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Tag: Thai Reference Grammar

Thanking the Sponsors of WLTs 2015 Thai Language Giveaway

Thai Language

WLT’s 2015 Thai Language Giveaway…

Was that a wonderful seven weeks, or what? Overall, US$4500 in prizes were given away by: Stu Jay Raj (Jcademy), Duke (Duke Language School), Bingo-Lingo (Read Thai in 10 Days), Jo and Jay (Learn Thai Podcast), Tom and Kruu Jiab (Learn Thai Style), Benjawan Poomsan Becker (Paiboon Publishing), Chris Pirazzi (Word in the Hand), Yuki and Miki (PickupThai Podcast), James Higbie and David Smyth via Danny at DCO Thai and Orchid Press.

Wow. And thank you! You’ve all made this the best giveaway ever.

The sponsors in WLT’s 2015 Thai Language Giveaway were chosen because they are at the top of their field. They create materials with Thai that you will actually use, and also have a longtime commitment to the learning Thai industry.

Curious about what’s coming next, I bugged each for a final time (final, for now) to let us know what we can expect in the future.

Jcademy: We are in some exciting times at Jcademy. I have spent the past 20 years in the education and training industry. Most of that was running face to face training programmes with clients in training facilities – either their own facility, ours, or we would rent a training room at a hotel. While I love soaking up the energy of the participants while I am running my programmes face to face, doing that day in and day out can be exhausting.

Ten years ago, I didn’t believe that the technologies available could address the customised issues that I faced with each of my clients and frankly speaking, the course authoring and Learning Management System (LMS) technology that was available was limited and in many cases quite clunky. Now, technology and bandwidth has caught up I have found that with the technology that is readily available now, I can create truly interactive learning modules that can be deployed on any device that really help learners to learn and develop new skills through repetition and testing.

At Jcademy we have built a platform that supports these technologies. We are presently working with companies and people that have knowledge that might have traditionally been held in only their heads, in books or training manuals and we are helping them to convert them to rich, interactive training solutions that can be monetised, localised and opened up to new markets that they wouldn’t have had access to in the past.

Using our platform, people with truly wonderful content can now spend their time doing what they do best, and those who have great business and marketing skills can use the tools that we have to run and grow their training and education based businesses, reducing the need to create any more new content that they have to.

Duke Language School and Bingo-Lingo (Arthit Juyaso): At Duke Language School, our aim is to give expats and foreign residents an alternative to the other teaching materials and methods, some of which have never undergone change for nearly 50 years. Right now we are working diligently to create entirely new Thai courses to suit the modern Thailand: “Journey Survival 1-2-3”, “Journey Conversational 1-2-3”, and “Journey Fluency 1-2-3”, are the backbone of our Thai programmes that focus on communication which focus on natural Thai that Thai people actually speak, practical language that is more relevant to everyone’s life in Thailand, and engaging classrooms taught by professional teachers who know how to make the class fun (I have personally trained them). These courses can be taken in conjunction to “Explore 1-5”, Thai reading and writing course, so the students can learn how to speak, read and write all at the same time to maximise their learning experience. Each course lasts 24 hours, 2 hours a day, so it’s long enough for our students to learn a lot of useful stuff but not too long to make them bored. Our upper-intermediate and advanced course are also undergoing a lot of changes and eventually we will have all the courses suitable for everyone learning Thai. On top of that, we are also working days and nights to develop fully interactive online courses which can be accessed by students as stand-alone platforms or as supplementary to their physical classes.

As for my own book, Read Thai in 10 Days by Bingo-Lingo, it has enjoyed positive feedback so far. Considering it my first ever published book, I’m very chuffed :-) So in the future, after I’m done with creating the Journey courses I have plans to write more books about Thai language, and improve RTITD to be better than ever. In the meantime, I will also write articles on Women Learn Thai, and perhaps drop in the Farang Can Learn Thai FB group to help out learners, as I always have. So many ideas so little time! Thank you everyone for your support, in return I will give back to the community as much as I can.

Learn Thai Podcast: We are currently working new Thai culture content and also some ways to get even the most unmotivated people to learn some basic Thai.

Learn Thai Style: The future at Thai Style Language is looking very busy! We have a LOT going on and some huge plans for future development. Some of our plans include new teacher locations with Australia. Kruu Jiab is very busy concentrating on the second edition of the Speak Thai Course (level 1) as well as a Thai script only edition. The Speak Thai Course level 2 has been planned out and development has started. Our Upper Intermediate Course is constantly being added to. New blog posts are being created weekly and new teachers added daily! 

And remember, if you are a registered learner or teacher you will always get access to new updates for no extra cost! Happy learning and we look forward to being a part of your Thai language experience.

Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand: We are nearing completion of a massive 2.0 upgrade to the Talking Thai-Eng-Thai dictionary app that has been more than two years in the making. This upcoming free 2.0 upgrade will include thousands of new Thai words suggested by users, thousands of complete, ready-to-use customizable phrases divided into 200+ practical categories like “Hotel,” “Ordering Food,” “Renting a Place,” and “Price Haggling,” a Favorites feature that lets you save and organize words and phrases you are learning, full-text search that lets you find words in the middle of phrases, and a complete rewrite of the internals of the app that will allow us to issue more frequent cross-platform upgrades in the future. 

The Thai for Beginners app v2.0 will include these new features: increase size of text, turn off English text, Play All will play all phrases in a lesson, and added English voice to allow Thai speakers to practice their English pronunciation. Android update available now, iOS update in September 2015.

PickupThai Podcast: We hope you guys have been enjoying our two podcast series, Sweet Green and Spicy Red. For total beginners, we have great news for you. We’ll start a new course that’s going to be a perfect fit for you in a few months. Plus, our newly designed website will be launched soon. It will be packed with lots of free and fun lessons as usual but will be much easier to navigate. We are very excited to show it to you. Like our Facebook page (PickUpThai), follow us on Twitter (@PickupThai) and keep visiting our website if you don’t want to miss any updates.Thank you all for your support. We truly appreciate it.

DCO Books: For those looking for English books published in Thailand, the DCO websites are still a good source. They can also sometimes find those out of print books that others sellers have long stopped stocking. Just use the inquiry form on the website to ask for these hard to find books.

In recent years DCO has offered a publishing service to would be authors. Originally started to help local writers enter the then new ebook market, they now also help with print on demand options, both in Thailand and outside.

Again, my thanks goes to Stu Jay Raj (Jcademy), Duke (Duke Language School), Bingo-Lingo (Read Thai in 10 Days), Jo and Jay (Learn Thai Podcast), Tom and Kruu Jiab (Learn Thai Style), Benjawan Poomsan Becker (Paiboon Publishing), Chris Pirazzi (Word in the Hand), Yuki and Miki (PickupThai Podcast), James Higbie and David Smyth via Danny at DCO Thai and Orchid Press.

You’ve all made this a wonderful seven weeks, and I look forward to how your companies evolve throughout the year!

Posts: WLTs 2015 Thai Language Giveaway…

Here’s the entire list for the series. And what a series it was. Thanks all. Really. It was an amazing good time.

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WLT’s Thai Language Giveaway: Smyth’s Thai: An Essential Grammar, Higbies’ Thai Reference Grammar and Essential Thai

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway

WLT’s Thai Language Giveaway…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015Welcome to week two of WLT’s seven weeks of Thai language giveaways by top movers and shakers in the learning Thai industry.

If you are just hearing about the giveaway do read Please Vote THAI and WIN! 2015: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition to find out about the $4,500+ in prizes being given away.

Thai Reference Grammar, Essential Thai, Thai: An Essential Grammar, and Thai Without Tears…

This week Orchid Press, DCO Books, and WLT (that’s me) have banded together to sponsor some of my favourite books for learning Thai: James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar (two each), David Smyth’s Essential Grammar, and the classic Segaller’s Thai Without Tears.

And to make it even more fun, James Higbie signed all four copies of Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar. Lucky winners. I’d love signed copies too!

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway

During the last Essential Thai giveaway James Higbie and I lounged around at the Churchill Bar at British Club in Bangkok, sipping beers while Jim selected winners out of an empty beer mug. But for this giveaway, as Jim is in Bangkok and I’m in Chiang mai, he’ll do the honours without me. There might still be beer though (we’ll see).

And here’s a bit about the sponsors…

Orchid Press has been around since 1981. The majority of the books are related to the Asian region, covering general interest, scholarly, fiction, and poetry. They previously sold books out of a bookstore on Silom but now do internet sales and sales to other bookstores.

DCO Books came online in 1995. Their specialty is English language books published in Thailand. DCO is my go-to bookstore for books on the Thai language, culture and history (out of print or not). Whenever I find a book I just have to have, I’d contact Danny, who sources it for me (he knows where boxes are stashed). To help save you a bundle on shipping, Danny’s new venture is DCO Thai eBooks.

Higbie: Essential Thai…

Jim’s Essential Thai has a bit of lore attached to it. Years out of print, fans would cherish copies of copies until they fell to bits. Finally, in 2010, Orchid Press brought it back to life.

Essential ThaiEssential Thai
Author: James Higbie
Price: US$29.95 / 895 baht
Paperback + CD: 234 pages
Size: 190 x 250 mm
Published: 2011, Orchid Press

If you don’t win this time round, you can order Essential Thai online from Orchid Press or DCO Books.

Orchid Press: Essential Thai is a complete learning package for those who want to acquire basic working skills in the Thai language, quickly and efficiently. Freshly updated and back by popular demand, Essential Thai includes a CD ROM with MP-3 audio files to introduce the student to Thai pronunciation and beginning phrases.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Essential Thai. Jim’s writing is clear and concise, and with the layout being straightforward, the concepts are easy to understand and absorb. It’s so good, I even penned a post on Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai. Essential Thai is also a prime candidate for using Luca Lampariello’s method outlined in An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages Part One and Part Two.

Higbie: Thai Reference Grammar…

Again, it’s Jim’s clear way of explaining concepts that draws me back to Thai Reference Grammar. It’s my go-to resource for those niggling grammar questions, or just for the pleasure of a good read.

Thai Reference GrammarThai Reference Grammar
Author: James Higbie
Price: US$29.95 / 895 baht
Paperback: 234 pages
Size: 190 x 250 mm
Published: 2003

As before, if you don’t win this time round, you can order Thai Reference Grammar online from Orchid Press or DCO Books.

DCO Books: There are many phrasebooks and course books for beginning-level Thai but until now there has been no book that explains higher-level Thai sentence structure and functional vocabulary.

Many students of the Thai language find that basic-level Thai is easy to pick up, but that the language becomes more difficult at higher levels. (For example, there are four ways to say ‘because’ and eleven ways to say ‘only’).

Thai Reference Grammar fills the need for a work that explains high-level Thai sentence structure and vocabulary. The book presents clear explanations of advanced Thai structure, illustrated with examples of typical Thai speech.

On a sidenote: Jim gifted me with the extra materials intended for the follow up of Thai Reference Grammar, so do stay tuned as I feed them through WLT bit by bit.

On a personal note: Jim’s latest project (not about Thai) is Sierra Leone: Inside the War. If it’s written anything like his other books it’ll be a fabulous read.

Smyth: Thai: An Essential Grammar…

Thai Reference Grammar and An Essential Grammar are the most popular grammar books for students of Thai. And if you are a fan of Mary Haas’s style (remember her Green Brick) and Benjawan’s Thai for Beginners, then you are already intune with David’s Essential Grammar. With the well-thought-out layout, it’s a quick jump through the contents to find just what you need.

From David Smyth: I hope you’ll find this book useful; and keep on checking out Cat’s fantastic website!

Thai: An Essential GrammarThai: An Essential Grammar
Author: David Smyth
Price: US$29.95 / 895 baht
Paperback: 234 pages
Size: 155 x 255 mm
Published: UK 2010 (1st) Edition

I have both editions but I’m forever grabbing this one (my second edition is still pristine). And I was in luck when taking this photo of the front cover because the coffee spills and chocolate prints wiped right off the beautiful matt finish!

Thai: An Essential Grammar can be ordered online from DCO Books.

DCO Books: Thai: An essential Grammar is a concise and user-friendly guide to the basic structures of the language. Grammatical forms are demonstrated through examples, given in both Thai script and romanised transliteration, with clear, jargon-free explanations. Its designed for use both by students taking a taught course in Thai and for independent learners, and includes guidance on pronunciation, speech conventions and the Thai writing system as well as grammar.

With numerous examples bringing grammar to life, this unique reference work will prove invaluable to all students looking to master the grammar of Thai.

Segaller: Thai Without Tears…

Segaller Thai Without TearsSegaller Thai Without Tears
Author: Denis Segaller
Price: $9.95
Paperback: 368 pages
Published: 1999

Segaller’s phrasebook, Thai Without Tears (a guide to simple Thai speaking), is an absolute classic and a joy to read. When Danny (DCO Books) mentioned adding it to the giveaway my response was “I LOVE that book!” Actually, I love pretty much everything by Dennis Segaller (RIP). He had a blast living in Thailand and it shines through everything he wrote.

DCO Books: An enjoyable introduction to basic Thai grammar and phrases, including those all-important tones! This handy little book should enable native English speakers to learn conversational Thai in a reasonably short time, and in an interesting and enjoyable way. Its phonetic system is simple and clear – a great help in learning those all-important Thai tones.

The examples have been chosen to be as useful as possible in everyday situations, and the two teaching sections are followed by collections of phrases concerned with telephoning, food, shopping, etc. Other sections deal with colours, times and dates, social norms, getting around, festivals and public holidays presented in a highly readable way and with some cultural background here and there. 1,300 word English-Thai and Thai-English glossaries and some emergency phrases (most of which we hope you’ll never need) round off the book.

Rules for WLTs Thai Language Giveaway…

The rules are dead simple:

  • To be included in the draw, leave comments below.
  • Comment(s) need to add to the conversation (it really does matter).
  • Each relevant comment gets counted, so please do leave as many as you like!
  • If you don’t collect your prize within a week of the announcement, it will be given away to the next person in line.
  • You don’t have to live in Thailand to enter the contest; the cost of shipping to anywhere in the world is covered.

I will not be responsible for choosing the winners so even if you’ve known me for yaks ages you too can win. Also, there is no limit to how many prizes you can win. So go ahead. If you see something you fancy, please do enter again and again and again.

Important: If you own any of these books do let us know in the comments and we’ll adjust the prizes.

The draw will run from this moment until the 10th of June, 6am Thai time. At that time I’ll announce the winners in the comments below as well as create a dedicated post.

Again, my thanks goes to Orchid Press and Danny from DCO Books for sponsoring these wonderful books. And of course, James Higbie for taking the time to sign copies and choose winners. Good luck everyone!

WLTs 2015 Thai Language Giveaway…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015Pssst … if you haven’t voted in the Language Lovers Competition, please do. It’s the one time out of the year I get to strut my stuff. Cheers!

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Please Vote THAI and WIN! 2015: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

Please VOTE for the Top 100 Language Lovers…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2015It’s that time again, the Top 100 Language Lovers Competition! To vote for Language Learning Blogs, please click on the button to your right (I’m in the A’s this time – oh yah).

There are five categories to vote in: Language Learning Blogs, Language Professionals Blogs, Language Facebook Pages, Language Twitter Accounts, and Language YouTube Channels.

Competition rules: You can only vote for one entry per section. For more about the competition go to: Top 100 Language Lovers 2015 – Let’s Get Started!

Language bloggers have worked hard all year long, so please do show your support by voting for your favourites.

Psst: WLT also made it into the Language Facebook Page section this year.

I look forward to the Language Lovers Competition organised by bab.la and Lexiophiles each year because it inspires me to improve WLT. This year I’ve totally revamped the site (as you can clearly see). And with over 700 posts (aren’t Guest Writers wonderful) I’ve also added a Please Start Here page with an easy access button. I hope it helps.

But hold on – there’s more! As WLT is turning seven (my lucky number) there will be Thai product giveaways each week for seven weeks. So every week there will be new winners. Yay for you!

What I did was approach the top movers and shakers in the Thai industry to see if they’d be interested in donating their fabulous products. And everyone said yes! I’m so grateful because I can now share what I believe are some of the best products available for learning Thai.

My sincere thanks goes to Stu Jay Raj (Jcademy), Duke (Duke Language School), Bingo-Lingo (Read Thai in 10 Days), Jo and Jay (Learn Thai Podcast), Tom and Kruu Jiab (Learn Thai Style), Benjawan Poomsan Becker (Paiboon Publishing), Chris Pirazzi (Word in the Hand), Yuki and Miki (PickupThai Podcast), James Higbie and David Smyth via Danny at DCO Thai and Orchid Press.

In total, they have generously contributed over US$4500 in prizes. Wow.

Seven weeks of FREE giveaways from top movers and shakers…

Before I get to the prizes, I’d like to explain exactly what I believe makes a true mover and shaker in the Thai industry. I thought long and hard about it, so here you go.

Each company mentioned are at the top of their field, creates materials with everyday Thai that you will actually use, and has a longtime commitment to the learning Thai industry. Are there others out there? Sure. But I was limited to seven weeks.

Jcademy (July 9): FIVE of Stu’s Ultimate Thai Combo packages (includes the Full Cracking Thai Fundamentals program, Thai Bites and Glossika Thai Fluency 1). If you already have the combo, you can go with the new subscription package (yet to be announced).

Duke Language School and Bingo-Lingo (Arthit Juyaso) (July 2): FOUR copies of Bingo’s detailed book and CD, Read Thai in 10 Days. And FOUR budding Thai students will receive Duke Language School’s Survival 1 group lessons, which includes the textbook as well as free access to the beta version of Duke’s online course.

Learn Thai Podcast (June 18): FOUR subscriptions to Learn to speak, read, write Thai via LTP’s massive Thai course that has over 800 video, audio and text lessons.

Learn Thai Style (June 25): FOUR Speak Thai Course winners will receive a lifetime access to over 40 hours of audio and video materials, over 300 worksheets (with or without transliteration), online quizzes, self study materials, learn Thai blog access, as well as access to over 700 trained teachers (UK, USA, Singapore, Thailand and Skype).

Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand (May 28): FOUR EACH of the Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Dictionary apps, Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Phrasebook apps, and Thai for Beginners apps.

PickupThai Podcast (June 11): FOUR winners get 15 podcasts each of either Sweet Green or Spicy Red. Winners get to choose their level (beginner to advanced).

DCO Books and Orchid Press (June 4): TWO sets (four books) of James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar, as well as Smyth’s Essential Grammar and Segaller Thai Without Tears.

The rules for the giveaways are simple:

  1. Leave as many relevant comments as you like (with a stress on ‘relevant’).
  2. Comment in as many of the giveaways as you want (there is no limit on how many prizes you can win).
  3. Claim your prize before the week is out (unclaimed prizes will go to the next in line).

Note: Those donating will be responsible for choosing the winners. That’s right. So even if you are one of my closest buddies, don’t stay away! Yes, everyone can win. Good luck all!

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

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WINNER: James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

WINNER: James Higbies' Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

WINNER: James Higbies’ Essential Thai AND Thai Reference Grammar…

The lucky winner of Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar is …. Lawrence Michaels from Thailand Holiday Travel! Lawrence, if you send your address via email I’ll get these wonderful learning Thai resources to you asap or shortly after.

Jim, thank you for making this draw possible by donating the signed books. You’ve been very generous! And of course, meeting for lunch at the British Club so’s you can pull a winning name out of a beer mug was great fun too (we really must do it again sometime).

WINNER: James Higbies' Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

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FREE DRAW: James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

FREE DRAW: James Higbies' Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

FREE DRAW! James Higbies’ Essential Thai AND Thai Reference Grammar…

Someone is going to get lucky soon. Originally, the prize for this draw was to be a signed copy of Essential Thai by James Higbie. But when Jim and I got together over a beer he agreed to offer both Essential Thai AND Thai Reference Grammar. Kudos to Jim, that’s quite a healthy prize!

As before, to be included in the draw the rules are simple:

  • You need to leave a comment(s) below.
  • The comment(s) need to be reasonable.

Explanation: Each comment gets counted so please feel free to leave as many as you like. But here’s the thing… the comments must add to the conversation as well as pertain to this post.

How it works: Each time a relevant comment is made, I’ll write the name on a slip of paper. When I meet up with Jim over a beer, the papers will be stirred, shaken, whatever, for him to pick the winning name.

After it’s over: The draw will close on Saturday morning, July 6, 8am BKK time. The winner will be announced that very same day.

Thai Reference Grammar and Essential Thai..

Both Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar are on my ‘must have’ Thai book list. Essential Thai because it covers the basics in an easy to understand manner. And Thai Reference Grammar because when I need to know something grammar-wise, it’s easily found.

Thai Reference GrammarThai Reference Grammar
Author: James Higbie
Paperback: 443 pages
Size: 9.4 x 6.9 x 1 inches
Published: July 10, 2006

Thai Reference Grammar has already been reviewed in Mark Hollow’s Review: A Guide to Thai Grammar Books, so I won’t cover it again.

Essential ThaiEssential Thai
Author: James Higbie
Paperback + CD: 234 pages
Size: 7.8 x 0.5 x 9.8 inches
Published: 2012

Most of those interviewed in the Successful Thai Language Learners series have a favourite Thai course. Mine is Essential Thai. When I first started learning Thai I heard of the legendary but out of print Essential Thai. Cherished copies of copies were being passed around, but by then, even those had all but disappeared (I looked). Lucky for beginners, Jim reprinted Essential Thai in 2012.

Teach Yourself Thai and Thai for Beginners are also good, so why do I favour Essential Thai? Well, if you pinned me down for a reason I’d have to say that it’s because the lessons get straight to the point. When you first start studying a foreign language you often don’t remember long, detailed explanations. In Essential Thai, after a brief overview of the subject matter, you get a selection of vocabulary and useful sentence patterns to practice with. And then you move onto the next subject.

What the course doesn’t have is a quiz (I’m partial to testing). If that’s how you learn, you can get around it quite easily by following the suggestions in Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai.

Essential Thai: table of contents…

I could spend hours extolling the virtues of Essential Thai but if I do this review will never happen. Just ask Jim (he’s been waiting for a year). Instead, here’s the robust table of contents that clearly includes everything a student of the Thai language needs to get started.

Introduction: pronunciation, numbers, colours.

First Things: greetings, going places, very/not at all, already, thank you/excuse me, do you understand, pronouns/I am, speaking politely, I don’t know, can you speak Thai?

Shopping, getting around: money and shopping, paying in restaurants, how many, bottles of water, food and drinks to go, buying clothes, getting change, bargaining, where is, asking for a restroom, traveling – basic questions.

Questions and expressions: what’s your name, how are you, where are you from, how old are you, have you eaten yet, have you been in Thailand long, goodbye/good luck, phrases for learning Thai common expressions, expressions from Thai culture.

Step by step conversation: basic sentences, to be, too (too hot), this/the, the same/not the same, comparing, like more than/like the most, possessive, this person/that person, who/which person, numbers of people, using verbs, yes/no questions, maybe/I might, go with verbs, I like to/I want to, have to/must, can/able to, I’d rather, I’ve/I’ve never, have you yet, not anymore/never again, so/shall, connecting words, request/commands, let/allow, there is/there are, somebody/nobody, many/a lot, a little, more/again, only, each other, together/myself, a different one/not this one, what kind/what style, particles, notes on vocabulary, compound words and prefixes.

Conversation topics: family, marriage, work, religion, asking Thais where they are from, foreign people and things, important cards and documents, children and adults, some people/most people, weather, talking about places, feelings, dialogues.

Time: days of the week, morning/afternoon/night, telling time, minutes/house/days/weeks/months/years, how long, times/occasions, time conjunctions, other time words, months and years.

Food: ordering, drinks, ingredients, friend rice and noodles, Thai dishes, vegetarian food, western food, fruit, buying foods on the market.

Transportation: kinds of vehicles, stations/airport/pier, city bus, city to city bus, driving instructions, renting a vehicle.

Hotels and bungalows: hotels, asking for things, beach bungalow.

Getting around town: places in town, directions, near/far, prepositions of location, inside/outside/above/below, which floor, bank, post office, tailor/dressmaker, invitations/appointments.

Medical, emergencies, phone: parts of the body, medical problems, medicine, emergencies, telephone.

Around Thailand: areas of Thailand, Bangkok, Central Thailand/the East, the North, the Northeast, the South, forest, ocean, countryside, a Thai temple, home, Thai culture.

And the rest: reading Thai, classifiers, Thai dictionary.

Where to buy Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar…

In Bangkok you can get both books at Kinokuniya’s bookstore in Paragon. As I don’t like fighting traffic, whenever possible I use DCO Books (online bookstore).

DCO: Essential Thai with CD by James Higbie
DCO: Thai Reference Grammar by James Higbie and Snea Thinsan

DCO offers a wonderful service. When I’m in a hurry Danny sends my order by motorcycle taxi (and I’m always in a hurry!) Note: I do not get a cut for mentioning DCO but please do say “hey” from me anyway.

Both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk also carry Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar.

FREE DRAW recap…

So there you have it. To enter the draw leave relevant comments below. As many as you can muster. The draw will end next Saturday morning. The results of the draw will appear sometime that same day (after I wobble back home from meeting with Jim). I hope you get lucky!

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The “I’m Good Enough at Thai to Know I Suck” Stage

Good Enough at Thai to Know I Suck

Yeah, I really suck at Thai…

There comes a point in almost everyone’s attempt at learning a language where they gain enough proficiency to know, well… to realize that they pretty much suck at it!

This can be due to a variety of reasons, especially for a tonal language such as Thai, with its rigid vowel lengths.

Usually the main reason is “mother language interference”. This is where you’re speaking Thai and suddenly start using the English sentence order for words, which yields a lotta gibberish. Or you forget to use the question tag (ไหม / มั้ย) and instead use a rising tone on the last word, changing it into another one.

Now, I seemed to have reached a point where not only my spoken ability has come up to speed but also comprehension of what’s said back to me. I outlined this leap in The Magical Tipping Point of Thai.

I want to touch on the comprehension part of it a little. There is no way a person can learn Thai without having both their ability in spoken Thai and comprehension of what’s said back. It’s two sides of the same coin. Saying things without comprehending what’s said back isn’t speaking Thai.

Case in point. The other day I met a foreigner who spoke Thai with such good clarity and enunciation that I was so ashamed of my Thai that I wouldn’t speak Thai around him. He had the phrozen phrasez and rote sentence constructs down perfectly. As an aside, I could tell he was a Union Clone student because they teach two identifying constructs. One is สมมุติว่า (suppose that..) and the other is มีปากมีเสียงกัน (an antiquated construct for argue w/someone that Union schools teach instead of ทะเลาะกัน). But he’d nearly eliminated his thick Aussie accent in his spoken Thai (no small feat seeing as his accent was so thick I had to really concentrate to understand his English).

As I sat there listening to him interact with Thais it became apparent there was a disconnect when Thais didn’t respond with the appropriate pre-programmed response. He then had to ask them to repeat what they’d said, sometimes a coupla times. Now, sometimes the Thais deviation was only slight (and even I could make the leap in logic to what they’d said). However, with other times, the Thais would shorten a phrase or reply in a contemporary slangy way, so it was not the way he was programmed to receive replies.

I found this conundrum quite interesting, seeing as his Thai was really clear and not nearly as muddy (or perhaps “muddled” is a better word) as my spoken Thai.

We talked about his lack of comprehension and he mentioned that the run-o-the-mill Thai on the street didn’t speak as clearly as his Thai language teacher did. Well, I got news for everyone out there studying Thai. Not many Thais speak as clear or slow as your Thai language teacher! Nor will they waste the time it takes to spoon-feed when they’re talkin’ to you.

You can get Thais to slow down by saying พูดช้า ๆ หน่อย or พูดช้า ๆ สิ. But, sometimes it takes a couple of times for it to sink into their heads. Conversely, you can always do what I do and say in Thai, “either slow down or we’re gonna speak in English.” I’ve never had that not work in getting a Thai to slow down their staccato or warp speed Thai EVER! Given that many Thais fear speaking English, it’s effective. And better yet, to have them dial their speed back it only needs to be said once.

Back on track… It also became apparent to me that while this guy had a TON of good usable Thai vocabulary, constructs and phrases, he was unable to use them to build his own sentences. Instead, he relied on rote dialog (the same mind-numbing stuff I hear repeated in many Thai language schools in Bangkok).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not casting dispersions (errr aspersions) at this guy’s Thai. My spoken Thai language ability is NOTHING to write home about and I have more than my fair share of “fox paws” (faux pas) almost every time I converse with Thais in Thai. I’m not denigrating his ability, only pointing out some of my observations.

I always reply to foreigners who ask if I can speak Thai the exact same way: “I speak Thai well enough to know that I suck at it.” It’s the truth. I can converse about anything I have an interest in, and I am wicked good at understanding what Thais say to me, just as long as I’m in the driver’s seat. Also, for the most part, it appears that Thais understand what I’m talking about even if my intonation is muddy and my structure spotty.

Once you reach a level of proficiency as far as high frequency usable vocab and constructs go, the next phase is applying it ALL the time, in every situation, tryin’ to get off the rote dialog and more onto free flowing speech. For myself, I eavesdrop on Thais all the time. I also take notes. I do this to change how I learned Thai to how things are actually said by Thais. I also practice some of the new dialog I’ve overheard with Thai friends in sort of a “throw it against the wall and see if it sticks” method. Do they comprehend what I’m saying? Is it appropriate in the context I used it in? Does it make Thais understand me easier? In an effort to morph my Thai into a less foreign sounding Thai I currently speak, these are all things I look for.

This stage in your Thai language acquisition is when books like Thai: An Essential Grammar (by David Smyth), and Thai Reference Grammar (by James Higbie and Snea Thinsan) come in handy. Neither of these books lend themselves to a “sit down and read ‘em cover to cover” sort of endeavor. In fact, early on it’s mostly waste of time when studying the Thai language because there’s simply too much material covered in both. They’re not designed as text books to learn Thai. They are created as reference materials for specific questions about the application of words, phrases, and correct word order in constructs, once you have some Thai under your belt.

When I hear something in Thai that I haven’t used before, I jot it down in a small notebook. Once I get back home I look it up in one or both of those grammar books. Sometimes I hafta Google to find the real way things are spelled or said versus the colloquial way. And I can usually find the base construct even if the Thai version was slang-i-fied. By using Thai: Essential Grammar and Thai Reference Grammar, I can locate the correct words, related phrases, and appropriate usage.

Now, sometimes some of the constructs I come up with just don’t fly. And that’s when Thais look at me like I’ve got a horn growing outta my forehead (believe me, I’ve grown used to that look after 7+ years in Thailand). While other constructs work so well that it seems Thais are surprised a foreigner would spit something out that sounds so very Thai.

It’s moments like those that make me realize that all the time, hard work and effort I’ve put into this language is beginning to bear fruit. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever get past the “I’m good enough at Thai to know I suck at speaking Thai” stage. What I’m not letting it do is get me down or dampen my desire to learn more about the language. I have no problem discarding what doesn’t work, and I try to incorporate what does work into my usable vocabulary. In short, I just keep on trudging forward in my learning.

I think what I’m tryin’ to say is this: you too will reach a point where you’re good enough in Thai to know you’re not really very good at Thai. It’s a natural part of the process and it shouldn’t get you down. Instead, it should give you the satisfaction knowing that you’ve come a long way in your learning experience. And once you can see your own shortcomings in this language, it becomes easier to implement self corrections without someone spoon-feeding you.

Good luck. And keep at it. Remember no one eats an elephant at one sitting. It’s done one mouthful at a time. Bite by bite. Same with learning languages, take one bite at a time and you’ll get there.

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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Interview Compilation: Did One Method Stand Out?

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

Did one method stand out over all others?…

Some get downright religious about their language learning method of choice. Me? Well. With so many fun methods to write about, I need jump from one to another. And whenever I come across a new (to me) method, the idea that “this will be THE magic fix” taunts me (but only for a bit).

Ranging from commercial products to systems dreamed up by polyglots and others, there are all sorts of ways to learn Thai: Assimil Thai, AUA, audio, FSI Thai, grammar translation, immersion, Pimsleur Thai, L-Lingo, LAMP, Learn Thai Podcast, Linguaphone Thai, Luca’s Easy Way, one-on-one, Paiboon, reading, Silent Way, Situational, Rosetta Stone, Skype, Shadowing, smart phone apps, Speak Your Language, SRS, Teach Yourself Thai, Total Physical Response, TPR Storytelling, TV, classroom… whew.

But do you know what? After reading through this series, seems to me the most successful are those who didn’t flaff around. They just got on with their Thai studies.

Aaron Handel

Aaron Handel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: I find it difficult to separate the idea of “learning how to learn” from actually learning to speak Thai. I stumbled upon the best method (for me) through a process of trial and error. At first, I ‘picked up’ a little bit of Thai just by traveling in Thailand. Occasionally, I listened to the tapes that Nók and I made. After a few months in Thailand, I could only say a few phrases. My pronunciation was not very good.

I think it was on my second or third trip to Thailand that I made my big breakthrough. I was up in Mâe Săi during the rainy season. It rained all day, everyday. I rented a room for one month. I had assembled the tools to learn Thai. I had a good book with tone marks on every syllable. I had the Thai tapes that Nók and I had made. And I had motivation. I was inspired by the friendliness and generosity of Thai people. I was intrigued by the language and the culture. I told myself, “I’m going to try this. I’m going to learn to speak Thai.” I locked myself in the room for 30 days, going out only for food and water. I drilled the tapes as I read the text. Drill! Say it again. No, that’s not right. Do it again! Drill again, with better pronunciation. Focus on the tone. Even if it is only one syllable, drill that tone again and again.

After 30 days, I emerged from my room, pale and exhausted. Had I learned anything? Yes. Although I didn’t realize it yet, I had broken the tonal barrier. I learned most of the Thai that I now speak, during those 30 days.

Aaron Le Boutillier

Aaron Le Boutillier: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: Helping as a translator at the Local Police Station was the wake up call. There you sink and die if your Thai is not up to speed and the added embarrassment of looking silly in front of a group of tourists and police is enough incentive to study harder.

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAdam: After learning the basics, I found the best method to move to the next level was simply carrying a little notebook around and writing down words, phrases, and sentences that I heard come out of natives’ mouths. Also, if you ask any of my Thai friends they won’t hesitate to tell you that I would sit and ask them questions about the Thai language for hours sometimes. Having patient Thai friends was of great help to me in progressing my Thai.

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAndrew: Immersion, immersion, immersion. Read the newspaper. Watch the hideous Thai soapies. Listen to Thai pop music. Sit quietly with your Thai friends as they open a bottle of whiskey and solve the world’s problems in three hours before passing out. This all helps.

Celia Chessin-Yudin

Celia Chessin-Yudin: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersCelia: Reading and writing really helped me speak clearer.

Christy Gibson

Christy Gibson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChristy: The main thing that helped me though was just speaking, speaking, speaking, and making mistakes. Thai friends were extremely helpful, and for awhile I just asked them constantly how to say things. Thais also, as Jonas said, are often very complimentary, but I asked Thai friends close to me to please correct my incorrect speech and pronunciation at every possible opportunity, and they did. These 2 methods helped me more than anything else—1. Speaking the language with native Thai speakers as often and as much as possible, and 2. Being willing to make mistakes and not be discouraged by them or daunted by the frequency with which I initially made them.

Chris Pirazzi

Chris Pirazzi: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChris Pirazzi: Tutoring and flashcards most useful.

Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersColin: I think language is all about learning acres of vocabulary but I have an awful memory. I learn all my word lists through convoluted mnemonic methods. I did the same thing when I was attempting to learn Japanese ideographs. I had elaborate stories for every stroke of the kanji. Thai was easy by comparison but, as a visual person, I needed to see the words and their meanings. So, for example, the word ‘jeep’ (to flirt) was accompanied in my notebook by the image of an amorous soldier in the back of a jeep attempting to pick up his female companion (in fact my cartoon was a lot dirtier than that but this is a family website). Not all words lend themselves to interpretation but I have a good imagination so I can still see the image of a severed hand on a plate whenever I think of the word ‘ahan’. Being weird helps with this method.

Daniel B Fraser

Daniel B Fraser: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDaniel: Mimicking others for sure was best.

David Smyth

David Smyth: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: What struck me at the time, was not so much the method of the teaching but rather the attitude of my teachers, Manas Chitakasem, Peter Bee and Stuart Simmonds.

At school I had studied French and German to university entrance standard in an atmosphere of fear and trepidation, where mistakes were regarded as evidence of laziness, stupidity or moral turpitude. To then find teachers who were patient, encouraging and eager to share their knowledge was a radically new experience; I shall always feel grateful to them.

Don Sena

Don Sena: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDon: The linguistic orientation of Richard B. Noss of the Foreign Service Institute (1964) with its rigorous analysis proved to be prominent.

Doug

Doug: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDoug: AAUA approach is most excellent, imho.

Gareth Marshall

Gareth Marshall: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGareth: I prefer learning through reading as it presents vocab and phrases in context, helps get your head around the writing structure, and deals with grammar.

Glenn Slayden

Glenn Slayden: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGlenn: A turning point was when I traveled alone in Thailand for several months in 1997. Along with me I had a thin book Reading and Writing Thai by Marie-Hélène Brown (DK Books, out of print) that I studied each night wherever I was. This, combined with being spontaneously invited into homes to live with Thais throughout my trip—not speaking English for days at a time—led to the most dramatic increases in my Thai skills.

Grace Robinson

Grace Robinson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGrace: Being able to read and write with the Thai alphabet system is key to getting the correct pronunciation. Word association and drawing pictures also helped me!

Hamish Chalmers

Hamish Chalmers: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHamish: Criticism notwithstanding, I did find The Rosetta Stone the best for listening and speaking, mainly because it dispenses with transcription and translation. One goes directly from image to sound and back again, with no interference from English, the same way in which we learn our first language. Of course, nothing beats getting out there, talking to Thais, listening to Thais, replicating what you hear and not worrying if you make mistakes, so long as you learn from them. To help my writing I’ve just started experimenting with www.lang-8.com.

Hardie Karges

Hardie Karges: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHardie: Reading, then every time you walk down the street you have a lesson embedded in each and every sign, i.e. life is the lesson.

Herb Purnell

Herb Purnell: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHerb: Most of my learning has been independent self-study, particularly with Northern Thai and Mien. When I had the opportunity for good instruction in Thai, I appreciated it and profited from it. I had a background in phonetics, anthropology, and linguistics which was a great help. I also had the opportunity for working during two summers as a junior staff member at a linguistic institute that taught principles of language and culture learning. So I am comfortable being an independent learner within a language community. However, I wouldn’t call my type of independent learning “picking up the language.” It was a more organized way to approach learning from local speakers, not a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants approach that tends to be more random and sporadic.

Hugh Leong

Hugh Leong: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHugh: When a caveman in Cave A wanted to trade his shells with a caveman across the valley in Cave B he probably had to learn to speak Caveman B’s language. I wonder what method he used.

For me it’s the Becker series, Thai Reference grammar by James Higbie and Snea Thinsan, independent study, real texts, the internet, Speaking Thai the Easy Way, and Learn Thai Podcast.

Ian Fereday

Ian Fereday: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersIan: Yes, cumulative lessons gradually adding to my repertoire of letters and tones, words and rules, and practice, practice, practice. Group study was better over one-on-one or self-study because I could learn from the other students’ mistakes and successes as well as the teacher.

James (Jim) Higbie

James (Jim) Higbie: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJim: Keeping notebooks of vocabulary and phrases was the best method for me. I used to spend weekends at Ko Samet talking to people and writing down new things I heard them say.

Joe Cummings

Joe Cummings: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJoe: Each had its strengths and weaknesses, but I’ve come to the conclusion that we learn language in spite the methods chosen, rather than because of them.

John Boegehold

John Boegehold: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJohn: Not really, they’re all pieces of the puzzle.

Jonas Anderson

Jonas Anderson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonas: I have been lucky to be in situations which naturally enrich my Thai due to the requirements of the situation. This can involve a huge amount of pressure at the time—particularly if I have to use very challenging language with a small amount of preparation time, but those times end up being unique learning situations I am privileged to experience.

Jonathan Thames

Jonathan Thames: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonathan: I would say, as with any language learning in my experience, a combination of several different methods is the most effective. To this end, I have always attempted to create an immersion-like experience when learning, and especially helpful is interaction with fluent speakers. Then again, just the four basic skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) are all important and are ignored only to one’s detriment. I have very much enjoyed my Professional Thai course at MIIS as it has been the most rigorous.

Justin Travis Mair

Justin Travis Mair: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJustin: The sink or swim method and the SYL were the biggest things that helped me I think.

Larry Daks

Larry Daks: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLarry: Initially, I got the basics through endless repetition through pattern practice and memorization.

Marcel Barang

Marcel Barang: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarcel: I need to write things down. Knowing the international phonetic system (learned when I studied English at school in France) helped a lot. I adapted it to Thai in my own way.

Mark Hollow

Mark Hollow: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMark: Well, I can only really comment on my studies at school as my prior attempts weren’t successful.

Except for one month, I’ve only had one-on-one tuition which I’ve enjoyed. The teachers were rotated periodically which gave variety to both the lessons and the learning approach. For the one month that I studied with another student I felt like I was holding him back – he was a Singaporean and, like many of his fellow countrymen, already a polyglot from growing up in a multicultural & multilingual society so I returned to one-to-one lessons.

Martin Clutterbuck

Martin Clutterbuck: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMartin: The Fundamentals of the Thai language is an enigma, because it’s this quaint 1950s thing, doesn’t have any exercises or pictures, yet has a good sequence of pulling you through the language topic by topic, so by the end of it, one has mastered a basic form of the language, and yes, it teaches you to read and write.

Nils Bastedo

Nils Bastedo: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersNils: The book Teach Yourself Thai was very useful. It contains sections on different situations, and I found the romanized script they used very intuitive. Before going out on early excursions, I would look up the vocabulary for the task I wanted to do in advance (giving directions to taxi drivers, buying fruit, and so on) and then go out and implement the knowledge.

I had one CD in particular which, though extremely limited, was very helpful for helping with basic vocabulary. I don’t remember the name, but it offered short quizzes on limited topics. Seeing scores like 8/10 stimulated me to re-do the tests and ‘nail them’.

Wanting to get the best in e-learning, I spent a lot of money getting Rosetta Stone, but with an instruction booklet in Thai and starting with phrases such as ‘The plane flies over the clouds’ or ‘The boy is under the table’ instead of ‘Where is the bank’ or even ‘Hello, how are you?’ I have few positive memories of that particular product. Besides, merely showing Thai script without giving explanations on the writing system is … not the best possible approach.

Paul Garrigan

Paul Garrigan: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPaul: I think that it has been a mixture of all these methods that have gotten me to where I am today. I think that is how it works, you learn a bit here and a bit there.

Peter Montalbano

Peter Montalbano: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPeter: I would recommend the U.S. Foreign Service Institute courses, which our Peace Corps training was modeled on. A lot of the phrases are old-fashioned, but they are dead-on accurate, you can download them as pdf files, and the pronunciation guides are perfect. There are sound files for the lessons, too!

Cat, I noticed that you are involved in a project to revitalize this right now on thailanguagewiki.com. Not complete yet in that form, but a worthy project. Memorize that stuff, do the pattern practices, and you’ve got a great foundation. If you have a teacher to take you through it, but it can be done on one’s own if needed.

There are several English/Thai dictionaries in electronic format that I have found indispensable. Besides Glenn Slayden’s wonderful work on thai-language.com, you can download a multi-university academic project called Lexitron (the English page). It’s free, but you’ll have to create an account in order to download it to your own machine. Download both the program and the data file. When installing or opening it on a Windows machine you’ll have to set your computer’s regional and language settings to Thai, or you won’t be able to see it properly. Once it’s open, you can switch back to whatever other setting you use, and it will work fine.

I also use So Sethaputra’s Thai Software Dictionary, which has a lot of inaccuracies, but a tremendous amount of useful information. You can buy the cd for a ridiculously low price at DCO. The advantage of having the electronic format is that you can just type in a word, and it will come right up, not nearly as hard as looking through the pages of a thick book.

When I was in Peace Corps we had a great Thai writing workbook—can’t remember the name—which is obviously now out of print. It took you through all the rules, high, low, mid consonants, live and dead syllables, tone marks used with which, how and when, exceptions, etc., and step-by-step exercises until you finally got it. You can find these rules all in Mary Haas’ The Thai System of Writing, and it’s amazing to me that this was written over 60 years ago and yet still remains the clearest description I can find in English of the rules you need to understand.

Rick Bradford

Rick Bradford: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRick: No. I think it is a mistake to stick to a single method. Apart from the boredom factor, I find myself learning different things through different methods. There’s some cross-fertilization at play if you employ multiple learning strategies.

Rikker Dockum

Rikker Dockum: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRikker: I still carry pocket notebooks sometimes, because I still run into new and interesting words on a regular basis.

Ryan Zander

Ryan Zander: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRyan: I had a really great first Thai teacher at the University of Wisconsin, Sidhorn Sangdhanoo. She did a good job of drilling the sounds of the language into our heads. She wouldn’t let us get away with doing something wrong. If our tones, consonants, or vowels weren’t right we had to keep repeating something until we got it. Thai people often tell me that my pronunciation is very clear, and if that’s actually true then I owe it to her.

Scott Earle

Scott Earle: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersScott: I think getting familiar with the letters and then learning the alphabet, is a very good way to start. However, casually chatting with people (online, and talking to people you meet everywhere) is the best way to build confidence in both writing and speaking.

Stickman

Stickman: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStickman: I firmly believe that most Westerners learn better – and make more progress – in a classroom environment where you learn from both the teacher and other students. Too many Westerners either elect to study with a teacher one on one or are misled into thinking that one on in instruction is the best approach. It isn’t! One on one teaching is not easy and requires a different skill set from the teacher. I have yet to even hear of a really effective one on one teacher. It also requires the student to be highly motivated, which may or may not be the case with foreigners learning Thai.

I would implore anyone who really wants to develop their Thai language skills to study at one of the better language institutes in Bangkok in a classroom setting and Union and Unity both come to mind. I truly believe that learning at one of these schools in a classroom environment is so much more effective than any other method – and the costs are very reasonable with a one-month course, meaning 80 odd hours instruction, for under 7,000 baht. You cannot complain at that!

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj

Stuart (Stu) Jay Raj: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStu: ‘Method’ was living my life in Thai.

Terry Fredrickson

Terry Fredrickson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTerry: When I got in country, I immediately started using my tape recorder. That is how I learned to read. Once I mastered the alphabet and the tone rules, I jumped into the old Mary Haas reader, having previously taped students reading the texts. Within days I could look at long lines of text and see words instead of a jumble of letters needing decoding. Listening while reading also allowed me to see how the parts of sentences fit together.

What about writing Thai? I also used listening in learning to write. I would listen to a line of text and then try to write it out, making corrections after looking at the text.

Thomas Lamosse

Thomas Lamosse: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersThomas: Ajarn Pat Sukatiparote, Roseville Minnesota-Private tutoring on Thai characters, vowels, reading, writing and spelling.

One on one tutoring with someone who has a strong background in teaching and has a command of the English language was key.

Tod Daniels

Tod Daniels: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTod: I have to say, of all the methods I’ve been exposed to learning the Thai language that ‘situational based’ learning is by far the one which provides me with the most bang-4-the-baht. By situational based I mean you learn sentence constructs based on the needs of a particular situation: post office, food court, doctor’s office, in a taxi, etc. These are things you do every day here, over and over, so getting a grasp on what you need to say and where you’re likely to say it is the ‘key’ to beginning to ‘unlock’ this country for a foreigner. Between that and constantly increasing your vocabulary in high frequency words, a person can do quite well.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTom: Not really, I think the key is to use a wide variety of methods and to totally immerse yourself in the language and keep the learning process entertaining. I totally agree with Chris Pirazzi’s advice about the importance of ‘drilling’ the tricky sounds and this is exactly what we did in our first few weeks of Thai study at university.

So how about you? How do you learn best? Or… what are you doing to avoid learning Thai?

The series: Successful Thai Language Learners Compilation…

And here you have it, the rest of the series:

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Interview Compilation: What Language Learning Methods Did You Try?

Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language Learners

What Thai language learning methods did you try?…

Collecting Thai language learning materials and language learning methods is a hobby of mine. The upside is that I know what’s going on with the Thai language learning industry. The downside? I have way too much fun Thai stuff to play with.

Scrolling through the materials mentioned below, a few resources stick out: The Fundamentals of the Thai Language, anything by Benjawan Poomsan Becker, AUA’s text books, Hibgie’s Thai Reference Grammar, Smyth’s Thai: An Essential Grammar, and Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai. For schools, AUA came out on top.

There’s only one mention of learning Thai on a smart phone or iPad (my favourite method). But, it’s still early days yet. New Thai language apps are appearing monthly (I presently have around 120 apps to review) so I do expect coming interviews to note the trend.

Aaron Handel

Aaron Handel: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: Her name was Nók (pronounced with a high tone, it means “Bird”). She was neither a school nor a product, but rather a quiet young woman from a Vietnamese family. She lived in Nong Khai, near the MaeKong River. Her parents spoke very little Thai, but Nok’s Thai was perfect. She was university educated in Bangkok and understood that if you want to fully integrate into Thai society, you have to speak Thai like a Thai. She also seemed to have an instinct for teaching. She spoke slowly and clearly, but with a natural conversational sound.

Nók and I produced our own tapes using the AUA text book, by Marvin J. Brown, 1969. After all these years, I still believe it is the best book for learning Thai, although AUA’s own tapes sound like they were produced under water and there are no CDs. Unfortunately, AUA no longer uses this text book and its drilling methodology in the classroom.

Aaron Le Boutillier

Aaron Le Boutillier: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAaron: I spent some time at Jentanna and Associates in Soi 31 and that was great. They really helped, now I am going at it alone.

Adam Bradshaw

Adam Bradshaw: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAdam: I started with Smyth’s, Thai: An Essential Grammar, which I found to be an excellent guide to basic Thai.

Andrew Biggs

Andrew Biggs: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersAndrew: I started off by learning how to read and write the language, and I think this is the way to do it. The tone rules gave me lots of headaches but once I understood them I felt as though I’d made a major breakthrough. I went to a school very early on but they laughed at me when I told them I wanted to do the Education Ministry’s Grade 6 exam in three months time. They said if I didn’t take their five-day-a-week expensive course I’d fail it for sure. I walked out of that school and got to work by myself with the help of a lovely Thai teacher. I ended up coming first in that exam three months later.

Celia Chessin-Yudin

Celia Chessin-Yudin: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersCelia: I learned the alphabet on my own. I tried transliteration but I didn’t begin speaking clearly until I took a University class.

Chris Pirazzi

Chris Pirazzi: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChris Pirazzi: Mostly tutoring from Thai-American teachers in California (mostly volunteer, some paid). Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Thai for Beginners was useful. Also really liked Higbie and Thinsan’s Thai Reference Grammar. Made lots of stacks of flashcards of consonants, vowels, and words.

Christy Gibson

Christy Gibson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersChristy: I used a private teacher for a short time and it was helpful to a point as she gave me tests and assignments and homework. The actual teaching didn’t benefit me as much (though I know many people say that a private tutor has been very helpful for them), but the assignments did me a world of good and forced me to buckle down and do some of the “grunt-work” that I otherwise would not have done on my own.

Some of the resources that I used in my Thai learning experience were the textbooks The Fundamentals of the Thai Language (by Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevongs), and Thai for Advanced Readers (by Khun Benjawan Poomsan Becker). Nowadays I also often use thai2english.com to check my spelling, etc., as I’m trying to work on learning to type in Thai. Wish me luck!:)

Colin Cotterill

Colin Cotterill: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersColin: I started off with a doorstep of a book called Fundamentals of the Thai Language. It looked like a rather ominous bible but, unlike the actual bible I found it really useful. I haven’t seen it around for a long time. I also learned to read from that book. But the bible was my backup. Most of my real learning came from hanging out with Thais and writing vocab in my little everywhere notebook. I am quite thick skinned when it comes to being laughed at for making linguistic mistakes, but it gets annoying after a while. So you learn to get it right.

Daniel B Fraser

Daniel B Fraser: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDaniel: The way I learned was by mimicking others, using a dictionary daily, and writing words down in a little black book.

David Long

David Long: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: When I arrived, I knew already that I wasn’t a very good student of traditional language programs. For this reason, I sought out what programs might be different and found the AUA Thai Program.

David Smyth

David Smyth: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDavid: Beyond the unpublished materials provided, I also worked through Stuart Campbell’s Fundamentals of the Thai Language on my own in my first year. It was not a book that my teachers had any great fondness for, but I found it very useful as an additional reinforcement. Later, I began to read books in Thai. I found novels were good for dialogue (but the descriptive passages were sometimes best saved for a rainy day) while biographies and autobiographies often had a strong human-interest angle that made it possible to forget the linguistic obstacles.

Don Sena

Don Sena: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDon: I am entirely self-taught. I obtained the best books I could find — those with the most information and generally written in the old style of explicit rule descriptions. Linguistically-oriented books were especially helpful.

Doug

Doug: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersDoug: AUA conversation, then reading/writing books, followed by U Hawaii grammar, followed by rewriting Noss’s grammar.

Gareth Marshall

Gareth Marshall: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGareth: I did try a school around Ploenchit – the building is no longer there and I can’t remember the name. It started well, although I had to research and provide most of the materials and advise the teacher on how to best to ‘teach’ me – I was a teacher at the time and I knew how I learned best so just needed someone to take me through things and add extra vocab, explain rules, etc. The teacher moved on to use her own materials but they were irrelevant and usually not pitched at anywhere near my level at all – either too simple or totally impossible. In the end I gave up.

Glenn Slayden

Glenn Slayden: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGlenn: I remember listening to a Lonely Planet CD at one point. I made the most progress by reformulating material from numerous sources in my own way, which turned out to be the website.

Grace Robinson

Grace Robinson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersGrace: I studied Thai at the University of Leeds, UK, on a BA course; Thai and Southeast Asian Studies. The course teaches Thai from beginners’ level and progresses to studying Thai at an academic level. We started learning the alphabet and how to formulate the correct tone using a ‘magic key’, which is a kind of mathematical equation the involving consonants and vowels of words. We went on to reading conversations and used role-play. After this we concentrated on reading newspaper articles and listening to news reports, in the final year we studied academic articles and books and did our own presentations in Thai on current world affairs. We constantly learnt new vocabulary and were tested on this weekly. Whilst language learning, we took in depth modules on Thai culture, history and politics, which enhanced and illuminated the language learning process. At home I listen to Thai music and watch films to practice my Thai, I believe that successful language learning should be fun and varied.

Hamish Chalmers

Hamish Chalmers: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHamish: I bought a lot of study aids. My very first was the Lonely Planet Phrase Book. Colloquial Thai by John Moore and Saowalak Rodchue saw me start in earnest, then David Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai and the Rosetta Stone helped me along the way once I was in the country. I got about a quarter of the way through each of them before losing interest in them all. All were useful in their own ways; however they never matched my language needs at any given time. That’s the thing about language learning, it doesn’t follow some nice, preordained structure – you learn what’s important at the time. While was trying to explain that a tourist had fallen over while trekking and fractured her wrist, the Rosetta Stone was telling me that ‘the boy is under the table’ and ‘the airplane is next to the man’.

Hardie Karges

Hardie Karges: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHardie: I took one short course from AUA, the rest self-taught, through books and reading.

Herb Purnell

Herb Purnell: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHerb: As mentioned, my Thai study began with phonograph records, then with a tutor using the U.S. Army Thai course book Spoken Thai along with some lower level Thai children’s school books, and then on my own with reading and speaking. Plus the time with a tutor in Bangkok and finally the specialized intensive course at a language school. Everything else has been learned through lots of listening to news and talk shows on the radio, speaking when I had the opportunity, and reading books.

My Northern Thai study was helped by having a few lessons that a foreign friend had written just before I began. I revised these lessons, added some new lessons, and collected a word file that later became a small dictionary for foreign learners. At first these materials were just to help myself and my wife in our own language study. I used Thai right at the first as a bridge to Northern Thai, but then switched to using only Northern. Living in a Northern Thai farming village was great for motivation. I always carried a small notebook and spent time talking with villagers in their work and home situations, being sure to jot down words and cultural information. I was very motivated because this was a language that I really wanted to learn.

I learned Mien to an intermediate level while living in a Mien village, starting with Northern Thai as a bridge but then switching to Mien. There were even fewer materials for learning Mien so it was independent learning right from the start. I was fortunate to have two Mien men my own age (all in our 20s at the time) who enjoyed using and talking about their language. My notebooks rapidly filled up.

There is little written in Northern Thai (not counting the old Lanna script) that would help a learner, except for small wordlists published years ago, and then several regular dictionaries, leading up to two recent major dictionaries. But only one Northern dictionary (other than my own small one) was specifically compiled to help people learn Northern (by Meth Ratanaprasith, long out of print). Later on, for the most part I kept up by periodically getting back into a Northern Thai situation and speaking. Personally, Thai is a language for my mind and my academic work, but Northern is a language for my heart and “down home” interaction with people.

Progressing in Mien was a little easier because of the influx of Mien refugees from Laos into the States starting in the late 1970s. Moving to California in 1982, I was able to be in touch with several Mien communities for conversation. And once a new Romanized alphabet for Mien became established in the mid-1980s, material written by Mien started to become available. So speaking and reading helped my progress. For quite a few years, however, I have lived further from Mien locations and only occasionally get to be with them. But working on a Mien dictionary, corresponding with Mien, and those occasional times I have been able to visit Mien communities have been the means for my holding steady in Mien, though without the progress I would like to make.

Hugh Leong

Hugh Leong: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersHugh: I started using the old audio-lingual method. That basically means listen and repeat. That is the basis of the J. Marvin Brown books from A.U.A. that many people started with. I knew Marvin Brown and towards the end of his life he changed his teaching philosophy away from the audio lingual method. We had some interesting discussions since I agreed with the beginning Marvin Brown and disagreed with the later one. But his books are still very useful when just beginning to study Thai. Lots of listen and repeat.

I am a very audio-centric person, have always been able to hear something and repeat it naturally. That doesn’t mean that I remembered it for very long, I still have trouble with that, but it did help greatly with my learning tones.

I own 7 dictionaries and use 3 online ones. If I hear a new word, or I have a concept that I want to say but don’t know the Thai word yet, I write it down and then look it up later.

Ian Fereday

Ian Fereday: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersIan: Only the Ministry of Education produced series during classes with Patong Language School. The books are still available but have been heavily revised since I used them and have lost direction a little. I don’t think the editor/revisor fully understood the intended method, and consequently spoiled some great books.

I have bought and perused many Thai language books and CD’s over the years to get ideas for my own books. To be brutally honest, most of them are rubbish and some are just phrasebooks. The only two I can recommend are Thai System of Writing and Fundamentals of the Thai Language. These books are from the 50′s or 60′s, so some of the words and constructions are now archaic, but they are clearly laid out, easy to follow and very accurate. It’s surprising that nobody has managed to do a better job after all these years (including me!). The internet wasn’t around when I started learning, but I am sure there is a wealth of information out there now.

James (Jim) Higbie

James (Jim) Higbie: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJim: At first I went through all the books written up to the early 80s, which were mostly Fundamentals and Gordon Allison’s books. They were interesting books but I felt they didn’t have the real language in them – some of it was old-fashioned formal Thai which wasn’t what I was hearing people speak. (Interestingly I heard some of those old fashioned constructions in Laos.) I thought Thai was difficult because of the lack of materials, which was one reason why I wrote the books. I’m sure it would have helped going to a language school but I was living in the country.

Joe Cummings

Joe Cummings: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJoe: The Peace Corps language training used Caleb Gattegno’s Silent Way, where you physically manipulate colored wooden rods (Cuisenaire rods) of various lengths, using them to represent people and things, and also as syntax markers for sentence structure. For reading and pronunciation practice, we used the Silent Way charts where the different letters of the Thai alphabet were colored according to differing sounds and consonant class. At least 15 minutes of every hour of instruction would be spent on pronunciation.

The Silent Way is based on the basic theory that:

  1. Learning is facilitated if the learner discovers or creates rather than remembers and repeats what is to be learned.
  2. Learning is facilitated by accompanying (mediating) physical objects.
  3. Learning is facilitated by problem solving involving the material to be learned.

At Berkeley we used the grammar-translation method, which is pretty much the complete opposite of the Silent Way! After a short period doing grammar exercises followed by sentence-by-sentence translation, I went straight into translating Thai newspaper stories (I spent nine months translating nearly all of Kukrit Pramoj’s Siam Rath columns) and moved from there to Thai epic verse, eg, Phra Aphaimani, Traiphum. After that I could read well enough that I would choose my own material, based on topics I was interested in (politics and Buddhism), and then work on those until my professor was satisfied with the translations.

John Boegehold

John Boegehold: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJohn: When I started, the classes at Wat Thai L.A. were the predominate method, although I tried a few others along the way. On my own I went through the Benjawan Poomsan Becker / Paiboon Publishing beginner, intermediate and advanced books as well as the Speak Like A Thai series. All very helpful. Their Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary for iPhone and iPad is great. I read a lot of other books I bought on Amazon, at a Thai bookstore in L.A. or when I visited Thailand. I’m always snooping around the internet and pick up little bits and pieces of a lot of different websites. I found the vocabulary and grammar lessons at ITS4Thai to be really useful.

One thing that’s been helpful for me is watching Thai TV and trying to follow along. I have a satellite service with a large number of Thai channels and usually have some program on a few hours a day, even if it’s only in the background. Right now, my favorite shows are กินอยู่คือ, which is a cooking show on Thai PBS and วันวานยังหวานอยู่, a talk/entertainment show on Channel 7. I try to watch Thai soap operas, but those can be tough to take.

Jonas Anderson

Jonas Anderson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonas: Mainly just “the school of life”. I have had very little formal study of Thai except what I have learned personally with books—primarily for reading and writing.

Jonathan Thames

Jonathan Thames: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJonathan: I have used: the Teach Yourself Thai book and CDs; a textbook authored by Dr. Wiworn Kesavatana-Dohrs (University of Washington – Seattle, USA); a textbook/reader authored by Dr. Thomas Gething (University of Hawai’I – Manoa); and various materials/readings provided by AUA and CMU instructors. From my first class I was also given basic newspaper articles to read, as well – although newspapers can still be fairly challenging.

Justin Travis Mair

Justin Travis Mair: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersJustin: I mentioned the 2 months course already, this was created by my church specifically for teaching missionaries Thai. It is surprisingly similar to the FSI Thai Basic course and since they were both created around the same time period, I have a feeling that there may be some common authors in there. Though I have no way of knowing.

During the 2 months we were encouraged to S.Y.L. or Speak Your Language. Meaning as soon as you learn the word in Thai, we have to stop using the English word. This meant we spoke a lot of Thaiglish, but it was surprisingly helpful. We got used to using Thai grammar and patterns. A common joke we would do as missionaries was to speak English using Thai grammar. It was funny, but it actually solidified the Thai grammar in our head even though it was a joke.

Other than that, it was pretty much the sink or swim method. I had to go and communicate in Thai all day everyday. I did have the help from other missionaries, but for the most part they would only help you to save you from drowning. We all knew the best way to learn was to go and do.

Larry Daks

Larry Daks: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersLarry: I can’t remember the conversation text we used during our Peace Corps training and which I continued to use in Thailand. However, certain phrases still stand out in my mind, such as สถานีรถไฟอยู่ที่ไหน (where is the railway station), สมบูรณาญาสิทธิราชย์ (absolute monarchy, which I can never forget because the phrase was very long and required extra effort) and ดูโน้น มี เมฆ สอง ก้อน กำลัง ลอย มา (“Look there, two clouds are floating by” which I incorrectly pronounced so it turned “Look there two mothers are floating by”. All of this amused the Thai tutor I hired when I reached Bangkok, which I suppose is why she married me, so she could have a never ending source of amusement.

I taught myself how to read by using A programmed course in reading Thai Syllables by Edward M. Anthony.

Marcel Barang

Marcel Barang: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMarcel: Wasted one month in a small school in Sathorn Rd that insisted on the oral method (nothing written down) then hired one of their teachers to teach me how to write, read and speak at home the old-fashioned way, three lessons per week initially (with homework), then two, then one, each lesson lasting one hour and a half – until dear Khun Buaphan decided I was proficient enough to be left to cope with dictionaries all by myself.

Mark Hollow

Mark Hollow: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMark: During 2009 I tried learning more seriously but still largely on my own. That year I also met my now-fiancée who helped whenever I had questions but I was on my own and somewhat lost for structuring my learning: she’s a nurse, not a teacher and I was a project manager, not a student!

I thought learning basic grammar (from David Smyth’s Thai: An Essential Grammar) would help with putting vocabulary together correctly. However, I didn’t really know much vocabulary to put together so that attempt died. I think it’s fair to say 2009 was a failure as far as language-learning was concerned.

It was only since leaving work that I was able to start learning seriously. On returning to Bangkok I immediately signed up with a private language school. I decided on Baan Aksorn because I’d read positive reviews about them and they gave a good impression when I visited. The building itself was different too – a cosy converted house, rather than a dull office in a tower block. It turned out to be a good choice for me.

Martin Clutterbuck

Martin Clutterbuck: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersMartin: I looked at some of the NISA and AUA course books, and was quite impressed with them, but didn’t attend their courses. At that time, mostly because I was broke!

Nils Bastedo

Nils Bastedo: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersNils: I have tried books, CDs, practical conversation and even private lessons. As many others, I found that studying on my own by using books or computers was challenging. Having worked with a few outside institutions when at Bumrungrad, I have realized that what makes computer based learning at places like Wall Street Institute relatively successful is that they are good at helping their students study regularly and stick to it. However, based on the students I had at Bumrungrad, it seems that improvement is slower with even the best of programs than with a real-life teacher. I do feel that working with a person is always better than any other approach, though the person you learn from should be chosen with care. Combining personal tutoring with computer-based learning and/or books may offer the best of all words, but practical application – speaking with another person – must take the most prominent place. Without practical application and real-life responses, language training loses its most vital dimension.

Paul Garrigan

Paul Garrigan: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPaul: I used the internet from day one. Places like Speaking Thai the Easy Way and some other I forget. I used to buy every Thai text book I could find including the Benjawan Becker series; I suppose these are the ones that stand out as being really useful. These days I don’t buy any more textbooks but use real texts. I do subscribe to the Learn Thai Podcast and these have been helpful.

Peter Montalbano

Peter Montalbano: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersPeter: Peace Corps did a great job, four hours a day, small classes, rotating teachers. Within three months I was able to get around pretty well, and when I hit the ground in Isaan there was nothing else to speak, so conversational Thai came in pretty fast. That said, my Thai back then was much more limited than I knew. I wish I had paid more attention to learning to read then.

When I decided to get serious, I dug into the reading side, and learned how to “touch-type” by sending e-mails. Good thing there was unicode and the internet to help! But that still wasn’t enough. I audited a graduate course at U.C. Berkeley with Susan Kepner, perhaps the best translator of Thai women’s literature, and in class we read stuff, including selections from Kukrit’s สี่แผ่นดิน (Four Reigns), maybe Thailand’s best modern novel. Did translations of a couple of short stories for Susan which she is still threatening to use if she ever publishes an anthology, anyhow I loved doing that, want to do more.

In 2002 I started writing my own dictionary. I was tired of looking up words like “till” and finding Thai telling me it only meant a drawer that held money, or “see” and finding that it meant only an administrative region defined by the Vatican. So I have been adding to my own dictionary and using at as a study guide ever since.

This year I tested into Chula’s (Chulalongkorn University) intensive Thai for foreigners program and have done 2 five-week modules, have two to go. Instead of going straight through like most people, I am doing five weeks at a time, then breaking for several months till the next level comes around again, because it eats one’s entire life when doing it! But worth it. Short answer? Many-pronged, but sharp prongs!

Rick Bradford

Rick Bradford: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRick: My core daily practice is my flashcard (Supermemo) learning, now up to 4500 elements of which I am tasked to remember about 100 each day. I went to a school and quickly realised that was the time of the week when I learnt the least Thai. I began reading the newspapers, watched the TV news, listened to the radio (100.5FM) and to other audio-visual resources in the MOAFTR.

Rikker Dockum

Rikker Dockum: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRikker: I was low tech. I carried around little pocket notebooks which I constantly wrote in. Most any office or stationery store in Thailand sells them for about 8 baht — a little bigger than a business card, with ruled paper and a rugged plastic cover.

At first a lot of the things I jotted down were in roman script, but that was soon replaced by Thai script as my ear got better and I became more comfortable reading and writing Thai. Whenever I came across a noteworthy or interesting word, I wrote it down. Often this was dozens of words per day. Names of people I met, food I ate, random objects that I had asked someone the name of.

This habit was helpful in improving my listening comprehension, too, because whenever I heard some word repeatedly, but I didn’t know it, I’d write down what I thought it sounded like, and then ask a friend what that word I kept hearing was, explaining the general context. Sometimes I got it right, sometimes I got it wrong, but my ear kept getting better.

Ryan Zander

Ryan Zander: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersRyan: At the University of Wisconsin we used a set of textbooks put out by AUA. Then when I did a year of study abroad at Chiang Mai University I had private Thai lessons with one of the professors, who catered the lessons towards my interest by using articles about Buddhism. Some years later, to refreshen up my reading, I studied on my own using Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s books and also Thai Reference Grammar by James Higbie & Snea Thinsan.

Scott Earle

Scott Earle: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersScott: When I first came here, I used a website (no longer in existence, sadly) to learn the basic letters, and that allowed me to read some basic things like road signs and the provinces on car registration plates. After that, I started to read menus at restaurants – they have a limited vocabulary, and tend to have similar contents. I took a course of 40 hours at a Thai school in late 2005, initially learning to speak, but then switched teachers and learned the alphabet. After that, I started to chat with people online, which is a very good way of meeting Thai people willing to chat.

Stephen Thomas

Stephen Thomas: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStephen: The first method I used was the book and CD set Teach Yourself which I think does a very good job, though I’ve been told some of what I learned is “old fashioned”. One thing I think is invaluable in that book is that it teaches you to read and write Thai which is vital for correct pronunciation.

The next method was picking it up in the streets or at work which will give you listening skills, teach you which words people actually use, rather than the overly formal words you often find in phrase books, and you’ll learn words they wouldn’t necessarily print in language books. :) However, a pitfall here is that you can pick up the wrong pronunciation or else use a rude word in the wrong setting.

Finally I went to Walen School which uses Thai script and teaches vocabulary with question and answer exercises. The teachers are entertaining and will stray from the book to show other uses of the word or to teach other words that could mean the same thing. Conversation is best way to learn a language, and I often converse with the teachers outside of class also.

Stickman

Stickman: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersStickman: I started at the Thai temple in West Auckland using some homemade – but excellent – materials. The Linguaphone course was the only self-study course I used. It was very good, but so it should be for it was very expensive. Still, as a language teacher myself, I appreciated the structure and a lot of thought clearly went into the way it was put together and the methodology.

I spent seven months at Union Language School in 2000 which was when I made the best progress. Prior to studying there, my Thai language skills had plateaued and I needed the formal environment of what is actually a very strict school to progress.

Terry Fredrickson

Terry Fredrickson: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTerry: Our training [Peace Corps] was quite old-fashioned — memorizing dialogues and lots of repetition. I made it a point of talking to our teachers constantly, which was easy since we lived together.

Thomas Lamosse

Thomas Lamosse: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersThomas: AUA language Bangkok-Immersion program, BEC language Pattaya-Sentence structure and Thai alphabet, Ajarn Pat Sukatiparote Roseville Minnesota-Private tutoring on Thai characters, vowels, reading, writing and spelling, Long Paw Pai Sit Wat Thai Minnesota-Sanskrit, Benawan Poosan Beckers Thai for Beginners…Thai characters and vowels, Chulalongorn University PhD Program on Thai culture and language, Individual studies/field research

Tod Daniels

Tod Daniels: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTod: Heck, I’ve got more Thai language learning resources than I’m willing to admit. Benjawan Becker’s books &, C/D’s , Mathew Courage’s DVD, Rosetta Stone, many ‘borrowed’ copies of private Thai language schools material, countless books by other authors about learning Thai, etc.

I’m using an unconventional method for learning insofar as I taught myself to read/understand Thai before I could speak or understand spoken Thai all that well. I could recognize written Thai words, know their meanings, even if I couldn’t accurately reproduce the toning of them when I spoke Thai.

Tom Parker

Tom Parker: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersTom: At my first university we used the Thai ‘Linguaphone’ by Dr David Smyth, in addition to worksheets provided by the teacher. In the second year we also used Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s course which at the time had just been published. In Thailand we used a language course written by the tutor which has not been published. At MA level we read and studied popular Thai novels.

Many varied techniques were used throughout this learning process, notably flashcards, conversation, lots of reading – starting with children’s books, watching Thai TV, listening to Thai songs etc.

Vern Lovic

Vern Lovic: Compilation Series: Successful Thai Language LearnersVern: Notecards, as noted. I also hired a girl in Isaan for 100 THB per hour to help me with pronunciation three times per week. I guess we did about 25 sessions. It was a great help… she’d pronounce the word and I’d write it phonetically and sometimes record the sessions with my Nokia phone.

I studied a Thai dictionary that was very helpful and I have it here on my bookshelf, it’s the Robertson’s Practical English-Thai Dictionary, by Richard G. Robertson. The phonetic pronunciation tips in the book made the most sense to me, and though there were some errors, it’s the best resource I found for helping me find new vocabulary I should use. It’s a small book too – highly recommended.

The series: Successful Thai Language Learners Compilation…

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Successful Thai Language Learner: James Higbie

Successful Thai Language Learner: James Higbie

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: James Higbie
Nationality: American
Age range: 60+
Sex: Male
Location: Sierra Leone
Profession: Work for NGO in Education Development
Thai level: Intermediate to Advanced
Website: Thai Language / Lao Language
Books: From Orchid Press: Thai Reference Grammar, Essential Thai, Let’s Speak Thai, Let’s Speak Lao; From Hippocrene Books: Dictionary and Phrasebooks for Thai and Lao

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

I try to speak both street and professional Thai depending on the situation. I lived in Laos for eight years and also speak Lao which is basically the same as Issan. At this point, though, I’ve been working in Africa for seven years so I’m not as fluent as I was when I lived in Thailand and Laos. I can still speak both languages when I go back but it would take some time to be as fluent in Thai as when I was writing Thai Reference Grammar.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

I wanted to get into the culture. I’d been in the Peace Corps in Africa and liked the ideal of getting to know another culture through learning the language. Of course Thailand is a really nice place to live and you can enjoy it a lot more if you can speak Thai.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I came in 1980 and worked in a refugee camp in Chonburi Province, living in a town called Phanat Nikhom. It’s a very nice town and there was a big staff of Thais and foreigners. A lot of the foreigners could speak Thai and the Thai staff were very helpful so it was a good situation for learning Thai. I lived in Thailand for 16 years, the whole time in Phanat Nikhom.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

I wasn’t serious about learning Thai the first three years but then a friend who worked in the camp (an Australian) one day told me how terrible my Thai sounded when I tried to speak it. That made me think I’d better start working on it. I’d been thinking about writing a book on English as a Second Language (I have an MA in ESL from the University of Hawaii and worked in English teaching and curriculum development in the camp) but at that point I decided to write a book on Thai.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

I would say that through writing the books I learned to speak Thai. I worked closely with Snea Thinsan, my co-author, and over seven or eight years got a good understanding of grammar and vocabulary. Living in a rural area gave me the chance to speak Thai all the time. I’m not a quick language learner. Some people I knew could speak Thai fluently in a year.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

I used to study Thai in the morning and spent free time and weekends reading. That was before the internet, so there weren’t so many distractions.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

At first I went through all the books written up to the early 80s, which were mostly “Fundamentals” and Gordon Allison’s books. They were interesting books but I felt they didn’t have the real language in them – some of it was old-fashioned formal Thai which wasn’t what I was hearing people speak. (Interestingly I heard some of those old fashioned constructions in Laos.) I thought Thai was difficult because of the lack of materials, which was one reason why I wrote the books. I’m sure it would have helped going to a language school but I was living in the country.

Did one method stand out over all others?

Keeping notebooks of vocabulary and phrases was the best method for me. I used to spend weekends at Ko Samet talking to people and writing down new things I heard them say.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

I started right away.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I thought writing Thai was difficult because of the spelling and I only got to the point where I could write a short letter. I thought reading was easier and I read mostly magazines – music and movie star magazines, love advice magazines and all the things they sell which are great for learning about Thai culture.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

I was in the North and a bus went by going to Phan. On the front were just three letters – “p, ah, n” and I thought “wow, I can read Thai”.

How do you learn languages?

I need to learn how to say sentences in a very front brain manner. I can’t pick up a language by letting it wash over me.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I’m better at analyzing than at remembering vocabulary. Especially at first, I thought Thai words were hard to remember because they were mostly a single syllable and they all sounded the same to me. My ear wasn’t good enough to pick up tones just by hearing other people speak. I developed the visual transliteration system in my books at first to help myself visualize the sound of the words. It helped me learn to speak with the correct tones and vowel lengths.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

Some people say the tones aren’t important but your Thai will sound pretty ragged if you don’t learn them.

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

The only experience I have is developing the tone/vowel length markers used in the transliteration system in my books. We used a program called Fontographer to do that.

Do you have a passion for music?

Yes, I played drums in rock bands with refugee camp workers and in Laos. We played covers of Rolling Stones, etc for parties, and some Thai and Lao songs. We had both foreign and Thai or Lao musicians which was a lot of fun. They were good rock musicians.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

My high school French isn’t very good.

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

No. I concentrated on Thai.

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

I would say it’s important to learn how to say things exactly the way Thais say them. Don’t try to learn a lot of vocabulary then make up your own sentences. Also, don’t feel that using ka or krup is demeaning. Use it a lot, especially with older people and even at first when you talk to people your own age. People in Thailand really appreciate politeness. Don’t hang out with foreigners all the time.

James Higbie
Thai Language / Lao Language

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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