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Interviewing Thai Teacher: Kannaphat Saelee (Jan)

Interviewing Thai Teacher

What Makes a Good Thai Teacher?…

Welcome to the second post in the Thai Teacher Interview series. If you missed it, the first interview was with Yuki Tachaya (PickUp Thai Podcasts).

Note: At the end of each interview you can download the interview questions to ask Thai teachers of your own choosing.

Interviewing Thai Teacher: Kannaphat Saelee (Jan)…

Name: Kannaphat Saelee (Jan)Interviewing Thai Teacher
Professional name: Jan
Age range: 30 – 40
Location: Bangkok
Website: Study Thai
Facebook: Study Thai With Kru Jan
Skype: jankannaphat

How long have you been teaching Thai to foreigners?

Almost 7 years. I started in 2011 in Chiang Mai and moved to Bangkok in 2017.

What made you want to teach Thai?

I find teaching Thai to foreigners very challenging. Even though you’re a native speaker and speak perfect Thai, it doesn’t mean you can teach it to others. I have a good understanding of both English and Thai, not just the language but also the way both cultures think and interact . So I enjoy helping foreigners to understand the similarities and differences to bridge that cultural gap. And because I enjoy helping others see the connections, it never feels like work.

What qualifications do you have to teach the Thai language?

Apart from being a native speaker of the language, I also have a degree in linguistics. I’m officially trained and have worked in 2 licensed schools in Chiang Mai, teaching Thai as a foreign language. And with 7 years of experience under my belt, I am confident of my qualifications.

What student age brackets do you teach?

All ages, the youngest student I ever had was 8 and the oldest one was 80. Yes, 80! You can never be too young or too old. People often debate about the best time to learn a new language, and I always say the time is now.

What are the types of courses that you offer?

I offer:

1. Survival Thai ( 2-6 sessions)
2. Beginner Level (Beginner Level 1, 2)
3. Intermediate Level (Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate Level 1, 2)
4. Advanced Level (Pre-Advanced and Advanced Level 1, 2)
5. Reading & Writing Thai (15 – 20 sessions)
6. Customized Thai Lessons

Have you studied and/or lived abroad before?

Although I get asked many times whether I have studied or lived abroad before, I actually studied in Chiang Mai University and have always lived in Thailand my entire life. So, I jokingly tell my students if I can learn to speak English fluently growing up in Thailand, they have no excuse not to learn Thai!

Is your teaching approach more teacher centered or student centered?

Both. I always listen to my students’ requests and suggestions but I make the final decision on what is best for them. I pay attention to each student individually and see how they learn best. Each student requires a unique approach to learning. Some methods might work with some students, while others may not. And sometimes, students don’t know what they need most. So while I follow a specific course overall, each lesson is tailored to the individual student or class.

What are some of your favorite teaching methods?

I have seen so many learners fail in learning to read Thai or they find it’s extremely difficult to conquer. So, after having successfully taught many students to read Thai, I found it’s best to teach them for a shorter time with specific orders.

I designed a reading & writing course that will help students to learn Thai script in 30 hours within a 5-week period. It has worked really well so far. I was confident it would work from the beginning, but when I really started to see increased comprehension, I knew this unique approach was gold.

For conversational Thai, I sometimes take my students to a local coffee shop, restaurant or a market, so they can learn from using the language in everyday life. It’s relaxing and effective.

Do you use course books in teaching Thai?

I use books and handouts and online materials. I wrote my own books and all materials to use in my lessons.

What your thoughts about the use of transliteration in teaching Thai?

It’s not the best idea and could cause confusion. However, it’s useful for complete beginners. They just need to stop depending on it as soon as possible.

In your opinion, how important is reading and writing Thai in helping foreigners learn the language?

I think being able to read Thai script is essential in learning Thai and eventually mastering the language. The more interactions you have with the language the more likely it will stick. Also, Thai language is a phonetic language so learning how to read will help you better to pronounce and communicate with the locals.

I usually recommend students to learn to read Thai if they want to speak Thai well. Thai language is all about the pronunciation. With the romanized transliteration you can never learn the real sounds. It’s only close but not the same.

I wrote about the benefits of learning how to read and write Thai. You can find here: Five Reasons for Learning to Read and Write Thai.

Do you use technology in teaching Thai? If yes, what do you use?

Yes, I also offer lessons on Skype. I use google spreadsheet and online whiteboard as tools. In my classroom, I put all my flashcards on iPad, so I don’t have to carry the cards everywhere and it’s easy to share to my students. Furthermore, I put all my lessons + audio recordings on Dropbox so that my students have access and can download from anywhere.

What are some of the issues unique to a particular nationality in learning Thai that you have observed in your students?

Hmmm…. It seems to be harder to learn Thai for those who come from English speaking countries. Most of them only speak one language and learning your second language is harder than your third.

How do you help your students overcome those issues?

Since I have a good understanding of the English language, I show them how it works in English and how it works in Thai. I explain the similarities and the differences. It usually helps.

In your opinion, how important is learning about Thai culture in helping foreigners learn the language?

I think it’s the other way round, learning the language helps foreigners learn Thai culture. For example, we have many words with ใจ (jai) which means heart in Thai e.g. ใจดี ใจร้าย ใจร้อน ใจเย็น เข้าใจ เปลี่ยนใจ. We use the heart to understand and we (Thai people) would say “change the heart” as opposed to “change the mind”. Because ใจ (jai) is simply THAT important in Thai culture.

How do you assess whether or not your students understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

I give my students an evaluating exam from time to time to see their progress. Sometimes I just ask them if they understand and if they say they do, I ask them to explain back to me.

What do you do when it is obvious that your students do not understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

I explain again but in different ways or give them lots of examples. I always make sure they understand correctly.

How strict are you in respect of tones and/or vowel length?

Strict. All for their good. I correct them every time they say a word wrong, especially a super common word, until they get tired of that and finally remember the tones. I don’t mind doing it over and over.

What are your thoughts about beginners learning and using colloquialisms, slang and/or swear words when they speak Thai?

I always tell them to avoid using slang and swear words that they don’t fully understand. When you are not sure, don’t use it. Because it could offend people.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of teaching Thai?

Answering students questions. My students are from all over the world, with different backgrounds. They ask all sorts of questions related to the Thai language. Some questions you have never thought about before. But as a teacher, you should have a good answer for them. So, I find this challenging. It also determines whether they think you’re a good teacher or not because understanding their questions is important too.

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

Be patient with yourself but don’t wait until your Thai is perfect to speak Thai. Be comfortable making mistakes because that’s the best way to learn Thai. Try to use it in your daily life even when they speak back to you in English. Take the opportunity and get yourself fully immersed with the language if you’re in Thailand. Finally, practice, practice and practice.

Good luck!

Kannaphat Saelee (Jan),
Study Thai

Thai teacher interview questions…

The download has additional questions for you to pick and choose from – enough for everyone’s liking.

Download: Questions for potential Thai teachers

Watch this space for more Thai teacher interviews.

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Mind Your Language: Two Week Intensive Thai Course in Pakchong (Khao Yai National Park)

Mind Your Language

Mind Your Language’s Two Week Intensive Thai Course promises to be quite the adventure.

Along with learning Thai using their T.M.C. Teaching Method you’ll visit Khao Yai National Park (Pakchong), experience Thailand’s Thai cowboys (Chokchai Farm) and do a bit of wine tasting at Granmonte Vineyard and Winery. And if all pans out, included will be shopping at the Kingdom of the Pottery (Ban Dankwian) and a Thai Premier League game at Korat Stadium.

The T.M.C. Teaching Method is comprised of:
T – Transformation method: Reversing sentence structure.
M – Muscle memory method: Repetition leads to accuracy.
C – Combination method: Creating meaningful paragraphs.

The method sounds fairly straightforward to me but if you are interested in hearing more about it check out reviews from their regular intensive Thai course on Koh Samui (it uses the same teaching method): Reviews.

The intensive Thai beginners course in Pakchong will be held from the 3th to the 14th of July, 2017.

Excluding accommodation, the price for the two week beginners course at both Koh Samui and Pakchong is 14,900 Baht. On Samui you can arrange your own accommodation or leave it up to the school; Pakchong will have a package deal (accommodation and excursions – to be announced later). On Koh Samui I found it’s roughly 9000 baht for 12 days on the island but that’s without the school’s discount (and how much you want to slum it).

If you are interested in attending the intensive course at Koh Samui instead, you have more options as far as dates go. But the main difference between the two intensive courses (Koh Samui and Pakchong) is that on the island, classroom studies are the main focus and the activities are secondary (and up to you). On Koh Samui, after class is over for the day you can choose from: cooking classes, diving, kite surfing, massages & spa, yoga, safari tours, golf, frisbee golf, fishing, paddle-boarding, night markets, waterfalls, beaches, etc.

On top of Thai, on Koh Samui there’s also an Italian intensive course:

Thai, English and Italian are taught following the same teaching styles (T.M.C. teaching methods). Regular courses run throughout the year (2 or 4 times a week).  Intensive courses for both English and Italian will start from April (Easter Time) and a holiday-study package for students coming from abroad will be offered for people who want to study in the summer time (June, July, August).

Mind Your Language has just been affiliated to Societa’ Dante Alighieri Italia, which is the headquarter and main learning centre of Italian as a second language in Italy. From January 2017 we are the only PLIDA (Progetto Lingua Italiana Dante Alighieri) Certification Centre in Thailand and the official centre where students can take the PLIDA exams and get an international diploma that assesses their level of Italian as a Second Language (From A1 to C2) . Facebook: PLIDA Thailand.

If you have any questions please leave comments below or contact the school via their Facebook page or website:

Website: Mind Your Language, Thailand
Facebook: Mind Your Language School

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Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Review and Free Draw

Cracking Thai Fundamentals

Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Review and Free Draw…

For an extra holiday treat Stu Jay Raj (author of Cracking Thai Fundamentals) has gifted a book to giveaway to the lucky winner. As with previous draws, the rules are simple:

NOTE: Each relevant comment gets counted, so leave as many as you like.

The draw will run from this moment until 31st December (New Years Eve), 6am Thai time. As soon I’m awake(ish) I (or someone else) will throw the numbers into random.org, and then announce the winner.

Good luck all and ho ho ho!

Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Review…

The Cracking Thai Fundamentals course by Stu Jay Raj was put together in 2000 to help members of the FCC (Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand) understand the Thai language. When researching the characteristic problems expats have with learning Thai as a second language, Stu developed an interactive system to kickstart students into learning the Thai language along with Thai culture (they go hand-in-hand).

Stu has since gone on to teach other expats, and has even taught the course in Thai to Thai teachers. I lucked out in my first year in Thailand when I came across CTF in Bangkok. It was such an entertaining eyeopener, I took it twice (as did many others in my class).

As there’s only so much of Stu to go around, to enable a wider audience to take advantage of CTF he created an interactive, online version at stujay.com, a membership site.

So there’s Cracking Thai Fundamentals the on-the-ground course, Cracking Thai Fundamentals the online course, and now Cracking Thai Fundamentals the book. When I asked Stu “why the book” he came back with:

Stu Jay Raj: Yes … I am getting older. The problem with the live course is that I have to choose between giving a brain overload or giving a watered down version. The book gets to go into more detail and can be used over the longterm. The online course was developed for a similar reason.

No matter which flavour you go with, the on-the-ground course, the online course, the course in book form, or even a combo, all are suitable for students of Thai sporting various backgrounds. Those brand spanking new to Thai will benefit by avoiding the many traps students often fall into, and those already deep into studying Thai will notice more than a few “ah ha’s” along their CTF journey.

Before I go any further, I want to point you to the most complete review out there for CTF, the book. It’s by Josh Sager at Let’s Talk Thai: Product Review: Cracking Thai Fundamentals by Stuart Jay Raj.

Josh Sager: An Operating System for the Mind: It’s important to mention right off the bat that this is not a Thai language learning “system” as you are perhaps accustomed to using. Stu himself is adamant in making this point clear. The book does not give you vocabulary lists to memorize, lessons on sentence structure, or quick phrases you can use while visiting Thailand as a tourist. Cracking Thai Fundamentals is a suite of tools designed to ultimately provide you with a deeper understanding of the Thai language; it’s a way to take what you already know, what you are currently learning, and smooth out the rough edges. Think of it like expanding your paint palette from 8 to 128 colors to help you paint more vivid pictures.

Review: Cracking Thai Fundamentals…

As Josh has done a fabulous job reviewing the book I’m going to focus on linking the chapters in the book with Stu’s online course at stujay.com.

For those of you who want to sample the online course before you buy, I’ve marked the FREE sections.

Stu Jay Raj: At a bare minimum I would encourage everyone reading the book to use the free online initial Preparing to Crack section along with the Consonant Compass… both interactive and downloadable versions. Laminate an A3 version of the Constant Compass and have it beside you as you learn.

Section One: Preparing to Crack the Fundamentals (page 30)
Preparing to Crack the Thai Fundamentals – Part 1 (FREE)

Section One is chockfull of tips to help prepare yourself for your Thai journey. It goes from changing your mindset (plenty of “ah ha’s”) to rearranging your actual life on the ground (paper dictionaries to computers).

Section Two: Thinking in Meanings (page 68)
CTF Thinking in Meanings
Thinking in Meanings Part 1
Thinking in Meanings Part 2 – Quizzes and Drills

Section Two is a full body, interactive chapter, where, with a few choice words, you are shown how feel their meanings before learning how to create actual sentences. For beginners, this is a brilliant intro into understanding how the Thai language works.

Section Three: Cracking Indic Based Scripts (page 181)
Cracking Indic Based Scripts – Main Lesson
Indic Consonant Compass (FREE)

Section Three covers the Thai sound system, the Thai writing system, and the system behind the system. Taking you back in time, this is where Stu opens up the magic of Indic based scripts to lay a foundation for reading, writing, and speaking Thai.

Section Four: Cracking the Thai Vowels (page 249)
Cracking the Thai Vowels – Main Lesson

Section Four uses hand signals and dimensions to get the Thai vowels into your head and out your mouth.

Section Five: Cracking the Thai Consonants (page 287)
Cracking Thai Consonants – Main Lesson

Section Five is understandably a large chunk of the book as it takes you through the Thai consonants. To assist your understanding, it goes through Stu’s pronunciation glyphs, the five cardinal points of articulation, and then over to each consonant in turn.

Section Six: Cracking Thai Tones (page 484)
Mastering Tones in Thai Chinese and other Tonal Languages
Conquering Thai Tones – Webinar

Section Six covers the bane of most language learners of Thai, tones. By this section you will already have constants and vowels down, along with an understanding of the map of the human mouth, so with a bit more work you will be able to slot in the tones.

Final: How to Make the Cracking Thai Fundamentals Vision a Reality (page 545)

Stu Jay Raj: Lastly, don’t forget that Thai Cracking Fundamentals is not a complete system to teach you Thai; that it is a system to help lay a new physical and mental operating system that will work hand in hand with all the other methods that you are using to learn Thai.

The final part of the book is a general “where do you go from here” section filled with advice on how to use what you’ve learned.

Cracking Thai Fundamentals: Draw reminder…

As if you’d forget … the draw will run from this moment until 31st December (New Years Eve), 6am Thai time.

Good luck!

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Learn to Read the Thai Alphabet in 2 Weeks, 10 Days, 60 Minutes?

Read the Thai Alphabet in Two Weeks, Ten Days, 60 Minutes

Just how fast can you learn how to read the Thai Alphabet?…

Seriously, can you learn how to read the Thai alphabet in ten days? Two weeks? Sixty minutes? Sure. Well, all except for the 60 minutes promise (but it sounds good).

And before you get all fluffed up about what seems like a load of hype, with the right materials you can indeed learn how to read the Thai alphabet in record time. I did. You can hear all about it in The Easy Way for Beginners to Read and Write Thai.

Actually, with the right teacher and materials, you can start reading the Thai alphabet in a matter of minutes. But when you finish learning the entire 44 consonants, 21 vowels, and all the extra fiddly bits is totally up to you.

Anyway, for this review I’m looking at the top standalone courses for learning how to read Thai: Read Thai in Two Weeks (by Brett Whiteside of Learn Thai From a White Guy), Read Thai in Ten Days (by Bingo-Lingo), and 60 Minutes Thai Alphabet (the method that saved my sanity).

Read Thai in Two Weeks…

Brett: Have you struggled with boring Thai books and lessons and still can’t talk to anybody or understand anything? Have you been frustrated by the fact that no one can just explain stuff simply? Are you still waiting for it to ‘click’ so you can start having real conversations in Thai? I’ve been there. I’m a foreigner who went all the way from zero to fluent and I want to show you how I did it. I’ll also steer you away from the loads of time-wasting, frustrating mistakes that almost everybody makes. I’ve already struggled through them and I want to make sure my students don’t have to.

Read Thai in Two WeeksAuthor: Brett Whiteside of Learn Thai From A White Guy is a Western expat who’s resided in Thailand for over ten years. In addition to being fluent in Thai, he’s conversant in four other languages. Brett presently works as a consultant, translator and language tutor.

When struggling to learn tones and pronunciation, Brett created his own materials to teach himself Thai. After many adjustments to get it just right, and having great personal success himself, he designed a course to teach Thai to hundreds of expat students: Read Thai in Two Weeks.

Review: To give you a quick whip round this course, the introduction covers the intent of the course and instructions to setup Anki. The lessons are given in small, manageable chunks, each with audio files and mnemonics. Some have drills and/or exercises at the end of each lesson (these have audio as well). To test if you are ready to carry on with the next round of lessons, after the first 15 lessons there’s a quiz on hearing, writing, and the tones and vowels previously covered. A second quiz tackles the rest of the already covered tones and low class consonants. After eight more lessons (drills and exercises included – so no, you don’t get let off lightly) there’s a quiz on numbers. Thirteen more lessons are followed by a “What Now” exam, but no sweat as you’re already a superstar with the constant drilling, exercises, and questions asked throughout the course. To absolutely make sure you’ve learned what you should, a further six drills follow. A final lesson covers simple sentence structure.

The strength of this course is that being online it can offer clickable audio files, as well as quizzes, drills and exercises to test what you’ve learned (or not). Another plus are the mnemonics (memory hooks) to help get the materials down solid. Anki files with audio, as well as the free (to the public) iOS and Android apps tailored to the course, make sure you can continue your studies wherever you are. Note: the Android app has quizzes while the iOS doesn’t (hint, hint).

When it comes to getting getting Thai lessons into your head mnemonics are a powerful tool. There are several ways to use mnemonics – graphics pre-drawn and ones you create yourself. In my experience they both work. In this course, except for the Middle Class Story, detailed descriptions lead you to create personalised visuals using your own vivid imagination. The more vivid, the more personal, the better.

The clearly recorded sound files (female, with a voice that isn’t high or whiny) for each lesson show what the lessons are supposed to sound like. A heads up. For the majority of the course there’s only audio so forget about using the crutch of transliteration.

Brett’s experience as a student as well as a teacher of Thai shines through with the many insightful tips to help with concepts and remembering strange character shapes. The constant reminders to re-study what you don’t know are needed. And just incase you’ve forgotten, every so often he reminds you to go off and practice using the custom-made Anki cards that come with the course, or to play around with the free Alphabet apps.

While Brett is obviously not physically present, the way the course is written it’s as if he’s looking over your shoulder, advising you every step of the way. And his liberal use of humour, often with an “ah hah!!”, keeps the mood light throughout the course.

Price: $97 (orig $147) with 30 day money-back guarantee.
Product: 40 online lessons plus three quizzes and six drills all with audio recorded by native Thais (not T2S), 600+ Anki flashcards with audio (ditto), iOS and Android apps.

Website: Learn Thai From A White Guy
Facebook: Learn Thai From A White Guy
YouTube: Learn Thai From A White Guy
Twitter: @LTfaWG
Blog: Learn Thai

Interview: Bangkok Podcast: Learn Thai From A White Guy

Android App – FREE (includes quizzes): Learn Thai From A White Guy

Read Thai in 10 Days…

Bingo: The selling points of this course are simplification, understanding, and organisation.

Simplification: Many Thai script teaching courses don’t handle rules well. For example, the tone rules. Instead of using bloated tables or cumbersome-looking tone flow charts, RTITD organises tone rules into one principle (plus the default tone for each tone mark) and three exceptions. The course also has a different take on Thai vowels. RTITD simplifies the ‘traditional’ number of vowels from 32 vowels (plus 10 vowel changes) to 22 vowels (4 of which have two forms), and treats vowel shortening and vowel-less words as separate.

Understanding: People may forget what they remember, but they will never forget what they understand! RTITD doesn’t rely on sheer effort to purely memorise individual character’s sounds when at initial and final position, it tells you WHY they are the way they are. The course also explains the nature of the Thai phonological system, that there are no unreleased finals, and which initial sound will become which final sounds, and much more.

Organisation: By prioritising what’s essential, the entire course is carefully structured in such a way that makes sense. Lesson by lesson, what learners have previously studied is repeated and combined with the new materials being introduced.

For reading skill reinforcement, the approach draws from the principles of spaced repetition. Words chosen for the reading practice exercises are not random, but appropriately distributed throughout the course. Using this method, students quickly gain confidence in their ability to read Thai.

Learn to Read Thai in Ten DaysAuthor: Bingo (Arthit Juyaso) is a linguist and Thai national who developed a love for languages at an early age. The first foreign language he tackled was English (brave lad). Still in school, he then moved on to majoring in Japanese, attending a one year scholarship programme at Chiba University in Japan. After graduating Bingo did a stint as a Japanese translator. During that time he started dabbling in yet another language, Spanish. Realising his continuing love for languages, he then went for a Master’s Degree in Linguistics. After, he started teaching English, Thai and Japanese at various schools in Thailand. Dissatisfied with how the Thai alphabet is being taught to expats, and influenced by his studies in linguistics, he came up with the method taught in Read Thai in Ten Days.

Review: This course gets into a large amount of detail (more than most), which clearly demonstrates Bingo’s experience with teaching Thai to expats.

The materials come in two downloads: a pdf and a folder with audio files. Due to the pdf format Bingo uses transliteration with a pronunciation guide to approximate the Thai sounds, but advises students to depend upon the accompanying audio files instead.

The course starts out with a bit about Bingo, followed by a brief overview of the history of the Thai script, and then a pronunciation guide to help you through the unfamiliar Thai alphabet. Immediately after are first five lessons followed by an overview. Four more lessons follow, and after that, another overview. On lesson ten, the last day of the course, you get tips and tricks to help recognise the Thai alphabet. Before starting the course my advice is to go straight to the last lesson, especially “Same Same But Different”, where you learn how to recognise different attributes of the Thai alphabet. Finally, the Appendices sums up the rules, presents the Thai dictionary order, shares more samples of Thai fonts, and finishes with a Thai-English glossary.

Each lesson begins with an outline of what you can expect to learn in that lesson (topics that logically go together are grouped together). The sub-topics have an explanation, what to memorise (with audio), writing lessons with practice sheets, in-depth explanations and tips, and self-driven quizzes with answers partially hidden from view by being upside down. At the end of each lesson is an overview of everything covered in that lesson. The in-depth tips help immensely with ‘seeing’ as well as understanding what’s going on. If students cannot easily get through the overviews at the end of each lesson Bingo often reminds them to go back and study.

In the lessons teaching consonant and vowels there are samples of typical fonts, stylized fonts, and cursive fonts. Memory aids have been created for the mid-low-high classes (as groups) and the principle of tones (but not the tone marks). The recordings use the male voice (Bingo’s).

Price: $17.99 (orig $49.99)
Product: 170 page ebook + audio files

Website: Read Thai in 10 Days
YouTube: Read Thai in 10 Days
Twitter: @readthai

60 Minutes Thai Alphabet…

60 Minutes: Stop struggling with the Thai alphabet right now. Use this system, and you will be able to read within minutes! This is the original memory system for the Thai alphabet, and has sold thousands of copies since 2005. We have been featured in the Bangkok Post, The Nation newspaper and major blogs like WomenLearnThai.com and ThaiVisa.com

Seven years of development have been invested in this ground-breaking system, which will allow you to relate almost immediately, to one of the most difficult alphabet systems. We have devised a visual memory system that relies on simple images, to enable you to immediately learn the sounds and shapes of the Thai letters.

60 Minutes Thai AlphabetAuthors: This ebook was created by a team of expats at 1steasythaialphabet. As professional expats do not stick around one place for long, they found plenty of opportunity to learn new languages. With Thai, they pooled their knowledge to create and refine the 60 Minute Thai Alphabet course.

Review: This exact ebook is sold all around the internet at different websites under different names, some going so far as to list themselves as authors (cheeky buggers).

There’s a valid reason why this small course is so popular – the visual mnemonics work quickly to teach the shapes of the Thai consonants, vowels and Thai numbers, the tones, as well as the different initials and finals.

While I applaud 60 Minutes Thai Alphabet strongly (it rescued me from head-banging frustration) the lack of audio is indeed a weak point. But as there are many free apps and websites with audio files, not all is lost. You just have to work a little harder.

With only a small pdf sans audio, another downside is the present price ($19.99), compared to what Read Thai in Ten Days offers ($17.99). But if you wait it out, the price often drops.

Price: $19.99 (orig $49.99)
Product: 39 page ebook
Website: 60 Minutes Thai Alphabet

The wrap: The Thai alphabet in 2 weeks, 10 days, 60 minutes?…

The reason I chose to review these three courses in particular is because each have individual strengths that makes them the best of the standalone courses on the market. And after going back and forth between Read Thai in Two Weeks and Read Thai in Ten Days to double-check, I believe that more than ever. So, here you go, my thoughts… peppered with many “If’s”.

  • If you’ve tried to learn how to read the Thai alphabet and failed miserably (as I did), then start with 60 Minutes Thai Alphabet – but don’t stop there.
  • If you need readymade mnemonics, again, start with 60 Minutes Thai Alphabet (ditto on the not stopping).
  • But if you’d much rather create mnemonics personalised to your own way of thinking and understanding, then grab Read Thai in Two Weeks.
  • If you learn best by a hands-on approach of working through a multitude of online quizzes and exercises, then Read Thai in Two Weeks would be the top consideration.
  • If money is an issue, then Read Thai in Ten Days will get you there.
  • If a touch of spaced repetition is how you learn best, then go with Read Thai in Ten Days. But remember, with all those drills and exercises, Read Thai in Two Weeks also repeats the lessons learned.
  • If you need an instructor with experience in language learning and teaching Thai, who can clearly and simply explain the intricate details of the Thai language, then both Read Thai in Two Weeks and Read Thai in Ten Days are excellent.

Here’s another ‘IF’. If I had to do it all over again, I’d start right away with 60 Minutes Thai Alphabet with a Thai alphabet app by my side. After I felt comfortable with all those strange squiggles, I’d study using both Read Thai in Two Weeks and Read Thai in Ten Days.

But in saying that … product jumping can be a deterrent when learning a language (owning most everything for studying Thai has been a hindrance for me, not a help). So IF I had to choose between Read Thai in Two Weeks and Read Thai in Ten Days, with my visual-spatial learning style I’d do better with a course heavy in mnemonics, quizzes, drills and exercises, as well as clickable audio. So it’d have to be Brett’s Read Thai in Two Weeks.

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Review: Using Anki 2 to Study the Thai Language

Using Anki 2 To Study Thai

Using Anki 2 To Study Thai…

When I first heard about a program called Anki, I wasn’t too interested. It sounded like a digital flash card program – something my friends did as little programming exercises in 8th grade. It didn’t strike me as if their finished creations had a major impact on their French exam results. That appeared to be in line with my belief that technology doesn’t solve laziness. Or so I thought.

The basics…

Anki actually comes in different versions – it’s available for PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and even as a web application that you can open in most mobile or desktop browsers. The idea of the program in a nutshell is for you to create digital flash cards. You can then practice them like traditional flash cards, but with a twist: The cards to review will be selected automatically and shown to you in ever increasing time-frames as long as you get them right (and reset once you get them wrong). You can also download ready-made set of study cards for free, but let’s get back to that later.

How it works…

Anki uses so-called notes, that have different fields (e.g. the front and back of a flash card). You can even have more than two fields (e.g. ‘English’, ‘Thai’ and ‘Thai Abbreviation’ – very useful if you want to study commonly abbreviated terms). Anki doesn’t limit you to text entries. You can use even use sound files or images. Personally I never bothered with anything but text, but if you need to practice pronunciation or can’t read Thai, this can come in quite helpful.

Anki 2

Anki displays one side of a ‘card’ to you and you have to guess the answer. If you’re so inclined, you can even activate a setting that forces you to type it in. After that you can choose whether you got it wrong (the card goes right back in the virtual to-review stack) or whether you got it right (the card won’t be shown right away again) or whether it was easy (the next showing of the card will be heavily delayed). This system is usually referred to as spaced repetition).

The actual delays with which the cards are shown depend on how often you got them right in a row. The first time it will show it again the next day, then in 3 days, then in 7, then in a month and so on. If you select that an answer was easy, it’s similar to skipping the next review.

If during review you keep failing a card too often after the initial learning phase (think 15+ times, but the setting can be customized), it gets marked as ‘leech’ and won’t be shown for review anymore. The idea being that some words you sometimes just can’t remember for the life of it and instead of taking up review time, they get suspended. Of course you can undo that, but the software is trying to help you avoid road blocks.

The PC Client…

Anki’s desktop clients are free to download. While I only ever used the PC version, to my knowledge the Mac and Linux versions don’t differ too much. The interface of the PC version comes with a lot of functionality, but can be a bit confusing at first.

Personally I liked the little details that show the thought that went into the app. A good example is if you enter data in fields in English and Thai (using actual Thai writing – as you should). The software remembers which one you used for which, so you don’t constantly have to switch keyboard settings back and forth between Thai and English.

The Mobile Client…

Having Anki on your phone is what makes or breaks it in my opinion. An Android client, AnkiDroid, is free. One for iOS will set you back $24.99 – ouch! However, considering the value you get out of it, it’s still a steal I think: You can practice while on the subway, waiting for an elevator or in the Big C checkout line on a Saturday morning. So yes, it costs a bit more than your average ‘Angry Birds’ app, but considering that you can get hundreds of extra hours of practice out of it, that price tag is easily justified. Alternatively you can always use AnkiWeb which runs in your mobile browser and is completely free.

It still means you’ll need to make the effort to practice Thai on the subway instead of following your friends’ latest Facebook updates. However, you’ll quickly turn ‘waiting time’ into productive ‘Thai learning time’. Maybe the focus on using time more efficiently is the German shining through in me. However, being able to improve your Thai while not having to cut down on free time or work holds a lot of attraction for me.

Why you should use both applications…

As a general guideline I recommend using a PC or Mac version to enter new data into Anki, simply due to typing speed. The iOS or Android apps are perfect for reviews. This switching of apps works like a charm because Anki can automatically synchronize your mobile and your desktop devices remotely via their own server. Every time you finish entering data (or complete reviews), your device can sync the updated status with Anki’s central server (via Wifi/3G/etc.). So yes, you can create new entries on your PC and then review those same entries on your phone right after without having to connect your phone to your PC.

Using ready-made sets…

Anki has a tremendous amount of freely shared ready-made card sets available. You can even download them from Anki’s central server within the application at no extra charge. I have to admit, that most of the time this isn’t too enticing. The problem is that you tend to be better off entering words and phrases on your own, to which you know the context and which you are most likely to repeatedly use. A ready-made set often doesn’t have that kind of overlap.

But there are exceptions to this: One is a ready-made set of flash cards for the first Harry Potter book (automatic download). If you’re planning to read the book in Thai, a lot of the vocabulary is already ready to review, allowing you to study the English meaning of used words and read the book in Thai at the same time.

There’s also some help if you already have your own ready-made deck of cards. Anki 2.0 offers an option to import sets from earlier versions as well as from Mnemosyne 2.0 or Supermemo. Theoretically there’s also the option to export from other programs to standardized text files and import those into Anki, but you probably want to Google for your specific software to see if that’s a workable option.

In summary…

Anki’s combination of a desktop and a mobile client allows you to efficiently create your own set of cards on your PC that you can then easily practice every day during your commute. When using it with whole sentences instead of single words, you can easily improve vocabulary, grammar and language feeling during everyday downtime.

Anki isn’t the only SRS out there, but it’s the only I’ve tried and so far I haven’t seen a reason to switch to any others. I’d be happy to hear from others who are using other solutions and hear how it works out for you. Leave a comment and let us know!

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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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Copyblogger: How to Show Up and Study Thai

Copyblogger: How to Show Up and Study Thai

How to show up and study Thai…

Taylor Lindstrom has a Copyblogger post that could work equally well for learning Thai: How to show up and write.

Only, put successful language learner instead of writer. And for write, put study.

So it’d be like this:

Ask any successful language learner how to study, and they will tell you, logically enough: Study.

Study every day. Study at the same time. Study for hours. Study for 20 minutes. Just show up and study.

You’ve heard this advice before and you haven’t taken it yet.

You meant to. But you haven’t.

This is not entirely your fault, because while the advice is not complicated, it’s nearly impossible to follow.

Mostly because it’s way too simple.

“Because it’s way too simple”

Taylor just might be on to something.

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