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Thai Language School Review: Rak Thai

Thai Language School Review: Rak Thai

Rak Thai Language School…

School: RTL – Rak Thai Language School
Website: www.rtl-school.com
Address: 888/104 Mahatun Plaza 10 Fl., Ploenchit Rd. Lumpini Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
Telephone Number: 02-255-3036

Location: Rak Thai Language School is easy to get to from the Ploenchit BTS exit. The only tricky part is to enter the Mahatun Plaza building you hafta go around to the west side of the building, as you can’t enter from the front. Other than that, take the lift to the 10th floor and you’re there. Just a note: IF you go to their website, the Google Maps ‘stick pin’ is in the wrong location for the school (it’s incorrectly marked as Chidlom Station and the school is in front of Ploenchit Station).

Basic Info: Rak Thai is a brand spanking new Thai language school. It is what I call a Union Clone school insofar as its methodology is based on the original Union Thai method designed and written 40+ years ago to teach foreign missionaries to be proficient in Thai (or at least proficient enough to undertake their task of converting Buddhist Thais to Christianity).

Rak Thai Language School is nicely laid out with well lit classrooms, a small sitting area for breaks, and a really fresh feel to it. I found everyone, from the principal right down to the teachers, great to interact with.

Materials: As I said the original materials were written quite a while ago (as in 40+ years). At Rak Thai Language School the director decided that while the Union methodology was good, the materials weren’t up to date. So Rak Thai re-wrote almost every book to include more contemporary dialog. This was an excellent decision as the Union stuff was really antiquated. Updating the materials gives the best of both worlds (at least as far as this school is concerned), with a proven methodology and updated, current materials.

Method: Seeing as Rak Thai Language School is a Union Clone it should come as no surprise that they follow the original Union methodology. In a nutshell, BEFORE exposing students to reading and writing, it teaches conversational Thai via phonetics with no accompanying Thai script (just the English translation). Once you understand their particular quirks the phonetics are legible.

Note: I’m still on the fence about the phonetics only methodology for the first 4 levels. My own opinion (and seeing as this is my review I can do as I like) is this: exposing students to the Thai script, as in just including in the book along with the phonetics and not even teaching it, would give them a heads up when they advance to the levels where they’re starting to read and write Thai. There is no downside to doing this, and it familiarizes the students with what Thai script looks like, what groups of characters (BTW: called words) look like in real Thai versus karaoke. I see something like this as a win/win for students and not that critical of a change in how the material is taught either.

There are 5 books which teach only Thai speaking/conversation. The lessons build on each other to reinforce the learning process. Each book or level comprises 60 hours of class time. There are also 4 levels of reading/writing and advanced topics of specialized study with topics such as social problems and current Thai news.

Rak Thai Language School also offers the prep course for the Ministry of Education Thai Proficiency Exam.

Teachers: Rak Thai Language School has a motivated group of teachers who are well versed in the material. They all came from another well-known Union Clone school, so again, no surprises there. While I am not party to what caused the mass exodus, I can say that Rak Thai appears to be the cream of the Union crop. Although I have no proof, from meeting most of the teachers I am lead to believe the other school, as far as quality teachers goes, is perhaps at a disadvantage.

The person I spoke with, Juntima, is an interesting and engaging person who came across as sincerely and wholeheartedly believing in the methodology and material.

Classes: Classes at Rak Thai Language School run 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a total of 60 hours. If you don’t invest serious time into the materials you’ll wash out after a coupla days. Plain and simple, this school is not playing the “study Thai 4 hours a week just so you can live here” game. There are enough schools hawking their visa programs, so go elsewhere if all you wanna do is live in Thailand.

The material is covered thoroughly in class thru vocab and sample dialog. The students study the dialog in class by pairing up, and then again one-on-one with the teacher. Because these classes are 3 hours long, and because they run 5 days a week, there is no way students are gonna retain the material without studying and reviewing it outside the class. It is just too fast paced and too intensive to even think you’re going to get away without additional study.

The sample class I sat was a Level 4 conversation class. Honestly, I didn’t want to sit it, and it was only after Juntima’s urging that I did. I tend to do poorly when put under pressure; my comprehension and clarity in speaking Thai takes a noticeable and precipitous dip.

Upon entering the classroom the teacher introduced me to the other students and then had them ask me questions in Thai. I was sweating bullets, being put on the spot like that. Plus, the teacher was pretty merciless about me using my internal tilde key to toggle between Thai and English. She chided me several times to speak Thai NOT English unless I honestly didn’t know the Thai word.

My classmates included a Japanese woman and an American woman (both who in my opinion spoke Thai FAR clearer than the off-toned stuff comin’ outta my mouth). The American had only been in Thailand 7 months yet her Thai was really clear and totally understandable!

Anyway, after this question answer period (which seemed to go on forever), we covered new vocabulary which had come up in our free-speaking dialog. It was the most continuous Thai I’d spoken in over a month. I came tottering out of that class drenched in sweat and limp as a noodle from speaking that much Thai at one time.

It was possibly the most fun I’ve had in a Thai language class in quite a while.

ED Visa: Rak Thai Language School does offer ED visa support and has several promotions for people interested in studying Thai and getting an ED visa too. It’s pretty much the same as other schools although I believe due to the intensity of the classes (60 hours), there’s some tricky twists as far as studying, taking time off, etc. Certainly studying Thai 60 hours in a month meets the 4 hour a week minimum set up by the Thai Ministry of Education. Check with the school for current promotions and schedules

Bang-4-The-Baht: Like I mentioned, Rak Thai Language School has to be at the top of the heap for a Union Clone school. I say that not only because of their excellent teachers but because of the re-write in their material. Most of the other clones of this methodology are still using the original material which is quite stale, often too formal, and not all that applicable in Thai society today. But using this method certainly does get students speaking something resembling Thai with both a good vocabulary base and good grammar structure.

I 100% recommend ANY student of the Thai language who is sincere about learning Thai to go visit this school, take a level test, and sit a sample class. As far as price point they are in line with, or a little cheaper, than other Union Clone schools.

Classes are intensive and run on very clearly defined timetables (as opposed to schools who’s material repeats endlessly so you can jump in when ever you want). So after you enroll, you might need to wait until the next cycle begins to start your class from book one, page one. That’s NOT a negative thing at all and given the intensity of these classes actually makes pretty good sense.

I give this school possibly the highest “bang-4-the-baht” rating I’ve ever given a Union Clone school. Rak Thai Language School is well worth checking out..

I hope you found this review of interest. Good Luck.

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

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Thai Language School Review: AAA Thai

Thai Language School Review: AAA Thai

AAA Thai Language Center…

School: AAA Thai (Advance Alliance Academy Thai Language Center)
Website: AAA Thai
Telephone Number: 02-655-5629
Address: 35 Wannasorn Tower, 10th floor, Phayathai Road,Ratchathewi, Bangkok Thailand 10400

Location: BTS – Phaya Thai Station (Exit 4) … Airport Rail Link – Phaya Thai Station.

Basic Info: AAA Thai was founded by one of the original Union School teachers. If I’m not mistaken the Union School and its methodology have been around more than 30 years. The method was originally created to teach Thai to foreign missionaries.

The engaging principal of AAA Thai, Patcharee, took far more time with me than was necessary to explain the method, show their text books, and outline the various Thai programs offered. After seeing SO many different schools I am rarely impressed, but to have an owner of a school devote so much time to me was refreshing.

AAA Thai is the first school I’ve visited where my cover of being a newbie wanting to learn Thai was almost blown. A student coming out of a class saw me sitting in my usual attire of KISS t-shirt ‘n Levis and asked, “Hey aren’t you tod-daniels, the guy who’s now banned from the Thai Visa forum? The one who wrote stuff about Thai language schools?” I said I was and he mentioned he read my posts, lol. None of the school staff paid any attention to our interaction, so for now my cover is still good. Although pretending to be a newbie just washed up on the shores of the glorious “Land ‘O Thais” isn’t that easy now that I can read & speak Thai fairly well.

Materials: As I mentioned earlier, AAA Thai uses the Union-based methodology. The books are near perfect copies of Unity Thai and other Union-based Thai language schools. So perfectly copied, they all have the same color jackets. Thankfully, their transcription (karaoke Thai) is close to Benjawan Becker’s so it’s easy to understand.

AAA Thai has three levels of spoken Thai textbooks with Thai, English and phonetics. The chapters are broken down into meeting/greeting, basic pleasantries, asking/answering simple questions, etc. To teach a solid foundation in conversational Thai the lessons build on previous levels, getting progressively harder as the levels increase.

For students who wish to learn to read and write Thai, AAA Thai has four levels. The books are fairly well designed, starting out with writing Thai consonants and vowels, with the low class Thai consonants being taught first. In most schools they teach either the high class or middle class first, leaving anything else to be low class, but here the teaching is reversed.

Method: The conversation Thai lessons follow the typical Union structure. Using phonetics, conversations are read aloud by the teacher, followed by the students. The method gets students speaking something resembling Thai quite rather quickly.

The teachers at AAA Thai are merciless when getting proper intonation and vowel length (both critical in being understood in Thai). They spend a good deal of time (even in a group setting) getting a student as close as possible to the correct pronunciation before moving on. And I’ll bet that in one-on-one classes the teachers would be even more merciless!

Teachers: This school has quality teachers who’re well versed in using the Union method to teach Thai to foreigners. The teachers are engaging, speak clearly, and stick to the format quite well. And if a student has a specific question that can’t be answered during class, it’s written on the board for further discussion during break. This keeps a group class moving along rather than getting bogged down in the minutia of the ‘whyz-in-thai’. Sadly, the day I showed up they didn’t have a class for me to observe; this was told to me by a student on break. I’ve yet to sit an actual class, sorry about that.

Classes: The class size is purposely kept small, around 3-5 students. AAA Thai encourages students with a basic grasp of the Thai language to enroll in private lessons versus group. This makes sense because if you start a group lesson with people who have disparate levels of Thai, the teacher is compelled to teach to the person who knows the least, reducing the bang-4-the-baht for a student with a better grasp of the Thai language.

AAA Thai offers VERY competitive rates on blocks of private hours. For myself, group lessons have a dynamic conducive to new learners of the Thai language, but only if everyone is on the same page. Whereas private lessons can be much more focused on overcoming individual shortcomings (like mine).

At AAA Thai I took a comprehension test by silently reading a short story in Thai, and then answering questions put to me by the principal. Unfortunately the principal also asked me to read aloud. I’ve found when a Thai covers their mouth with their hand to hide their smile it’s not the best thing going. To the principal’s credit she didn’t actually guffaw, although a few Thai teachers lurking about the counter did snicker and snort. In the ever so tactful Thai round about way of handing out criticism, the principal said that she’d never met a student who could speak something close to Thai in free conversation, read/understand Thai as well as I could, yet when reading Thai out loud was so far off the mark on pronunciation. Obviously she couched it more politely than that. Sad, but she sure hit the nail on the head with her observations.

AAA Thai is also big on 60 hour intensive Thai courses where students go five days a week, three hours a day, for 20 days. If you choose to go this route, you can do a one-month-on – one-month-off sort of study dealy. So 1 month you study for 60 hours and the next month you take a break from class, resuming the following month.

ED Visa: AAA Thai has ED visas for students who wish to study the Thai language. I’d really like to explain the options (as they have TONZ of ’em). However, there is quite an intricate system of the many ways a person can study and still qualify for ED visas and 90 day extensions. In fact, it’s so diverse that even after I had Patcharee lay it all out, I’m at a loss on how to explain it to readers. Suffice it to say that I’ve NEVER EVER seen a school that is so accommodating in helping foreigners genuinely interested in learning the Thai language.

This isn’t a ‘visa-mill’ by ANY stretch of the imagination. AAA Thai has a program to study Thai that meets students’ needs AND the requirements of the MOE as well.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I’d rate this school right up there as far as bang-4-the-baht. Due to a previous bad experience of an un-named Union based school I’m not a fan of the Union methodology BUT it does work, and work quite well. In fact, almost every foreign missionary I’ve spoken to in Thailand has been taught at a Union type school and they’re pretty darned good foreign speakers of Thai.

I do recommend potential students to check out AAA Thai and sit a free observational class. And as always, I hope you found this review of interest.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Baan Aksorn

Thai Language School Review: Baan Aksorn

Baan Aksorn Thai Language School…

School: Baan Aksorn
Telephone Number: 02-258-5617 or 02-662-3090
Mobile: 084-769-6449
Address: House #40 Sukhumvit Soi 33, Klongton Nua, Watana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

Location: Baan Askorn has a PDF that shows exactly how to get to their school either by walking from Phrom Phong BTS or by driving. Meaning, I don’t need to give you directions!

Basic Info: I looked at this school a few years ago, but kinda forgot about it. Actually, when I toured the school the first time I was quite put off by the condescending attitude of a particular student. But, in retrospect, students shouldn’t come into play so an in-depth review was in order.

I have to say the overall ambiance of this school is the best of any I’ve been to. From the outside it’s the most un-school looking building I’ve ever seen. Baan Askorn is located in a 30 year old Thai house that has been totally redone as a functional Thai language school. The garden area is full of towering mature trees, with places to sit. It’s shady and certainly more than adequate for having a Thai lesson outdoors (weather permitting). Honestly, I wouldn’t mind just stopping by their garden to “hang out”. Inside the school is just as inviting. The downstairs is the reception area, with the classrooms are upstairs.

Materials: The first four books are pretty standard fare. And I don’t mean that with ANY negative connotation. It’s just that they’re close to the materials seen in the better private Thai Language schools around Bangkok (as far as basic intro Thai books go). These types of books are designed to get you speaking something that at least resembles Thai. The books also provides a student with a base line vocabulary with the means to concentrate on conversation, reading, writing or a combination.

Baan Askorn’s advanced reading and writing materials are not the same old beat to death stuff I’ve seen at other schools. The course books are contemporary, up to date, and interesting. Stories start out with just a few sentences and progressively get longer in content and harder in vocabulary. New vocabulary is introduced at the beginning. And to gauge a student’s comprehension, questions (both spoken and written) are asked afterward. Quite honestly, as far as advanced materials go, these were some of the most interesting books I’ve come across in any school I’ve toured.

Method: The initial methodology at Baan Askorn is similar to other schools. Their phonemic transcription uses a system pretty close to Benjawan Becker’s Paiboon Plus. The material is presented in Thai, karaoke and English. This is situational-based material, covering the basics: greeting, meeting, getting around, asking questions, etc. It’s presented in a straightforward manner. The more advanced classes have discussions about topics relevant to the material being covered. Their advanced classes discuss articles from Thai newspapers.

Teachers: The teacher I had was more than capable insofar as teaching a foreigner the Thai language. She obviously knew the materials. In fact, she was so adept at teaching she was even able to write both English AND Thai upside down and backwards (so it would read right side up for me) as we sat across the table from one another! (I give her kudos for that feat in and of itself). I tried it after I got home and it’s definitely a skill-set which takes practice to pull off proficiently.

I spoke to a student who who sat the Thai proficiency exam after attending Baan Aksorn. He said teachers in all levels were more than competent and able to explain the “whyz-in-Thai” versus “that’s just how it is in Thai”.

Classes: Baan Aksorn offers group classes but only for those at comparable levels of Thai. However, I definitely got the feeling that they really prefer to teach private 1-on-1 lessons. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve sat group classes in many Thai language schools where the disparity of knowledge between students compels the teacher to teach either to the slowest student, holding back the faster ones, or to the fastest student, dragging the other ones along. As this can create bad feelings, some schools prefer to give private lessons.

ED Visa: Baan Aksorn offers education visas for students who enroll in a year long Thai program. It’s operated pretty much like all private Thai language schools registered with the Ministry of Education. Once students have paid their tuition, the school supplies support documentation for a Thai Embassy or Consulate (in a neighboring country), and secure a single entry 90 day ED visa. This is extended every 90 days at Thai Immigrations with additional documentation supplied by the school.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I rate this school quite high on the ‘bang-4-the-baht’ scale in terms of real value versus cost. They have some of the most contemporary and error free material I’ve seen. Their books are all written in-house, instead of being 5th generation copies of the oh-so dated Union Method material still in use by some Thai schools. They put a lot of time and effort into coming up with a solid curriculum of material for students to learn to speak, read and write Thai.

I’d recommend Baan Aksorn to anyone serious about undertaking Thai. You aren’t going to show up for the Ministry of Education’s stated minimum class time of 4 hours a week and suddenly start speaking Thai like a Thai. And you aren’t going to coast thru a class parroting material like a mynah bird (as is done in a school which shall remain nameless). This school will challenge you to learn Thai, but more than that, it will teach you the necessary skill-set to meet that challenge.

After perusing Baan Aksorn’s material I realised that I was quite remiss in my earlier dismissal of this school. And if I was still looking to attend a Thai language school, I’d certainly put them very near the top of the list.

Hope you found this review of value. As always I rate schools on what I’ve found works for me. This may or may not work for you. I urge ANYONE contemplating enrolling in or attending a private Thai language school to check out as many as you can BEFORE you pay a single satang of your hard earned baht.

Good Luck.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Station

Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Station

Thai Language Station…

School: Thai Language Station (TLS) Bangkok
Telephone Number: 02-632-9440
Address: Thai Language Station, 62 Thaniya Building 11th floor, Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok Thailand 10500

How to get there on foot: BTS (Sky Train) Sala Daeng Station Gate No.1 or the MRT (Subway) Silom Station

Basic Info: Thai Language Station belongs to a chain of schools founded by a half Thai, half Japanese guy named Fuji. Fuji has 2 schools in Japan and 2 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thai Language Station’s main location is in the Times Square Building, BUT, here’s the thing. At that site they don’t teach Thai to English speakers. They only teach Thai to Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese. In fact, they don’t even have English language Thai textbooks at Times Square, and not a piece of advertising inside their office is in English either. So, if you’re not one of the nationalities mentioned (Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese), don’t even bother going to the Times Square Building. Native (or second language) English speakers are taught at the Thaniya Building on Silom.

When I entered Thai Language Station in the Thaniya Building I thought I’d mistakenly walked into the Times Square building. That’s how close the schools are to being carbon copies! The only difference is at Thaniya, the signage is also in English.

Materials: Thai Language Station has 8 different levels of material. The first 4 levels start out like most other phonemic based transcription systems. You are introduced to the phonetics used to represent Thai sounds and corresponding Thai characters. Next up is conversation-based text such as: greetings, information gathering (name, age, etc).

The conversations are very straightforward, although there is NO corresponding Thai in the book to start exposing you to the Thai writing system. You’ll only see phonetics and English (and their phonetic system is more than a little squirrelly). In fact, it’s downright confusing! If I hadn’t known the Thai vocabulary beforehand their system would have been totally impossible to understand without taking the time to learn it first. As it worked out, I ended up asking the teacher to write the sentences in Thai script.

However, due to a massive re-write, their quirky phonetic system is about to change. I was informed that it’s going to include Thai script and incorporate a universally understood phonetic system (Benjawan Becker’s Paiboon Plus, to be exact).

Method: The method is conversation based. After the first book of basic Thai it progresses into longer, more difficult, yet still high frequency conversations which are useful in day-to-day Thai living.

The first 2 books on reading and writing have karaoke Thai, real Thai, and English. Once you get thru 4 levels of conversation you’re then exposed to writing and reading Thai. The last 2 books are ONLY in Thai and English.

Aside from the squirrelly phonemic transcription (karaoke Thai) the methodology is pretty good. It has a lot of high value, high usage phrases, sentence constructs, etc.

Out of class homework is assigned for people learning to write Thai. The final 2 books are in a short story format with questions. The materials have been upgraded to a more “current events” based reading class. The teacher takes articles out of the newspaper, magazines, etc., or the students bring an article of interest.

One other thing you don’t see all that often is that Thai Language Station WILL sell their text books to any Tom, Dick and Somchai who walks thru the door. This is total departure from other schools where you hafta enroll before you can purchase the books, and even then you can only buy the books for the level you’re attending.

Then again, with the quirky phonetics and no written Thai in the first 4 levels, unless you know which characters make up which corresponding Thai sounds, the books are of little value as self study material.

Teachers: I spoke to several teachers and they seemed more than qualified to teach Thai to foreigners. They also have an entire contingent of teachers who ONLY teach to a specific demographic (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese) and don’t teach ANY of the English speaking classes. Sadly, the teacher who taught the class I sat had to go to a private lesson right after so I couldn’t talk to her. Fortunately a Thai teacher of mine from 3 years ago teaches at Thai Language Station part time so I called her to get the low-down on the qualifications and quality of the teachers. She said ALL the teachers who teach Thai to native English speakers are required to pass an “in house” test, so yes, they are indeed qualified to teach.

Classes: At Thai Language Station classes run for 45 intense minutes of learning Thai. The books are not taught in a format which repeats endlessly (like some un-named schools) where you can just jump in when ever you enroll. No matter the level, the entire class starts on page 1 of what ever book you’re learning. Given that fact, you might need to wait until a sufficient number of students enroll in a particular level before a class will start.

From what I’ve heard the classes at Thai Language Station are well attended, and some have as many as 10-15 students. This can be a double-edged sword. Big classes can get side-tracked quite easily as new learners of the language question the minutia of Thai. The class I sat only had 5 students so moved along quite well.

There is a HIGH emphasis on getting both the tones and vowel length correct and the teachers hammer students to get it right (even if she makes him say it 15 times). While this may seem frustrating to early learners of the Thai language, in reality it is a blessing as those 2 things are the most problematic areas for foreign speakers of Thai.

ED Visa: Thai Language Station offers the cheapest price I’ve EVER encountered for the yearly ED visa. They have the most lessons for students who sign up for a year (a mind-wobbling 210 lessons!) They offer a 6 month visa program (105 lessons) if students don’t want a full year. And if you don’t need an ED visa, the price for group lessons drops to the lowest price I’ve ever seen offered in Bangkok (60 lessons at just 75 baht a lesson)!

Interestingly enough, Thai Language Station has an innovative “intern program”. This is where someone works at the Thai Language Station office, answering correspondence, speaking to people interested in studying Thai, and various other office tasks. In return the school provides an ED visa, extensions of stay free, and the freedom to study Thai when ever.

I spoke to a Chinese girl who’d just graduated Uni and was enrolled in the program. Now, to my foreign ears, it sure sounded like she spoke Thai pretty darned close to a Thai national already.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I give Thai Language Station a very high “bang-4-the-baht”, based on their methodology, the teachers, and their incredibly low price point. I wouldn’t deduct ANY points for anything but their quirky phonetic system. As I mentioned earlier, that is changing with the new material (supposed to be rolled out sometime after the New Year).

Hope this helps,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com | Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok
Your man on the ground, in the trenches, errr, I mean, in classrooms at Thai language schools in Bangkok.

NOTE: Tod is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school.

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Thai Language School Review: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute

Thai Language School Review:AUA-Thai Language Program

Sumaa Language & Culture Institute…

School: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute
Telephone Number: Tel. 02-286-0129
Address: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute, 36 Sathorn Soi 1 South Sathorn road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120

Location: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute states that they’re conveniently located not far from the Lumpini MRT Station. But if you are walking with a cane it’s a LONG slog down to their school, just opposite the Goethe Center on Sathorn Soi 1 Yake 2. Next time I’ll take a taxi from the MRT.

Basic Info: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute is on the second floor of a house. The first floor has a clothing shop; you enter the second floor from the outside stairs. It’s a nicely set up school, with friendly outgoing English speaking staff. The staff’s demeanor really put me at ease. During our initial conversation they asked what my goals were in learning Thai, what level of Thai I thought I was at, etc. Of any school I’ve been to they did the best job of pre-qualifying me as to my specific learning Thai needs. Then again, because this school doesn’t do ED visas, they have an entirely different clientele than schools which cater more towards that demographic of Thai language student.

Note: I’m NOT saying schools which offer ED visas aren’t quality schools. I’m only pointing out that this school doesn’t do it. How you stay in Thailand is your deal, not the school’s.

Materials: Their materials are available both in phonetic Thai with English, and Thai script. That’s a plus for me unless I can see the English translation and guess the words by context, I can barely read phonetics. The phonetic system they use is a little squirrelly but not so bad that it’s unreadable. The text books start out like most do: greetings, what’s your name, questions about where you’re from, what your occupation is, etc. They progress to more complex conversations as the books advance. Reading and writing Thai script is on offer as well.

Method: The methodology is phonetic based. It concentrates on getting you to speak in Thai as quickly as possible. The consonant sounds, vowel sound and length, as well as the toning are all covered in a matter-of-fact straightforward method (the toning was explained so well that I almost understood it).

Sumaa Language’s intermediate and advanced reading/writing Thai books start out with a short paragraph and then progress to longer and longer stories. New vocabulary is introduced before the story is read. The students read the story to themselves first, and then they read it aloud. The teacher corrects any errant pronunciation. After the story is finished there is a conversational portion with questions where the story is discussed to gauge comprehension. There are also a written questions where answers in Thai are required. This is assigned as homework.

After seeing so many advanced reading writing classes at the various schools, I’ve become somewhat jaded because the material is usually the same-old-song-&-dance stuff that’s been beaten to death: Thai culture, the history of Thailand according to the Thais, holidays in Thailand, the weather, blah-blah-blah. Surprisingly, this school didn’t have those stories. While the first story covered wasn’t exactly edge of your seat reading by any means, it did expose me to different structure and new vocab I didn’t have. It was interesting enough to catch my attention, and easy enough for me to comprehend.

The second story we did was much longer. I believe the teacher realized that despite my assertions that I didn’t know much Thai, during the discussion about the short paragraph which comprised the first story she decided to raise the proverbial bar a notch or three, lol. Still, I got thru it, although the portion where I read the sentences aloud made the teacher cover the grin on her face with her hand (like Thais do when they don’t want to guffaw out loud at someone’s fox-paws). Even so, she patiently went through the story sentence by sentence. First she read it aloud, and then I read it back using the intonation she’d used. Sometimes we had to go a couple words at a time for me to get the tones correct, but she was patient with my mangled pronunciation to the n-th degree. The conversational portions went better and I was able to answer most of the questions with complete Thai structured sentences. If I couldn’t understand something she’d explain it in Thai first, and if I still was blanking out, she’d graciously switch to English so I could catch on.

Teachers: I spoke to three teachers and the owner of the Sumaa Language & Culture Institute. They all seemed to want foreigners to learn the Thai language; it shows in their materials and their dedication in class. The teacher in the intermediate reading / writing class was excellent. I couldn’t find a single downside to her ability, methodology, or the materials used (and believe me I tried). Any shortcomings were due to my inability to understand, replicate the proper tones, etc., rather than from the schools side of things.

Classes: The sample class I sat was originally supposed to have three students but alas (or to my benefit) the other two were no-shows and I had a private lesson for two hours. They do offer group classes IF they have people at the exact same level. They also offer discounts if you and a friend join together. However, the Sumaa Language & Culture Institute is more along the lines of schools like Jentana & Associates in that they really cater more towards private 1 on 1 lessons. This can be quite good for study as you can go as fast or as slow as you want and there’s no pressure on dragging a group of students through a particular lesson in a given time frame.

During the class I sat the teacher ran it to the minute. This obviously wasn’t the first time she’d taught that material. She wrote on the white board in Thai, and if I couldn’t get the toning she’d write the karaoke Thai so I could see the tone mark. As I’d mentioned, their toning chart was so easy to read (even for me) and the teacher was gracious enough to give me a copy. She also explained how to use it quickly to discern tones of unfamiliar Thai words.

ED Visa: The Sumaa Language & Culture Institute doesn’t play the ED-visa game, so the caliber of students is completely different (I’ll state one more time for the record, I’m NOT downing schools who offer ED visas to students, only saying this school isn’t in that group). While I was taking my sample class several businessmen in suits showed up for their Thai lessons. When I queried my teacher she said their companies pay for them to attend school to learn Thai. I’d imagine even in a small group class the demographic of students would be quite different from private schools which cater more towards the ED-visa crowd.

Bang-4-The-Baht: The Sumaa Language & Culture Institute rates quite high as far as my perceived bang-4-the-baht. I tried to find fault with their methodology, their materials, and their teachers, but came up empty on all counts. If a student wants high quality private Thai lessons with good materials, good teachers, and a flexible schedule be it a crash two week course where you go every day for several hours a day, or a more relaxed schedule where you attend only a couple hours a week, this school can meet your needs. Price-wise they’re right in line with other schools offering similar courses, and far below almost all the private lesson prices offered in schools which cater more towards those group lesson discount rates.

Hope you found this of marginal value. Personally, to get my pronunciation of spoken Thai up to speed, this would certainly be on my list of schools I’d consider attending.

I do want to apologize to the readers or my reviews if I repeat things. After so many schools I’m finding it difficult to remain objective and think I’m more than slightly jaded in my objectivity. Plus, now that my Thai language acquisition has progressed to the level I’m at, it’s getting harder to go into these schools as a newbie-Thai-learner. After they interview me, it becomes readily apparent that I’m a little more advanced than someone fresh off the boat, who’s just washed up on these shores and wants to learn Thai.

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

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Thai Language School Review: PRO Language Bangkok

Thai Language School Review: PRO Language Chiang mai

PRO Language: Bangkok…

School: PRO Language
Website: PRO Language
Telephone Number: 02-250-0072

Address: Times Square Building, 10th Floor, 246 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Location: Exit BTS Asok, take the sky bridge into Times Square and then the lift to floor 10.

Basic Info: Unless I’m mistaken, PRO Language is a chain or possibly a franchise with the main school in Times Square. PRO Language has locations in Pattaya and Chiang Mai too. This review is ONLY about what they offer at their Times Square location. I did call the Chiang Mai location and they use the same textbooks, material.

When I went to PRO Language they were courteous enough to let me sit two levels of conversational Thai classes and part of a reading/writing class. I was there almost 4 1/2 hours! I thought the front office staff were well versed. They spoke English proficiently, outlined the programs they offered, talked about various options for learning (private and group), and explained the ED visa for yearly enrollees, etc.

It’s an easy school to get to via either the BTS Asok Station or the MRT Sukhumvit station. And if you drive to PRO Language there’s a parking garage with free (validated) parking.

Materials: PRO Language has level after level of learning materials! I mean, they have more materials then I could get thru during my visit. I perused 6 or 7 different books and didn’t make it thru half of the materials available. PRO Language even has learning materials developed specifically to teach the inz-n-outz of taking the Thai proficiency exam offered at the end of each year (although the books are still titled ป.๖ Prep Test).

PRO Language’s beginning books are in both English and karaoke Thai if you can’t read Thai script, and in English and Thai script if you can. The books have the English translations and the special notes (the whyz-of-Thai) written in English. PRO Language also has supplemental handouts for reading and writing exercises in the classroom and workbooks for home use. Note: ALL of the textbooks, workbooks and handouts are FREE if you sign up for a year’s Thai language program.

Method: The method is pretty straightforward in regards to learning to speak Thai via karaoke (phonetic English). They start out with standard situational Thai: meeting, greeting, getting around, etc. The vocab is introduced, practiced out loud in a group, and then each student participates in a round robin. The conversations are read aloud, with the class breaking into pairs for the ask/answer part.

Even in the karaoke only class a LOT of emphasis is put on learning the correct tone for Thai words. Drill after drill, the reading/writing class goes over consonant class, tone marks, and the toning possibilities of words. This is repeated again and again, in a fairly easy (as easy as toning Thai words can be made) manner. I almost understood it even!

The class I sat through was involved in an exercise on differentiating the tones in similar sounding Thai words by using the different tone marks. Not being able to recognize the tone of the word solely by how it’s spelled, I failed at this portion abysmally. Then they had a word matching test where they matched the Thai words to pictures of words meanings. In that exercise I got almost all right.

The reading class is more story-based. First you read a short story, talk about the topic, and then take an exam to gauge your comprehension. A large portion of the reading/writing class is assigned as homework because it’s not cost-effective to sit in class writing out the Thai consonants, vowels, and Thai words over and over. In the more advanced writing classes answers to the questions from reading lessons are also done in this manner; out of class.

I think it’s a plus that they assign homework. I’ve yet to meet a single person who sat in a class the required minimum 4 hours a week to EVER learn anything close to speaking or reading Thai without supplementing their learning with outside activities. Sadly, as far as valuable out of class activities go, sitting in a beer bar chatting with the service staff oftentimes falls far short! Having assigned homework makes the student focus on the topics they are learning so it ties the studies together quite nicely.

Teachers: The classes I sat had some pretty sharp teachers who were able to field questions asked in English about the whyz-of-Thai. The teacher would answer first in Thai. Then, if the students’ Thai wasn’t at a level to where they understood, the teacher would answer in English. In the higher level classes students were encouraged to ask questions in Thai and were answered in kind. I’d say past level 3 or so about 85-90% percent of the class was taught only in Thai. If you’re reticent to speak Thai this will get you over it fairly quickly. I would rate myself as an extremely reluctant but at least semi-capable Thai speaker. But by the end of the Thai conversation class even I was speaking all Thai which for me is a HUGE thing.

Classes: PRO Language has reading/writing classes and strictly conversational Thai classes too. Most students I spoke with said they do 2 hours of reading/writing and 2 hours of conversational Thai each week.

If you enroll for a year you are given the choice to focus on your primary goal. So if you aim to learn to speak Thai only, don’t go to the reading/writing classes, just stay in the conversational ones. Several students I spoke to are currently studying this way. I feel that a new learner of Thai gets great benefit out of attending BOTH because at some point you’re going to need to learn to read Thai to know how things really work with the language.

PRO Language offers classes at a wide variety of times: mornings, afternoons and evenings. If you sign up to start book 1 level 1 in a group setting there might be a time lag because they need to get a sufficient number of students together (2-3 minimum) first. Seeing as the classes don’t merely go thru the book over and over (like some schools do) you can’t just jump into an existing class; you have to start with book 1, page 1, to get off on the right foot.

Like most schools out there, PRO Language isn’t going to teach you 1-on-1 if you paid for group lessons. They do offer private 1-on-1 classes and the price point is about the same as private lessons at most schools.

ED Visa: PRO Language is running the same promotional pricing for the year-long ED visa type deal that most private Thai language schools in Bangkok. As I mentioned earlier, if you enroll for a year ALL the textbooks, workbooks, practice books, etc., are provided FREE. Depending on your motivation (as in how much you learn, how many levels you take, etc) this can be a factor as most schools charge per book.

Their ED program is run pretty much like other Thai language schools. You enroll in class, pay your tuition, start studying, and the school processes your paperwork. Once they get it back from the Ministry of Education you go to the Thai Embassy or Consulate and get a 90 day Non-Immigrant type ED visa. Every 90 days the school provides additional Immigration documentation to extend your stay in Thailand.

Bang-4-The-Baht: Very Good. I toured PRO Language a long time ago and from what I remember, they’ve re-written their materials. And that far back I didn’t have near the idea about the quality of materials that should be offered at private Thai language schools. As far as schools in Bangkok go, there are certainly worse places to attend but only a few are on the same level at PRO Language, or a little better.

I’d say that PRO Language would be a very good fit for students looking to speak, read and write Thai. If you’re not afraid to start speaking Thai right away and willing to invest the time it takes to learn that particular skill set, PRO Language could be for you. To find out for yourself just stop by, look at their materials, and sit a free class.

PS: A lot of my perceived bang-4-the-baht is subjective but then so are my reviews. I’ve seen many schools and perused a lot of material, that unless a school is really outstanding, or is standing somewhere out in left field, they tend to blur together.

Hope you found this of some value.

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

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Thai Language School Review: AUA Thai Language Program

Thai Language School Review:AUA-Thai Language Program

AUA Thai Language Program…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you found this of some marginal value.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Jentana & Associates

Thai Language School Review: Jentana & Associates

Jentana & Associates…

School: Jentana & Associates
Website: Thai Lessons by Jentana
Telephone Number: 02-260-6139
Address: 5/8 Sukhumvit Road Soi 31, Khlongtoei Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110

Location: Jentana & Associates is located near the Phrom Phong (Emporium) BTS Station about 700 meters up Soi 39. Currently, Jentana’s main school on Sukhumvit Soi 33 is undergoing renovations so she’s using a beautiful townhouse on Soi 39 as her Bangkok base of operations.

Basic Info: This time I decided to review a school that hasn’t jumped on the “selling of ED visas to foreigners” bandwagon, that so many schools in Bangkok are capitalizing on these days.

The school is called Jentana & Associates and it’s been in the business of teaching Thai to foreigners for over 20 years.

In my quest to find a good Thai language school, many years ago I toured Jentana & Associates. Jentana then came to my apartment, assessed my Thai, and offered a suitable program for me to study.

Jentana is one of the most engaging Thai school owners I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak with. Her English is flawless, and her ability to discover a student’s shortcomings and strengths is evident after a mere few minutes of conversation.

She targets a completely different demographic of customers than other private Thai schools. I am almost comparing apples to oranges in regards to just how dissimilar her target clientele is.

This Thai school is not geared towards your run-o-the-mill Thai language student. By that I mean the type visitors who often sign up for a student visa in lieu of playing the ‘tourist visa’ game.

In order to make a new hires transition to working in Thailand easier, oftentimes companies foot the bill for their staff to learn Thai. These employees are Jentana’s target market – her students are gathered from international and local companies employing foreign staff in Thailand: corporate clients, private business people, and their non-Thai spouses

I talked with several students who had progressed to level three at Jentana & Associates. The students could speak Thai quite clearly (much better than I can). They also said that their reading skills were on par with their speaking.

Given her target market, it’s no surprise that most of her students are taught either in their homes or at their workplace, although a few do come to the school.

Materials: Jentana goes all out to provide high quality Thai language course materials. After looking at the various ways schools teach the Thai language to foreigners, she cherry-picked what she felt was the best from each methodology and then wrote her own course books from scratch.

The books use the standard formula most schools use to teach Thai to foreigners: transliteration, Thai script , and English. But that’s where the similarities end.

Each level comes with three different components: A speaking workbook, a reading workbook, and an additional workbook with audio files on CD for home study.

If you can read Thai, you can request workbooks without transliteration; they have Thai script and English only. This is to avoid students getting distracted by the phonetics.

In English, the books explain subjects in a concise fashion. They include the ‘whys’ of the Thai language. And not once did I encounter the dreaded, “because that’s just how Thai is” , a pat answer that oh-too many schools fall back on when faced with questions.

Jentana is currently nearing the end of a massive re-write process where the three sections will be combined into just one book for each level. I looked at proof copies of several levels and they’re quite slick. The course books are printed in full color with pictures, charts, and rules for toning, etc. A huge investment of time went into redesigning the books, and it shows. The materials are some of the most professional I’ve seen.

Method: The teaching method starts out in typical fashion. The reading section introduces you phonetically to the Thai consonants, vowels, and tone marks. It concentrates on consonant class, vowel length and ending consonants from day one, so you’re starting to get an idea of tone rules right out of the gate. And to get your head around the Thai tones, this is a critical step! New vocabulary is introduced, used in a short story, and then a question/answer comprehension test follows.

The speaking section is situation-based, which is a plus. It’s so you know what sentence constructs you’re likely to encounter in specific situations. In order to ask questions as well as answer them correctly, student are taught the vocabulary they are most likely to encounter.

This is NOT a “where is the pen?”, “The pen is on the table” sort of mindless parroting. The lessons get students thinking about the structure used in both forming and answering coherent questions.

The homework book has exercises where you copy Thai consonants and vowels, write out the vocab you learned, etc. For comprehension, it also includes short story question/answer type of mini-tests.

In class a great deal of emphasis is placed on speaking Thai as much as you possibly can. You can use English to ask questions but only if you can’t get your point across in Thai. The teachers can quite easily switch from English to Thai and back, but again, a HUGE emphasis is put on speaking Thai from page one, day one, so be prepared to speak Thai!

Teachers: Jentana & Associates employs 22 full-time Thai language teachers. This school easily has the largest number of teachers I’ve seen in Bankgok.

They are super-motivated and highly qualified Thai teachers; professional to the n-th degree. They all seem to have plenty of experience in teaching Thai to foreigners, in that they know what foreigners are likely to misunderstand. In addition, the teachers go out of their way to explain the lessons in the clearest and most easily understood way.

I can’t stress enough just how much this school concentrates on their students speaking Thai as often as they possibly can.

The teachers took a somewhat dim view when I answered their Thai questions in English, or when I translated what they’d said in Thai back to them in English. You see, in order for me to make sure I understand what Thais are on about, I often communicate this way. Even though my spoken Thai is more than adequate for almost anything I wanna say, if I know that the Thai person understands and speaks English, then I ‘fall back’ and answer with an English translation. This shortcoming holds me back more than I’d care to admit.

Classes: Jentana’s business model concentrates primarily on one-on-one Thai lessons. As that’s her targeted demographic, and given the success she’s had in this niche market, I can’t fault her for that approach. But on a case by case basis she will put together a small class of similarly skilled (or unskilled) foreigners who are interested in studying together.

Jentana mentioned to me that at one time she did offer group classes to her students, but she noticed difficulties using this method. In a group setting the teachers must adjust the class speed to the slowest learner in the group, which penalizes the fastest students. To Jentana, it was apparent from the feedback that a one-on-one approach would provide all students with the correct speed to learn Thai.

Each class is 90 minutes long with a break between two 45 minute segments. The teachers keep you going from the first minute and you’re still going strong at the 90 minute mark. So if your idea of learning Thai is to sit at the back of a group class and coast, don’t even contemplate attending Jentana & Associates. The teachers at this school are serious about their job to teach students to speak, read, understand, and to a lesser degree, write Thai.

Bang-4-The-Baht: As evidenced by the materials, the quality of the teaching staff and the professionalism in the school, this is a higher-end Thai language school. And there is a HIGH bang-4-the-baht return in terms of what you as a student receive when you study with Jentana.

For those who missed it, I’ll say it once again: this isn’t a ‘visa-mill’ type of place and it doesn’t do group lessons.

Neither is it by any stretch of the imagination the most expensive school in the private Thai Language market. Her pricing for blocks of lessons is right up there with what you’d pay for a qualified private Thai tutor. But then again, that’s what you are getting at Jentana & Associates: private 1-on-1 lessons.

Note: It’s my experience that oftentimes finding a good teacher can be hit or miss – and I’ve run thru more private Thai tutors than I care to remember! Just being a native speaker doesn’t qualify someone to teach Thai to foreigners. Also private tutors don’t always have the quality material to facilitate the learning in a meaningful way. Jentana & Associates has BOTH! She’s got super-qualified teachers and excellent, well-written material.

If someone is genuinely interested in getting a firm grasp on the Thai language by attending the one-on-one lessons, applying themselves to the exercises, listening to the CD’s, and is willing to start speaking Thai right away, I’d give Jentana & Associates a call.

Hope you found this review of interest!

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

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Thai Language School Review: Language Express

Thai Language School Review: Language Express

Thai Language Express…

School: Language Express (premium Thai language course)
Website: Language Express
Location: Mahatun Plaza (1 minute from Ploenchit BTS, Exit 2)
Telephone Number: 02-675-3915

First off, this is my first single school review on this site (thanx Cat). This review is based solely on Language Express’s premium Thai language course and its curriculum. I went there when they first opened, but I gave them a pass because they were using Benjawan Becker’s Basic, Intermediate and Advanced books for their standard class. Then when I saw on their webpage that they were offering a premium course, I went back to check it out. After speaking with the owners recently, I was told that even their standard course will use their books and methodology, written in-house (more about that below). Please keep reading!

Basic Info: I know appearances don’t always equate into quality but this is a real looker of a school. It takes up the entire ground floor frontage of Mahatun Plaza on Sukhumvit. You will also see from my review that in this case appearances do equate to quality. The school’s modern design, spacious entry area which includes a coffee shop, a relaxing area, wi-fi access and computers with free Internet are all right there in front. They even have grown-up sized chairs (as opposed to those totally b/s kindergarten chairs where your knees almost touch your face when you sit down!) Actually, the entire mood of the place invites you to stop in and spend some time.

It’s super easy to get to by taking the BTS Sukhumvit Line – just get off at Ploenchit Station and take Exit 2. In fact, now you can’t miss it, as they put up a GIANT banner that you can easily see looking south from the platform of the BTS Station.

Materials: Quite honestly, in touring over 25 private Thai language schools, I’ve NEVER EVER seen material like this. Currently they have 6 levels in print and are working on 4 more! It’s based on the successful ‘Talking Step’ method of teaching English as a second language. This is a ‘situational based method’ of learning a language using high frequency vocabulary and phrases. New words are introduced in the beginning of each lesson, then these words are used in situations where you’d use them (kinda makes sense, huh?) There are dialogs (questions/answers) that you go thru to practice the vocab. Then the dialog changes and some words are substituted for others, giving you different but still useful sentence constructs. This does several things. FIRST, you’re not just learning meaningless Thai vocab, but high frequency, often used words. SECOND, it shows you how Thai sentence constructs differ from English and how words go together in Thai. As opposed to other methods, this lets you start making your own sentences pretty darned fast.

Method: The class is broken down into two segments. In the first hour you start to learn to read, write and recognize Thai characters. I know, daunting for a newbie! BUT, remember this: while the Thai alphabet has 44 characters, they ONLY make 21 sounds, so Thai is not that far off of from English. Also, while it’s true Thai has 32 vowel sound combinations, if you factor in all of the vowel combinations and various sounds they make in English, you’re just 3 sounds short (yes there are three vowel sounds that English doesn’t have but Thai does).

The thing foreigners get all too hung up on is that English has a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y and w as vowels. However those 7 characters make a myriad of different vowel sounds in English. The great aspect of Thai is, for example, the vowel sound is a long ‘e’ like the English word ‘reed’. In Thai it will always be a long ‘e’ sound. It’ll NEVER EVER change to another spelling of that vowel but with the same sound, like the English word ‘red’. One question. If ‘read’ can be pronounced as ‘reed’, why in past tense is it pronounced as ‘red’. And if you put a b in front you get bread, but to get the long ‘e’ sound you hafta go with ‘breed’? See, Thai is NOT that far off from English if you factor in all the various combinations you learned as a kid, and accept without a thought when you read English . <- is that reed or red? ANYWAY… The second hour is situational conversation which I briefly touched on before. Like I said, I have never seen this type of material designed to teach primarily English speakers the Thai language. Even if you can't read Thai, they use Benjawan Becker's method of phonemic transcription (a big phrase which means to use a combination of English letters and other characters to represent Thai word sounds). From now on in ALL my reviews I will refer to this as ‘karaoke Thai’ as it's just easier to understand. Benjawan’s method of karaoke Thai is about the most widely recognized method (no doubt because she has the most ‘teach Thai to foreigners’ language books currently in print!) Another great factor of this school is that at this time they have 6 levels of Thai. BUT, you're not compelled to be in the same level for both reading/writing and the conversational portion of the lessons. They are separate animals entirely. Let’s say your reading/writing is low but your conversational skills in Thai are at a higher level. NO PROBLEM. Take the first hour of reading/writing at what ever level fits you, and the next hour SWITCH to the level of conversation which best matches your Thai conversational skills. I've never seen this type of flexibility offered in a private Thai language school before! Teachers: Their Thai teaching staff is top-notch (a cut above the rest). I always gauge a Thai person teaching a foreigner Thai on that teacher’s ability to explain the ‘why and how’ of something in English. Some people prefer that their teacher speak ONLY Thai to them. Sadly, you can sink quite quickly if your Thai isn’t good enough to ask “why do they do this in Thai” or “how is it similar to English”. I have ALWAYS hated a Thai teacher telling me, “In Thai we do it like that”. That is NO answer! I want to know WHY Thai does it that way. I need to know so I can effectively use the language. L/E’s teachers seemed to have no problem switchin’ from Thai to English. They easily explained the whys in Thai as well as how Thai differs from English.

Classes: Their classes are offered at a wide variety of times during the morning, afternoon, nighttime and even on weekends. They even have an early-bird class that offers a substantial discount in tuition (cheapest in Bangkok). Currently, I am checking into their rates of private tuition. I don’t know if they offer online classes at this time, but will get back to you.

Bang-4-the-baht: Note that this is my own private rating system. It has NOTHING to do with what you feel is good value. It is what I feel is good value for your hard-earned baht.

A person would be hard-pressed indeed to find a better Thai language school, one which offers more in the way of quality compared to pricing than Language Express. Much more expensive Thai schools don’t offer near the quality insofar as materials, methodology or customer service. Ditto on cheaper schools.

The two foreigner owners of this school both have extensive education and business background in teaching language. In my search through Thai language schools in Bangkok, they are two of the most motivated, outgoing, and friendly foreigners I’ve met. Their business plan seems to be geared around actually teaching Thai to foreigners rather than providing a loophole for foreigners to stay here via an ED visa.

Be that as it may, enroll in either their standard course or their premium course and you’ll get supporting documentation to extend your stay in Thailand for another year.

Hope you found this review of interest!

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

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New Series: Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok

Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok

Reviewing Thai language schools in Bangkok…

For this series I will focus on a Thai language school a post. In an earlier post I reviewed 13 Bangkok schools using the following tag line at the end:

DISCLAIMER: This will be totally MY opinion of Thai language schools, their materials, their teachers and their perceived value – what I call, “bang-4-the-baht” – as far as what you get for the money you pay. My experience will, in all likelihood, be different from yours. And my opinions MAY indeed run contrary to yours too.

Also, realise different people have different goals in learning the language. Some use it as a means to an end, via the education visa route and take the language as a freebie. Some people want to speak, some read, some write and/or a combination of all of the above.

What works for me might not work for the way you learn things and vice versa.

My search for a bang-4-the-baht Thai language school…

In my quest to learn Thai I found there was (and still is) a great disparity in methodology, material and efficacy with private Thai language schools in the greater Bangkok metro area. Being inquisitive (err, nosy), last year I decided to visit as many different schools as possible. I always go in like a newbie foreigner who just washed up on the shores of Thailand. I look over their material, question their customer service staff, look around the school, sit a free class if I can and get their pricing for different programs offered. I started compiling my take as far as the good, the bad and the ugly about the schools I visited. I posted a LOT of those reviews on the Thai Visa Forum in the Thai Language Sub-Forum on a pinned topic appropriately titled Best Thai Language School.

Sadly my take on all-things-Thai doesn’t run along the most politically correct line. I tend to call things as I see them and I long ago misplaced my rose-colored glasses. This has lead to many warnings and suspensions on that forum for my errant posting penchants. Be that as it may, I do feel it’s a great forum with plenty of good info about almost anything to do with Thailand (if you take the time to wade thru the b/s).

So who is this Tod Daniels anyway?…

Who actually is Tod Daniels? (in Thailand I use only one ‘d’ in my first name as Thais tended to pronounce the name Todd as “toddy” if I used the correct spelling with double d’s. In Thai I spell my name as “ท้อด” which has no other meaning in Thai except as a name).

Hmm, who am I? A single, tall (6′ 2″), thin-ish, nearly 52 y/o American living in the glorious “Land ‘O Thais” the last 5+ years. I am oh-so identifiable when out and about as I wear a black t-shirt with a pic of the rock band KISS on it everyday (I brought 120 different KISS t-shirts from the US when I moved here). Also due to a severe spine injury I’m forced to walk with a cane (which really looks more like a baseball bat). I’m not all that hard to spot, if you know what to look for. Although why anyone would care or want to spot me, I dunno.

I undertook studying Thai seriously about 3 years ago via the free resources available on the Internet. I taught myself to read, type and understand Thai. I admit several years ago when I was in a “visa pinch” (not having turned 50 so no retirement visa option) I did pay for 180 lessons (and a year’s worth of visa extension paperwork!) But in actuality, I taught myself to read Thai before I started.

I would put the level of my ability to read, comprehend and type Thai via a keyboard as medium good. It’s probably close to ป.๓-๔. It’s funny that I still don’t know the Thai tone rules (but am getting closer). I differentiate similarly spelled words from the context and from massive word memorization. However my comprehension in reading Thai varies dramatically. Things written in Thai which I have no interest in, I could read 15 times yet not understand even an overview of the topic. Then again with things like gossip column articles, magazines in Thai like: FHM, Maxim, Playboy, Penthouse, and the like, I can read, understand and really enjoy the articles (Yes I buy Playboy & Penthouse ONLY for their articles, 555+). I also bought and read ALL of Andrew Biggs’ books he’s got out which teach English to Thais. They have given me no end of useful vocab, and as his explanations are all in Thai I have a much better understanding of how things fit together in Thai. He’s really quite the witty, funny and informative author.

I think my spoken Thai is far below the level of my other Thai language skills. I can certainly make myself understood and converse/interact about most things with the Thais. It does take them a bit to get over the fact that a towering, long-nosed foreigner in a black KISS t-shirt can speak semi-coherent Thai, albeit with a foreign accent. Once they get past my appearance they’re fine chatting about anything under the sun.

In closing…

PLEASE, by all means share your personal experiences with the schools I review in this series. The more people posting their know-how and observations, the better informed potential students of the Thai language will be when searching out schools that provide students with good “bang-4-the-baht”.

And I sincerely urge ANYONE interested in learning the Thai language to attend and sit the free lessons at as many schools as they have time for BEFORE paying ANY tuition. It is only your time and travel invested and well worth trying out different methods before deciding on the one which works for you.

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

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