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Approach Learning Thai by First Understanding its Diversity

Approach Learning Thai by Understanding its Diversity

Understand the diversity in the Thai language…

I’ve always been a big believer that there is hardly ever a “best way” to do anything. Simply put, humanity has never progressed by following strict rules or being dogmatic in approaches to learning. When we limit our experiences by claiming that one method stands out above others, we deny our inherent nature to be experimental.

More and more people choose to submit to a more orthodox and nearly dogmatic view on how things should be done. I often see this in the Thai language learning community. Both learners and native speakers of Thai often will say that there is a “best way” to convey a certain feeling or pronounce a word as if the multitude of human emotions that we experience individually can be shoved into a static microcosm of ideas that can be used generally to express ourselves. We get caught up in the concept that language usage is right or wrong instead of being a tool to communicate. We create what I consider to be useless standards on our level of language acquisition. I call it useless because every standard presented can not always be met by a native speaker.

Foreigners constantly talk about having a Thai accent as if all Thais speak the same way. They talk about correct pronunciation as if there is only one way to say something and like all Thais speak formally all day. We set the standard of Thai language to emulate a government propagated language. Thailand is very much a multilingual society regardless of what Phibun tried to accomplish with the cultural mandates in the 1930s stating all Thais must only speak Thai. When you say “I speak Thai”, do you know what Thai you are speaking? Are you speaking the Thai that is taught in school? Are you speaking one of the regional dialects? Do you speak a combination?

I find these standards to be pointless because they are trying to make a static average out of something that is inherently fluid. Words like “fluency” and “level of competence” have absolutely no meaning to me. Language tests might give a person a boost to their ego or be good to put on a job resume, but at the end of the day language is a tool to be used. You might speak a language, but have you lived in the culture and integrated? Have you used your skills to create relationships and become invested in a community? Does it help you in your work life?

A few months ago I was visiting my wife’s family in a village outside of Chiang Rai. It was a normal evening in Northern Thailand. My mother-in-law had cooked a feast, my wife’s uncle brought over a bottle of lao-kao that a friend had brewed, and we sat around the table with my in-laws and aunts and uncles. While eating and drinking multiple languages were being spoken. My father-in-law and his brother and sister spoke Yong and the rest of the family answered in Northern Thai. Once in a while, they would switch to Central Thai to address me. At one point, my wife told my mother-in-law to speak to me in the Chiang Mai dialect instead of the Chiang Rai dialect because it’s easier for me to understand. We were all speaking different languages and dialects and understanding each other (though I did have to constantly ask my wife’s uncle to translate what he said in Yong). They broke every “grammar rule” that people are taught not to say and their pronunciation differed from person to person. The usage of language was the least important aspect of the night. The real meaning came as a result of our communication. My wife’s aunt and uncle recalled vivid stories from their youth where they encountered spirits and saw a person possessed by a spirit. They reminisced on how they used to have to travel almost 24 hours by taking a bus to Lampang and hopping on a train to Chiang Mai when today the whole trip takes 3 hours. We all connected with each other and shared our stories.

If there is so much diversity in one family’s conversation, how is it possible to try to create a standard for a whole country of people? When a Thai friend from Bangkok visited my wife’s village with us last year, everybody was making fun of him for his funny Bangkok accent and for not being able to understand Northern Thai well. We create our standards based on our own personal standing. I personally find the concept of “not knowing everything” to be exciting and invigorating. I have never had a goal to become “fluent”. My goal for speaking Thai has been to connect and interact with people. I want to experience a different way of life and learn their stories. Instead of trying to create a standard of competency that has to do with useless hurdles, why not judge your language skills on what it helps you accomplish? How has your studies of Thai language enhanced your life? What relationships have you built as a result? Anybody can learn a language, it’s what you do with your knowledge that counts.

Next time somebody tells you there is a best way to say something, take it as “this is my favorite way to say something” and move on. Do what works for you and keep on interacting with more people. The beauty of the Thai language and culture is in its diversity.

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Watch Khmer, Laos, Thai, and Hmong on MaliMar Tv

Watch Thai on MaliMar Tv

Even you can watch Thai on MaliMar Tv…

A lot of Thai language learners and natives of Thailand who live outside of Thailand would love to have access to Thai media, but are limited to inconsistent YouTube videos and other inconsistent, unstable, and unreliable sources. Live Thai television channel streams may buffer; videos are in very poor quality; or video series are missing parts. Well, I have come across something that may remedy that.

Malimar Technology Inc., is a technology company based out of the US. They provide access to content from Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos to people from anywhere in the world on either a monthly or yearly subscription. Quality of content range from standard definition to high definition. Types of content range from movies to live television channels from Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. Language of contents are Khmer, Laos, Thai, and Hmong. There is also a section that contains all of their movies that are subtitled in English along with subtitles in Thai. I’m a subscriber myself, and love it.

Watch Thai on MaliMar Tv

Here is a little breakdown on what you get:

First, you must register and select a subscription plan. You can access via the web with your PC, Mac, Tablet, or phone or via Roku. They have a thirty-day trial that will allow you to dabble in it and see if you like it or not. They also have some free content, and will let you watch the first two episodes of any drama series for free. When you log on to their website, you will see options for Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Hmong. Let’s say you click on Thailand, – you will see the following: Thai Live Premium, Drama (Onair), World Drama (Onair), News, Sitcoms, Full Thai Dramas, Variety Shows, Food & Travel, Game Shows, Sports, Local Theater, Music, E-Learning, Drama (World), Other Menus, and Live Radio.

Watch Thai on MaliMar Tv

Thai Live Premium has live Television channels from Thailand. Channels as ThaiPBS in Hd, channels 3 and 8, Voice Tv, Sabaydee Tv, and other channels. These channels are very stable and reliable. They don’t buffer very often, and if they do buffer, they don’t buffer for very long. The free section has channels as GMM Gold and Thai channels from the USA.

Watch Thai on MaliMar Tv

Drama (Onair) gives you instant access to drama episodes after they air on tv. It’s like how Hulu airs tv episodes one day after they air on tv. If you are a fan of Thai drama, this will ensure you don’t miss a single episode of any drama that is airing and you can also catch up by viewing previous episodes. These episodes are full episodes and play straight through. They’re not segmented like how they are if you were to watch them on YouTube. That means, you can watch the episode straight through with no interruptions. World Drama (Onair) is the same thing. Just the dramas are Korean and other dramas dubbed in Thai.

The News section has full episodes of news programs from various channels from current day episodes all the way to the first episodes of the programs from the beginning of the year. It is the same with the Sitcoms, Full Thai Dramas, Variety Shows, Food & Travel, Game Shows, and Sports sections. Full Thai Dramas contain full episodes of dramas from current year and dramas from previous years all the way back to 2008. The Variety Shows Section contains full episodes of shows from reality shows to documentary series along with shows like “Thailand’s Got Talent” and “The Voice: Thailand.” The episodes are from current year.

Local Theater has traditional performances as traditional plays performed at local theaters in Thailand. These are unsegmented as well. The Music section contains full episodes of Thai music shows with artist performances. E-Learning has videos of language and culture education from Korean to Chinese language and cooking. Drama (World) has full episodes of dramas from around the world, dubbed in Thai from current year and from previous years. There is also a Movies On Demand section within this section. Here, you will find Thai movies along with movies from around the world dubbed in Thai. You will also find English and Thai subtitled movies here.

Watch Thai on MaliMar Tv

The Other Menus section contains full concert videos, full news, sitcom, and variety shows from previous years, and an adult section for mature audiences. These are rated R Thai movies along with rated R movies from around the world dubbed in Thai. There is also a Special section with full episodes of shows like “Bike For Mom.” The Live Radio section is, well, live radio stations from Thailand.

I like this content provider because I can be connected back home to Cambodia by the live and archived media it provides. After I came to the US, I had no access to Khmer radio or television. With Malimar Tv Network, I don’t have anymore excuses. I also like its Thai contents for they are a lot more engaging than Khmer programs, and the contents help with my Thai language skills; especially listening. Now, I can also watch Thai dramas and Thai movies in Thai vs having to deal with the Khmer dubs. Oh, so horrible! I’m currently watching บางระจัน, a historical ละคร based on classical literature about a defense camp during the time of Ayutthaya, and battles between the Thais and the Burmese.

There’s a lot of content, but you have to explore and find these treasures yourself. Contents are of course updated and added and everything on there works. If something is down, it will be back up no later than the next day. I haven’t had any problems; so have not experience how their customer service is like. The website is very accessible with Voice Over; so a user who is blind may navigate the site and enjoy its content. I mostly access MaliMar via an add-on from a media center on my Mac which is also accessible with Voice Over. I haven’t access the site with a PC, so I don’t know if it is accessible with MicroSoft Narrator, JAWS, or any other types of screen reader software for WINDOWS. If you want to check it out, go to MaliMar Tv. The web subscription is about three dollars cheaper than a Roku subscription.

Update: Android just came out with an app (iOS in the wings) MaliMar Tv

Vanna,
Facebook: Vanna

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Interview: Francesco is Getting By in Thai

Getting By in Thai

Getting by in Thai…

Name: Francesco
Nationality: Italian
Age range: 30
Sex: Male
Location: London, UK
Profession: Supermarket assistant

What is your Thai level?

Intermediate.

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

10%.

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

I’d say quite formal.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

I wanted to learn Japanese in my teen years as I was in love with mangas and animes, but I was never applied myself. When I moved to London I met many people that were able to speak 3 or 4 languages and I always find it fascinating; that made me want to learn languages again.

However, it wasn’t until I started training in Muay Thai and organised a trip to Thailand with some of my friends that I decided to pick up Thai. I loved it, and I continued to study it.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

September 2013, a couple of months before my first trip to Thailand.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

About 20 to 30 minutes a day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

I try to. Having a regular schedule is one of the most important practice to do when study a language.

What Thai language learning methods are you using (resources needed)?

I tried many methods. Originally I had a private teacher, then I moved to some iPhone Apps and flashcards, and recently spaced repetition sentences in audio format.

Does one method stand out over all others?

Yes and no. Languages are too complex and one method cannot cover all the various aspects. There are all sorts of skills that are needed to be trained: listening, speaking, reading. However, I’d say spaced repetitions of both vocabulary and sentences is the most helpful.

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

I made a choice to focus on reading and writing from the beginning. In fact I can read and write better than I can converse. I thought that would be extremely helpful to chat on the internet and look up words on the dictionary.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

Thai is particularly difficult when comes to their writing system. There are a lot of rules and a lot of exceptions, but reading per se is not about remembering all these rules, is about recognising words and remember its pronunciation. It’s a memory game.

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

Although I’m quite shy when I try speak Thai, when I went to Thailand I was quite eager to take my Thai for a spin, and having friends that do not speak English helps a lot!

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

Not too long really. Common phrases such as “did you eat yet?” are not too difficult to learn and you can use them every day.

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I don’t recall any, but I’m sure I made a fool of myself at times.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

I suppose for westerners would be the writing system, but probably tones even more.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

When I was reading signs around Thailand.

How do you learn languages?

I learn vocabulary and phrases with flashcards and audio material.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • My weakness is that I still thinking English before I speak Thai.
  • Reading is definitely my strength.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Considering that I’m Italian and now I’m fluent in English I think I can. :)

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Yes, because languages evolved in different ways especially between Asia and Europe and you can notice similarities and differences. Sometimes you can see how culture is tied in with the language.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

Unfortunately I don’t travel a lot. Thailand was my first experience.

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

I recently started with Mandarin Chinese.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

I lived there only for two months, but it was really a long holiday.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

I’m not a programmer by profession although I majored in Software Engineering. Yes I have programming experience.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument

I used to play the bass guitar back in Italy, but after I moved to London in 2007 I stopped completely.

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

Set some goals. Make a realistic daily/weekly schedule to learn vocabulary. It doesn’t matter if you can’t stick to it at times, just do your best.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

Increase vocabulary and converse more.

regards,
Francesco

Getting by in Thai…

If you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember: the whole idea for this series is interview those who are either new to studying Thai or renewing their interest in learning Thai. It’s all good!

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Speak Read Write Thai is Live!

Speak Read Write Thai

Speak Read Write Thai…

Blogging about the Thai language can be a lonely business, so when Sean Harley decided to create Speak Read Write Thai to share his extensive knowledge of Thai, I got the grins on.

Speak Read Write ThaiMore and more I’ve been paying close attention to Sean’s insightful comments on two FB Groups: FCLT and one that is secret (mum’s the word).

But as most of you know, with FB, comments get sucked into a bottomless void, never to be seen again (so much for being told that, “everything you post on the internet will always be there to haunt you”).

If you want to preserve information, websites/blogs are the way to go. Not Facebook. And now we have Sean authoring Speak Read Write Thai. Wicked.

Sean: The learning process is very much like a journey, a never-ending one but always a wild adventure filled with surprises at every turn. Along my Thai journey I have scribbled, jotted, and written down everything Thai in trusty notebooks. I invite you along for the ride as I share what I’ve learned about Thai.

Sean decided to focus his site on intermediate and above students of Thai instead of beginner. Makes sense. There’s an excess of resources for beginners, but for intermediate, decent ones are almost non-existent.

Three main subjects are what we get: Thai Language, Thai Culture, and Everything Else Thai. There’s not much online at the moment, but no worries, it’ll grow.

To take advantage of the commenting ease of Facebook, Sean also has a restricted Speak Read Thai FB group. An experienced FB Mod (mum’s the word), Sean keeps a tight control of the membership to make sure comments stay relevant.

The main purpose for having this group is for discussion of the blog posts in Speak Read Write Thai. In-line with the theme of the Speak Read Write Thai blog, this group is for non-beginners only. Absolutely no transliteration will be tolerated.

Only proven serious learners who already know how to read and write Thai and with the ability to contribute in a significant way need apply to join. Kindly note that a majority of our current members will be consulted when considering whether or not to accept a join request so do not take it personally if your application is not accepted.

Note: With everything that’s been going on (creating a new site is a timesucker) Sean has been adding members on SRWThai’s FB group slowly, so don’t be surprised if it takes awhile to get any sort of a reply.

For sharing new posts and other learning Thai resources there’s also @SRWThai on twitter as well.

Important Points for Learning Thai…

For a quick peek into where Sean is coming from read his thoughtful notes on Important Points for Learning Thai. I found them quite enlightening and hope you do as well.

Important Point Number One: Before even thinking about output, serious learners need to get a lot of quality input. One hundred words learned well will always trump one thousand words badly learned and hastily memorized.

Important Point Number Two: We need to understand the culture if we are to understand the language. For example, study what Thais of a similar status to you would say or do in any given situation.

Important Point Number Three: To help you understand why some things are the way they are in the Thai language, study the concept of Thainess. Two important points to consider are 1) being the ideal citizen (even if only superficially) and 2) face.

Important Point Number Four: To understand the face of Thai education, first learn how to crawl (formal Central Thai) before you learn how to walk (casual Thai).

Important Point Number Five: Keeping abreast with groupthink is important (not just what’s popular today, but who you can use it with) because then you’ll be clued into what’s currently a fad in the Thai language.

Important Point Number Six: Loanwords and loan phrases often sound similar, but that does not mean that they will have the exact same essence in Thai. Always be aware that groupthink determines the final outcome.

Important Point Number Seven: Understand that your English ways (accent and grammar) can interfere in the Thai learning process. To head this problem off, spend time studying the porosity of real spoken Thai.

Important Point Number Eight: Try to keep an open mind during this Thai language learning journey. Be prepared to consider surprising and sometimes opposing views.

Speak Read Write Thai…

Website: Speak Read Write Thai
Facebook: Speak Read Write Thai
Twitter: @SRWThai

SRWT’s site design: pixelers

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Test Your Might: Online Thai Language Proficiency Tests

Test Your Might

Online Thai language proficiency tests…

Testing your Thai language proficiency is a delicate process and most likely one would need to pay hefty fees to registered language institutes to get something really official going on. There are however, websites where you can get practice rounds! One of these will be covered in this little write-up of mine that Catherine asked me to do. Is it useful? Does it carry any value whatsoever? Are these tests a good way to actually measure ones proficiency? Read on and find out!

So here is the story; Catherine (WLT) asked me to review a particular website, and you know, she made a fair point. A lot of Farangs are able to converse at a pretty high level with Thais and a lot of those are in the precious Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook group. But how well would they perform on an actual proficiency test? I consider myself not too proficient in Thai. Sure, I can hold conversations pretty well, I can read a novel or two in one and a half hours, I understand a lot of spoken Thai, and maybe, just maybe, when speaking Thai I can fool someone if the conversation doesn’t drag out for too long. But I have no idea if I am really proficient in using the Thai language, or not. I’m sure there is a lot more to it, and we are going to find out just how well I rank on a Thai language test.

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

Okay so first things first. The website I am going to use for the biggest part of this review can be found at TruePlookpanya. There are literally pages and pages of online tests that can be done. All tests are timed, and at the end of the ride a score is calculated based on how well you performed.

The nice thing is that most of these tests – if not all of them – are as Thai as humanly possible. They are made by Thais in Thailand and made for Thai people as per design. This high level of Thainess also means that a measly 55% score will be enough to, you know, pass the test. Yes, you read that right! I actually heard somewhere that most Thais would score 50%-60% on official language proficiency tests (so no mere website) at school, so that takes away a heavy burden from my (and your!) shoulders to do “well”!

So on to the actual testing: We’ll start off easy. I brushed off my shoulders, took a sip from a glass of water (early morning so beer was not an option) and started the first test: ข้อใดผิด.

Which of the following is wrong? Basically you are given two words and you have to find which of the two are spelled incorrectly. I had to go with my gut feeling with a lot of these questions, but in the end I scored 50%. I redid the test and let my wife do it as well. She also scored 50%… Is something wrong here? So I went and checked thai2english.com and carefully noted down the correct answers and redid it just to be sure. Again, 50%… Oh wait a second!! A timer is being set off as soon as you start, right? So probably I had to do this as fast as possible. I retried, doing the test again as fast as I could. I was literally sitting there, clicking the mouse like a trained monkey, only to end up with 50% yet again! What on earth…? Then it finally struck me. The first half of the questions asked which of the following were WRONG and in the second half it was reversed, asking which of the answers were CORRECT! Being too hasty from our end rated us each 50%. So I redid it and scored 100%! Bingo bango! But in my opinion you can’t just change the rules like that, even though one could argue that I should just learn to read better! On to the next test!

The second one was called: การรักษาวาจามารยาท. Now that sounds interesting! So here we go again. I am now warned though! I knew I had to read the questions carefully because they try to trick you just like they did back in high school (which seemed like an eternity ago). The questions for this test are a tad harder and I really had to read them carefully in order to fully understand what was going on.

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

I scored 100% but I have no idea how I managed to pull it off. I bet it has something to do with the fact that there were just five questions and I had to guess some of the questions to get the correct answers. This guessing game also reminds me of high school, where sometimes you guessed and got lucky and other times you hit the brick wall hard and had to redo the test. I felt less confident doing this test than the previous one even though I passed it in one go with maximum score, but to be frank, it was a 50/50 situation I think. Two of the five questions I didn’t really get at all and I just clicked the answer that looked the best in my eyes or made the most sense. Just like I did when I was a 15 year old doing a multiple choice test in the French language. And let me tell you, my French is rock-bottom. This guessing phenomenon will be happening a lot as we see later on… and not only the Farangs are participating in the guessing game. A lot of Thais had to guess for their answers as well! Makes one wonder…

This brings me to the following point. None of these tests are actually meaningful because just about everyone can gamble their way to certain glory. When I was doing these kind of tests at high school I could pass, sure, but this wouldn’t tell me or the teacher anything in regards of my actual proficiency level of the language being tested. Sometimes I didn’t even get the question and chose the correct answer because I guessed right. This is about as meaningful as a Thai saying that you are เก่งมาก for that matter. Still, I do think these tests have their place. I think these tests are useful to learn and practice Thai but they won’t tell you anything about your Thai language proficiency. At this point in time, I suggest that you use them for training only, not to measure your level.

Here is one more test I did:

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

You have to find the correct classifier for the noun that is being given. That sounds easy! Thank god I knew all these words and scored 100%. With this test I was pretty confident but all tests are for the ป2 level, which are kids play, obviously. I would really have to move to some of the harder tests to see how bad I actually am in this Thai language thing, so I decided to ไปตายเอาดาบหน้า for this one and clicked page five and chose a random test.

Oh boy, here we go with THPB511325 การเขียนเรียงความ!

This is where it’s at. Let’s do this! Well, as I opened up the test and read the first question I noticed right off the bat this was really a lot harder and you really need a good grasp of words used in the grammar aspect of Thai language learning. I also noticed that this test doesn’t measure your Thai language proficiency. It won’t show you how well you understand the Thai language or how well you are able to converse in the Thai language at all. Basically, it is all theory. Well here you have it; 60% is my score!

It really got me thinking though. How well would my wife do for this one? How well would a real Thai native score for this test? It was just five questions and my wife is quite the impatient type but five questions wouldn’t scare her off right? So I asked my wife and took other Thai people along with her into the deep dark depths of Online Thai Language Testing! In total I asked around 10 Thai people from different environments to do this test. I asked bargirls to university graduates. I think I got ‘em all covered! I also asked if they had to guess for some of the answers or not. Then I asked a couple of Farangs who I know are great performers when it comes to Thai Language. Because of the fact I don’t want to cause any fuzz and because I like the statistics more than the individual naming and shaming of persons, I kept the results anonymous. But let me tell you that all of the Farangs I asked did not disappoint!

Here the results from 10 Thai persons, all from totally different environments.

2 people got 100%
5 people got 80%
1 person got 60%
2 people got 40%

Most of the participants had to guess for some of the answers. I then passed the ball to a couple of Farangs to do the same. While it was a fun experiment I think in the grand scheme of things the data received is not that valuable and won’t provide valuable insight. A native speaker scoring 40% on a test and me as a total beginner scoring 60% really begs the question. I guess I was just better at the guessing game (if that makes any sense).

Okay, so after checking the website I took some time checking Google for more “Thai Language Proficiency Tests” and checked the links. The first link brought me to learnspeakingthailanguage.org and it had basic background information and a lot of dead links. Apparently one of the closest things to an official Thai language proficiency test has been created for Japanese people, so unless you are Japanese or any good at the Japanese language, this is not the right place to start. The second link brought me to Thai Visa, but ugh. After a short while of skimming through that I ended up in Google again where I found this one: Chulalongkorn University Proficiency Test of Thai as a Foreign Language.

This test is a paid version, and is probably a lot more official than the website I reviewed previously. It ends up at 3000 baht for the ENTIRE Thai proficiency test but I haven’t taken it. Yet. If someone has any experience or is willing to take it, go ahead and let us know how it went. I think it looks a bit more promising than the website I reviewed. I also found a link with details of a Thai Language Proficiency Exam. The data derives from 2009 though so I don’t know how actual it is. It even tells us about the dresscode though and how many but questions in how many minutes you have to answer. I think it is worth a read. Check it out: Anatomy of a Thai Language Proficiency Exam.

To conclude: So there are a lot of language tests online and it would be impossible to do them all for this review. But I urge you to go through these for fun and giggles, just to check how well you perform! You really have to get used to the weird way they ask questions, and for most people going from ป1 to ป3 shouldn’t be that big of a hassle. Remember, you just need 50% to pass the tests!

On the flipside: I don’t attach too much value to most of the scores because even native speakers needed to guess for some of the answers. You win some you lose some. Also, none of these tests actually measure how well one would perform in real life conversations, or how well you actually speak! I would recommend using these tests for fun and practice, but basically the scores carry as much value as a Thai who will tell you that you พูดไทยเก่งมาก. My advice is to use them for study but not for measuring your language skills.

Again, there are paid websites where you can pay some fees and get a test going, but I don’t know how much bang for the buck they are as I haven’t tested myself. Just to keep you going here, is a list of all the language proficiency test sites I found in a short time googling. Just go out there, test your might, and use your own powers for good! Good luck guys and gals!

Maarten Tummers,
500px.com/maartentummers

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Interview: Biff is Getting by in Thai

Interview: Biff

Biff is getting by in Thai…

Name: Biff (nickname, long story!)
Nationality: English (UK citizen)
Age: 51
Sex: Male
Location: London/Chiang Rai
Profession: Railway worker (latest in a long line of occupations)

What is your Thai level? Intermediate / Intermediate + / Intermediate ++

I would say Intermediate + probably about the B1 level (in the CEFR scale) for spoken Thai and maybe B2 for written materials.

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

Central Thai, I would say around 70%. Thai is all about context though, so if you jump into a conversation half way through, even native speakers will need some help! Sometimes I have to ask people to explain things again if I don’t get certain words. Vocabulary is a never ending learning curve! Kam Meuang, about 5 words, Lao Isaan a few more, but with both those dialects lots of Central Thai words and structures cross over and you can kind of botch a sentence together.

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

Ok, here I think I need to expand on these definitions a little. I know they’re used throughout this interview series, but I kind of need to delve into them a little bit!

1. Street Thai. That depends where the street is! If it’s in Bangkok that could mean Isaan Thai, if it’s in Isaan then one of the many Isaan dialects (or Lao Isaan as my neighbour calls it), some of which get more and more Khmer the nearer you get to Cambodia. If it’s in the north, where I spend most of my time in Thailand, it would be one of the variants of Kam Meuang, or Northern Thai.

But lets deal with Central Thai only for a moment. There is a difference between spoken and written Thai, but ภาษาพูด (spoken language) isn’t a form of slang, or something that you hear ‘on the street’ in the sense that it’s kind of ‘working class’ language. It’s just less formal than written Thai that you might find in official documents, or reports in a workplace. It’s perfectly acceptable for use in pretty much any situation you might find yourself in.

There is something called ภาษาตลาด or ‘market language’ which is informal language that will include slang terms and might throw some Thai learners off track a little. That might be referred to as ‘street Thai’ and it can be a bit coarse sometimes :) Now, as for myself, I suppose I can be caught being a bit ‘market language’ in my home with my wife and close friends. When out and about it’s definitely ภาษาพูด and I try to remember to use the more polite particles and plenty of ครับ/ครับผม and MUCH less of the เออๆ type of language. That in itself can be a challenge sometimes!

Professional Thai, as in the language you might expect to use in business emails/letters, I am starting to use that more and more these days. Purely because I’m writing business type emails and reading things that use a more formal type of language.

In our area, right up in the very north of Chiang Rai province, there are about 4 different dialects (actually, in our street!) Northern Thai (Kam Meuang) Lao (or Lao Lao, as my neighbour calls it, so as to differentiate it from Lao Isaan) Central Thai (learned at school) and my wife and her sister rabbiting on in their very own Korat dialect, which nobody else understands!

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

This is an easy one. So that I could speak to my wife’s family. Mainly my two lovely step daughters (11 and 13 years old) who can’t speak English beyond “Hello how are you I’m fine thank you”. I was also motivated to be able to speak to the neighbours who are, mostly, very nice decent folk. I also believe that if you are going to commit yourself to a relationship with a person, and that person has a different mother tongue to you, then it is a matter of respect that you should at the very least make an attempt to learn how to communicate in that language. I still haven’t managed that by the way. Turns out her mother tongue is the Korat dialect which I have a total of zero words in! But central Thai is the language we mostly communicate in, although we do have some very strange (to other people’s ears) conversations where she speaks English and I speak Thai!

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

I started about 5 years ago, shortly after I met my now, wife. But I suppose I started seriously applying myself around 4 years ago.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

I’ve recently started to have formal lessons for the first time, so now it’s one hour per week actual one-to-one lessons and a few hours homework. Although, right from the start, I immersed myself in Thai music (nothing else is on my playlists on all my devices) Thai news articles (started with YouTube news and current affairs clips, even though I didn’t understand them!) which I ploughed through one word at a time when I first started to learn the Thai script) and generally threw myself into hearing, speaking and reading all things Thai right from the start. I used to go to sleep with the Pimsleur Thai recordings playing on my phone as I fell asleep hoping that it would somehow seep into my brain!

So, it’s an ongoing constant thing with me. Difficult to quantify. The formal lessons have definitely re-ignited my hunger for learning Thai. I felt a bit ‘stuck’ till I found the very helpful people at Thai-Style (shameless plug!)

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

I do now, see above :)

What Thai language learning methods are you using?

My wonderful teacher ครูแก้ว. Thai-language.com is my ‘go to’ dictionary on my laptop, iPhone/iPad. The fantastic FCLT Facebook group and news sites like khaosod.co.th are all resources that I use frequently.

As for methods, I would say that I’m at a stage now where I can find vocabulary, write it down or look it up in my dictionary and try to form sentences using it. I speak Thai every day, even when bumbling around the house in London talking to myself! I start trains of thought in Thai, I swear at my neighbour’s cat in Thai too! Stub my toe and Thai words come out. Not very nice Thai words, but hey, it’s all learning!

Does one method stand out over all others?

Stu Jay Raj. I haven’t mentioned him before, but when I watched his videos about changing the way you form the basic sounds that you use to speak, it was one of those eureka moments! Once you have the building blocks to make the right sounds, everything else starts to fall into place. As for regular learning methods, at the start, the Pimsleur stuff was a good foundation to get me to start putting basic sentences together. Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Thai for Beginners was also a big boost for me.

But the main stand out method, as far as I’m concerned is speaking and listening. Speak, listen, imitate. Copy what you hear Thai people saying. Make the same sounds as they do. Change the way you use your voice. If you don’t, and you use the same sounds as you do when you speak English for example, you won’t be speaking Thai. You’ll be sort of half speaking something that kind of sounds a bit like Thai if a Thai person who’s used to hearing foreigners butcher their beautiful language really stretches their imagination :)

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes, as soon as I got fed up with the transliteration ‘thing’ (didn’t take long!)

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

No, not really. It can be a bit daunting at first I suppose. But written language is a code. Once you understand how it works, and you can crack the code, your brain takes over and it becomes language. It stops being squiggles and starts to become words. It really doesn’t take long.

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

About ten minutes :) What’s the point of learning how to say ‘hello’ if you don’t say ‘hello’ to anyone?

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

Longer than ten minutes! I would say maybe a month or so? It’s difficult to remember actually, but it wasn’t long. Once you understand that you have to mimic the sounds you hear, you become understandable quite quickly. The problem that that causes is that the Thai person then speaks back! So you have a few situations where you have said something, been understood, but don’t understand the reply. That’s fun :)

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

Ordering a plate of unfortunate mountains. One of the words for ‘rice’ in a restaurant is actually ‘beautiful rice’ ข้าวสวย khao suay (rice beautiful) and a similar word is เขา, mountain (which also can be transliterated as khao) and ซวย unlucky, or jinxed (also looks like suay). They are different words with different tones. I butchered the tones and asked for unlucky mountains. That made me start learning the Thai script as you don’t make those mistakes when you see the different spellings!

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

Hmmm let me think. Probably that it’s too difficult. At first it seems like there’s just so much to learn, If you’ve already been exposed to a few other languages for the same family as English (for native English speakers) like when we learn French or German at school, there are already a good few thousand words we can pick up almost at once (Latin Greek influences in all the European languages mean we share words) but Thai is a different family, so we start from scratch. But even though that may be true, it’s still possible to get going. Also, the other one is, if you have a Thai partner that they will be able to teach you. Unless they’re a language teacher, they probably won’t. Speaking a language doesn’t mean you can teach it.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Ordering the unlucky mountains :) “Ah Ha” I need to learn to read properly :)

How do you learn languages?

By trying to think using the language. Immersing myself in as many things as possible to do with that language. It becomes the main focus of my day, every day.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths I would say are pronunciation, being able to reproduce the sounds used to speak Thai. My memory is pretty good too, once I’ve used a word or phrase regularly enough, it kind of sticks.

Weakness, tone rules! Spelling. I was completely self-taught at first (that phrase doesn’t in any way acknowledge the huge efforts by all concerned that put together all of the learning resources that I used to learn what I learned, but I mean that I didn’t take formal lessons until about two months ago). I’m trying to get my head around them now, asking my teacher to give me more homework on them so that I can, hopefully, internalise them, finally! At the moment, I just remember how to spell words and what the tone is. That’s just not good enough!

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Some French, I had a house in France for a while. Some German too. I always loved the language and have spent a bit of time there too. My Spanish consists of being able to say “I don’t speak Spanish” which is less than useful as it confuses the person you’ve just said it to :)

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Yes, it’s pretty much knocked them out of me completely! If I start to try to form a sentence in French, Thai words jump into it and it all goes downhill from there!

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

Including Thai, three.

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

No. Maybe because of the way that I learn, immersing myself in the language, I don’t think that would work for me.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

No, I’m currently in the UK and the longest I’ve been in Thailand in one stretch was for 3 months. I go at least twice a year, for 4-6 weeks in the spring, and 2-4 weeks in the winter.

My wife visits London every summer for about 3 months, then it gets cold(er) and she goes home complaining bitterly that she hasn’t seen any snow!

Plans are afoot for a permanent relocation to Thailand.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

No, although I used to be a sound engineer and produced music using computers, but no coding experience at all.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument?

Yes, always loved music and was a musician for a number of my ‘formative’ years. I played drums, bass guitar and kind of one-two fingered keyboards!

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

Change the sounds you use to speak with. The sounds you use with your native language are not the ones you need to speak Thai with. Learn the script as soon as you can. Use the language every day, listen to the language every day. Find the beauty in the language. There are some beautiful sounds and rhythms in Thai, let them roll off your tongue, it’s magical stuff!

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

Tone rules! :) continue with my lessons, eat up all the vocabulary that I can, speak more, listen more, read more, understand more.

regards,
Biff

Getting by in Thai…

If you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember: the whole idea for this series is interview those who are either new to studying Thai or renewing their interest in learning Thai. It’s all good!

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Interview: Ben Bradshaw is Getting by in Thai

Interview: Ben Bradshaw

Ben Bradshaw is getting by in Thai…

Name: Ben Bradshaw
Nationality: American
Age range: 25-30
Sex: Male
Location: Bangkok
Profession: Entrepreneur
Web: CikguBen.com

What is your Thai level?

Intermediate.

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

About 80%. I can follow most conversations and fill in the final 20% with just guesses based on context and experience.

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

I speak mainly street Thai mixed with some professional Thai that is used in English instruction.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

I have a brother that is an amazing Thai speaker. I see Thailand as a land of opportunity for foreigners willing to learn about the culture and master the language.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

May 2014.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

About 30 minutes per day reading a Thai grammar and language book. Then I speak and use Thai and learn new phrases at least 5-6 other times throughout every day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

No. I just pick up my Thai book when I have the time.

What Thai language learning methods are you using?

I rely on English speaking friends to explain phrases and concepts, a pocket dictionary, google translate, and a Thai grammar book.

Does one method stand out over all others?

Yes. The most effective method for me is to speak and make mistakes. Then I will be corrected and I will then be able to remember how to say it correctly the next time. Half the battle is just remembering the new words and phrases when you want to say them.

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes. I can read at a very basic level but I can recognize all letters but when reading a block of Thai text then I struggle.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I think it’s difficult how there are no spaces between words. Also, so many of the characters look so similar to the others that I often confuse one for the other. I think through time and more practice this will be less and less true.

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

I started speaking the first day I was taught. I was never scared to try to speak Thai.

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

I could be understood within about the first week. I have experience in other Asian languages so putting together basic thoughts and phrases for simple communication came easy to me when I had established a basic vocab and a sense for the tones.

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I am always scared that if I say something incorrectly, with either the wrong vowel or wrong tone that it is going to have some reference to male or female parts. It’s like this always in language learning so I’ve learned to just laugh at the times when I might get close to saying something incorrectly and hopefully the person listening knows that I am a student in the language.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That speaking is hard. I think, in fact, that Thai is quite simple to speak. I think the script makes people feel like the language is going to be so difficult but when you really get down to it, thoughts are simple, grammar is basic, and the tones are doable.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

When I realized that the tones are relative to each other. Just because you have a lower voice doesn’t mean you need to go to great lengths to make your voice sound higher or more “Thai”. You simply need to change your tone in relation to your other tones. It was difficult at first to so many consecutive words with different or similar tones but once I realized it as just in direct relation to your previously said tone, then it started to become much easier.

How do you learn languages?

I learn a few phrases, build a vocab, start speaking to people, carry a pocket dictionary, carry a small notebook, and always ask questions like “how do you say ‘to go’ in Thai?” It really helps to have a person explain things in your native language at the beginning.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strength is being willing to talk to anyone. My weakness is not wanting to talk to people sometimes out of sheer laziness.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Yes. I am fluent in Malay and Indonesian. I can “get by” in Mandarin.

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Yes. Thai being a tonal language, often times start to come first to my mind when I am speaking Chinese. I’ll try to think of the Chinese word but the Thai word will come first. My Thai has actually overtaken my Chinese skills now.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

At least 4 different foreign languages. 1. Malay. 2. Indonesian. 3. Thai. 4. Mandarin Chinese.

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

No. Although I am always trying to improve my Malay and Chinese, I am not actively studying these languages at the same time as learning Thai.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

Yes. I am currently living in Bangkok.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

Yes. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and have experience programming in a few different languages like C, MatLab, JavaScript, and Arduino.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument?

Yes. I love listening to music and almost always want it to be playing in the background of whatever I am doing. I grew up learning to play the violin and was quite advanced as just an elementary school student. I moved then into the trumpet and later into piano. Nowadays I don’t actively play any instrument but sometimes do get a feeling like I should get back into playing and making music.

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

Get out there and speak. Be confused. Be frustrated. Make mistakes. Write things down. Don’t worry if you forget something you learned 3 minutes ago. Look it up again. Use what you’ve learned and it will finally be cemented into your mind. Oh and of course, try to mimic Thai people, not your Thai-speaking, native English speaking friends.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

I plan to continue on the same course that I am on now, that is, read a little of my grammar book, ask questions to my friends, and then try to practice and speak with Thai people as I go about my daily life.

Ben Bradshaw,
CikguBen.com

Getting by in Thai…

If you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember: the whole idea for this series is interview those who are either new to studying Thai or renewing their interest in learning Thai. It’s all good!

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Interview: Jeff is Getting By in Thai

Thai Style

Jeff is getting by in Thai…

Name: Jeff

Nationality: USA

Age range: 30

Sex: Male

Location: Bangkok

What is your Thai level?

Hard to say. It depends on the subject matter being discussed, but for regular day-to-day dealings, I would put myself squarely in “intermediate.”

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

I’d say I can at least get the gist of at least 70% of what’s being said.

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

I speak polite Thai with some working knowledge of slang and Isan.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

It’s annoying to live in a country and not know the language.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

About one month before I moved to Thailand.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

Everyday is a lesson – but specifically studying Thai – maybe about 2 hours per day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

Not at all. I think this is one reason I’m not taking part in the successful Thai learners series.

What Thai language learning methods are you using (resources needed)?

I am reading and studying vocabulary from a couple books written in Thai.

Does one method stand out over all others?

I only know the self-study and immersion method. Having someone constantly correct me is rather discouraging. I prefer to learn from my mistakes (i.e. notice Thais saying the word differently than I am and working to mimic them).

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes, of course. I got into reading and writing almost as soon as I landed.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I wouldn’t say difficult – just time consuming (it took me about 3 months of 3-5 hours per day to get comfortable with reading and writing in Thai).

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

I’ve been using Thai from the first day. It’s a matter of politeness and convenience.

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

I think everyone could understand สวัสดีครับ right away ☺

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I don’t get embarrassed from making mistakes. I like a good laugh.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That tonal languages are some sort of insurmountable obstacle.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Going out with Thai friends and realizing at the end that I was fully engaged in the conversation we were having that lasted well over three hours.

How do you learn languages?

I like to study grammar and get a basis of vocabulary down while doing grammar drills. Then it’s just about using what I know and adding more vocab.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are that I am quite good at learning grammar and I’m able to think in whatever language I’m learning. My weakness would be my own laziness. I really should be at a very advanced level for how long I’ve lived here.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Yes. I am fluent in German and also speak French as well as some Spanish and Norwegian.

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Sometimes when I’m speaking German, a Thai word will creep up to my lips.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

With natives in their own countries, I have used German, Hungarian, Thai, Lao, and Tagalog.

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

Yes, I’m concentrating on Tagalog and also working on getting at least a rudimentary knowledge of Lao and Burmese and mixing a bit of Norwegian in there.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

I have been in Thailand for about 5 ½ years.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

Nope.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument

I love music and used to play violin.

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

There is a direct correlation between effort and result.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

Keep on trucking.

Getting by in Thai…

Thank you Jeff, Terry, Dan, Tod, Snap, Talen and Greg. And for others out there – if you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember the clincher: the idea for the series is interview those getting by as well as regenerate an interest in learning Thai.

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Review: English Thai iOS App Dictionaries: iPhone and iPad

iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Apps: English-Thai Dictionaries

Reviewing iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Apps: Thai dictionaries…

The Thai Dictionary iOS app series is in four parts: English-Thai dictionaries specifically for the English market, English-Thai Dictionaries using the LEXiTRON dataset and/or databases created for Thais, Thai-English dictionaries, and special dictionaries using photos, sign language, etc.

At the time of this review there are around 70 Thai dictionary apps for iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch). Only a few are for the English speaking market, the majority focus on the Thai market and advanced students of Thai.

Knowing which dictionaries target the English speaking market is important. Beginner to intermediate students do struggle with dictionaries using datasets created for Thais and advanced students still continue to use English-Thai dictionaries. So there is a need to know.

To explain: Thai focused datasets have lists of Thai words without English explanations. And if you can’t find the most common translation or correct nuance of a word, there’s a good chance you’ll choose the wrong one.

For instance, in some Thai-English dictionaries a search for the English translation of ฟอง comes back with spume instead of foam. Who goes around talking about the spume on their beer?

It’s noticeable that many of these dictionaries have not been checked by fluent Thai and English speakers, so please take care when using datasets created for Thais.

To address the English speaking market specifically, for this review I’ve taken out all dictionaries using straight out of the box LEXiTRON datasets and/or datasets created for Thais. I’ve also extracted dictionaries with audio, word of the day, and flashcards for those learning English but not Thai.

After going through all 70 to find dictionaries for English students of Thai, I was left with a mere seven. Out of those only three dictionaries are worth spending serious time with.

And while I’m surprised at the low number, all I can say is “thank goodness”. Less dictionaries to review in one post means that I can go into more detail with each app.

Disclaimer: There is a slim chance that a dictionary for the English market has slipped through. On a last whip-round I discovered two Thai-English dictionaries that barely squeaked in, so it does happen. If I do find more I’ll add them to this review. But it won’t change my mind about my top choice of Thai dictionary iOS apps, because, well, you’ll soon see.

iOS devices used for the review:

iPhone models 4S (GSM model China) and 5 (GSM and CDMA model)
iPad model 2 Wi-Fi +3G (GSM model)

Thai Dictionaries for the English market…

To save you from having to slog through the entire post, my top three choices appear first and the remaining four follow. Please let me know of any experiences you’ve had with these dictionaries – I seriously want to hear your thoughts.

For the visual persons, here’s a Google Docs spreedsheet with the complete list of attributes used to compare the dictionaries: Comparing iOS English-Thai dictionary apps for the English market.

BTW: Some apps have two names. There’s the long one we see in the iTunes store, and a shorter one that appears on your iPhone. For those who have a zillion apps and need to do a search (like I do) I’ve added the iOS name in parenthesis.

#1) Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary (TalkingThai)

Talking Thai–English–Thai DictionaryTalking Thai–English–Thai DictionaryEnglish English Thai Dictionary
Price: $24.99
Seller: Word in the Hand
Updated: Oct 23, 2014
Version: 1.8
Word count: 150,000+ entries
Audio: 100% native speaker
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: Yes
Font control: Yes
Help: Yes (extensive)
Requires iOS: 6.0 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

RANK: This is my first choice out of all 70 paid/free English-Thai Thai-English iOS dictionary apps.

Target market: Thais and English speakers studying the Thai language.

Overview: This is a highly customised dictionary. Since its inception, Chris and Benjawan have clocked in an insane number of hours with updates and improvements. When I searched for an Italian dictionary for the iOS I was disappointed to find that not even one came close! Designed with the student of Thai in mind, this dictionary is extremely powerful. Version 2.0 (coming soon) is going to be crazy fantastic.

Top navigation: The search box is the control centre of the app. To the right of the search are forward and back arrows that take you to screens you’ve seen recently (history).

Bottom navigation: Here we have an English (search), Thai Script (search), Thai Sound (search) that uses the transliteration style you’ve chosen in the settings, Help, and More.

Bottom nav >> Help: First up is Help Home (links to: 30 Second Tour, Using the Dictionary, Speaking and Listening, Pronunciation Guide Systems, Reading and Writing, Useful Word Groups, Suggest a Word), followed by Speaking and Listening, then Parts of Speech. This is great stuff. No other dictionary walks you through the details of the Thai language like this one does.

Bottom nav >> More: Settings (Sound Control, select transliteration style, control text size, select English font, select Thai font, separate syllables, turn playback on or off, put translations on separate lines, space out definitions, select in-app keyboard or Apple keyboard for Thai script and Thai sound search), History, Real Fonts (too see what your selection looks like in the modern, quirky even, often difficult to read fonts), Inside Words (Thai words are often word combos and knowing what they are can be helpful), and Spelling (breaks words into syllables and explains tone rules and spelling).

Using the dictionary: In this dictionary you are only two clicks away from finding the translation of your target word (some dictionaries have three).

Typing a word into the search box with English, Thai Script, or Thai Sound selected takes you to a list of words. The most common translations are at the top (scroll down for related words). Clicking on the sound icon next to the Thai script or Thai transliteration gives native recorded audio. If applicable, next to the sound icons are icons that specify what type of word it is (used by monks, for royalty, obsolete, poetic, technical, formal, spoken/slang, impolite, and obscene). If you’ve read through that list I don’t have to tell you how important this is to know. Tapping on the icons takes you to Help, with a detailed list of explanations of the type of words used in social context. There’s also classifiers for nouns (again, important).

When you click on the translation of a word a black bar pops up with the option of playing the audio, going to a screen dedicated to the word, or copying the word. When you click on the blue arrow at the end of the bar you can see the word in Real World Fonts, discover the Words Inside, get an explanation of the spelling and tones, and google the word.

Choosing a translation of a word and selecting Go from the black bar takes you to a screen of possible meanings of the word, with the most common translations on top. Obtaining the most common translation of a word should be one of the most important tasks of a dictionary – or we’d all be licking spume off our beer!

Tip: To make the keyboard go away, click the blue Done button on the keyboard, or anywhere but the search box or links. Click inside the search box to bring the keyboard back up.

Worth highlighting: All sound files have been recorded with an actual Thai person (Benjawan Becker). Benjawan Becker, fluent in both Thai and English (and other languages), continuously updates the database by hand.

My personal wish-list: I’ve been asking for sample sentences and the ability to use the dictionary as an interactive learning tool – both are coming in the next update (ya!). Also on my wish-list are WOTD, bulk translate, Favourites and Flashcards (to quiz selected words from a list of Favourites). And … being able to turn off the transliteration.

Downside: Already mentioned, it’d be great if we could turn off the transliteration. For now, the best I can do is change the settings to Easy Thai with Irregular Tones Only turned on.

For more about this iOS app dictionary please go to their website at Talking Thai–English–Thai Dictionary for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch.

Note: In iTunes the dictionary is called the Thai-English English-Thai Dictionary but for Android it’s the Talking Thai <> Eng Dictionary. Regardless, if you don’t have the above links just search for Paiboon.

Another fav iOS app from Paiboon: Thai for Beginners

#2) Thai-English Dictionary from thai-language.com (Thai-English)

Thai-English DictionaryThai-English Dictionary from thai-language.comThai-English Dictionary from thai-language.com
Price: Free
Seller: Christian Rishoj
Updated: Nov 06, 2014
Version: 1.7
Word count: 60,000+ entries
Audio: TTS (Text To Speech)
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes (+ you can turn it off)
Zoom/pinch: Not needed
Help: No
Requires iOS: 7.0 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch
 

RANK: This app gets second place out of the top three.

Target market: English students of the Thai language.

Overview: This is the newest Thai dictionary for the English market. Many of us use the online dictionary at thai-language.com, created by their community (form members). Having it as an app is convenient. Christian packed an abundance of useful goodies into this app and there’s plenty more to come.

Top navigation: The top nav has two levels. First up is the search box with Cancel next to it (Cancel clears the screen and gets rid of the search). The three boxes below control your search: Literal (English and Thai), Transliterated (transliteration), and Bulk (for sentences and/or a bunch of text).

Bottom navigation: Dictionary (search), Categories (to discover vocabulary relavant to set subjects), Bookmarks (History and Favourites), Settings (turn History off or on, instructions to set Text Size in your iOS settings, Speech Rate, turn Transcriptions off or choose from a list: thai-language.com Phonemic, Phonemic Thai script, IPA, Paiboon, Royal Thai, AUA, Bua Luang, ALA, ISO).

Using the dictionary: When you do a search in English or Thai (Literal) you are given a choice of words and phrases. Selecting a word or phrase takes you to another screen with the type of word at the top (noun, verb, etc, formal, casual and more) and the translation (in large, legible script) below. In English search there’s Definition, Components (if any), Synonyms (if any), Antonyms (if any), Related words (if any), Examples and Sample Sentences (with Definitions and Components). If available, at the very bottom there’s Other Senses (swipe sideways to flip through more). Clicking on any word or phrase brings up a new screen. Seriously, you could click through this dictionary for hours.

Within dictionary definitions (not the main home search) at the top right there’s a square icon with an arrow pointing up. Clicking that icon activates a number of options: Send the information via Airdrop or a Message or Email, Bookmark, View Online (takes you to that exact page on thai-language.com) and Suggest Corrections. There’s a More section but mine don’t do anything (clicking on the icons didn’t work). What’s really great is if you do go to the online thai-language.com dictionary via View Online you can get back to the app quite easily. Not all apps have this option – they force to you restart the app and start the process of searching for a translation all over again.

When checking out a word or phrase tilt your iOS to see your selection, in large Thai script, featured on top of a fuchsia coloured screen. Clicking anywhere takes you back to your original screen. This function comes in handy when you need to show a Thai word or phrase.

To turn off transliteration: Go to Settings >> Thai Transcriptions >> Click on the red circle with the minus sign in the middle, and then select Delete. Now you’ll have a green circle with a plus sign in the middle, with Add Thai Transcription next to it.

Tip: To make the keyboard go away, click Cancel next to search box, or the blue Search button on the keyboard. Clicking inside the search box brings it back.

Worth highlighting: Important (to me) is the option to turn off the transliteration. Also important are sentences and the ability to translate more than one word at a time. Another huge plus is the established forum behind the dictionary. For students, having a community where you can ask all those pesky questions is a comfort.

A sidenote: It wouldn’t load via iTunes on my clunky iPhone 4S or my iPad 2 (both running version 7.1.2). Christian suggested loading the app direct via Safari and it worked. Thanks Christian! Seriously, if a quirk is even remotely possible, it’s going to happen to me.

My personal wish-list: Obviously, I’d like native audio. There is recorded audio on the site but going back and forth between online and app would be a chore. When I mentioned it to Christian he said audio will be coming in a future update, but as an optional download (to keep the installation size small). He also mentioned adding the ability to see entries in modern typeface. Going through the checklist I’d also like an overview of the Thai language, WOTD and Flashcards.

Downside: As mentioned, the audio is TTS, not audio of native speakers.

#3) ClickThai Dictionary (ClickThai)

ClickThai Dictionary Thai/EnglishClickThai DictionaryClickThai Dictionary
Price: $19.99
Seller: Theodor Pitsch
Updated: Apr 01, 2014
Version: 3.03
Word count: 70,000+ entries
Audio: Native and TTS (Text To Speech)
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: No need (Thai script is a decent size)
Font control: No
Help: Yes
Requires iOS: 4.3 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
 

APP UPDATE Dec 17 2014:

What’s New in Version 4.0:
Increased Vocabulary: Now 88,000 Thai words.
Export training lists for ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer.
Optimised sorting of search results.
Show classificator for nouns.

Please stay tuned for a dedicated post on the changes. I’ve been looking forward to the ClickThai export abilities especially. Thanks Theo!

RANK: This app gets third place out of the top three.

Target market: English speakers studying Thai.

Overview: ClickThai is an uncomplicated dictionary with clear audio files, multiple results per search (sorted by frequency), word-by-word translation of sentences, and the ability to save words for later. It hasn’t had a major update in awhile but there’s more to come (see below).

Top navigation: Across the top nav there’s a search bar with English, Transcript (search via transliteration), and Thai.

Bottom navigation: The bottom nav takes you to the search page for EN-TH, TH Text (Word-by-Word translation for Thai), Memo (saved favourites), and Help (EN-TH, TH Text, Memo).

Bottom nav >> Help: EN-TH (Introduction, Search English, Search Thai, Search Transcription, Word Class), TH Text (Word-by-Word translation), Memo help topics.

Using the dictionary: As with the other dictionaries reviewed so far, doing a search gives you to the most common translations at the top. Searching for a word with English chosen brings up a list of English words. Selecting one takes you to a dedicated page with large, legible Thai script at the top of the screen. When you click and hold down on a Thai word you are given the choice to Copy, Define, or Speak (hear audio files). Underneath is the transliteration of that word (transcript) followed by the different meanings and type of word (noun, verb, etc). The audio icon on the bottom right of the screen speaks with a male voice. Also on the bottom nav are forward and back arrows that take you to related words shown in the original search (if any). This saves you from going all the way back to the beginning to search through similar words all over again. At the top right of the screen is an icon that looks like stacked pages. Clicking saves words for later (and incase you’ve hit it by accident it beeps at you).

Tip: To make the keyboard go away, click the blue Search button on the keyboard, or the keyboard icon to the right of the search box. Clicking inside the search box brings it back.

Worth highlighting: The simplicity of this app makes it a breeze to operate.

My personal wish-list: In my chat with Leo we discussed the next update, most of which just happens to be on my wish-list. To make both VocTrain (one of my favourite apps) and ClickThai more powerful, Leo is adding the ability to export custom lists (with sound files) from ClickThai to VocTrain. Also mentioned were sample sentences and classifiers for nouns.

Downside: I’d like to see the Word-by-Word translation work (but I don’t know if it’s me or the app). As already mentioned, this app needs a major update, but as I know it’s coming, no worries.

Another fav app from Leo: VocTrain

Audio Collins Mini Gem Th-Eng & Eng-Thai Dictionary (Audio TH-EN)

Audio Collins Mini GemAudio Collins Mini GemCollins Gem Thai Dictionary
Price: $9.99
Seller: Mobile Systems
Updated: Oct 08, 2010
Version: 3.03
Word count: 20,000 entries
Audio: native English and Thai
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: No
Zoom/pinch: No
Font control: No
Help: No
Requires iOS: 3.0 or later
Optimised for: Unknown
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

RANK: Top of the bottom four.

Target Market: Mostly for Thais and English speakers who can read Thai.

Overview: The app starts off in Thai mode so you’ll need to switch it to English if that’s what you want. A search takes you to a list of English words. Selecting a word takes you to an English and Thai translation with audio for both. Clicking on one of the Thai words takes you to another screen. Some of the screens have just the Thai and English word with audio, others have a list of English words. Each of the English words have audio (Thais learning English is a main focus).

Top navigation: When you open the app there’s two options on the nav across the top: Switch (between Thai and English) and a search box. Clicking inside the search box switches the search to: Keyword, Fuzzy, Wildcard, and adds a blue Done button to the end of the search. The Done button gets rid of the keyboard.

Bottom navigation: When you first start this app the nav across the bottom has a page icon (history) and an icon that goes to Random Word and Word of the Day (overkill?), as well as an information icon (tells you about the company but doesn’t help with the app). Random Word comes up with the word in Thai and English, with sound for both. Ditto for Word of the Day. Once you choose a word to define, the nav then has forward and back arrows, a page icon (history), a + icon (add bookmark), and an arrow icon with Random Word (and they do mean random) and Word of the Day.

Using the dictionary: Other than the navigation that I’ve already explained, there’s not much to this app. Getting to your translated word of choice gives you the word in English (with audio), one or more Thai words (with audio), and occasionally a Thai phrase (with audio). Also noted are the type of words (nouns, verbs, etc). Clicking on the + symbol bookmarks the screen.

Worth highlighting: If you want dead simple, this app has it in spades.

Downside: I haven’t discovered much (if any) benefit to using Keyword, Fuzzy, or Wildcard. Those who don’t read Thai are stuck with audio only.

Collins Thai<->English Phrasebook and Dictionary (Audio TH-EN)

Collins Thai English Phrasebook and DictionaryCollins Thai English Phrasebook and DictionaryCollins Thai English Phrasebook and Dictionary
Price: $12.99
Author: Mobile Systems
Updated: Apr 01, 2011
Version: 4.02
Word count: 10,000 entries
Audio: Native
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: No
Zoom/pinch: No
Help: No
Requires iOS: 3.0 or later
Optimised for: Unknown
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

RANK: None

Target market: For Thais and English speakers who can read Thai.

Overview: This is mostly a Thai phrasebook. But, as dictionaries with translations in English for all Thai words are lacking, I’ve added it to the review.

Top navigation: Very simple, the only choice is to Switch between Thai and English.

Bottom navigation: The nav across the bottom has a star icon (favourites), magnifying glass icon (search for phrases), arrow icon (Random Phrase and Phrase of the Day), and an info icon (about the company not about the app). Random Phrase and Phrase of the Day has both English and Thai, with audio. But if you click on those you find yourself in the phrase section of the app, not the dictionary section. In that case, you must click all the way back to the home screen and start again.

Using the dictionary: The first screen of the app is in Thai. If you need to do so, click the top right button to Switch to English, and then select the Dictionary icon on the far left of the screen. Typing in the search box brings up a selection of words. The words are noted as noun, verb, etc. Selecting a word brings up a simple screen with English and Thai, audio is included for both. On that screen you can use the forward and black arrows, and click the + symbol to add to the word to your favourites.

Worth highlighting: A simple English / Thai dictionary with phrasebook.

Tip: Clicking on the blue Done button at the top right hand side of the screen removes the keyboard.

Downside: Without transliteration, unless you are learning how to read, it’s useless for those who cannot read Thai. Words in the dictionary are limited and there are mistakes. I briefly checked sentences in the phrase section and found ฉัน (the female particle) for I.

Collins Gem Thai Dictionary

Collins Gem Thai DictionaryCollins Gem Thai DictionaryCollins Gem Thai Dictionary
Price: $9.99
Seller: Mobile Systems
Updated: Dec 04, 2012
Version: 5.0.19
Word count: Unknown
Audio: No
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: Yes
Help: No
Requires iOS: 4.3 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

RANK: None

Target market: English and Thai speakers (but mostly for Thais).

Overview: I’m sure this app started out as a good idea, but in my opinion, it needs a serious upgrade. The lack of audio (transliteration only), and activities that do not cover both English speakers and Thais, leaves it lacking.

Top navigation: The top nav has a search box with Cancel next to it (Cancel clears the keyboard). Underneath are buttons to switch between English-Thai and Thai-English. Further to the right is an icon that doesn’t work on my iPhone (only switches away from English-Thai and Thai-English to mysterious icons).

With English-Thai selected, typing a word into the search box comes back with a single English word. Clicking on that word goes to another screen with the English word and some sort of transliteration, what type of word it is (noun, verb, etc), and then the Thai word (Thai script) with transliteration next to it. There is no sound. Icons on the top right increase and decrease the font size. The star icon bookmarks the selection.

Bottom navigation: The nav across the bottom has a Search, Contents (cheat sheets for Abbreviations, Thai and English pronunciation, and Numbers), Favourites (bookmarks), History (everywhere you’ve been), and More.

Bottom navigation >> More: In More there are six activities. Word scramble, Hangman and Anagrams are for students of English. Flashcards and Word of Day are for both students of English and Thai.

Downside: There is no Thai or English audio, only English text, Thai script, and Thai transliteration. Many of the searches don’t work (“no results found for …”). Do not use this app to memorise Thai words (using the iffy transliteration alone will muff you up).

English Thai Dictionary (English/Thai)

English Thai dictionaryEnglish Thai DictionaryEnglish Thai Dictionary
Price: $5.99
Author: Aanthai
Updated: Jan 05, 2009
Version: 1.1
Word count: 7,000 entries
Audio: No
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Zoom/pinch: No
Help: Yes
Requires iOS: 2.2 or later
Optimised for: iPhone
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad and iPod touch

RANK: Bottom.

Target market: English speakers.

Overview: It’s just long list of alphabetised words. The nav consists of clicking on one of the letters of the alphabet on the right side of the screen.

Downside: This app has not been updated since 2009. Selecting the nav crashes the app on both iPhones (4S and 5) and the iPad 2. This app either needs to be upgraded or taken out of the app store.

Learn Thai on Your iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod): What’s next…

Coming next will be a review of Thai-English Dictionaries for the Thai market. This does not mean that some of the dictionaries aren’t for English students learning Thai as well, so please do stay tuned.

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A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

Paul’s Quest to Fluency…

A little over a month ago Paul Garrigan launched his quest to become fluent in the Thai language. Impressed with the obvious dedication shown, Stu Jay Raj (jcademy.com) took Paul under his wing: 6 Months to Thai Fluency – Paul Garrigan Week One – Thai Bites.

From day one I was excited about Paul’s quest. But to join, I first had to discover my own motivation to raise the stakes in learning Thai. No doubt, motivation in language learning is key.

You see, Paul and I are both introverts. It’s a personal attribute that gets in the way of becoming fluent in any language. A no brainer, to communicate by speaking, you really do need to be interested (motivated) in talking with people.

My Quest to Speak Fluent Thai in Six Months: I’ve lived in the country for thirteen years, so it is embarrassing to admit I’m still not fluent. There have been periods when I’ve put in the hours to learn the language. I can read Thai, and I’ve got a reasonably large vocabulary, but I just don’t like talking. My goal over the next six months is to rectify this situation.

Paul’s week three post gave that “ah hah!” needed to find a motivation that has a decent chance of sticking with me.

5 Improvements in My Approach to Learning Thai: It is my goal that within one year, I’ll be putting out videos in the Thai language as well as the ones in English. This is my dream, and I’m passionate about making it happen. There might not be even one Thai person interested in what I have to say, but I know it will give me so much pleasure to do this.

After reading Paul’s main reason for becoming fluent in Thai, I realised that my own motivating factor should also be something tangible, not mysterious, or just because “it’s the thing to do”.

Now here’s the thing. When searching for my motivation to join Paul’s quest I decided to switch to Italian. Because motivation-wise, it just so happens that everything fell into place for me to learn Italian (for the interim) before getting back to Thai.

  • This week I found out that I’m headed to Venice at the end of the year.
  • Also this week, Glossika launched their Complete Fluency Italian Course.

The clock is ticking. I have under 200 days to get my head around Italian and the pressure is creating a RUSH of motivation. VENICE!! YA! ITALIAN!! YA!

Then, after the New Year, with the Glossika Method fully entrenched (hope, hope), I’ll get back to my regular studies with the Thai materials at Glossika and jcademy.com. How’s that for a plan?

The guts of the language quest…

Paul will study with Glossika’s Complete Fluency Thai course (pssst: the pre-launch price is US$49). And at the same time, I’ll be tackling Glossika’s Italian course (already launched). The two courses are designed the same so we’ll have plenty to discuss.

As mentioned, Paul will be working hand-in-hand with Stu and jcademy.com. As a polyglot, Stu Jay Raj is an inspiration for learning any language so I’ll be quoting him often. Plus, his site includes posts on getting your accent just right – none of that superimposing your native language over your target language. IPA warning: I’ve succumbed.

The Glossika Method…

I’ve written about Stuart Jay Raj many times but Mike’s Glossika is new to this site. Other than to say that the method is centred around GMS (Glossika Mass Sentences) and GSR (Glossika Spaced Repetition), there isn’t room in this post to get into much detail. I will later though.

Before I sign off I do want to quickly inject that I’ve been interested in mass sentences ever since Brett mentioned using sentences to learn languages effortlessly.

Mining sentences (finding sentences, getting the sentences approved by someone knowledgeable/trustworthy in the language, and then recording the sentences) is not effortless. But now there’s Glossika – and Glossika mined the sentences for us. So now there’s no excuse.

Until next time…

Please do read what Paul’s been up to during the first four weeks of his quest:

Care to tag along? We’d love for you to join the quest!

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