Bar (Sukhumvit)
45th Floor: Octave Rooftop Bar (Marriot Hotel Sukhumvit)
40th Floor: Zoom Skybar (Anantara Sathorn Sathorn).

I’ve only experienced one, the Sky Bar. That’s where I discovered why some rooftop bars advertise having “no interrupted views”. It’s because they don’t bother with what us westerners call “safety measures”. Like, adequately situated handrails at waist height, to stop you from plummeting off the side of tall buildings.

Not having something secure to grab onto is truly terrifying. You must try it.

Expat DisastersThe only other time I’ve been seriously scared of heights as an adult was also in Bangkok. It was during the Red Shirt protests. There I was, on the rooftop of my condo, taking photos of Bangkok burning. As I started clicking away I remembered the sniper in my area taking his own deadly shots. I froze, then sunk to the ground as slowly as I could (I didn’t want him noticing) and crawled on hands and knees to the stairwell and back to safety.

Exciting stuff, but not something you can sign up for during your average tour of Bangkok. Sorry about that.

There are many other death defying adventures you can experience in Bangkok, so don’t despair. I asked on twitter, “what’s the scariest thing you can think of doing in Bangkok?“ The replies came back with:

@Saksith: Recreating The Hangover II in a weekend!
@KristoferA and @gjmarshall: Taking a motorcycle taxi (on Sukhumvit).
@mkukreja1988: Going out with a ladyboy.
@Ajarncom: Riding a bicycle.

Other adventures to consider (tame and not so tame):

Expat DisastersTo finish off, here are a few relaxing choices to calm down even the craziest of weekends:

What are your suggestions for an “ideal weekend getaway in Bangkok”? What about the “scariest thing you can think of doing in Bangkok“? Or would you rather wimp out and relax?

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Thai Language School Review: Duke Thai Language School

Thai Language School Review: Duke Thai Language School

EDIT: Please read Duke Thai Language School: Materials Review first.

First, a bit of a ramble about Union schools…

Preamble: I haven’t written any reviews in quite awhile. Mostly because there are so few schools coming into the “teach Thai to adult foreigners” niche market. In addition, my somewhat skewed opinion about what I call “Union Clone” schools is too well known. Don’t get me wrong, the teaching methodology is solid and the classes are intensive, but nothing much has been done to freshen up their materials. It’s dry to the n-th degree. And for me at least, it teaches foreigners to speak a version of Thai that hasn’t been heard on the streets of Thailand perhaps ever. The materials have an archaic, too formal a version of syrupy sweet over the top Thai. I am of the mind that back in the day, the objective of the original Union material was to teach foreigners to speak Thai so that the would never be identified as near-native speakers of the language. That could just be my paranoia speaking, but I wouldn’t put it past the original developers of the material either.

Now, in defense of the Union material, it is successful and they’ve probably turned out more foreign speakers of coherent Thai than any other methodology out there. This is mostly due to the sheer number of Union type of schools in Bangkok rather than the material. Still, it does work IF a student is willing to buckle down and go the distance with the intensive class structure. It’s so fast paced that if you miss a single three hour lesson, you’ll fall behind the curve and are unlikely to catch up to speed. I’ve met more students who’ve washed out of a Union Clone school than I have students who’ve survived to the end.

Other than a few schools, most are using the original dated Union materials (albeit with their own schools name on the textbooks). This is why, when I went to Duke Language School’s website and saw the format; I surmised it was another Union Clone School in methodology and course structure.

They do have the same module based structure: three hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks. They do also teach via “karaoke Thai” for the first three levels of conversation too. But that’s where ANY and ALL similarity ends as far as a Union Clone school. Quite honestly, I didn’t even want to lump them in with the other Union Clone schools but so far I haven’t come up with a good comparative name other than Union Version 2.0.

And now, with all that off my chest and out of the way, here’s the review:

Duke Thai Language School…

Website: Duke Language School
Address: 10/63, Trendy Building, 3rd floor Sukhumvit Soi 13,
Wattana, Bangkok Thailand 10110
Email: info@dukelanguage.com
Tel: Land: 02-168-7274 Mobile: 082-444-1595

Location: It’s an easy walk from either the Nana or Asok BTS station to the Trendy building on Soi 13. Take the escalators up to the third floor and you’re there!

Basic Info: The school is in a brand spanking new building which has only been open about four months, so as you might expect, everything is gleaming! The classrooms are small and what I’d call cozy. All in all it’s a well thought out, well designed modern school. It even has a sitting area for breaks, etc.

The front staff is pleasant and well versed in the programs. Now, like most Union Clone schools, the front staff appears a little light on their English ability but this isn’t unique to schools in Bangkok by any means. I’ve never quite figured this conundrum out, seeing as they’re teaching Thai to non-native adult speakers and most Asians possess at least a basic command of English.

Materials: The materials are possibly some of the best “Union type” I’ve seen in my nine years in this country. They are contemporary, current, and totally re-written! Gone are the endless pages of boring text (like most Union clone schools have). In their place are labeled pictures and nice diagrams. Honestly, I can’t say enough about how fresh and meaningful the material is versus the old Union stuff.

The two co-founders of Duke Language School put a TON of time weeding out the useful teaching material from the dated stuff which was garbage. They re-wrote what was left, organised it in a more logical way, and that included thinning out the artificial sounding constructs. The end result gives the lessons a good flow and real-life feel to them.

Many schools get duped by the printer to run WAY too many text books but Duke did a limited first run. The plan is to weed out any mistakes (it happens), get suggestions, and then make corrections and further tweak the system before the second run. I’ve been to schools where, before they teach a single word, the teacher goes thru the textbooks page by page to tell students about the mistakes. That won’t be the case at Duke Language School.

Method: It is definitely a Union based methodology as they teach speaking before they teach reading and writing Thai. Now that’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination so don’t take it as a negative. I’ve met some pretty talented foreign speakers of Thai who learned via karaoke and some still can’t tell a chicken กอ ไก่ from an owl ฮอ นกฮูก (the first and last letters of the Thai alphabet).

Of all the possibly hundreds of Thai students I’ve spoken to, the FIRST thing they want to learn is speaking and understanding Thai. Then way down the list, and I mean WAY down the list, is learning to read and write. Personally, no matter how many people say, “being able to read Thai makes you speak better Thai”, I don’t buy it. Kids can’t read a character, yet they seem to be able to develop competent spoken language skills sans reading. To me speaking and reading are horses of a different color. I doubt that many people if ANY think about how a word is spelled in Thai before they say it out loud. If they do, they must be some pretty slow clunky speakers of Thai. I mean it just don’t happen in the real world. Now is reading Thai useful? Heck yeah it is! But is reading Thai necessary to learn to speak it? Nope, it is abso-tively posi-lutely NOT necessary to learn read before you start to speak coherent Thai.

At Duke Language school students are first taught how their karaoke Thai system works, what the symbols mean, and sounds are made. In looking at it, it’s almost 100% the same as Benjawan Becker’s phonemic transcription method, so transitioning from Duke’s text books to Benjawan’s is almost seamless. This is a huge plus because I’ve been to some schools that have their own “proprietary school specific karaoke” which often bears little resemblance to anyone else’s method so you can’t easily switch between available materials (and we all do).

Face it, there’s no one who has more books in print about learning Thai than Benjawan does, so if a school uses her karaoke there is a plethora of other materials a student can use to supplement their learning. Once the phonetic system at Duke Language School is learned the class starts on the basics with meeting greeting, names, questions, etc. They do the typical 50 minute classes with a 10-15 minute break in between.

Duke is also one of the first schools I’ve been to that uses audio visual and big screens to teach Thai. It’s incorporated into almost every level they teach. And they are constantly developing additional ways to use it in the school’s curriculum. I believe it will become the “gold standard” as far as teaching Thai to foreigners goes. Right now no one else (or should I say, no place else that I’ve ever been to) is doing it. Students watch a short clip or a presentation, then talk about and discuss it. It’s a no-brainer in today’s tech-savvy world, especially with all of the resources available in internet-land.

Duke offers monthly field trips which students, no matter their level of Thai, can participate in. To encourage the students to interact with each other and further their Thai ability, on the field trips they incorporate various activities. This also helps build friendship between students no matter what module or level they’re learning at school. FWIW: these aren’t just those b/s trips to a Soi side street vendor, J/J Market or Pratunam, but decent day trips, which in talking to the students, seem to be well received and attended.

Teachers: Sitting in a trial class I was impressed that the teacher went out of her way to speak clearly. She spoke slow enough so students could comprehend and understand her, but not too slow to make it feel like she was “spoon feeding” the students. Teachers at Duke Language School are competent in the teaching method, are engaging, and no matter how off-toned or poorly pronounced the students are, seriously try to get them to break out of their shell and speak. The teachers are sticklers on getting pronunciation, vowel length and intonation right. But that’s a plus, seeing as it’s the key to being understood in Thai. Sitting outside talking with the front desk staff, I could hear the laughter and animated conversations going on in the rooms. Too many times sitting in class, it’s no fun learning Thai (or any language), but these teachers appear to go out of their way and make it fun. It can and does make learning a lot easier.

Classes: They run four weeks of group classes or terms that are available in the morning, afternoon or evening. They also offer private lessons too.

ED Visa: DLS is approved by the Ministry of Education to offer ED visa assistance and support for both their six month and their yearlong Thai courses.

Bang-4-The-Baht: If, as a student of the Thai language, you want to do intensive courses in Thai (versus milking the current education system by learning Thai four hours a week just to get a visa to stay here) this school is at the top of the pile! Hands down I’d recommend Duke Language School over ANY other school out there that I’ve been to so far (be sure to check the date of this post against the others that went before). No other schools can compete with Duke in terms of quality material, qualified teachers, and an overall good atmosphere to learn the Thai language. They have some of the most competitive pricing for group lessons. Make sure to check their website for promotions, etc.

After going to so many schools, saying the same old B/S spiel, “Hi, I just moved here to Thailand. I love the country, the people and the culture so much that I want to learn Thai”, I’ve become a pretty darned jaded foreigner as far as how Thai is taught. It takes a lot for a school to wow me nowadays, but I can honestly say, with no reservations at Duke Language School I was indeed wowed!

I hope you guys found this review of interest. As I said in the beginning, after a long break I’m a little rusty writing Thai language school reviews. If you’re wanting to learn Thai you should definitely put Duke on your list of schools to scope out. Be sure to sit a trial lesson while you are there.

Good luck, and as always I’m not affiliated with ANY Thai language school, I just want you guys to know what’s what out there in the learn Thai marketplace.

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok
(BTW: Tod is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)

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Thai Politics on Facebook: Manee Has a Chair

Thai Politics: Manee Has A Chair

Manee gets into Thai politics on Facebook…

Thai Politics: Manee Has Chair Monday (tomorrow) is the big kickoff for #BKKshutdown. On twitter the protests are also hashed as #BangkokShutdown and #ShutdownBKK and #ShutdownBangkok and #ปิดกรุงเทพ. Starting early, the anti-government protesters have already shut down Bangkok. Oh joy.

If you are interested in the Thai protests and would like to learn how to read Thai at the same time, there’s a Facebook page that you ‘might’ fancy: Manee Has Chair (มานีมีเเชร์).

Old Thai schoolbook illustrations revived in satirical cartoons: “Manee. Manee has eyes.” These are the first simple words most Thai children in the 1970s and 80s (and possibly every foreign student learning Thai) read in school.

Created by the Ministry of Education and published in 1977, the books – plainly titled “Thai Lesson Book” – aimed at primary school students became a recognizable childhood item for introducing them to reading Thai and also a stable of characters such as the young girl Manee (มานี), her older brother Mana (มานะ) and also a dog called Toh (โต).

Just like the Manee series, the words used are short and sweet. To understand what’s going on in the cartoons, of course you’ll need to follow what’s happening in Thai politics and perhaps dig around some. Oh. And your Thai will get a real workout if you also read the comments below each drawing.

You can see the complete set of artwork here: Maneehaschair Photo Stream

More about Manee…

Download 12 FREE Manee Books
Learn2SpeakThai: Learn Thai with Manee
Manee on Thai Text Reader

More about (present) Thai politics…

Thai Language Thai Culture: Thai Words for This Time of Political Unrest
Keeping Cool (Tempers) in Thailand
Christopher G. Moore: The Kreng Jai System and Thai Politics
Thai Protests 2013: Who to Follow on Twitter

Stay safe everyone.

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Christopher G. Moore: The Kreng Jai System and Thai Politics

Thai Political Super Storms: Kreng Jai System under Attack

Kreng Jai System and Thai Politics…

After a relatively quiet birthday celebration, followed by a weekend of mostly silence, on Monday morning at 9.39 (exactly?) the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) will make another final push to take down the reigning Thai government. See protest map here.

Bangkok Post: Mr Suthep declared on Friday night that demonstrators would “blow the final whistle” on Monday to seize power from the Yingluck administration.

The former Democrat MP said he would not prolong the protest any longer and that Monday’s outcome would make clear whether the demonstrators “win or lose”.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a horse in this race (how could I). But, I do have an interest in what keeps driving the Thai people from both sides of the political divide to repeatedly take to the streets to maim, burn, and kill their own countrymen and women.

This weekend Christopher G. Moore (author of Heart Talk) put forward his theory about what’s going on in his post, Thai Political Super Storms: Kreng Jai System under Attack.

Christopher: What is driving the political turmoil, in my view, is a breakdown of this ancient kreng jai system that has until now been the bedrock of the political establishment. The patronage system, the pee/nong—older and younger person system and the automatic deference to rank, uniform and position were built from the stone and cement of kreng jai. Even voting has been fenced in by the unwritten rules of deference.

It’s an interesting view (and one I feel has merit).

I found the concept of Kreng Jai (and sometimes Greng Jai) difficult to wrap my head around so spent weeks researching the subject. The results of that exercise can be read at Thai Culture: Understanding Kreng Jai.

That post is chockfull of useful Kreng Jai phrases but the one I say most often is ไม่ต้องเกรงใจ /mâi dtông kreng jai/, which means “no need to kreng jai (me)”. Try it. It saves time and aggro.

Anyway, to read all of Christopher’s post here it is again: Thai Political Super Storms: Kreng Jai System under Attack. I just found out that it’s an essay from Fear and Loathing in Bangkok, an ebook on amazon/kindle. Off to the Kindle store I go…

And if you are interested in the blow-by-blow action promised for Monday, take your pick: Thai Protests 2013: Who to Follow on Twitter.

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Thai Protests 2013-14: Who to Follow on Twitter

Thai Protests 2013: Who to Follow on Twitter

Thai Protests 2013-2014: Who to Follow on Twitter…

Yes, the Thai protests are STILL going on. I was hoping they’d be over by now, but oh no. Seriously? I hope this protest is finished before I complete writing this post! Anyway… similar to Staying Safe in Thailand: Streetwise Advice + Twitter, I wanted to share a bunch of twitter people for you to follow in this latest Thai kerfluffle.

If you only have time for one twitter account it’d have to be Richard Barrow’s.

Richard Barrow: (Travel blogger): @RichardBarrow

And here’s Richard’s Bangkok Dangerous Google Map

This morning Richard made a request: if you are running around Bangkok and see any action, do tweet your photos and news to his account. Please do (the more eyes and ears sharing, the better).

And now to the rest of the twitter peeps…

แก้วมาลา Kaewmala (Thai language, culture & politics): @Thai_Talk
Aim_The Nation (Nation): Aim_The Nation (no longer online)
Alessandro Ursic (Freelance journalist): @aleursic
Anasuya (Channel NewsAsia): @Anasuya
Andrew Marshall (Reuters): @Journotopia
Aubrey Belford (Reuters): @AubreyBelford
Bangkok Pundit (Asian Correspondent): @bangkokpundit
Florian Witulski (asia-pacific correspondent): @vaitor
Jason Szep (Reuters): @jasonszep
Jonathan Head (BBC): @pakhead
John Le Fevre (The Establishment Post): @photo_journ
Kate Hodal (The Guardian): @katehodal
Newley Purnell (Journalist): @newley
Nuthatai Chotechuang (Nation Channel): @nuthatai
Patrick Winn (Global Post): @BKKApologist (no longer online)
Saksith Saiyasombut (Siam Voices): @Saksith
Sunai (Human Rights Watch): @sunaibkk
Terry Fredrickson (Bangkok Post): @terryfrd
Thin (Humanitarian): @thinink
Tulsathit Taptim (The Nation): @tulsathit
veena T.: @veen_NT
Waan Chomchuen (Wall Street Journal): @waanspeaking
William Davies (AFP): @WilwithoneL
Zoe Daniel (ABC Australia): @seacorro

2Bangkok: 2Bangkok
FCCThai: FCCThai
Asian Correspondent: @AsCorrespondent
New Mandala: @newmandala
Siam Voices: @siamvoices

Arm MatichonTV: @AMatichon (no longer online)
Bangkok Post: @BPbreakingnews
MCOT English News: @MCOTEnglishnews
The Nation: @nationnews

CMDThai (Civil Movement for Democracy): @CMDThai
Rajprasong News (Red Shirts): @Rajprasong_News
UDD (Red Shirts): @UDD_English

Abhisit Vejjajiva (former PM): @PM_Abhisit
Yingluck Shinawatra (present PM): @PouYingluck

georgehenton (photojournalist): @georgehenton
Grant Cameron (photojournalist): @grantthai
Jack Kurtz (photojournalist): @photogjack
L. Suwanrumpha (photojournalist): @TheLilyfish

Thai protests in the news…

If you need to play catch-up, here’s a few articles:

New Mandala: Who’s who in Thailand’s anti-government forces?

BBC: Thailand: Protests continue amid strike call
Straits Times: Bangkok on a knife-edge : Government on the run, but not out
Bangkok Post: Media groups condemn protest threats
Bangkok Post: TOT power cut hits 750,000 users
asiancorrespondent.com: Who is financing the anti-government Suthep rallies in Bangkok?

asiancorrespondent.com (continuously updated page): LIVE: Fresh violence raises tensions in Bangkok

Note: My thanks goes to photographer L. Suwanrumpha (@TheLilyfish) and Asia Editor Jon Russell (@jonrussell) for suggestions on who to add to my previous twitter list for the Thai protests.

And now that I’ve finished this post, I’m off to see if this latest protest is over yet. See you there?

UPDATE: Here’s the complete list on twitter: Thai Protests

ADDED: Jon Russell (TNW) also has a twitter list: Thai Protests 2013

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Please Help STOP the Grand Palace SCAMS

STOP the Grand Palace SCAMS

Please help STOP the Grand Palace SCAMS…

The Grand Palace complex in Bangkok is stunning. For most tourists to Thailand, it’s a must on their list of places to see in this country. But because of the scams, too many go home without experiencing the inspiring beauty of the glorious Thai buildings decked out in gold.

The tourist police, Thai police and the palace guards sit by and do nothing. Even the Thais walking by ignore the unaware tourists getting scammed by their thousands. And from what I’ve seen personally, only expats intervene.

The scams have been going on for years. Long-time friends scrimped and saved to come to Thailand for a once in a lifetime trip to the country. Sadly, I didn’t go to the Grand Palace that day and they were scammed. Instead of experiencing all that gold and glitter, they came home with a new set of clothes. What a tradeoff. And what a crying shame.

Even today they laugh about their “truly Thai experience – the Thai scam” but are unable to share memories of the actual palace. Is this how Thais want Thailand to be remembered?

I’ve asked Thai friends and they are embarrassed about the scams but feel powerless to stop the practice. Finally fed up, Richard Barrow decided to ask for our help.

Richard Barrow in Thailand: This scam has been going on for so long. I want to see this one closed down and will be working towards making this happen. With or without the help of the Tourist Police.

Please help spread the message by sharing this post. These guys are scammers – the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is NEVER closed and the Grand Palace is very rarely closed all day.

Here’s the link to retweet: Richard Barrow ‏@RichardBarrow Please RT & help share on Facebook: Don’t Fall for the “Grand Palace is Shut” scam

And here’s his blog post: Don’t Fall for the “Grand Palace is Closed” Scam.

If you are Thai, expat, tourist, whatever, please help stop the Grand Palace scams. It’s as simple as RT’ing Richard’s tweet, forwarding Richard’s post, even writing a post of your own.

UPDATE: Richard Barrow just launched Bangkok Scams. He’s also Tweeting Scams Live in Bangkok.

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FREE DRAW: James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

FREE DRAW: James Higbies' Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

FREE DRAW! James Higbies’ Essential Thai AND Thai Reference Grammar…

Someone is going to get lucky soon. Originally, the prize for this draw was to be a signed copy of Essential Thai by James Higbie. But when Jim and I got together over a beer he agreed to offer both Essential Thai AND Thai Reference Grammar. Kudos to Jim, that’s quite a healthy prize!

As before, to be included in the draw the rules are simple:

  • You need to leave a comment(s) below.
  • The comment(s) need to be reasonable.

Explanation: Each comment gets counted so please feel free to leave as many as you like. But here’s the thing… the comments must add to the conversation as well as pertain to this post.

How it works: Each time a relevant comment is made, I’ll write the name on a slip of paper. When I meet up with Jim over a beer, the papers will be stirred, shaken, whatever, for him to pick the winning name.

After it’s over: The draw will close on Saturday morning, July 6, 8am BKK time. The winner will be announced that very same day.

Thai Reference Grammar and Essential Thai..

Both Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar are on my ‘must have’ Thai book list. Essential Thai because it covers the basics in an easy to understand manner. And Thai Reference Grammar because when I need to know something grammar-wise, it’s easily found.

Thai Reference GrammarThai Reference Grammar
Author: James Higbie
Paperback: 443 pages
Size: 9.4 x 6.9 x 1 inches
Published: July 10, 2006

Thai Reference Grammar has already been reviewed in Mark Hollow’s Review: A Guide to Thai Grammar Books, so I won’t cover it again.

Essential ThaiEssential Thai
Author: James Higbie
Paperback + CD: 234 pages
Size: 7.8 x 0.5 x 9.8 inches
Published: 2012

Most of those interviewed in the Successful Thai Language Learners series have a favourite Thai course. Mine is Essential Thai. When I first started learning Thai I heard of the legendary but out of print Essential Thai. Cherished copies of copies were being passed around, but by then, even those had all but disappeared (I looked). Lucky for beginners, Jim reprinted Essential Thai in 2012.

Teach Yourself Thai and Thai for Beginners are also good, so why do I favour Essential Thai? Well, if you pinned me down for a reason I’d have to say that it’s because the lessons get straight to the point. When you first start studying a foreign language you often don’t remember long, detailed explanations. In Essential Thai, after a brief overview of the subject matter, you get a selection of vocabulary and useful sentence patterns to practice with. And then you move onto the next subject.

What the course doesn’t have is a quiz (I’m partial to testing). If that’s how you learn, you can get around it quite easily by following the suggestions in Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai.

Essential Thai: table of contents…

I could spend hours extolling the virtues of Essential Thai but if I do this review will never happen. Just ask Jim (he’s been waiting for a year). Instead, here’s the robust table of contents that clearly includes everything a student of the Thai language needs to get started.

Introduction: pronunciation, numbers, colours.

First Things: greetings, going places, very/not at all, already, thank you/excuse me, do you understand, pronouns/I am, speaking politely, I don’t know, can you speak Thai?

Shopping, getting around: money and shopping, paying in restaurants, how many, bottles of water, food and drinks to go, buying clothes, getting change, bargaining, where is, asking for a restroom, traveling – basic questions.

Questions and expressions: what’s your name, how are you, where are you from, how old are you, have you eaten yet, have you been in Thailand long, goodbye/good luck, phrases for learning Thai common expressions, expressions from Thai culture.

Step by step conversation: basic sentences, to be, too (too hot), this/the, the same/not the same, comparing, like more than/like the most, possessive, this person/that person, who/which person, numbers of people, using verbs, yes/no questions, maybe/I might, go with verbs, I like to/I want to, have to/must, can/able to, I’d rather, I’ve/I’ve never, have you yet, not anymore/never again, so/shall, connecting words, request/commands, let/allow, there is/there are, somebody/nobody, many/a lot, a little, more/again, only, each other, together/myself, a different one/not this one, what kind/what style, particles, notes on vocabulary, compound words and prefixes.

Conversation topics: family, marriage, work, religion, asking Thais where they are from, foreign people and things, important cards and documents, children and adults, some people/most people, weather, talking about places, feelings, dialogues.

Time: days of the week, morning/afternoon/night, telling time, minutes/house/days/weeks/months/years, how long, times/occasions, time conjunctions, other time words, months and years.

Food: ordering, drinks, ingredients, friend rice and noodles, Thai dishes, vegetarian food, western food, fruit, buying foods on the market.

Transportation: kinds of vehicles, stations/airport/pier, city bus, city to city bus, driving instructions, renting a vehicle.

Hotels and bungalows: hotels, asking for things, beach bungalow.

Getting around town: places in town, directions, near/far, prepositions of location, inside/outside/above/below, which floor, bank, post office, tailor/dressmaker, invitations/appointments.

Medical, emergencies, phone: parts of the body, medical problems, medicine, emergencies, telephone.

Around Thailand: areas of Thailand, Bangkok, Central Thailand/the East, the North, the Northeast, the South, forest, ocean, countryside, a Thai temple, home, Thai culture.

And the rest: reading Thai, classifiers, Thai dictionary.

Where to buy Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar…

In Bangkok you can get both books at Kinokuniya’s bookstore in Paragon. As I don’t like fighting traffic, whenever possible I use DCO Books (online bookstore).

DCO: Essential Thai with CD by James Higbie
DCO: Thai Reference Grammar by James Higbie and Snea Thinsan

DCO offers a wonderful service. When I’m in a hurry Danny sends my order by motorcycle taxi (and I’m always in a hurry!) Note: I do not get a cut for mentioning DCO but please do say “hey” from me anyway.

Both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk also carry Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar.

FREE DRAW recap…

So there you have it. To enter the draw leave relevant comments below. As many as you can muster. The draw will end next Saturday morning. The results of the draw will appear sometime that same day (after I wobble back home from meeting with Jim). I hope you get lucky!

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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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