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

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Tag: online Thai courses

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)

Share Button

Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Hut

Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Hut

Thai Language Hut…

Website: Thai Language Hut
Address: 9/1 Baansaengmukda, Sukhumvit Road, Soi 43, Klongtan Nua, Wattana Bangkok 10110
Tel: 02-262-0618

Location: The website states: “10-15 minutes walk from the nearest Sukhumvit Road BTS Station, Phrom Phong”. In reality it’s a pretty darn long slog (or maybe I’m just a slow walker) so you might be better off catching a taxi from the Phrom Phong BTS. But, once you get close, you can’t miss it. It’s on Soi 43 about 100 meters down the Soi on the left, there’s a sign on the sub-soi for the school, and the driveway is in blue and tan tiles.

Basic Info: On my first visit to Thai Language Hut they sported Benjawan Becker’s books and CDs on bookshelves in the reception area. At the time it appeared their courses were taught with Benjawan’s books only. But, when conversing with the teachers, I was told they have their own materials too.

Thai Language Hut has a presence on You Tube: Thai Language Hut. In the videos they go over useful, high frequency words and phrases. I’ve been a subscriber for quite some time and believe Thai Language Hut’s YouTube channel is well worth checking out.

Materials: I decided to review Thai Language Hut after they emailed to say they’re partnering with Paiboon Publishing (Benjawan Becker) to offer a “learn Thai anywhere” program. Benjawan Becker has easily done more in the learning Thai market than any other Thai out there. Her materials are well presented and explained. And, in my opinion, the phonetics (especially the Paiboon Plus version) make the most sense of any karaoke Thai available. It’s interesting to note that Thai Language Hut uses Benjawan’s phonetics for the in-house material too. Doing so keeps a consistency between Benjawan’s courses and the supplemental materials.

As far as creating material specific for a students needs (once basic Thai is acquired), Thai Language Hut is riding the wave like the other schools I’ve toured. To make classes relevant to specific students, they combine a wide variety of subjects to better dial in a student’s Thai in areas pertinent to their interests. I think we’ll be seeing more of this as time goes by. I’m all for it.

Method: As I already mentioned, Thai Language Hut uses Benjawan’s books, so obviously, the beginner Thai class follows along. However, the similarity stops there. Having a live teacher opens the learning process to a greater degree than the dialogs found in the book. For instance, subjects are explained in more detail, with new words being incorporated into the lesson. In this regard, learning via Benjawan’s books with a Thai teacher is far superior to just working thru them on your own.

The school also has a LOT of supplemental stuff geared towards the chapters in Benjawan’s books, so it’s a double dose of Thai. The teachers concentrate on getting students speaking Thai quickly, so use phonetics. But if a student can already read Thai, the reading materials are available as well.

Teachers: The teachers I watched giving online lessons were good. In fact, they were great (even though I couldn’t hear the students). The teachers took their time. They had students repeat words to correct pronunciation, they drilled phrases, and went over dialog. And the teacher’s grasp of English was more than adequate to explain the inz-&-outz of how Thai is different from English. Even though I only heard the teacher’s side of the conversation, the students seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Classes: Thai Language Hut concentrates on private classes, although they’ll teach small groups of the same level of students. They also provide corporate training.

Thai Language Hut offers classes at the school or online for the same price. The purchased blocks of time are good for calendar a year. That way, if a student can’t study for a while, they’re not penalized. Also, if a student leaves Thailand, they can continue to study online without a hiccup.

Sidenote: Given the wide variety of students who enroll in Thai language classes, private lessons might be the way to go. In group classes the teacher is compelled to teach to the slowest student. Now, if you’re in a group slower than you, you’ll be held back. But if you’re in a group with ninja language learners you just might be the slow one, so it cuts both ways. Going private, a student can have lessons tailored to subjects they find value in. Teachers then concentrate solely on the individual student’s objective. Also, you can ask to go over lessons that doesn’t click right away. And if you want to learn to speak via phonetics, no problem. If you want to learn to read and write, again, no problem.

ED Visa: Thai Language Hut isn’t registered with the Ministry of Education, so you’ll have to sort out your visa situation. Still, that’s not a bad thing. In Bangkok there are more than a few unregistered schools that turn out proficient Thai speakers, so don’t let that put you off from checking out Thai Language Hut. I watched a MOE inspection awhile back and it was painstakingly slow and mind-numbingly tedious, so I don’t blame them there!

Bang-4-The-Baht: I’ve always been a fan of Benjawan’s material. It’s presented in a way most foreigners seem to be able to wrap their heads around quickly. I also like how Benjawan incorporates learning to read early on in the learning Thai process. And while I’m not of the opinion that learning to read Thai improves spoken pronunciation in the slightest (unless you’re reading Thai off a piece of paper), I do think if you’re gonna learn to speak, you might as well learn to read too.

I’d rate Thai Language Hut as definitely having very good “bang-4-the-baht”. They get high marks for using Benjawan’s books along with the supplemental tie-ins. Plus they have the added flexibility of being able to teach anywhere in the world you happen to be at the time.

To find out if the way they teach Thai clicks with how you learn things, go ahead and take a free one hour lesson.

As always, hope you found this review of value.

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

Share Button

Top Thai Language Learning Resources

Top Thai Resources

Resources for (mostly) entry-level learners…

In the WLT Resources there’s a section dedicated to Learning Thai. Some resources are quite brilliant. Others are focused on smaller windows into Thai learning. Below are my personal favourites.

Thai Language Learning sites:

ITS4Thai
Learn the Thai language with the Bangkok based e-learning company, ITS4Knowledge (free and paid).

Langhub.com
Mp3 audio and mp4 video files for learners of the Thai language (free).

Learning Thai the Easy Way
Home of Read With Manee, it’s also an extensive resource to learning all things Thai (free).

Learn Thai Podcast
Thai language lessons and online course by your kind hosts, Jo and Jay (free and paid).

Learn to Speak Like a Thai – SpokenThai.com (offline for now)
Video and audio clips of real situations and conversations to help you speak like a Thai (free).

SEAsite Thai Language and Culture Learning Resources
Supported by Northern Illinois University and the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, SEAsite offers a comprehensive resource for learning the Thai language (free).

slice-of-thai.com: Thai Language
slice-of-thai.com has a generous offer of Thai learning aids: Thai consonant / vowel flash cards, consonant shape learning aid, voice viewer, the five tones of Thai, the consonant sounds of Thai, the vowel sounds of Thai, syllable stress, pronunciation guide systems of Thai, free Thai fonts, resources and websites for learning Thai (free).

Thai-language.com
Thai lessons for beginners to advanced students living, working, or retired in Thailand (free).

Online Course Materials:

FSI Thai Basic Course
Language courses developed by the Foreign Service Institute. Mp3 and ebook downloads (free).

The Fundamentals of the Thai Language
Text book (with sound) for English speakers to learn how to speak, read and write Thai. Fifth Edition version, by Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevongs (free).

Thai Language Textbook for Foreigners
Textbook by the Commission on Higher Education (CHE) in cooperation with Chiang Mai University. Listening and speaking, reading and writing (free).

Spoken Thai
Adapted from the book of the same name, by Mary R. Haas and Heng R. Subhanka.

Thai Language Courses (with Cd’s):

Benjawan Poomsan Becker Series from Paiboon Publishing: Book, CD’s (American / Thai speakers) and online resources. Speak, listen, read and write the Thai language – Thai For Beginners, Thai for Intermediate Learners, Thai for Advanced Readers, Improving Your Thai Pronunciation, Speak Like a Thai – vol 1 and 2, Practical Thai Conversation 1 and 2 and all be purchased online at Paiboon Publishing.

Byki Thai
Free and pay SRS course. Read my review, Byki Thai Language Course.

Lingaphone
Book and CD’s (British / Thai speakers). Listen, understand and speak the Thai language.

Pimsleur
CD’s only (American / Thai speakers). No textbooks. Written exercises and drills to hear, learn, and speak the Thai language. Used by the FBI, CIA, and business professionals.

Shortcut for Speaking Thai
An excellent deal, it comes with a book and three CD’s.

Teach Yourself Complete Thai
Book and CD’s (British / Thai speakers). Listen, read, write, practice, speak. By David Smyth, author of Thai: An Essential Grammar.

Thai Learning Courses (books only):

AUA Language Centre
Books only. The course is dated and dry, but useful if you can slug it out. Learning with a trained AUA teacher is advised. Not minding their transliteration method, a must.

Thai Reference Books:

Thai: An Essential Grammar also on Kindle.
Guide to the basic structures of the Thai language. Useful for both students and independent learners.

Thai-English English-Thai Dictionary for Non-Thai Speakers
Brought to us by the prolific Benjawan Poomsan Becker.

Thai Reference Grammar
Information on the advanced sentence structure of the Thai language. Written for students and teachers. Written by James Higbie, who also wrote my favourite Thai course, Essential Thai.

Online Thai – English Dictionaries:

English – Thai Dictionary OnLine!
An additional plus is their Thai Dictionary forum (no longer active).

Longdo
English-Thai, Japanese-Thai, German-Thai, French-Thai Dictionary Service. Tip: Be sure to switch to English, as well as check out their downloads page to access their toolbars and more.

SEAlang Library Thai Dictionary
Based on the Mary Haas Thai Dictionary Project.

Thai-language.com Dictionary
Over 36698 Thai words and phrases with English definitions, and 13140 audio clips.

Thai to English dictionary & transliteration
Also known as T2E. This is the online dictionary I use for transliteration on WLT.

Books on Learning Languages:

How to Learn Any Language
Interesting concept (review in the works…)

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast
You can read my review on WLT here.

Language Learning Forums:

How-to-learn-any-language.com
Serious language forum for polyglots and polyglot hopefuls.

Learning Thai: Paknam Web Thailand Forums
Extensive resources for learning the Thai language.

Thai-language.com forum
Forum discussions include learning Thai, Thai language learning books and courses, Thai culture and travel, and more.

Thai Visa Thai Language Forum
A wide-ranging and helpful forum where members range from beginners to academics.

Thai Language Blogs:

Behind the Curtain – Stuart Jay Raj
Original home of Stuart Jay Raj’s ‘Cracking Thai Fundamentals’. Stu now has the wonderful jcademy.com (check it out).

Learn Thai from a White Guy
Excellent posts to get you galvanized into learning the Thai language. The only thing missing is sound (which reminds me…)

Thai 101
One of the top Thai language blogs, with educational posts on Thai language, history and culture.

Thai Language Tricks
Excellent blog, but stalled in April with All Hell broke loose.

Sanook Lei!
Hilarious TV commercials from Thailand (a great way to listen to Thai).

Language Learning Blogs:

All Japanese All The Time Dot Com
Insert Thai for Japanese and you are home free with 10,000 sentences and SRS (my new toy).

Language Geek
A student studying languages, posting his opinions and experiences as he goes.

Multilingua.info Presents Confessions of a Language Addict
Constant niggles to keep you excited about learning a new language.

Learning the Thai Alphabet:

60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet
Online flash-style book (PC). A quick jump-start into learning the Thai Alphabet.

Reading Thai is Fun
Soft cover book with an easy to use method for learning to read and write in Thai.

Learning the Thai Language Through Music:

ethaimusic.com (offline for now) Thai Music, Thai Lyrics and Thai Songs
For people who want to learn Thai through music.

Top 10 Thai Music Charts
Many of the Thai songs have been translated into English.

Thai – English Children’s Books:

Nanmee Books
Books with combo English and Thai.

Nation Egmont
Publishers of the beautiful Thai-English You Wouldn’t Want to… series, as well as others for young children, to teens.

Shadowing:

Getting Started with Shadowing
The basics of shadowing. Includes further links for more.

Foreign Language Study
The site of Alexander Arguelles, polyglot. Excellent tips on how to learning a foreign language by using the shadowing method.

10000 Sentences Resources:

10,000 Sentences
How.

10,000 Sentences
Input Before Output.

10,000 Sentences
Learn Any Language.

10,000 Sentences
Answers To Questions.

SRS – Spaced Repetition System:

What is an SRS? 1
Khatzumoto shows the way with SRS.

What is an SRS? 2
Khatzumoto goes into more SRS detail.

SRS Products:

Anki
A program designed to help you remember words and phrases (Mac, Windows, Linux and Debian).

Byki
After playing around with others, Byki is my preferred SRS. You can download the free version, or opt for the editable full version.

ProVoc
Easy-to-use vocabulary trainer (Mac).

SuperMemo
A learning method that makes it possible to learn fast and retain memories for years (Windows).

The Mnemosyne Project
A flash-card program to help you memorise question/answer pairs, but with an important twist: it uses a sophisticated algorithm to schedule the best time for a card to come up for review (Mac, Linux and Windows).

If you have favourite language learning resources, please feel free to contact me via WLT’s contact form, or leave a note in the comments.

Note: This post will be edited.
Last edit: 10 Sept 2014

Share Button