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TPR: Total Physical Response 500+ Thai Word List Translated


In Andrej’s post, TPR: Total Physical Response Explained, he went over the basics of TPR for us.

The main idea of TPR is to teach comprehension through actions: the instructor gives commands, and the student carries them out. It is mostly used with beginners. Usually, the student doesn’t speak during TPR sessions, but speaking can be integrated later by having students take on the role of the instructor.

To help you with possible words and phrases, below is an edited version of Reid Wilson’s 502 Words that Can Be Learned with Total Physical Response, translated into Thai.

PDF: Total Physical Response Thai Word List.

The translations were done by Khun Pairoa and myself, then checked by Khun Narisa (thaiskypeteachers.com). Any mistakes are mine.

UPDATE: Tracy took the time to put together the below video created from the list. He’s so cute :)

I got a Thai friend to do audio, and a couple of my kids made a short video that we can use with my younger children. I appreciate you posting the list of 500 words in Thai. Thanks.

Please feel free to suggest more words and phrases to improve the list. After they’ve been added, audio will be recorded.

PSSST: The words and phrases in this list would work wonderfully as a smartphone app.

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TPR: Total Physical Response Explained


Total Physical Response (TPR) is a language teaching method developed by James Asher and has been in use for several decades. There’s a large amount of information, including sample curricula, on the web, and Asher and his colleagues have also published various books, available for instance from tpr-world.

The main idea of TPR is to teach comprehension through actions: the instructor gives commands, and the student carries them out. It is mostly used with beginners. Usually, the student doesn’t speak during TPR sessions, but speaking can be integrated later by having students take on the role of the instructor.

A typical first TPR session…

The instructor and the student sit on a chair. The instructor says “stand up” (in the target language) and stands up, then “sit down” and sits down. He repeats this one or two more times and then invites the student to do the action with him (for instance, using a hand gesture) – “stand up” – both stand up, “sit down” – both sit down. This is repeated a few times. Finally, the instructor stays on his chair and just says the commands, and the student performs the actions. This is again repeated a few times.

Now the instructor adds a new phrase, for instance “point to the door”. In order to introduce the new phrase, the instructor demonstrates it a couple of times alone and then does it together with the student a few more times before the student does it alone. Such a sequence could look as follows:

Instructor demonstrates the new phrase alone: stand up – point to the door – sit down – point to the door – stand up – sit down – point to the door – stand up – point to the door.

Instructor and student together: stand up – point to the door – sit down – point to the door – stand up – sit down – stand up – point to the door – sit down – point to the door – point to the door.

Student alone: (random mix of commands).

After “point to the door”, the instructor could introduce “point to the window”, “point to the table”, “point to the ceiling” one by one. After having introduced the verb “to point” and the nouns “door”, “window”, “table”, “ceiling”, the instructor could teach a new verb, ”to go”, with the same nouns: “go to the door”, “go to the window”, “go to the table”. Next, this could be expanded with “look at”, “run to”, and other objects available in that particular room.

In TPR, it should be avoided to “test” the student, the goal is always to have 100% success with any command. If the student can’t respond correctly, then the instructor has made a mistake. There are three basic rules for the instructor to make this fun and help the student learn:

  1. New phrases need to be introduced one by one.
  2. New and old phrases need to be mixed in an unpredictable, random way, and.
  3. Newly introduced phrases need to be practiced until the student is really confident before moving on.

Another important rule, especially in the beginning, is to keep the form of the command and the introduced phrases fixed. Even small changes to familiar phrases are likely to cause confusion, and with confusion learning breaks down.

Nothing is translated in TPR – students learn to understand the new language through actions. Associating sounds and actions is a powerful and efficient way of learning, and it can also be a lot of fun for both sides. TPR in its basic form can be used to teach a lot of concrete vocabulary by making creative use of the objects available in the house or class room. Advanced TPR phrases could be “put the red pen next to the book… now take the cup and hold it for a moment… now put the cup on the plate… now take the blue pen and put it in the cup…”, or you could even teach advanced sentence structures like “if the blue pen is in the cup, then take the bottle” or “shut the door after you’ve put the book on the table”.

My own experience with TPR…

Earlier last year I did a few TPR sessions with three different instructors as a beginner student of Khmer. I prepared my own curriculum, and instead of the instructor demonstrating a new action, I did it myself and had the instructor say the corresponding Khmer command. After a few rounds of eliciting the new command, we would do the normal sequence: the instructor giving commands, I performing the action. It was an interesting and fun experience, and I certainly would have continued if I had stayed in the area.

In the very beginning, I couldn’t distinguish individual words, but as soon as several commands of the same type were introduced (“go to the door”, “go to the window”, “go to the chair”), some words became clear (“go to”). Later more and more words became clear (“door”: “go to the door”, “point to the door”, “open the door”, “close the door”), until full phrases were transparent. I struggled when I went too quickly with new words, or sometimes with words that sounded similar (I remember mixing up table and cupboard), but otherwise it was surprisingly efficient. It was an amazing feeling to see myself respond correctly to that alien new language almost from the get-go.

At the end of this post, I would like to suggest two TPR-inspired techniques which can be used with a (trained) native speaker friend: Dirty Dozen, and TPR with objects. Similar to TPR, these two techniques are based on the idea that comprehension comes first, speaking later. One night’s sleep before activating the new vocabulary seems to be a good general guidance.

Dirty Dozen…

Dirty Dozen is a stripped down version of TPR aimed at learning a set of new words (a dozen seems to be a good number, not too few and not too many). These words can be names of objects, but also verbs or other words shown in pictures. Instead of doing some action, the learner (and the instructor during the training phase) just points to the correct object or part of a picture. As in TPR, one starts with two or three words and then adds one after the other. Supporting phrases in Dirty Dozen are usually “This is X” – “Where is X?” or “Show me X!”. 

As an example, you could go with your instructor to a motorbike parked on the street and start learning the parts it’s made of.

TPR with objects…

This works with almost any object – chopsticks, a jar, your purse, a notepad etc. Take the object and start manipulating it Dirty Dozen style. There’s an amazing amount of language which can be practiced with simple objects. For example, with a paper cup you could learn: take, give, turn upside down, push, drop, fill, empty, drink, sip, hold, crush, perforate, put in, take out, stack (if you have more than one), spin, roll, balance on two fingers, etc etc. For a buck or two, you can buy bits and pieces to practice colors, comparisons, shapes etc. There are many, many possibilities.

The process is always the same: the instructor says the new phrase and demonstrates it a few times, and then lets you do it. New phrases are introduced one by one, and new and old phrases are mixed randomly. In the initial session, the student just does the action and doesn’t speak, but student and instructor can switch roles the next day if the student wants to activate the new vocabulary.

NOTE: The post, Total Physical Response 500+ Thai Word List Translated (pdf download included) is live. Sound files will come later (after I get suggestions).

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So You Want to Learn a Language

Learn a language

The Mother of all Language Learning Resources…

When I started researching on the Internet for Thai learning resources, I found more than a few sites with broken links. So instead of collecting sites with resources, I created a page of my own and called it Learn Thai for FREE.

After all these years it continues to be a work in process, but the point is that I can lay my hands on links I found ages ago.

Awhile back I came across So you want to learn a language, a treasure trove of language learning links. I have most (but not all) of the Thai resources covered on WLT.

For Thai, go straight to >> Specific languages >> Thai.

The rest (like Italian) are going to take me a good long while to wade through.

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Please Vote to add Thai Language to LingQ!

Please Vote for THAI on LingQ!

Please Vote to add the Thai Language to LingQ…

We need your help getting Thai on LingQ. At present, LingQ supports about 10 languages including Japanese, Chinese, and Korean, but not Thai. The first step to getting Thai on LingQ is to get 1000 votes for Thai to be added as a beta language.

To vote Thai, go to LingQ’s Facebook page: What language should we add next?

So, what’s LingQ all about?…

If you are unfamiliar with LingQ, watch this video:

Why do we want Thai on LingQ?…

Last week Scott contacted me about rousting everyone to convince LingQ to add Thai. I looked into LingQ several years back but was unable to generate much interest for Thai, so moved on to supporting other resources for learning Thai. But since then, there’s been a marked increase in the numbers of students learning Thai, so hopefully this time our votes will make a difference.

As I don’t have recent experience with LingQ I asked Scott to step in to explain:

Scott: I’ve been using LingQ to learn Russian for a few months and I think the biggest benefit is its versatility. If you like extensive reading you can just read and use the dictionary if you get stuck. If you want to do intensive reading then you can create “LingQs” for your unknown words and review them by doing basic flashcards, cloze deletions, dictation, or multiple choice.

All lessons have audio so you can practice any combination of listening, reading, shadowing, etc. For the fully supported languages, it has tons of material ranging from beginner dialogues up to complete radio programs. It is also easy to add your own material and has apps for Android and iOS which allow you to review your lessons on the go. It is the best language learning tool I’ve found and it would be a huge help to my Thai studies if it was added.

Scott in turn asked polyglot Wulfgar to expound even further:

Wulfgar: I’m glad that there is an effort to make Thai a supported language on LingQ. I have been using LingQ for about a year to study 4 different languages – French, Russian, Japanese and Mandarin. It’s an excellent tool. There are many different ways to use it, and it has a variety of functions, but let me tell you what I use it for. There is a stage in my studies when I am trying to accumulate enough vocabulary to read native material. This can be a really intensive and grueling experience with a book, for example. I used to trudge through a book, page by page, looking up words in a paper dictionary, setting aside unknown words for memorization. Difficult, time consuming, but it works. An improvement to this was mouse-over dictionaries. These allowed me to quickly see the definition, and some would even build a list of words that I looked up.

LingQ has gone several steps further. It has a mouse over dictionary which keeps track of unknown words, of course. It highlights unknown words blue, and previously looked up words yellow, which I find very helpful when reading. It has flashcards, or an export function that will let you use your own flashcard software. There is a library full of material of different levels, most of which has audio. I really like to read material that also has audio – the reading and listening reinforce each other. It’s very convenient being able to go to the library to get material; no more searching all over the place to find it. And because it keeps track of your known words, you can tell how difficult a lesson will be for you (how many unknown words per minute for example) and chose appropriately.

As I mentioned earlier, I use it to study 4 languages. Having a single location for all of these saves a lot of time. I often create my own lessons, uploading material into LingQ. For example, I’m reading the Count of Monte Cristo in French, which is publicly available online, so I load a chapter at a time when I want to read. Sometimes I pull something difficult into LingQ just to see how hard it really is – I check the unknown word count. I’ve put in subtitles of movies, letters from friends, etc.

I’m a big believer in Krashen’s i+1 theory, or something similar to it. I believe one acquires language most efficiently at a level (i+1) slightly above their current state of language proficiency (i). Consistently using lingQ lessons which have low levels of new words (less that 10 per minute for me) is an excellent way to follow this theory. Making difficult material more comprehensible, or knocking it down to the i+1 level, accomplishes this also. For example, listening to the same material that you read, memorizing unknown words with flashcards, etc. There are many ways to accomplish this, and LingQ can be a big help.

Back to Thai. I’m currently learning Thai, and I’m at the point where I want to become a reader of native material. There are some nice tools for Thai, but they aren’t as useful or convenient as what LingQ would offer. There is an effort to gather lots of existing lessons together to fill the library, and a standing offer from an individual to create many new lessons something like Thai Recordings, but mostly dialogue based. LingQ would offer a mouse-over dictionary, which would parse something like the bulk lookup in Thai Notes, which is imo the best free online parser by far. There are some who say it’s impossible to parse Thai, but I disagree because it’s already been done, and without forcing spaces between words.

In summary, I hope you all will vote for LingQ to implement Thai. It’s a great tool that can be used in many ways, and will dramatically improve the resources to study this beautiful language.

Again, please help us add Thai to LingQ by voting. Go ahead, send your brothers, your mothers, your husbands and lovers to all vote Thai!: What language should we add next?

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Questions… Questions… Lani and Mia from Thai Girl Talk

Thai Girl Talk

Questions at Thai Girl Talk…

Thai Girl TalkWe’re so excited to guest post on WLT for our podcast Thai Girl Talk.

But after we agreed to interview each other, Mia and I couldn’t agree on what questions to ask…

Lani: Do you feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body or a woman perfectly happy in her own body?

Mia: I’m not sure I understand the question.

Lani: Oh, Mia!

Mia: Let’s talk about Thai Girl Talk (TGT). For example, what is TGT?

Lani: It’s a weekly podcast about Thai language and culture.

Mia: Exactly. People will also want to know who we are.

Lani: Well, we are both teachers. Although you teach Thai, and I teach English…oh they can read about us on our About page! Okay. What do you love and hate about Thailand?

Mia: It couldn’t be anything else but the food and fruits, and oh I forgot, riding a scooter without helmet and driving without a seat belt. Sorry, I’m a bad example!

Lani: 555

Mia: Now back to the questions. Who should listen to TGT? I think anyone who loves Thailand.

Lani: Speaking of Thailand, why are there so many ghosts here?

Mia: The same answer as to why there are so many ladyboys – social acceptance. We believe in ghosts – it’s a law of attraction.

Lani: Wow. That’s a good answer. Now, you lived in the United States for 10 years? What did you love and hate about living in the United States?

Mia: Love the way people drive, hate that I could not get food on the street at 1 o’clock in the morning. What about you?

Lani: I’m starting to miss the landscape. I’m from Hawaii and I consider myself a West coast gal. America is a beautiful and big country. But I hated how I had to work all the time just to make ends meet.

Mia: Yeah. Thailand is easy.

Lani: Totally. While the cost of living is rising, it’s still affordable. What’s your favorite Thai food? And favorite Western food?

Mia: For Thai, anything that puts fire on my tongue. For Western, spaghetti with meatballs sprinkled with red crusted chili.

Lani: Yum! Okay, next question, since you are a Chiang Mai native and I, a mere half-Thai or look krung, what is the most annoying biggest misconception of Thais that foreigners have?

Mia: Foreigners who believe it when Thais say “mai pben rai” or never mind.

Lani: Ooooo. Good one. And foreigners would probably be equally annoyed by the saving face aspect of Thai culture.

Mia: But that is why people should listen to TGT! They will gain inside information about Thailand from a native Thai, and from you, an expat. How long have you been living here?

Lani: I just signed on for my 3rd year at my school.

Mia: Congratulations! So you see, our listeners can learn a lot by listening to us. They can also leave comments, suggest topics, tell the world to listen to us, download our podcast, and listen while they do the dishes…

Lani: 555+ Excellent. We upload our podcast and blog every Friday at: Thai Girl Talk. Join us and let us know what you think!

Mia: Yes! Thanks Cat!

Lani: Hey Mia, when are you going to answer my first question!

Listen to Mia and Lani every Friday at Thai Girl Talk
Have a question about Thai language ask Mia at learn2speakthai

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FLTR: The Foreign Language Text Reader

Foreign Language Text Reade

Intensive Reading vs. Extensive Reading…

Extensive reading is a language learning technique characterized by reading a lot, at or slightly below your current level of proficiency, without looking up unknown words. If the level of books or texts chosen is appropriate, unknown words or grammatical structures can be inferred from context. Extensive reading is basically reading for pleasure, but it is very beneficial in terms of solidifying existing knowledge, acquiring new vocabulary, increasing reading speed, and (depending on what you read) expanding cultural understanding. The nice thing about extensive reading is that it is fun (if you like reading, of course), with language learning being just a by-product. Focus is on meaning, not on language. Extensive reading is often neglected in language schools because it has to be done alone and can’t be assessed or tested.

Intensive reading, on the other hand, is slow, careful reading of a short text. Here, the focus is on understanding (almost) every word, every sentence. Often the text is beyond your current reading ability, but because you go slowly, you can tackle it. Intensive reading can be used to familiarize yourself with new vocabulary, to study vocabulary related to a specific topic, or to find information. It is certainly less fun than extensive reading, but it can have an important role in language learning. As a matter of fact, intensive reading is often the only reading activity used in classroom settings, and it is heavily used by self-learners as well.

I have seen recommendations to balance the amount of time spent on extensive reading vs. intensive reading at a ratio of about 4:1, which seems quite reasonable to me. In this blog post, however, instead of championing the extensive reading cause, I want to talk about intensive reading assisted by a freely available open-source software.

Intensive reading is quite time-consuming, most of which is spent looking up vocabulary, taking notes, searching for notes, and looking up the same words again. Unless you’re extremely well organized, you will find that you look up many words more than once when you encounter them again in a new text. Some time is also often spent on highlighting new words and expressions, or otherwise visually structuring the text. This has inspired some people to write software dealing with those more tedious tasks in order to make intensive reading easier. One of those software projects is the Foreign Language Text Reader (FLTR) which is open-source and can be installed and configured quite easily.

Foreign Language Text Reader…

FLTR basically works as follows: You load a text. The text is then displayed for reading, but words come color-coded. Words never seen before are blue, unknown words take shades between red and yellow/green, and known words are a pale green. While going through the text, you will mark new words as either known or unknown. If they are unknown, you can look them up in up to three online dictionaries with a single mouse click. Then you annotate the words (translations, explanations, pronunciation etc.), and this information is stored. When you encounter the word again, it will show up in its color code (there are five or six of them, from unknown to well known), and hovering over the word will reveal the notes you typed (or rather copied) in earlier. As time progresses, FLTR will learn which words you know and which you don’t, and will help you to focus on new and unknown words.

FLTR: The Foreign Language Text Reader

In this picture, the mouse is hovering over เครื่องกล.

What’s cool about this? Firstly, you look up words only once, and then you can review them by just hovering over those words. Secondly, instead of leafing through paper dictionaries, or typing words into an online search mask, a single mouse click will look them up. Thirdly, the color coding helps you to identify what’s new, what you’ve seen before but is still unfamiliar etc. Instead of reading over those words, they stand out a bit and remind you of their existence. The color coding is also a good visualization of how difficult the text is going to be. Lots of blue and red words means work ahead.

There are also testing options as well as the possibility to export terms to Anki, but I haven’t used those features and can’t comment on them.

xxxSetting up FLTR is pretty straight-forward, with simple and clear instructions. Language configuration is also simple, options include setting font and font size and specifying up to three dictionaries for automated look-up (if the website allows that). Below you’ll find a screen-shot of my settings. I link to the monolingual Royal Institute Dictionary (doesn’t support automated look-up), Google image search and a longdo dictionary containing many Thai-Thai definitions. (I don’t use translations, but if you do, you’ve got many more choices).

The only problem with Thai is the following: Thai doesn’t uses spaces to separate words. FLTR, however, relies on spaces to identify words. So, unlike with languages like French or Indonesian that use spaces to indicate word boundaries, we need to prepare (‘parse’) the text before uploading it to FLTR.

A Thai Parser…

I haven’t been able to find a Thai parser on the web. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to write my own parser, but a visitor to my website Thai Recordings told me that he wrote one, and that gave me the idea (thanks! :)). Coming up with a basic parser is actually quite simple – if you have some programming skills, you can do it yourself within a few hours. The parser requires a list of words (I use the FLTR vocabulary file for that), and inserts zero-width spaces into the Thai text. Zero-width spaces are invisible, but are recognized by FLTR. It was very important to me to find a space character that is invisible, because I’m so used to reading Thai without spaces that I get confused when I have to read spaced out Thai.

I use Python, which comes with my Mac, and have a terminal open to process texts:


Here’s what the parser does:

  1. Read in dictionary D (uses the FLTR vocabulary file, which is a tab separated text file)
  2. Read in the text
  3. For every ‘sentence’ S (set of Thai characters between two spaces) of the text, set i = j = 1 and do until i reaches the end of S:
  4. Define the snippet X = S(i, j), i.e., the characters in S between positions i and j
  5. If X is a word in D, note down this particular snippet
  6. If j has reached the end of S, go to 7, otherwise set j = j+1 and go to 4
  7. If snippets have been identified as words: choose the longest of those, insert zero-width spaces accordingly, set i to the index of the character right after that word, and start over at 4
  8. If no snippets have been identified as words, set i = j = i+1 and start over at 4

The parser finds the longest word, and then restarts on the remainder. If no words have been found, it starts with the second, then third, etc., character, and finds the first word in the middle of the ‘sentence’. The more words the parser has in its dictionary, the more likely it is that new words are isolated between known words. Those words then will show up in blue in FLTR and can be marked according to whether they are already known or still unknown. Once they have been marked, they’re in the database and increase parsing accuracy.

This parser is not perfect. It doesn’t work very well in the beginning: If new words come in chunks, a manual update of the database might be required to resolve that. It also can’t distinguish between มา-กลับ and มาก-ลับ. The first issue disappears over time, but the second stays (and would require semantic parsing to be resolved). If you have ideas on how to deal with those issues, please let me know in the comments!

Wrap up…

FLTR is a great little piece of software. It supports intensive reading and facilitates vocabulary work (whether monolingual or using translation). Look-ups are one click away, notes (or translations) are stored and show up when hovering over the word, and the color coding can be a useful visual aid. The only inconvenience is the necessity to have a parser, but a basic parser is not too difficult to write yourself.

Thai Recordings

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How Audio-based Language Learning Trumps the Textbook

How Audio-based Language Learning Trumps the Textbook

Guest Post…

Purna Virji possesses a talent for learning new languages with six in her present language-speaking repertoire. She is a former producer for an Emmy-nominated television show with a master’s degree in international journalism. She currently works at Pimsleur Approach, the world leader in the audio-based, language-learning program developed by Dr. Paul Pimsleur.

How audio-based language learning trumps the textbook…

“We listen to a book a day, talk a book a week, read a book a month and write a book a year,” said author and educator Walter Loban. Is it any surprise that an audio-based program is the best way to learn a foreign language?

Language is chiefly a spoken form of communication. It was born and evolved that way at least 100,000 years ago, with reading and writing only emerging relatively recently. Even with the rise of the books, then the Internet, texting and so on, the vast majority of day-to-day communications remain oral, driven by listening and speaking rather than reading and writing.

While this reason alone may be enough to conclude that audio-based programs are the most effective way to learn a language, there is also a growing body of research-based evidence to back it up.

How You Learn as a Child…

Let’s begin with how we actually process language. As a child, you learned your native language by listening to people talking, not by studying textbooks. In fact, we listen for up to a full year before speaking, and reading and writing comes much later, mirroring the evolution of language itself. Therefore, learning language by listening can be considered the more natural way.

Leading anthropologist Terence Deacon agrees. “Writing and reading occurred recently,” said Deacon. “We are not well designed to do so and as a result a lot of people have difficulty acquiring reading and writing. If language itself were like that we should expect to find those kinds of problems with our ability to acquire language.” Clearly, for the majority of people, this is simply not the case.

The Science of Language Learning…

A groundbreaking 2001 study by the Carnegie Mellon Center for Cognitive Brain Processing found that the eye and the ear process information differently.

“The brain constructs the message, and it does so differently for reading and listening,” said Marcel Just, Carnegie Mellon Psychology Professor. “The pragmatic implication is that the medium is part of the message. Listening to an audio book leaves a different set of memories than reading does. A newscast heard on the radio is processed differently from the same words read in a newspaper.”

The experiment found that there is more working memory storage in listening comprehension than in reading, and that because spoken language is more temporary than written material, the brain is forced to process the language straightaway. The research went a considerable way to confirming what language learning researchers had long posited- that not all language learning methods are equal.

Better Pronunciation…

Moving away from pure science, there are numerous advantages of using an audio-based program rather than textbooks or visual programs. Firstly, using an audio-based program enables you to perfect your pronunciation and accent. By listening to native speakers on CDs, you can compare and improve your accent in a way that is simply not possible using textbooks. Therefore it is important to choose an audio-based system that uses only native speakers, and preferably one that focuses on breaking down unfamiliar strings of sounds.

In addition, learners naturally read words in their native accent. For example, take the German word ‘welt’ (world). A native English speaker would naturally pronounce it as it is written; however, it is actually pronounced ‘velt’. Even if they immediately read that it should be pronounced ‘velt’, the connection has already been made in their brain and it can be difficult to reverse. Learning using an audio-based system eliminates this potential problem.

Tune in to the Language…

Next, listening regularly to the language makes it possible for your brain to tune into the language’s unique cadence and rhythm. Every language is spoken differently, such as the musicality of the Romance languages and the perceived ‘harshness’ of German and English. With audio language learning methods, your ability to hear and understand the language, with all its different sounds and rhythms, will be speeded up.

In addition, the intonation of language varies considerably. Has anyone ever said to you, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it”? Linguistic researcher CMJY Tesink says, “Language comprehension in (verbal) social communication calls upon pragmatic listening skills, since the listener is often required to work out the non-literal meaning of the speaker’s message by using the context and his own knowledge of the world.” Audio-based learning programs tune the learner’s ear into the unique and often subtle intonations of language.


To state the obvious, books do not talk back! Although the interaction in audio-based programs is not real, per se, the best programs recreate real situations and conversations as closely as possible, preparing learners for those all-important conversations with native speakers.

The voguish term for language learning now is “language acquisition”, which differentiates between the direct instruction of language rules and the more natural, interactive approach now recommended by experts. Audio-based learning programs are much more conducive to this new, “acquisition” style of learning than books, which rely heavily on direct instruction.

Moreover, audio-based programs provide a kind of inbuilt revision. As the learner reacts to the voices on tape- answering questions, repeating pronunciation and so on, the new words and phrases are reinforced in their memory. In addition, as audio-based programs focus on real conversation, the learner will hear words and phrases repeated regularly, but not in the endlessly repetitive way that turns so many people off language learning.


Pragmatically, audio-based programs beat other systems hands down simply because of their portability. Considering that one of the top reasons people give for not learning a language is “I don’t have time”, portability and convenience are major strings in the bows of audio-based programs.

Practice and daily contact are widely acknowledged to be crucial ingredients in language learning success, and using an audio-based program means you can listen to the language wherever you go and whatever you’re doing- on your daily commute, while working out, or even while catching up on household chores. You don’t have to sit down with books or a computer, or try to find a window free in your schedule every day. Audio-based programs will fit effortlessly into your lifestyle, and it will therefore be easier to keep up with your language learning.

There is little doubt that audio-based language learning programs will grow even more popular, and will doubtless undergo exciting changes as the “digital age” marches on. Isn’t it time that you turned on and tuned in?

Purna Virji

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FREE Online Resources at Everyday Thai Language School

A Guide to Thai Grammar Books

Free Thai learning materials…

I’m a Thai language resource junkie so was chuffed when Remi pointed me to the Thai language resources at Everyday Thai Language School. Thanks Remi! I owe.

Everyday Thai Language School’s FREE online resources…

Everyday Thai Language School’s Free Thai language study aids are in four main groups covering beginner to advanced levels.

1) Language exercises, Thai flashcards, and listening quizzes. Developed from the course books used at Everyday Thai Language School. Audio included.

Speaking Everyday Thai: Thai Learning aids for Beginner level 1 and 2
Speaking Everyday Thai: Thai Learning aids for Intermediate level 1 and 2
Speaking Everyday Thai: Thai Learning aids for High-intermediate

2) Self-study materials created from the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) Thai language course. These materials are for reading practice. Thai script only (no English transliteration). No audio.

Self-study: Basic Thai language reader

3) Short stories to improve listening and reading. Includes flashcards, quizzes, games and audio files. Created from the materials at VOA (Voice of America).

Self-study: Advanced Thai language reader

4) A decent selection of YouTube music videos dubbed with Thai lyrics, English translation, and Thai transliteration.

Self-study: Learn Thai through music

Everyday Thai Language School put a fair amount of work into making these Thai resources available to the public. And while I haven’t had a chance to go through all the sections, this looks to be a valuable addition to the online Thai learning community. Well done ETL!

These resources have now been added to WLT’s FREE Thai language learning resources page. And if you are sitting on any other free Thai language resources, please contact me.

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e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam

e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam

Fabulous FREE online Thai reading materials…

I’ve mentioned the Thai study materials found at e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam School (dekgeng.com) in forums, comments on WLT, and in the Learn Thai for FREE section. But it wasn’t until I sent the url to Josh that I noticed the lack of a dedicated post. And as it’s a fabulous resource for learning to read Thai, here you go.

You start out first by studying the Thai alphabet with Thai reading and Thai alphabet. Next up is the Thai alphabet test. After, you graduate to learning consonant and vowel combos, just like in a real Thai classroom. You’ll find those in Lesson one, Lesson two, Lesson three, and Lesson four.

The important part (IMHO) of this site is the ability to hear the sounds on command. It’s a simple, but effective way to learn your way around the Thai alphabet.

e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam

e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam

e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam

For more advanced students there are comprehension tests, maths, games and more. So as you can see, e-learning at Sriwittayapaknam is quite the useful resource for learning Thai.

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Increase Your Thai Vocabulary: Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer…

I just can’t get enough of free stuff. There’s a lot out there but not all free stuff is good stuff (if you know what I mean). I also have an addiction for the ‘how to learn languages’ type of stuff. Sure, sure, as far as advice goes, there really isn’t anything new so you’d think that after all this time I’d be ho hum on the subject.

But, if written with just the right twist, I can get re-energised into tackling my studies in a slightly different way. And if you are in the long-haul for learning Thai, then you know that fresh injections of energy are needed.

In my collection of actual books (hard copy) I have: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Language Learning, Lingo – How to Learn any Language, Fast Language Learning for Adults, The Complete Guide to Learning a Language, The Art of Teaching a Foreign Language, The Learning Revolution, Second Language Acquisition, Learn Any Language, Speak Like a Native, The Whole World Guide to Language Learning, Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, and Learning Foreign Languages (there might be more filed away in the wrong bookshelf). My pdf collection is too numerous to list (also, I’m too lazy to type them out).

Boiled down, the good ones pretty much say the same thing – to learn a new language you need to do the time. And if the books differ at all, it’s all down to how to tackle that time.

On Saturday I didn’t feel like doing anything productive – like get out of PJ’s even – so I started looking for free stuff. A couple of hours into my search I found Bernd’s free ebook, The Word Brain.

The Word Brain describes the steps to metamorphose yourself from a perfect illiterate to a person who has fluent hearing and reading abilities in another language. To develop these abilities, you will ideally study on a daily basis. Depending on a number of variables that I will discuss, the time estimated to accomplish your task is between one and five years.

From what he’s saying, if it’s an easy language (high number of similar words) then you can get away with learning 5000 new words while fudging on the rest. But if it’s a language such as Thai (not much of a crossover with your native language) then to become fluent you are looking at learning 15,000 new words. From scratch.

At a conservative estimate of 10 words per hour, it will take you 500 hours to learn 5,000 words (French/Spanish) and 1,500 hours to learn 15,000 words (European/Arabic). Based on the number of hours you are prepared to invest on a daily basis, your total study time can be predicted with fairly good accuracy.

Talking ballpark figures, if you learn 10 new Thai words per hour, 5 days a week, then the time it’ll take you to learn 15,000 new Thai words is…

0.5 hours per day = 150 months = 12.5 years
1.0 hours per day = 75 months = 6.25 years
1.5 hours per day = 50 months = 4.16 years
2.0 hours per day = 37 months = 3 years
3.0 hours per day = 25 months = 2 years
4.0 hours per day = 19 months = 1.58 years

That’s right. Going by his reckoning, if you have been wobbling along with a half hour of vocabulary study a day, then you could very well be limping along 12 years later.

So now do you see what I mean by getting re-energised?

Bernd goes on to give advice on listening, speaking, reading, grammar, teachers, etc. But, for this post I’m interested in his ideas for increasing Thai vocabulary so I’m going to extract what fits and leave you to read the rest of your own.

To go through the process of language acquisition, you will:

  • learn 15,000 words in about 1,500 study hours.
  • train your ear and associated brain regions to perform real-time speech processing.
  • train your eyes and associated brain regions to perform fast reading.
  • train your vocal tract and associated brain regions to produce intelligible speech.

There are a lot of Thai courses that will teach you a vocabulary of around 500 words but we are aiming at 15,000, remember? And to get your eyes, ears, mouth, and brain involved, not just words are needed, but their sound files too.

The highly recommended beginners course, Teach Yourself Thai only has a vocab count of around 400 words. Ditto on Pimsleur Thai at roughly 500 words (but it’s sans visuals). Whereas Learn Thai Podcast has a huge vocabulary straddling beginners, intermediate, and advanced, all with visuals and sound files. And that’s one of the reasons why I recommend LTP – it’s a honker of a language course!

The ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer…

ClickThai (known for their extensive ClickThai Dictionary with sound) has a new product, the ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer. And for learning new Thai vocabulary, it’s quite handy. No, it does not have the full 15,000 recommended words but if you are a relative newbie at learning Thai, then their 5854 word count is a decent start.

Thai for BeginnersCT VocTrain EN - ClickThai
Price: £8.99 | US$14.99
Author: ClickThai, Theodor Pitsch
Date: March 19, 2011
Version: 1
Internet connection required: No
Word count: 5854
Thai script: Yes
Tone tips: Yes
Zoom: Not needed
Sound: Yes, Male
Quiz: Yes

ClickThai has a decent tutorial on their site but I’m going to mix it up. From what I’ve been able to suss, the majority of those reading WLT already have a bit of Thai so I feel a different arrangement of instructions are needed. And here’s why:

The ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer gives you 100 words per session. When you’ve successfully recognised a Thai word 12 times it disappears and a new word takes its place. So even with a beginner’s vocabulary, you could be clicking for awhile before you start getting to the words you don’t know. So here’s my suggestion:

  1. Create a user name.
  2. Click on that name to start your session.
  3. From the top blue nav, click on ‘learning’.
  4. Delete (DEL) until you get words you don’t know.

Don’t worry, the words will not be deleted permanently, they go to your review list.

Also across the main blue nav you are given a choice of:

  • Thai: A Thai word across the top with three English definitions to choose from below.
  • English: An English definition across the top with three Thai words to choose from below.
  • Audio: Sound (nothing across the top) with three English definitions to choose from below.

In the secondary (orange) nav: sound, auto sound, and transcript – they are all pretty much self-explanatory so I’ll leave it at that. Across the bottom (blue) nav: back and forth arrows (scrolls you through the vocabulary), show (let’s you peek at word), and a sound icon. Then at the very bottom (black) nav: user (to create up to 5 users), exercises, review (this is where your deleted words await), help, and a Thai-English dictionary (the entire 5854 Thai words with longer descriptions).

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

My only complaints so far have to do with transliteration. Review words have the Thai words in Thai script on the left and the transliteration to the right. I realise the need (saves space) so it’s not that big of a deal but it could be presented differently: Thai script, transliteration, one word description.

Anyway, just like Benjawan Becker’s Thai for Beginners iPhone App, ClickThai’s Vocabulary Trainer for the iPhone is also great for long hours of study as well as those ten minute taxi moments.

EDIT: Theodor says there’s a new version of ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer, due to go live in iTunes next week sometime. Instead of the 12 repetitions, you can choose a number suitable for your learning style. Also, it’ll be compatible down to iOS 3.1.

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