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

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Tag: David Smyth

Successful Thai Language Learner: Tomas Drayton

Tomas Drayton

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

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

What is your Thai level?

Advanced.

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

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

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

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

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

Not currently.

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

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

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

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

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

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

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

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

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

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

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

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

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

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

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

How do you learn languages?

Speak ๆๆๆๆ

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

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

Can you make your way around any other languages?

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

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

No I think I’d find that very hard.

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

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

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

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

regards,
Tomas Drayton

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

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

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

Share Button

WINNERS: Thai Without Tears, Thai an Essential Grammar, Thai Reference Grammar and Essential Thai

WINNERS: Thai Language Giveaway

WINNERS to WLT’s SECOND week of the Thai Language Giveaway…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015The SECOND week of the WLT’s seven weeks of Thai Language Giveaways went by just as fast as the first!

Chosen by James Higbie, here are the winners of this week’s giveaway: Thai Reference Grammar: Patrick Kollish and Karen Suvakham. Essential Thai: Karla and Stuart. Thai an Essential Grammar: Ann Norman. Thai Without Tears: Michael.

David Smyth: I hope you’ll find this book useful; and keep on checking out Cat’s fantastic website!

James Higbie: Thanks to everyone for the positive response to my books.

If the winners would please send their snail mail address via my contact form, DCO Books will post the books to you. Please note that if you do not contact me by next Wednesday, your prize will be given to the winner/s in waiting (already chosen).

I would like to thank James Higbie for signing his books and choosing the winners. Jim was bouncing around Europe and the US when this all started so we both had a fun time playing tag via Facebook! I’d also like to thank David Smyth for sending over his kind quote. David is now retired but still keeps his eyes on all things Thai. And of course, a thanks goes to Orchid Press for donating a set of Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar. And last, but not least, I’d like to thank Danny from DCO Books, who over the years has sourced wonderful books on Thailand and the Thai language for me. Not only did he sponsor two books for the giveaway, but during the contest it was Danny who arranged for discounts and shipping.

My thanks also goes to everyone who left comments. Winners or no, please keep trying because there’s a lot more coming!

To get a complete list of the prizes and schedule, read the first post in the series, Please Vote THAI and WIN! 2015: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition.

WLTs 2015 Thai Language Giveaway…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015BTW: So far there’s been 10,204 votes in the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs section and 8226 votes in the Top 100 Language Facebook Pages section. That’s a lot of voting!

So you’ve voted in the Language Lovers Competition, right? Thanks! It means an awful lot to me. Seriously.

Share Button

WLT’s Thai Language Giveaway: Smyth’s Thai: An Essential Grammar, Higbies’ Thai Reference Grammar and Essential Thai

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway

WLT’s Thai Language Giveaway…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015Welcome to week two of WLT’s seven weeks of Thai language giveaways by top movers and shakers in the learning Thai industry.

If you are just hearing about the giveaway do read Please Vote THAI and WIN! 2015: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition to find out about the $4,500+ in prizes being given away.

Thai Reference Grammar, Essential Thai, Thai: An Essential Grammar, and Thai Without Tears…

This week Orchid Press, DCO Books, and WLT (that’s me) have banded together to sponsor some of my favourite books for learning Thai: James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar (two each), David Smyth’s Essential Grammar, and the classic Segaller’s Thai Without Tears.

And to make it even more fun, James Higbie signed all four copies of Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar. Lucky winners. I’d love signed copies too!

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway

During the last Essential Thai giveaway James Higbie and I lounged around at the Churchill Bar at British Club in Bangkok, sipping beers while Jim selected winners out of an empty beer mug. But for this giveaway, as Jim is in Bangkok and I’m in Chiang mai, he’ll do the honours without me. There might still be beer though (we’ll see).

And here’s a bit about the sponsors…

Orchid Press has been around since 1981. The majority of the books are related to the Asian region, covering general interest, scholarly, fiction, and poetry. They previously sold books out of a bookstore on Silom but now do internet sales and sales to other bookstores.

DCO Books came online in 1995. Their specialty is English language books published in Thailand. DCO is my go-to bookstore for books on the Thai language, culture and history (out of print or not). Whenever I find a book I just have to have, I’d contact Danny, who sources it for me (he knows where boxes are stashed). To help save you a bundle on shipping, Danny’s new venture is DCO Thai eBooks.

Higbie: Essential Thai…

Jim’s Essential Thai has a bit of lore attached to it. Years out of print, fans would cherish copies of copies until they fell to bits. Finally, in 2010, Orchid Press brought it back to life.

Essential ThaiEssential Thai
Author: James Higbie
Price: US$29.95 / 895 baht
Paperback + CD: 234 pages
Size: 190 x 250 mm
Published: 2011, Orchid Press

If you don’t win this time round, you can order Essential Thai online from Orchid Press or DCO Books.

Orchid Press: Essential Thai is a complete learning package for those who want to acquire basic working skills in the Thai language, quickly and efficiently. Freshly updated and back by popular demand, Essential Thai includes a CD ROM with MP-3 audio files to introduce the student to Thai pronunciation and beginning phrases.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Essential Thai. Jim’s writing is clear and concise, and with the layout being straightforward, the concepts are easy to understand and absorb. It’s so good, I even penned a post on Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai. Essential Thai is also a prime candidate for using Luca Lampariello’s method outlined in An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages Part One and Part Two.

Higbie: Thai Reference Grammar…

Again, it’s Jim’s clear way of explaining concepts that draws me back to Thai Reference Grammar. It’s my go-to resource for those niggling grammar questions, or just for the pleasure of a good read.

Thai Reference GrammarThai Reference Grammar
Author: James Higbie
Price: US$29.95 / 895 baht
Paperback: 234 pages
Size: 190 x 250 mm
Published: 2003

As before, if you don’t win this time round, you can order Thai Reference Grammar online from Orchid Press or DCO Books.

DCO Books: There are many phrasebooks and course books for beginning-level Thai but until now there has been no book that explains higher-level Thai sentence structure and functional vocabulary.

Many students of the Thai language find that basic-level Thai is easy to pick up, but that the language becomes more difficult at higher levels. (For example, there are four ways to say ‘because’ and eleven ways to say ‘only’).

Thai Reference Grammar fills the need for a work that explains high-level Thai sentence structure and vocabulary. The book presents clear explanations of advanced Thai structure, illustrated with examples of typical Thai speech.

On a sidenote: Jim gifted me with the extra materials intended for the follow up of Thai Reference Grammar, so do stay tuned as I feed them through WLT bit by bit.

On a personal note: Jim’s latest project (not about Thai) is Sierra Leone: Inside the War. If it’s written anything like his other books it’ll be a fabulous read.

Smyth: Thai: An Essential Grammar…

Thai Reference Grammar and An Essential Grammar are the most popular grammar books for students of Thai. And if you are a fan of Mary Haas’s style (remember her Green Brick) and Benjawan’s Thai for Beginners, then you are already intune with David’s Essential Grammar. With the well-thought-out layout, it’s a quick jump through the contents to find just what you need.

From David Smyth: I hope you’ll find this book useful; and keep on checking out Cat’s fantastic website!

Thai: An Essential GrammarThai: An Essential Grammar
Author: David Smyth
Price: US$29.95 / 895 baht
Paperback: 234 pages
Size: 155 x 255 mm
Published: UK 2010 (1st) Edition

I have both editions but I’m forever grabbing this one (my second edition is still pristine). And I was in luck when taking this photo of the front cover because the coffee spills and chocolate prints wiped right off the beautiful matt finish!

Thai: An Essential Grammar can be ordered online from DCO Books.

DCO Books: Thai: An essential Grammar is a concise and user-friendly guide to the basic structures of the language. Grammatical forms are demonstrated through examples, given in both Thai script and romanised transliteration, with clear, jargon-free explanations. Its designed for use both by students taking a taught course in Thai and for independent learners, and includes guidance on pronunciation, speech conventions and the Thai writing system as well as grammar.

With numerous examples bringing grammar to life, this unique reference work will prove invaluable to all students looking to master the grammar of Thai.

Segaller: Thai Without Tears…

Segaller Thai Without TearsSegaller Thai Without Tears
Author: Denis Segaller
Price: $9.95
Paperback: 368 pages
Published: 1999

Segaller’s phrasebook, Thai Without Tears (a guide to simple Thai speaking), is an absolute classic and a joy to read. When Danny (DCO Books) mentioned adding it to the giveaway my response was “I LOVE that book!” Actually, I love pretty much everything by Dennis Segaller (RIP). He had a blast living in Thailand and it shines through everything he wrote.

DCO Books: An enjoyable introduction to basic Thai grammar and phrases, including those all-important tones! This handy little book should enable native English speakers to learn conversational Thai in a reasonably short time, and in an interesting and enjoyable way. Its phonetic system is simple and clear – a great help in learning those all-important Thai tones.

The examples have been chosen to be as useful as possible in everyday situations, and the two teaching sections are followed by collections of phrases concerned with telephoning, food, shopping, etc. Other sections deal with colours, times and dates, social norms, getting around, festivals and public holidays presented in a highly readable way and with some cultural background here and there. 1,300 word English-Thai and Thai-English glossaries and some emergency phrases (most of which we hope you’ll never need) round off the book.

Rules for WLTs Thai Language Giveaway…

The rules are dead simple:

  • To be included in the draw, leave comments below.
  • Comment(s) need to add to the conversation (it really does matter).
  • Each relevant comment gets counted, so please do leave as many as you like!
  • If you don’t collect your prize within a week of the announcement, it will be given away to the next person in line.
  • You don’t have to live in Thailand to enter the contest; the cost of shipping to anywhere in the world is covered.

I will not be responsible for choosing the winners so even if you’ve known me for yaks ages you too can win. Also, there is no limit to how many prizes you can win. So go ahead. If you see something you fancy, please do enter again and again and again.

Important: If you own any of these books do let us know in the comments and we’ll adjust the prizes.

The draw will run from this moment until the 10th of June, 6am Thai time. At that time I’ll announce the winners in the comments below as well as create a dedicated post.

Again, my thanks goes to Orchid Press and Danny from DCO Books for sponsoring these wonderful books. And of course, James Higbie for taking the time to sign copies and choose winners. Good luck everyone!

WLTs 2015 Thai Language Giveaway…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015Pssst … if you haven’t voted in the Language Lovers Competition, please do. It’s the one time out of the year I get to strut my stuff. Cheers!

Share Button

Successful Thai Language Learner: Adam Bradshaw

Successful Thai Language Learner: Adam Bradshaw

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Adam Bradshaw
Nationality: American
Age: 25
Sex: Male
Location: Bangkok
Profession: English Teacher, entrepreneur
Web: YouTube: jadambrad and winkwinkenglish | Twitter: @AjarnAdam | Facebook: ajarnadam

Interviews: Bangkok Podcast Adam Bradshaw | The Nation: It’s all in the language for Adam and Aj.Adam Bradshaw

What is your Thai level?

I guess it depends on the day lol, but usually fluent.

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

I can speak Bangkok Thai the best, but I enjoy learning Isaan Thai as well. There’s something about Isaan Thai that’s just fun and charming.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

Originally I learned Thai because I had to as a volunteer missionary, but I found myself falling in love with the Thai language.

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

I just barely returned to Thailand for the fourth time in the last 5 years. This time I plan on staying for at least a couple years. I first came to Thailand in January 2006 and kept finding reasons to come back!

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

Ever since I arrived in January 2006.

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

Right away.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

2 hours every morning and then throughout the day I would try to avoid speaking English as much as I could.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

I started with Smyth’s, Thai: An Essential Grammar, which I found to be an excellent guide to basic Thai. 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.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

Right from the get go.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

Not particularly considering Thai is a phonetic language and 95 percent of Thai words are read as written.

What was your first ah hah! moment?

After being in the country for about a year, I remember sitting in a Taxi that had a news radio station blaring. Usually I would listen to the radio and be able to pick up a good 60 percent of what was being said, but I remember listening on this particular occasion and thinking, “wow I can understand almost everything being said!”

How do you learn languages?

Directly from the natives.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strength is my ability to have a conversation with anybody about anything. My weakness is sometimes saying something in say 5 words that could have been said in 3 words.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That the language barrier will never be broken haha. Patience is a virtue especially when it comes to learning Thai!

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Hola. Como estas? Bien. That’s about the extent of my knowledge in any other language lol.

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

No way. I focused solely on Thai.

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

Make as many Thai friends as possible and be willing to teach them English in exchange for them helping you with your Thai.

Adam Bradshaw,
YouTube: jadambrad and winkwinkenglish | Twitter: @AjarnAdam | Facebook: ajarnadam

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

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

Share Button

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: The Winner… Again

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

The Teach Yourself Thai Complete draw… again…

Well, this is a fun outcome (as well as a fabulous selling point for David Smyth’s new TYT). Last week I wrote a review and announced a draw: Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai.

And I didn’t do it alone, I had help from two fabulous bloggers in the Thai language community, Kaewmala (Thai Women Talks) and Ajarn Pasa (Tweet Yourself Thai). Kaewmala numbered papers, folded them neatly, put them into a bowl, and drew a number. Hamish (Ajarn Pasa) matched the number to a name.

This week I announced the results: Teach Yourself Thai Complete: The Winner

But when I emailed Peggy, the winner of TYT Complete, she replied with:

Purchased copy already (it sounded so good I couldn’t wait!)

Wow! First let me say thank you very much. But please can you draw again for someone else to win? I’ve already purchased a copy as I thought the program sounded good and that I was probably a long shot in winning the drawing.

It’s an excellent program–thanks Cat for highlighting it or I wouldn’t have heard of it. While I can easily read the Thai conversations, the ability to listen to them is what I really need help with–that’s the “hole” in my basic Thai language skills.

I bet the next drawing winner will find it’s a great resource!

Can do Peggy, can do :-)

The NEW winner of Teach Yourself Thai Complete…

So here we have it. Again. The winner. Only this time Hamish numbered the papers, folded them neatly, put them into a bowl, and drew a number.

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

And this time, Kaewmala will announce the winning name in the comments.

So once more, a special THANKS! from me goes to Kaewmala (Twitter: @Thai_Talk), Hamish (Twitter: @AjarnPasa), David Smyth, and everyone who left comments in the post. Ta!

Share Button

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: The Winner

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

The Teach Yourself Thai Complete draw…

Running a draw can be loads of work, so I aimed to keep this one simple. I went to two fabulous bloggers in the Thai language community, Kaewmala (Thai Women Talks) and Ajarn Pasa (Tweet Yourself Thai) and asked for help.

Kaewmala threw numbers into a beautifully coloured bowl, stirred them around, selected one, and then sent me the winning number. She also sent me the beautiful photos you see here. Ajarn Pasa (Hamish Chalmers) then posted the name that matched the winning number in the comments.

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

Being able to give away a fine product such as Teach Yourself Thai Complete has been great fun. An added plus: Visitors to WLT have come out of lurking mode to introduce themselves in the comments, and tips were passed back and forth.

Thai twitterers and tweets…

I wanted to take this opportunity to point you to not just two fabulous Thai bloggers, but their twitters (tweets?) as well.

Twitter: @AjarnPasa
Bio: Short, timely, situation-based lessons in Thai for the intermediate learner. Read the blog at www.tweetyourselfthai.wordpress.com

AjarnPasa tweets interesting Thai vocabulary and phrases, then goes into the Thai in detail on his blog. Often he will pick timely subjects on Thailand to explain (soooo needed). In real life, AjarnPasa is Hamish Chalmers and you can read his interview on WLT here: Successful Thai Language Learner: Hamish Chalmers.

Twitter: @Thai_Talk
Bio: Thai woman writer, egghead-hired gun, incorrigible teaser and provocateur of Thai language, culture & politics.

Kaewmala digs deep into the Thai language to bring us tweets to twist our Thai imaginations. Who she is in real life has not yet been revealed (and perhaps never will) but I’ll be interviewing Kaewmala soon on WLT in the new Thais Learning Thai series (and you can better bet I’ll try to wiggle out as much as I can). Kaewmala is also the author of the enlightening Thai Sex Talk, reviewed on WLT here: Thai Sex Talk for St Valentine’s Day.

The winner of Teach Yourself Thai Complete…

If you’ve kept up with the comments of Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai, you will already know the winner. If you are coming to this post first, then the winner is…. drumroll…. Peggy.

Congrats Peggy! Well done :-) If you send your address via my contact page I will ship your still plastic wrapped box of Teach Yourself Thai Complete asap.

Since this draw went off with ease, there will be many more in the future. I’ve received a number of learning Thai books, courses and such, and my condo will only hold so much. Something like that.

So a special THANKS! from me goes to Kaewmala, AjarnPasa, David Smyth and the team at TYT, and everyone who left comments in the post. Ta!

Share Button

Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai …

Only a handful of Thai courses are highly thought of, and David Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai is at the very top of that list.

When I asked polyglot Stu Jay Raj which books he’d recommend to students of the Thai language, David’s Teach Yourself Thai was the only course mentioned. And if you remember, Luca Lampariello (another polyglot), explained how he uses the series for his method described on WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages. There are many more kudos aimed at TYT, but I’ll stop here for now.

A heads up: Due to David’s generosity, I ended up with an extra boxed set of Complete Thai: Teach Yourself Thai. If you want to win one of your own, please read on.

Teach Yourself Thai: Contents…

When I sit down to write a review, I first check the contents to see what’s on offer. And skimming down the list below, you can see that Teach Yourself Thai is designed to continuously reinforce each lesson.

  • What you will learn: Overview of the lessons.
  • Dialogues: Thai script and transliteration that follow along with the audio files.
  • Quick vocabulary: Newly introduced words.
  • Insights: Language and culture tips from the author.
  • Key phrases and expressions: Important phrases studied in the lesson.
  • Language notes: Grammar usage pertinent to the lesson.
  • Exercises: Questions to solidify the lessons into your brain.
  • Reading and writing: Practice studying the Thai alphabet, vowels, tones, etc.
  • Reading practice: Practice reading the Thai script previously studied.
  • Key points: Outline of the main elements of each lesson.

To make sure the necessary subjects are covered, I also spend time with the chapter contents.

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai

  • Meet the author: A brief background on David Smyth.
  • Only got a minute, five minutes, ten minutes?: Crash course on Thailand and the Thai language.
  • Introduction: A bit more about the Thai language, as well as how to use the course.
  • Pronunciation: Introduction to a tonal language.
  • Lesson 1: How to say hello and goodbye, polite particles, addressing people, low class consonants, vowels, 1-10.
  • Lesson 2: Your name, your nationality and place of origin, confirmation seeking question: chai mai, what questions, mid class consonants, vowels, 11-20.
  • Lesson 3: Job conversations, where questions, location words, possession, live and dead syllables, 21-101.
  • Lesson 4: Polite expressions, yes and no questions, mai and ler, location expressions, low class consonants, vowels, vowel shortener.
  • Lesson 5: Taxi talk, how much questions, using can: verb + dai, hesitation device: gor, high class consonants, 1000-1,000,000.
  • Lesson 6: Buying food at the market, asking what something is called, asking someone to repeat a word, question word + nai, yes no questions: ler and na, script review.
  • Lesson 7: Shopping transactions, polite requests: kor + verb + noy, how questions, classifiers, colours, continuous actions, tone mark: mai ayk.
  • Lesson 8: Ordering food, polite requests: kor + noun, reu yung, questions, alternative questions: X rue Y, location words: krun and tahng, two different uses of dooay, mai toh, and other tone marks.
  • Lesson 9: Names of dishes, would like to: yak ja + verb hai, getting someone to do something, using can, verb + bpen, if sentences, verb + lairo, low class consonants, vowels.
  • Lesson 10: Talking about your knowledge of Thai, verb + bpen + adverb, why questions, comparisons, mai koy – tao rai, using not very, words beginning with consonant clusters.
  • Lesson 11: Kin terms, asking how many, asking who, nah + verb, less common consonants, vowel shortener.
  • Lesson 12: Talking on the telephone, talking about the future, ja + verb, when questions, polite requests: chooy + verb + noy, verbs for saying and thinking with wah, seeking advice and making suggestions, miscellaneous spelling rules.
  • Lesson 13: Coping strategies for when you don’t understand, to know: sahp, roo, roo jack, use of hai to mean for, names of letters, using a Thai dictionary.
  • Lesson 14: How to talk about living and working in Bangkok, talking about things that happened in the past: keree + verb, ways of intensifying adjectives and adverbs, more uses for gor.
  • Lesson 15: Making travel arrangements, to visit: teeo and yee um, expressing distance between two places, telling the time, questions about time.
  • Lesson 16: Booking a hotel, days of the week, rue bplao, questions.
  • Lesson 17: Looking for accommodation, gum lung ja + verb, negative questions, relative pronouns, months and seasons, dates and ordinal numbers, hai: to give, mai dai + verb.
  • Key to the exercises: Answers to the lessons.
  • Appendices: Consonant classes, Vowels, summary of tone rules, taking it further.
  • Thai-English vocabulary: Roughly 400 words.
  • English-Thai vocabulary: Roughly 400 words.
  • Grammar index: Page numbers to locate the grammar rules discussed in the lessons.

I’m not going to go over each aspect of the course, but I would like to bring up the above mentioned 400 word vocabulary list.

The early stages of learning a tonal language such as Thai can be rough because everything is new. But with learning most any language, we are told that communicating at a basic level is possible with a bare bones vocabulary of 500. Fine. I buy that. Sort of.

But here’s the thing… where do we start with Thai? I’m bringing up this because, unlike with other languages, there is no such list available for the top 500, 1000, 2000, or 3000 words even, that one must know to get by in Thai.

Bottom line: David’s course is designed to teach students how to use 400 of the most commonly used Thai words (yes, I peeked – and yes, there are more than 400).

So there you go. The top 400 must know Thai words = an important selling point of David’s Teach Yourself Thai Complete.

Going for the quotes…

For comparisons, I do have the earlier version of Teach Yourself Thai. But instead of explaining the differences to you, I thought it more beneficial to ask David Smyth for a run-down of his updated work.

The new version of Teach Yourself Thai (called Teach Yourself Complete Thai) is, at 358 pages, rather longer than the previous edition (242 pages).

I like to think that there have been a number of improvements. The first and second editions had 2 long dialogues in each unit, which was the standard format for all Teach Yourself language books. The result was that the dialogues were rather long and sometimes contained too much vocabulary and grammar for the learner to take on comfortably in one section. In the present edition, most units contain 3 or 4 shorter dialogues which, I hope, makes the content easier to absorb.

Another significant difference is that Thai script is now included in the language notes, with example sentences now appearing over 3 lines, in Romanized Thai, followed by Thai script and then English translation. This means that there is now more Thai script in this edition than the previous one. By covering up one or two of the lines, users can use the examples to test themselves on their reading and writing. I was really pleased that the publisher recognized the value of this revision, even though it is not the most efficient use of space on the page.

Other changes include revised ‘insight’ notes, a ‘key points’ section at the end of each unit, more pronunciation exercises, replacing some unwieldy dialogues (e.g getting to the Reno Hotel in a samlor, and buying four 12-baht stamps) and updating with words like ‘internet’ and ‘Suvarnabhumi.

No matter how many times you proof read a book like this, there are always misprints and errors that slip through. If any users notice errors and care to inform me at I will try to ensure that the corrections are incorporated in future reprints.

Btw: David’s interview on WLT can be read here: Successful Thai Language Learner: David Smyth.

Polyglot Geoffrey Barto from Multilingua (and others) recently wrote a review of the Teach Yourself Complete update.

With Teach Yourself Complete, it feels like some real strides have been made. There seems to be more emphasis on content and doing something with it and less emphasis on puzzling things out by means of vocabulary lists.

If you take up the whole package – text plus CDs – and load the CDs on your iPod, you wind up with a fairly handy program for learning [ ] 5-15 minutes at a time. If you’re short of time, you can do one dialog. If you’ve got half an hour to kill, you can make it halfway through a chapter. In either case, you should start by listening, then turn to the book to make sure you’ve understood. In this way, for the first time, you can really use a Teach Yourself course to learn a language by ear while having a text as a fallback, instead of the other way around.

And as Sophie (regular visitor and fellow hermit) is presently learning Thai via TYT, I asked for her opinion as well.

I cannot say enough positive things about Teach Yourself Thai by David Smyth. I have been trying other resources and I have to say this one works the best for me and is my absolute favorite. It is the one I will be using. Why?  Because it is so wonderfully well written, clear, and easy to understand.

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself ThaiI love the way the lessons progress and build upon each other. He puts it all together as far as the study course. Read, write, listen, and repeat, repeat, repeat. The audio is clear and easy to understand and I love the voices of the people he chose to use. If I don’t care for someone’s voice it is extremely hard to listen to them. I like the way he gives you a road map of how to draw the letters. I love how he explains everything so well and it is actually interesting to read and certainly helps one grasp the reason behind it all. I am so new to learning Thai but his book truly makes me feel like I can definitely do this.

How to improve this course…

As I mentioned – or did I? – I believe that Teach Yourself Thai is one of the top courses for beginners of the Thai language. But even so, improvements can be made.

  • Thai script: Even with the increased amount of Thai script, more could be added.
  • Binding: The binding of the book did not last long (either that or I’m awfully hard on books).
  • Audio: In addition to the present audio files, audio without English speakers would increase the usefulness.

If I were to shoot for the moon, I’d also like flashcards with sound, online games, etc, to compliment this course.

Now, this next point I’m making is not about improving the course, but a heads-up. The transliteration targets some British speakers and you might be confused when the audio files are not what you expected. So when you come across fuzzy spots, perhaps write down what you believe you are hearing? Just a thought.

Where to buy Teach Yourself Thai Complete…

When Teach Yourself Thai Complete first arrived in Bangkok, it was the book only (no boxed set with audio files). A few weeks later, the entire package appeared at Kinokuniya. It was total weirdness back then so I’m guessing that the delay was due to the Red Shirts taking over our shopping district.

For online stores, Amazon has the product at their UK branch: Complete Thai: Teach Yourself (Book/CD Pack). And the UK Book Depository has it in stock as well: Teach Yourself Complete Thai (Teach Yourself Complete Courses) (Paperback). But at the time of this post, I have been unable to locate it in US stores.

Now about that contest…

When I decided to review Teach Yourself Thai, I bought a copy at Paragon. And when I contacted David for a quote, I was sent another copy (thanks TY!) And now one of those copies is up for grabs.

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.

Each comment gets counted, so go ahead and leave as many as you like. But the comments must add to the conversation as well as pertain to this post. So ‘cool’ ‘great’ ‘rad’ on their own do not count as comments. Nor does, ‘this contest is really really fab and I really, really, really, wanna win a copy’.

The draw will run a week and be over on Thursday morning, 8am BKK time. I will number the reasonable comments and email the total to Kaewmala (Thai Women Talks). Kaewmala will throw the numbers into a beautifully coloured bowl, stir them around a bit, select one, and then announce the winning number in the comments below. Ajarn Pasa (Tweet Yourself Thai) will come in with the name that matches the winning number.

And that’s it really. If this draw goes well, I will consider a repeat as I’m sitting here with dual copies of a number of Thai courses and resources.

Share Button

Successful Thai Language Learner: David Smyth

David Smyth

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: David Smyth
Nationality: British
Age range: 50-60
Sex: Male
Location: UK
Profession: University lecturer

Books/Products: Thai: An Essential Grammar, Teach Yourself Thai, Linguaphone Thai Course (with Manas Chitakasem) + translations of a number of Thai novels and short stories.

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

Bangkok Thai.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

A youthful infatuation with a Thai girl, which led me to apply to study Thai as part of a BA South East Asian Studies at SOAS.

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

Not now, but l lived in the country from the mid 1970s until the early 1980s, teaching English at Thammasat University and later at Srinakharinwirot University.

If you live elsewhere, how often are you in Thailand?

In recent years, every 12-24 months.

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

More than 30 years.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

Yes. It was part of my degree course, the class was small and I was highly motivated. Like most language degree courses at the time, there was much more emphasis on reading, writing and translating than on speaking, although I did spend a good few hours in a language lab, doing drills like those in Marvin Brown’s AUA Thai Course and listening to comprehension passages.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

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.

Did one method stand out over all others?

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.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

From the very beginning.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

No. The script was presented in manageable chunks and progress was quick. We began by learning the most common low class consonants, and followed a similar order to that presented in Marvin Brown’s AUA Thai Course: Reading, Teach Yourself Thai and the Linguaphone Thai Course. Credit for first recognizing that learning consonants by class, rather than traditional alphabetic order, would enable the foreigner to learn to read more quickly, goes to Basil Osborn Cartwright, a teacher of English at the Royal Civil Service College in Bangkok, who introduced his system in his Elementary Handbook of the Siamese language, published in 1906. Yet 100 years later there are still teachers of Thai and authors of Thai language books for foreigners who expect their students to spend early lessons memorizing letters they will hardly ever encounter.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

I’m afraid that I tend to remember only the ‘how-could-I-have-possibly- said/mispronounced/misunderstood-that-and why-wouldn’t-the-earth-swallow-me-up-moments?’

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

At first my hearing was not good. If I asked a Thai, ‘What was that word you just said?’ and they repeated the word in isolation, I had no idea what tone they had produced and therefore mispronounced it when I tried to repeat it. I had a farang friend who could not read Thai but could always repeat what he heard perfectly, much to the admiration of Thais. He made me feel inadequate. I eventually got round the problem by asking Thais to write the word down for me, and once I could see it on paper, I knew what the tone should be. Suddenly the roles were reversed. Thais saw that I could not only pronounce Thai correctly, but could read, too. Victory was mine! Happily, over time, my ears gradually got more attuned to what to listen out for; and I learned how to pass the blame – a bad telephone line, going slightly deaf, so-and-so not expressing themselves clearly.

In the end I think it is important to recognize that we each have our own strengths and weaknesses in language learning and that by working on the weaknesses we can always improve – if we want to.

How do you learn languages?

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.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

One misconception is that if you get a tone wrong, Thais will not understand you. Another is that if you can’t immediately ‘hear’ or distinguish tones, you might as well not waste any further time trying to learn the language. Some learners can hear and reproduce tones accurately almost from the outset, while others take longer … yet still get there.

Another misconception is that it is good enough just to speak and there is no need to write. Back in 1906 Basil Osborn Cartwright cautioned ‘those who imagine they can ‘pick up’ a smattering of the language in a few weeks by trying to learn words in a parrot-like fashion from romanized versions which are invariably misleading’ and which is an ‘absolute waste of time, money and frequently of temper also.’

Can you make your way around any other languages?

At a push!

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

No.

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

Become literate. Being able to read Thai makes it much easier to take responsibility for your own learning. It also shows Thais that you are serious about learning the language so they are more likely to want to help you to achieve your goals. Not being literate imposes severe limitations on your opportunities to make progress.

  • Make friends with Thais.
  • Use tv/radio/internet etc.
  • Accept mistakes as a natural part of language learning.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Everyone has good and bad days.

David Smyth
Thai: An Essential Grammar | Teach Yourself Thai | Linguaphone Thai Course

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Getting advice from experienced Thai language learners is important. If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your knowledge with those coming up, please contact me to make it so.

Share Button