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Duke Thai Language School: Materials Review

Duke Language School

Duke Thai Language School’s updated materials…

When I first wrote the review for Duke Thai Language School I mentioned they were a Union Clone version 2.0 type of school. By that I meant they used the Union methodology and format albeit with new re-vamped, re-written text books. That has changed.

After more than a year in the making, Duke Language School’s new conversational Thai material is done and currently being taught. These were the books that Bingo (Arthit Juyaso) poured his blood, sweat and tears into writing from scratch. They are IMHO, the best, most comprehensive and information filled books on Thai conversation I’ve ever seen being taught in any school! They’re broken into three books (modules).

Journey 1: Survival “Practical Thai for everyday life”…

Duke Language School

The essential tools you need to survive in this country and go about your business independently. This coursebook covers the following topics:

  • Understanding the sound system and the numbers of the Thai language.
  • Introducing yourself, greeting and saying goodbye.
  • Getting a taxi and giving simple directions.
  • Buying street food.
  • Asking for directions inside a building.
  • Using public transportation and talking about locations.
  • Ordering food and solving difficult situations at a restaurant.
  • Buying clothes and describing colours, shapes and sizes.
  • Telling time and making appointments.
  • Getting a haircut and expressing degrees.
  • Buying things and using services at convenience stores.
  • Buying medicines and describing symptoms.
  • Solving communication breakdowns.
  • Talking about personal life.
  • Starting and holding a casual chit-chat in Thai.

Total number of unique words: 764
Core vocabulary (essential words): 584

As you can see these first 15 lessons teach you the survival Thai you’ll need. It provides a great foundation vocabulary which you will build on in the subsequent modules. In many ways learning a language is like building a house. IF you don’t start with a good foundation your house will be rickety and unstable. It’s the same with learning Thai, a good solid foundation is needed to build on.

Journey 2: Conversational “The basics of communicative Thai”…

Duke Language School

Develop your understanding of the Thai language and learn to say exactly what you want to say. This coursebook covers the following topics:

  • Expressing frequency, quantity, and number-related concepts.
  • Describing things using adjectives and expressing degrees.
  • Expressing similarities, differences, and comparing things.
  • Understanding the concept of Thai time expression.
  • Talking about people’s appearance and personality.
  • Describing directions of movements and changes of things.
  • Expressing perceptions, emotions, and feelings.
  • Talking about your skills and abilities, and the limit of them.
  • Giving instruction, expressing order or events, and describing purpose of things.
  • Making requests and commands.
  • Offering suggestions and expressing opinions.
  • Describing actions and consequences, causes and effects.
  • Making guesses and talking about probability.
  • Expressing likes and dislikes.
  • Talking about future plans, expectations and hopes.

Total number of unique words: 602
Core vocabulary (essential words): 497

This book is where you take the survival Thai from the previous module and start the building process from basic to more advanced structure. You learn to construct more complex sentences as well as how to sound more like a Thai when you say things. This last point is critical when trying to get Thais to understand you. The more you can say things which Thais are used to hearing, the better their comprehension of what you’re saying is.

Journey 3: Fluency “Real Thai in cultural context”…

Duke Language School

Learn about different aspects of Thai culture to help you speak Thai in a natural way with confidence. This coursebook covers the following topics:

  • Extended family and kinship terms.
  • Social status and its impact on Thai pronouns.
  • Understanding “face” and “greeng jai”.
  • Regions of Thailand and Thai dialects.
  • Thai food and table etiquette.
  • Buddhism in Thailand.
  • Ghosts, spirits, and superstitions.
  • Thai ceremonies and rituals.
  • Thai festivals and national holidays.
  • Thai entertainment, arts, and pop culture.
  • Formal Thai in formal situations.
  • Understanding “sabaai-sabaai” attitude.
  • Thai slangs, idioms, and proverbs.
  • Thai pride, and an introduction to Thai history.
  • Cross-cultural topics and discussions.

Total number of unique words: 607
Core vocabulary (essential words): 402

In reviewing the material in this book I was taken aback at just how many “fox-paws” (faux pas) I’ve made here in regards to the way I speak Thai (which I call “Todz-Thai”). I was shocked at how little I let Thai cultural restrictions during interactions affect how I speak Thai. I almost felt sad (for a second), for some of the Thai people I’ve interacted with over the years. Reading this book certainly gave me a much deeper understanding of language’s cultural aspects. It made me see that in order to really understand how the language works you need to invest a good portion of time understanding Thai culture which impacts how the language is used.

Duke Language School: Journey 1-3…

The books are character and situation driven, which is a trend we’re starting to see by more and more thai language schools. What sets this material apart from the rest is the supplemental material which is interspersed within each lesson. They touch on everything from culture, fun facts and interesting tidbits of how the language goes together. In all the years I’ve been touring Thai language schools, this is some of the best material I’ve ever seen.

It also seems that they’re not resting on their laurels with just these books and have plans for more – Explore 2, 3, and Discover. Explore 3 in particular, is all about learning Thai through media, e.g. Facebook, blogs, ads, emails, letters, articles, songs, video clips, movies, etc. It’s contemporary and shows how Thai is used in a multi-media context today. As far as I know, no other Thai language school has such a course. Explore 3 will be the link that connects the Journey series (speaking) with Explore (reading & writing) before moving on to Discover (the advanced levels).

I’m behind this paradigm shift in how Thai is taught to foreigner 100%. Gone are the pages and pages of straight text and in its place are interesting, relevant, contemporary presentations of the Thai language to non-native learners.

Three thumbs up!

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

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Thai Language School Review: The Knowledge

Thai Language School Review: UTL Unity Thai Language School

The Knowledge…

School: The Knowledge
Website: The Knowledge
Address: 193/28 Lake Rachada Office Complex 5th floor
Rachadapisek Road, Khlongtoei, Khlongtoei Bangkok 10110
Email: study@theknowledge.in.th
Telephone Number: 02-264-0276
Facebook: The.Knowledge.Bangkok

Location: It’s about the same walk coming from the Queen Sirikit MRT station as it is coming from the Asok BTS station. It’s across from Queen Sirikit Park almost right next to a big open air Thai food market. Take the lift to the 5th floor of Lake Rachada and you’re there.

Basic Info: I had been to this school when they first opened, but at that time they were still developing their curriculum so I didn’t review it. Now they appear to have their “sea legs” and are up-n-running with their material. What this isn’t, is a Union Clone school. Instead it takes a fairly new approach to how the language is presented to students. About the closest I can compare it to is Language Express’ (L/X) format. In fact I’d almost go so far as to say it’s an “L/X Clone” school, but that could be simply because both schools have owners or directors who are Brits.

The school is quite large with a very open floor plan and a modern look, versus some of the older Thai schools which haven’t been remodelled in years and are dark dingy hole in the walls. Their front staff all seems super competent and have a good grasp of English (as they should seeing as it’s an English school too). They are more than helpful, know the courses offered and can explain them in detail. The classrooms are carpeted, which cuts down on the echo in the rooms. In tile floor classrooms sometimes (for me) it’s too echo-y (ambient) and I can’t really hear the subtle differences in pronunciation clearly.

Materials: Their material is broken down into Speaking/Listening 2 levels/2 books). Level 1 Book 1 and Level 1 Book 2 Speaking/Listening are 80 hour courses each and Level 2 Speaking/Listening is 100 hours. The curriculum is well thought out and introduces question words quite early in the course (a plus seeing as foreigners here tend to ask questions a LOT!). Each lesson also has accompanying flash cards which the teacher uses in class as review to check vocab retention. Granted it’s a simple thing, but I don’t recall seeing any other schools use them to the degree The Knowledge does. After every 4 lessons there’s a quiz covering the materials taught in the previous 4 lessons. This is also a technique which helps ‘cement’ vocab and structure rather than a review at the end of a module where material can be forgotten too easily.

I would be doing a disservice to potential students if I didn’t at least mention the HUGE disconnect between any karaoke system I’ve seen and the one used by this school. It is without question possibly the worst ‘karaoke system’ I’ve ever seen, with no diacritics for intonation. They also have some sketchy renditions of words. There seems to be no or very little distinction between long/short vowels ญี่ปุ่น is yii-bpOOn. Now thankfully they do have the words in Thai script too in all their books. This is a plus and can help students start recognizing how Thai is written before they take a reading/writing class. Now for some of you ‘gotta read Thai to speak clear Thai’ purists out there, this could be looked at as a good thing, because the faster you can start to read, the faster you can forget this karaoke system. The work around is to write down what you think you hear, like students do in text books no matter what karaoke system is taught.

The Reading/Writing Level 1 course is broken down into three modules with two 12 hour modules and a final one of 16 hours. All in there are 40 lessons. It is pretty well put together and is a no nonsense way to go about learning to read Thai. The Reading/Writing level 2 course has 25 units, each in 2 hour lessons. The main textbook is “Everyday Thai for Beginners” (easily one of the best learn Thai books IF you can already read Thai), and there is also a supplemental exercise book. As the lessons progress they get more involved as far as the difficulty and the amount of writing you do.

Method: First off, no matter what course you sign up for at this school; IF you’ve never studied Thai with them before you must attend a 8 hour orientation class. (FWIW: I’ve told schools for a long time they should do this, but this is the only one I know that actually is, not that they got it from me though.). The orientation covers, how the class will be taught, an overview to the pronunciation of their karaoke system, what is expected of the students as far as conduct/attendance and a ‘sample class’ where a few basic classroom terms are taught showing the methodology at work. I think if more schools did this there wouldn’t be that 1-2 day ‘deer in the head-lites’ dazed/glazed look students have comin’ outta the beginning class.

They also teach in a cycle where every 4 lessons they let new enrollees join in. Of course that’s AFTER that student has gone thru orientation. Now, this is done to stop the incredible time lag from enrollment to attending at module based schools, especially Union Clone ones. If I sign up at a Union Clone school but the term is already 4 days in, I can’t start until the following term (month). By running their modules in cycles The Knowledge gets around this. There will be some vocab students who just started don’t know versus ones who started on Lesson One but it appears the lessons are for the most part stand alones not daisy-chained together. Vocab is covered, pronunciation is practiced, dialog is gone over, then practiced between students and with the teacher. Topics early on are as expected; What is your name? Where do you come from? As I said earlier though, question words are introduced early in these lessons, AND covered with a variety of ways to say them.

Teachers: In the class I observed I thought the teacher was more than competent in controlling the class, in catching errant pronunciation, in really making sure the students practiced the dialog and understood what was being covered. They certainly seemed to be dedicated to what they’re doing. They also seem totally at ease with big, loud foreigners and not at all reticent to call one to task or get them back on target if they stray too far afield.

Classes: Class sizes are limited so as not to over tax the teacher but more importantly NOT to short change the student by having a teacher spread too thin and unable to spend time individually. At this time they offer afternoon and evening classes. However they’re prepared to offer morning classes if the demand is there. They offer private lessons as well, either with their material or material supplied by the students.

ED Visa: This school does offer ED visa support on their 400 hour yearlong Thai program. Now with that being said, due to the train wreck of the ED visa system as it relates to private Thai language schools, the school cannot guarantee a student will get a 90 day extension at the Thai immigration office, even with perfect attendance. Still they do offer an ED visa program. Please note that there are quizzes which the students must take on their own time which are submitted to the Ministry of Education to garner paperwork for extensions of stay.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I give this school a high bang-4-the-baht rating. For a school which isn’t a “Union Clone” (although it might be a close “L/X Clone”) they seem sincerely interested in teaching foreigners Thai rather than just going thru the motions. I’d recommend you stop by and check them out.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Duke Thai Language School

Thai Language School Review: Duke Thai Language School

EDIT: Please read Duke Thai Language School: Materials Review first.

First, a bit of a ramble about Union schools…

Preamble: I haven’t written any reviews in quite awhile. Mostly because there are so few schools coming into the “teach Thai to adult foreigners” niche market. In addition, my somewhat skewed opinion about what I call “Union Clone” schools is too well known. Don’t get me wrong, the teaching methodology is solid and the classes are intensive, but nothing much has been done to freshen up their materials. It’s dry to the n-th degree. And for me at least, it teaches foreigners to speak a version of Thai that hasn’t been heard on the streets of Thailand perhaps ever. The materials have an archaic, too formal a version of syrupy sweet over the top Thai. I am of the mind that back in the day, the objective of the original Union material was to teach foreigners to speak Thai so that the would never be identified as near-native speakers of the language. That could just be my paranoia speaking, but I wouldn’t put it past the original developers of the material either.

Now, in defense of the Union material, it is successful and they’ve probably turned out more foreign speakers of coherent Thai than any other methodology out there. This is mostly due to the sheer number of Union type of schools in Bangkok rather than the material. Still, it does work IF a student is willing to buckle down and go the distance with the intensive class structure. It’s so fast paced that if you miss a single three hour lesson, you’ll fall behind the curve and are unlikely to catch up to speed. I’ve met more students who’ve washed out of a Union Clone school than I have students who’ve survived to the end.

Other than a few schools, most are using the original dated Union materials (albeit with their own schools name on the textbooks). This is why, when I went to Duke Language School’s website and saw the format; I surmised it was another Union Clone School in methodology and course structure.

They do have the same module based structure: three hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks. They do also teach via “karaoke Thai” for the first three levels of conversation too. But that’s where ANY and ALL similarity ends as far as a Union Clone school. Quite honestly, I didn’t even want to lump them in with the other Union Clone schools but so far I haven’t come up with a good comparative name other than Union Version 2.0.

And now, with all that off my chest and out of the way, here’s the review:

Duke Thai Language School…

Website: Duke Language School
Address: 10/63, Trendy Building, 3rd floor Sukhumvit Soi 13,
Wattana, Bangkok Thailand 10110
Email: info@dukelanguage.com
Tel: Land: 02-168-7274 Mobile: 082-444-1595

Location: It’s an easy walk from either the Nana or Asok BTS station to the Trendy building on Soi 13. Take the escalators up to the third floor and you’re there!

Basic Info: The school is in a brand spanking new building which has only been open about four months, so as you might expect, everything is gleaming! The classrooms are small and what I’d call cozy. All in all it’s a well thought out, well designed modern school. It even has a sitting area for breaks, etc.

The front staff is pleasant and well versed in the programs. Now, like most Union Clone schools, the front staff appears a little light on their English ability but this isn’t unique to schools in Bangkok by any means. I’ve never quite figured this conundrum out, seeing as they’re teaching Thai to non-native adult speakers and most Asians possess at least a basic command of English.

Materials: The materials are possibly some of the best “Union type” I’ve seen in my nine years in this country. They are contemporary, current, and totally re-written! Gone are the endless pages of boring text (like most Union clone schools have). In their place are labeled pictures and nice diagrams. Honestly, I can’t say enough about how fresh and meaningful the material is versus the old Union stuff.

The two co-founders of Duke Language School put a TON of time weeding out the useful teaching material from the dated stuff which was garbage. They re-wrote what was left, organised it in a more logical way, and that included thinning out the artificial sounding constructs. The end result gives the lessons a good flow and real-life feel to them.

Many schools get duped by the printer to run WAY too many text books but Duke did a limited first run. The plan is to weed out any mistakes (it happens), get suggestions, and then make corrections and further tweak the system before the second run. I’ve been to schools where, before they teach a single word, the teacher goes thru the textbooks page by page to tell students about the mistakes. That won’t be the case at Duke Language School.

Method: It is definitely a Union based methodology as they teach speaking before they teach reading and writing Thai. Now that’s not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination so don’t take it as a negative. I’ve met some pretty talented foreign speakers of Thai who learned via karaoke and some still can’t tell a chicken กอ ไก่ from an owl ฮอ นกฮูก (the first and last letters of the Thai alphabet).

Of all the possibly hundreds of Thai students I’ve spoken to, the FIRST thing they want to learn is speaking and understanding Thai. Then way down the list, and I mean WAY down the list, is learning to read and write. Personally, no matter how many people say, “being able to read Thai makes you speak better Thai”, I don’t buy it. Kids can’t read a character, yet they seem to be able to develop competent spoken language skills sans reading. To me speaking and reading are horses of a different color. I doubt that many people if ANY think about how a word is spelled in Thai before they say it out loud. If they do, they must be some pretty slow clunky speakers of Thai. I mean it just don’t happen in the real world. Now is reading Thai useful? Heck yeah it is! But is reading Thai necessary to learn to speak it? Nope, it is abso-tively posi-lutely NOT necessary to learn read before you start to speak coherent Thai.

At Duke Language school students are first taught how their karaoke Thai system works, what the symbols mean, and sounds are made. In looking at it, it’s almost 100% the same as Benjawan Becker’s phonemic transcription method, so transitioning from Duke’s text books to Benjawan’s is almost seamless. This is a huge plus because I’ve been to some schools that have their own “proprietary school specific karaoke” which often bears little resemblance to anyone else’s method so you can’t easily switch between available materials (and we all do).

Face it, there’s no one who has more books in print about learning Thai than Benjawan does, so if a school uses her karaoke there is a plethora of other materials a student can use to supplement their learning. Once the phonetic system at Duke Language School is learned the class starts on the basics with meeting greeting, names, questions, etc. They do the typical 50 minute classes with a 10-15 minute break in between.

Duke is also one of the first schools I’ve been to that uses audio visual and big screens to teach Thai. It’s incorporated into almost every level they teach. And they are constantly developing additional ways to use it in the school’s curriculum. I believe it will become the “gold standard” as far as teaching Thai to foreigners goes. Right now no one else (or should I say, no place else that I’ve ever been to) is doing it. Students watch a short clip or a presentation, then talk about and discuss it. It’s a no-brainer in today’s tech-savvy world, especially with all of the resources available in internet-land.

Duke offers monthly field trips which students, no matter their level of Thai, can participate in. To encourage the students to interact with each other and further their Thai ability, on the field trips they incorporate various activities. This also helps build friendship between students no matter what module or level they’re learning at school. FWIW: these aren’t just those b/s trips to a Soi side street vendor, J/J Market or Pratunam, but decent day trips, which in talking to the students, seem to be well received and attended.

Teachers: Sitting in a trial class I was impressed that the teacher went out of her way to speak clearly. She spoke slow enough so students could comprehend and understand her, but not too slow to make it feel like she was “spoon feeding” the students. Teachers at Duke Language School are competent in the teaching method, are engaging, and no matter how off-toned or poorly pronounced the students are, seriously try to get them to break out of their shell and speak. The teachers are sticklers on getting pronunciation, vowel length and intonation right. But that’s a plus, seeing as it’s the key to being understood in Thai. Sitting outside talking with the front desk staff, I could hear the laughter and animated conversations going on in the rooms. Too many times sitting in class, it’s no fun learning Thai (or any language), but these teachers appear to go out of their way and make it fun. It can and does make learning a lot easier.

Classes: They run four weeks of group classes or terms that are available in the morning, afternoon or evening. They also offer private lessons too.

ED Visa: DLS is approved by the Ministry of Education to offer ED visa assistance and support for both their six month and their yearlong Thai courses.

Bang-4-The-Baht: If, as a student of the Thai language, you want to do intensive courses in Thai (versus milking the current education system by learning Thai four hours a week just to get a visa to stay here) this school is at the top of the pile! Hands down I’d recommend Duke Language School over ANY other school out there that I’ve been to so far (be sure to check the date of this post against the others that went before). No other schools can compete with Duke in terms of quality material, qualified teachers, and an overall good atmosphere to learn the Thai language. They have some of the most competitive pricing for group lessons. Make sure to check their website for promotions, etc.

After going to so many schools, saying the same old B/S spiel, “Hi, I just moved here to Thailand. I love the country, the people and the culture so much that I want to learn Thai”, I’ve become a pretty darned jaded foreigner as far as how Thai is taught. It takes a lot for a school to wow me nowadays, but I can honestly say, with no reservations at Duke Language School I was indeed wowed!

I hope you guys found this review of interest. As I said in the beginning, after a long break I’m a little rusty writing Thai language school reviews. If you’re wanting to learn Thai you should definitely put Duke on your list of schools to scope out. Be sure to sit a trial lesson while you are there.

Good luck, and as always I’m not affiliated with ANY Thai language school, I just want you guys to know what’s what out there in the learn Thai marketplace.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Hut

Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Hut

Thai Language Hut…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, hope you found this review of value.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Union Language School

Thai Language School Review: Union Language School

Union Language School…

Website: Union Language School
Address: 328 CCT.Office. Bldg. 7th floor, Ratchathewi, Phayathai Bangkok 10400
Telephone Number: 02-214-6033

Location: You can’t hardly miss the building as it has a GIANT cross on the top (being sponsored by the Church of Christ and all). It’s about a 100-150 meter walk down Phayathai Road from the Ratchathewi BTS station (NOT the Phayathai one). Take the Asia Hotel exit (#1) and head towards the canal. Just before you get there you’ll see the complex. It’s in the back of the building I mentioned earlier.

Basic Info: Union Language School is said to be the original Union school that so many other Thai schools cloned their material and methodology from. Now, I hafta admit I feel uncomfortable with religion of any make or model. For me, even going to visit the school pushed my comfort level a fair bit. Factor in that I showed up in my normal attire: Levis and a black KISS t-shirt, which could have been why my reception was a little cooler than the typical foreigner off the street. Still, the principal named Nareeboon Rachkeeree (sp?) was engaging enough and lightened up a fair bit after a while. She told me that the Union Language School was founded a mind wobbling 57 years ago! Now, if that information is to be believed (and I see no reason why it shouldn’t be) any way you slice it, that’s a fair chunk back in time.

Once you get into the main building in back and go to the 7th floor it’s a nice inviting typical school set up. Union Language School has a good break and sitting area, it’s well lit, and other than the religious pics on the walls, not too bad of an environment to study in. The other inviting thing about the place is that it’s surrounded by big trees with many outside sitting areas.

Materials: Seeing as this is the original Union school, the materials, as expected, are pretty much like the Union clones. After conversational Thai levels 1-3, students are exposed to the Thai writing system in levels 4 & 5A, which covers the fundamentals of reading and writing Thai. Levels 5B & 6 teach culture and intermediate conversation. Once a student goes thru those levels, next up are Social Problems 1 & 2. This gives them a foundation to take other elective classes. The elective classes run the gamut of Newspaper 1 & 2, Thai Culture, Folk Tales, Introduction to Buddhism and of course the Bible.

The school mentioned that the material has gone thru several re-writes and is more contemporary, up-2-date, and useful. It would appear (from reading the intro to Social Problems 1) that Herbert Purnell had a serious hand in the development of the material. Google him and you’ll see he’s more than qualified to tackle a job of this sort.

Method: The classes are taught as intensive module or level based. The chapters are broken down into standard fare: meeting, greeting, asking questions, etc. They go over new vocab and practice dialog, with a heavy emphasis on getting the tones nailed early on. During class the vocab is covered, the dialog is gone over as a group, and then the students break into pairs to practice with their partners. The teacher walks around the room correcting errant pronunciation, etc, and then she goes over the dialog one-on-one with every student in the class. A successful methodology, it can’t be knocked in terms of sheer numbers of foreigners with reasonably clear Thai who’ve come out the other side of these classes.

Teachers: I only got to talk with the principal but I was able to look in on a few classes. All of the students seemed to be really engaged (as in, I didn’t see anyone noddin’ off or NOT payin’ close attention to what was being covered). I’d say given the longevity of the school (even with the plethora of teachers who’ve bailed over the years to make their own schools) there are high caliber teachers at Union Language School.

Classes: The class schedule is module based or term based, with one module/term equaling one book of material. The morning classes are 80 hours and the afternoon classes are 40. There is quite a disparity between the pricing (afternoons are more expensive) even though they cover the exact same material. It’s because the morning classes have larger groups and the teaching methodology necessitates that with more students a longer time is needed to go around the room reviewing the dialog. The afternoon classes are semi-private and limited in size to no more than 4 people. This gives a much better teacher/student ratio. And that’s also why they cover the same material in 40 hours, compared to the morning session’s 80 hours.

ED Visa: Union Language School is registered with the Ministry of Education. It offers visa assistance for students seeking an ED visa for studying Thai. There is a quirky enrollment as far as the specific number of modules you need to take in a year. They DO NOT offer a Thai program which follows the Ministry of Education’s minimum enrollment of 4 hours a week. If you are interested, check with the school to see how many modules you need to take in order to qualify for an ED visa for a specific time in-country.

Bang-4-The-Baht: Union Language School is a viable place to take module based Thai language classes. The principal certainly gave me the impression that the focus of the school is more about teaching Thai than hawking visas to facilitate foreigners staying in Thailand. She even went so far as to say they’re about teaching Thai NOT about making money. I’d suggest anyone interested in intensive module based learning of the Thai language to go scope out the school. I give them a very high “bang-4-the-baht”, especially as the Union Clones shamelessly ripped off their material and methodology.

I hope you found this of interest. It’s becoming increasingly harder to come up with innovative or different things to say about the schools. This is especially a problem for the Union Clone schools seeing as they teach the same way with the exact same material. Still, I’m doin’ the best I can here guys.

If you’re interested a specific school, drop either Catherine or me a line and we’ll see if a review can be arranged. Please realize, with liability laws in Thailand being what they are, there are gonna be some private Thai language schools out there which I WON’T review. Period. In that regard I’ll just follow the old adage of “if I can’t say anything nice about ‘em, I won’t say anything at all.”

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

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Thai Language School Review: My Thai Language School

Thai Language School Review: MTL My Thai Language School

My Thai Language School (MTL)…

Web: MTL My Thai Language School
Address: Fortune Town, Education Zone, G floor, Mrt Station Phra Ram 9, exit 1
Tel: 02-642-3525

Location: UPDATE: My Thai Language School has moved (address above).

Basic Info: I first wrote about My Thai Language on a forum right after it opened. MTL was created by a Thai who just happened to be my first official teacher. They’ve re-done the school since I first saw it. MTL is now laid out differently and it’s bigger than I remember.

One thing you notice when you enter the school is that everything is labeled in Thai and phonetics: clocks, maps on the wall, pictures, desks, chairs, sofas, etc. It’s a creative way to get students to remember what common things are called in Thai.

The staff are quite pleasant to deal with (remember, I’m pretty darned coarse so if they’re nice to me, they’ll be nice to anyone!)

Materials: The course materials at My Thai Language School have undergone a re-write since I first stopped by. What I like about the materials is that they aren’t just a carbon-copy of someone else’s. The course materials are written from scratch. They now have current, quite interesting and practical dialog. The books have contemporary Thai, useful phrases, and high frequency vocabulary.

The first book is in phonetics and Thai with English translations. The phonetics and English are on one page and the facing page has the Thai. That way, if you can read Thai already, you’re not distracted by the english phonetics (usually written under the Thai at most schools).

The Thai only books are filled with mini-exams to check your retention. Some of the books have word searches, unscramble the sentence, pick the correct sentence, fill in the blanks for words, match the picture to the word, and more, all in Thai. It’s an easy way for students to learn and to have fun at it too. I feel this is something most schools don’t take advantage of nearly as much as they should.

Method: As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, there’s not a lot of revolutionary new ways to acquire a language. My Thai Language School starts out with basic dialog: meeting and greeting, asking directions, etc. The classes are taught primarily in Thai and the teachers have a good enough grasp of English to answer questions. The levels are broken down into Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced, with two 100 hour modules in each. To get you speaking Thai in-class, there’s role play dialog with the teacher and students.

My Thai Language School tries to build a good foundation of spoken Thai before starting to teach reading and writing. I don’t see anything wrong with this. In my opinion, with learning to read Thai even at a piss poor level you invest a LOT of time with very little return in investment. Seems to me that being able to speak FIRST (even learning via karaoke Thai), gets you headed in the right direction.

Teachers: The teachers at My Thai Language School are qualified and want students to confidently speak Thai. I’d say these teachers rate right up there as far as being able to teach non-native speakers Thai. It’s a tough balancing act sometimes, switching between Thai and English to explain things, but the teachers at MTL do it well. Before they’ll explain a lesson in English they try to get students to understand the explanations in Thai first, even if it means drawing on the whiteboard or miming it out. This is a good thing, because if students are fed meanings they often don’t retain as much. Whereas if students have to reason out the meaning thru context or usage it’s much more likely to be retained.

Classes: The classes at My Thai Language School are your typical four hours a week set up which meets the Ministry of Education’s minimum parameters. Students can attend either a single day of four hours a week or do two days of two hours each day. The only day they’re closed is Sunday.

MTL offers more intensive courses and private lessons too. They also have special group lessons for those interested in learning Thai at the same level.

Something I haven’t seen at too many schools are classes for professionals who need specialized Thai vocabulary in the workplace to interact with Thais. The courses are custom tailored to each individual’s needs.

ED Visa: My Thai Language School no longer deals with Ed Visas.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I’d rate this school pretty high up there on the pile. Based solely on the material alone, especially as it was written from scratch (not copied), I give ‘em really high value. Honestly, there are so few schools doing anything remotely innovative in learning Thai that it’s good to see one going out on a limb, not just cloning another school’s methodology. MTL deserves points if not in innovation, at least for creativity. I especially like the mini-tests and exercises in the books geared towards reading Thai.

If you are looking for a Thai language school, MLS would be a good school to check out and sit a free class.

I do hope you found this review of interest. Believe me, it isn’t easy coming up with things to say because after a while all the schools blur together. Only the best (which I will review) and the worst (which I will never review) stick out in my mind.

Good luck in your learning Thai endeavors. And feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you want a Thai language school in Bangkok looked into.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Thai Language House

Thai Language School Review: Thai Language House

Thai Language House…

Web: Thai Language House
Address: Saranjai Mansion, Sukhmumvit Soi 6, Building 2, 14th floor, Room 17/570, Klongtoey, Klongtoey, Bangkok 10330
Tel: 02-653-0462

Location: Thai Language House is easy to get to from Nana BTS Station. Walk to Soi Six (it’s an L shaped Soi which runs from Sukhumvit Road down, makes a right turn, then comes out about half way down Soi Four). Thai Language House is the first building of the Saranjai Mansion complex (although the sign for the school downstairs is sorta misleading as it points to the other building). Take the lift to the 14th floor (the rooms start with a 17 prefix, but don’t let that throw you either, you’re really on the 14th floor). Come out of the lift, go to the left, and it’s the first door on the right.

Basic Info: Thai Language House is a small school but I thought I’d start to review a few of the lesser known (but not less in quality) schools around Bangkok. Thai Language House is a double condo comprised of the school, the owner’s art gallery and her place of residence. Overall, it’s inviting, nice, clean and cozy. It definitely does not have that stale school atmosphere some of the ancient schools tend to have.

Yawwalak, the owner, has been teaching Thai to foreigners for over 20 years so she’s not lacking in experience. It can’t be easy to pound Thai into (some) expats overly thick heads. To do it for that long shows motivation, sincerity and determination.

Materials: The books at Thai Language House are self-written. The beginning books use phonetics (like almost all schools that start out by teaching conversational Thai). The course materials cover the standard fare as in: meeting, greeting, getting around, asking directions, etc. The materials are dialog driven, with a vocabulary and question/answer format. The main focus is to get you speaking something close enough to Thai so that Thais understand you.

Thai Language House also teaches writing, reading, and has advanced classes for businessmen who need specific vocabulary for the workplace. If you can already read Thai the higher level books are available in Thai script.

Method: Until a sufficient spoken vocabulary is mastered phonetics are used. Later, the student is exposed to the Thai alphabetic system. I mentioned to the owner that in the next print run it would be helpful to have Thai script even if it wasn’t taught in earlier conversational lessons. At least it would show students what Thai looks like. Then again, I mention this to ALL the schools which use karaoke Thai for their beginner books.

Thai Language House also has classes tailored to the needs of the student. Customised courses are coming into fashion in more of the schools I’ve toured. That way, the schools can provide relevant material and concentrate on teaching in a way which increases proficiency, rather than by the broad brush method. With this focus schools gain access to niche markets teaching specialized vocabulary for business, finance, emails, etc (topics that not all foreign Thai students have a desire to learn).

Teachers: Thai Language House has a pool of teachers to select from. Some teach just at the school, some do offsite teaching, etc. I met two Thai teachers while there; the owner, as well as a staff teacher. In my opinion, they’re both qualified to teach Thai to foreigners. Actually, they’re so good at understanding off-toned foreign accented Thai that I was able to converse with them almost 100% in Thai. And for that to happen, I believe they’re pretty darned good!

Both of the students I saw were taking copious notes and had nothing but good things to say about the teachers. I even asked when the teachers were out of earshot but got the same answers. As Thai lessons go, the students were happy with what they were receiving.

Classes: Thai Language House offers a variety of times to attend class. The classe size range from one-on-one to small groups. The classes can be taught at the school or off-site at a business or residence. Regular classes run in 50 minute blocks.

In class you’re encouraged to speak Thai from the get go. It’s not nearly as hard core as some Unity Clone schools with their no-engrish-in-class rules. But still, Thai Language House wants you to speak Thai as much as you can. It’s a very forgiving environment and the two students I observed were both laughing and learning. Funny how those two things seem to go hand in hand with actually acquiring knowledge of any kind.

Thai Language House offers online classes via Skype and other internet chat service providers. Skype lessons are useful for students who buy blocks of class hours but don’t use all their time. If students leave early they can still continue their Thai studies back in their home countries.

On offer are group, private and corporate lesson plans of various lengths and subjects, so I’d check with the school to see what fits you best in that regard.

ED Visa: When Thai Language House was in two different locations they were registered with the Ministry of Education. However, since moving to Saranjai Mansion, they no longer maintain their registration. What this means is that you’ll need to sort out your own visa situation. It isn’t any different than several other private Thai schools I’ve reviewed where their focus is teaching Thai, not facilitating foreigners to stay in the country. In my opinion method, materials and teachers make a quality Thai language school, NOT a piece of paper issued by a government agency.

Bang-4-The-Baht: As far as a school which isn’t registered with the MOE, I’d rate Thai Language House quite high in quality of language instruction versus baht you pay for the lessons. I’d recommend people stop by, look at their material, take a trial lesson, and see if this school is a fit.

BTW: I said the owner uses part of the school as her art gallery. She’s quite good. The website for her art work is at Art of Jim 9. It’s worth stopping by to peruse her art.

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

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Thai Language School Review: UTL Unity Thai Language School

Thai Language School Review: UTL Unity Thai Language School

UTL Unity Thai Language School…

School: UTL Unity Thai Language School
Website: utl-school.com
Address: 18th floor Times Square Building, 246 Sukhumvit Rd, Khlongtoey, Khlongtoey, Bangkok Thailand 10110
Telephone Number: 02-653-1538
Email: info@utl-school.com

Location: UTL Unity is in the Times Square Building. The school is easy to get to by either the MRT (Sukhumvit Road Station), or the BTS (Asok Station). From the MRT, go up to the sky walk to the Sky Train and follow it around until you walk directly into Times Square, and then up to the 18th floor. Note: if you’re coming from the MRT, you can’t get thru Asok Station without paying, so use the sky-walk for Terminal 21 because it jumps Asok stations turnstiles and connects to the skywalk.

Basic Info: UTL Unity is another Union Thai Method school. The method was designed to teach foreign missionaries who washed up on Thai shores. UTL Unity’s website says the school itself has been around for over 10 years, which I totally believe. I’ve lived behind the Times Square building for the last 7 years and they were already there when I arrived. UTL also mentions that the material was designed over 40 years ago. And given some of the out-of-date phrases in their books, I believe that too.

Materials: UTL Unity concentrates on teaching spoken Thai first. The books use phonetics (karaoke Thai). You’re unlikely to find it in any other Thai course books, except for other Union Clone schools. It’s not as wacky as other phonetic systems but it’s squirrelly enough that you first need to learn the system before you can get anywhere.

UTL Unity has two ‘modules’ (a fancy way of saying ‘books’) for conversational Thai. The books ONLY have karaoke Thai and English translations. There is NO Thai script at all.

Before you are exposed to Thai script (starting at module three) you work thru modules one and two to develop proficiency in speaking Thai.

Surprisingly, the books are quite intensive. By the time you get thru with the second book you’ve got a really good ‘getting by in Thai’ grasp of the language.

To me, the methodology could be improved by including the Thai script in the beginner books. This is so that students can at least begin to see what real Thai looks like.

From module three on students are exposed to the Thai writing system. Module three also concentrates on conversation as well. Note: You have to do both module three AND four to learn all the Thai consonants and vowels.

Beginning at module four you are given homework for writing the most commonly used Thai words, short answers to questions, etc.

Module five is where you really learn to read and write Thai via short stories, essays, etc. It’s also where your homework starts to dial in your writing ability.

Module six is conversation based. It teaches slang, idiomatic expressions, and focuses on increasing the speed of a persons reading ability, as well as writing longer essays.

UTL Unity has a LOT of topics for advanced learners (more than I care to list, that’s for sure). Some are the same beat-to-death stuff you see at every Thai language school in Bangkok: Thai culture, Buddhism, social customs, etc. Some are pretty good though. The subjects touch on proverbs, newspapers, and current events.

UTL also offers a program which starts in the fall (I believe) and prepares students for the government Thai Proficiency Exam given in December.

Method: In the group class I sat (6 years ago), the classes were conversation based. They started out with the standard fare of meeting greeting, asking your name, etc. The teacher said the vocab words, we repeated (as a group), and then the teacher went around one by one, having us repeat back to her. She covered the dialog drill and we repeated in a group, then broke into pairs to practice the drills. It is a dialog substitution type format, where the words that can be switched out are marked and other vocabulary is used.

Teachers: I must admit that I have experience with only one teacher at UTL Unity. She taught the beginners’ class. In fact, she ONLY taught that class (and from her ease of teaching it, for a good long while). She was very well versed with the material and incredibly supportive of students abysmal attempts at toning and vowel length, and not too heavy handed in errant pronunciation corrections. She made extreme facial expressions, and much to the amusement of the students, used mime very effectively in class to get points across.

Classes: UTL Unity is like several other Union Clones which offer Intensive Thai classes. Intensive Thai runs in the morning for four hours a day M-F, and is three weeks long. The afternoon class is the same only its three hours a day. For your run-of-the-mill-foreigner lookin’ to learn conversational Thai, it’s really intense!!

The intensive Thai class moves along at a good clip; there’s not a whole lotta time spent on the “whyz-in-thai (why is Thai like this but English is like that). In fact, if I remember correctly, most of those type of questions were answered with, “That’s just how Thai is…” (FWIW: I hate that answer because everything they do in Thai has rules whether they know it or not.)

Now don’t get me wrong, perhaps had my motivation been different way back when, I’da gotten a LOT outta it. However, my class, not surprisingly enough, was composed entirely of foreign missionaries (people I have less in common with than I do Thais). Needless to say, it was not fun to go to, or sit thru. It was not a class I looked forward doing, at all.

ED Visa: As UTL Unity is registered with the Ministry of Education it provides ED visa support for students. UTL has a deal where if you buy so many modules they give you the documentation needed to secure your ED visa at a neighboring country’s Thai Embassy. UTL Unity provides in-country extension documentation too. They DON’T have a ED visa program where you can study Thai a mere 4 hours a week to live here. This is a school that makes NO bones about the fact that you’re gonna learn Thai come hell or high water.

Bang-4-The-Baht: As I said, this is not the school for someone looking to live in Thailand on the ED visa. For the serious learner of Thai, I’d give this school a very high “bang-4-the baht” rating. But I’m telling you, you’re gonna hafta be diligent to retain anything out of those intensive courses. You’ve gotta practice the dialog outside of class with someone. You miss a single day and you miss the material covered. And if you’re fresh off the boat, you’re gonna be overwhelmed early on.

I personally know several people who went thru to module six and they came away reading, writing and speaking super clear, well structured and enunciated Thai.

I hafta be completely honest, (well no, actually I don’t, but I will…) This is the first school review where I couldn’t personally go in to write this review. I had to send in a plant (a foreigner dressed as a small shrub actually).

When I first moved to Thailand I went to UTL Unity for their intensive Thai program. As I said, I was less than impressed with the entire endeavor. Perhaps, looking back (if I can even remember back 6+ years ago), my motivation for learning Thai wasn’t what it is today.

Of course, being typical American, I had a meeting with the principal where I made my dissatisfaction only too well known. Evidently I made such an impression on the entire staff that when I went into the school six months ago to check on their Thai Proficiency Training course, the girls at the front desk STILL remembered me!! Suffice to say, they were less than cordial (especially for Thais) in answering my questions, and made it clear my business was not wanted or needed.

Still, this review is accurate insofar as the information I’m relating. I hope you found it of marginal value.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Rak Thai

Thai Language School Review: Rak Thai

Rak Thai Language School…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thai Language School Review: AAA Thai

Thai Language School Review: AAA Thai

AAA Thai Language Center…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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