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Thai Language School Review: Payap University: Thai Level Two

Payap University

AUA: Payap University…

Website: Payap University
Tele: (+66) 53 241 255

Address: Super-highway Chiang Mai – Lumpang Road, Amphur Muang Chiang Mai, 50000

Payap University Language Enhancement Center is located at the Mae Khao campus, which is the one further away from the city. I live near Chiang Mai hospital and it took me 20 minutes to get there on a motorbike every morning.

You’re being taught at a university and either because of that or regardless of that, the facilities were basic. There were a few small shops and cafes there, but for example, there wasn’t a water dispenser in the building (which I have come across of in other schools) nor was there toilet paper, which I regard as a necessity.

This is the most expensive Thai school in Chiang Mai; sixty hours costs 8000 baht. Classes are Monday-Thursday 9am-12pm, with half an hour break after the first 1.5 hours.

There were 12 people in the class and since everyone had paid a lot of money to study there, most of us turned up every day. The majority of us were farang, contrary to the scene at AUA.

What really surprised me though, was that all reviews and articles I had read about Payap said that this is the place to learn to speak Thai, the best school in Chiang Mai, with really fast pace, a lot of pressure to study and lots of homework. I was unfortunately disappointed with it. I loved our teacher, who was super energetic, bubbly and explained everything really well, but already after the 2nd day I realised that I preferred AUA. I can’t say it’s the teacher’s fault, I think this was Payap in general and their teaching style.

At Payap, the pace of presenting new material was as fast as at AUA (new topic approximately every 2nd -3rd day), however, the pace at which we went through the material was slower because we were side-tracked often and a lot more English was spoken than one would expect and in my case, prefer. I asked around how Level Two was at AUA and apparently, they were expected to only speak Thai and the teacher only spoke Thai to them and quite fast in fact. At Payap, the teacher doesn’t try to get people to stop using English. The speed at which our teacher spoke with us in Thai was the same as at AUA Level One, plus she also spoke a lot of English herself. A bit too slow for Level Two at the allegedly, strongest Thai school in town.

The level of students was also very varied, some were still at the complete beginner’s level, while some felt that they were in a sixty hour Thai review class. This made group work difficult, that and the fact that usually very little Thai was spoken in groups, so at times when we had to practice dialogues and new words with each other, we just had a chat in English about something very different.

Grammar wise they teach you really well, we covered a new topic every 2-3 days, and there was a lot to take in and that’s the part I cannot fault. But I often felt that progress would have been faster, if we didn’t get off topic so much, and we would have cemented everything better.

We didn’t have a book, only handouts. Each handout covered a topic and started with 1-2 pages of words, question words relevant to the topic and dialogues we had to translate and speak out. Much too often our time was consumed by writing down lots of additional words and phrases (not always on topic), which people asked the teacher to translate. But since we didn’t practice dialogues with these words enough, I feel that I didn’t cement neither all the new words nor the grammar. But I have a huge stack of papers with all the information and can always refer to it.

Homework was very light. I remember four times when we had homework, and a couple of times it wasn’t checked or not everyone’s was checked, so I wonder whether some people felt a bit unhappy with that, putting in the effort and not getting feedback.

I can’t say that I didn’t learn anything, I had an interview at AUA to go back and they put me on Level Three, which means I’ve developed at least to their next level. But I really expected to learn a lot more and speak a lot better Thai by now. And while one’s personal ability and motivation are important factors, studying 60 hours over five weeks at a top school, and paying a lot of money for that, should leave a much bigger mark than it did.

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Thai Language School Review: AUA Chiang mai

AUA Chiang mai

AUA: Chiang mai…

Website: AUA Chiang mai
Tele: 053 214 120, 053 211 377, 082 036 7840, 095 452 7840

Address: 24 Rajadamnern Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand 50200.

AUA is located on a main through road in Chiang Mai Old Town, yet the setting is quiet and the buildings remind me much of old Thai-style houses. 

They currently have seven six-week modules available: Speaking 1-4 and Reading/Writing 1-3, at THB5300 per course. The lessons are two hours a day, Monday-Friday, with a 15-20 minute break after the first hour. 

This school definitely seems to be good value for money. I found the teachers at AUA very experienced and invested in their students’ progress. The teachers drill words into you, and correct you until you pronounce them the right way, and you’d better do it with a smile on your face.

AUA is definitely not a school just to get the ED visa. AUA requires attendance and participation in classes and that’s a positive because the students participating are motivated and make progress. Plus, the school expects you to study and practice outside the classroom as well. 

What struck me as a bit odd at first was the lack of desks in the classroom. Everyone sits in a semicircle and writes with their notepads balanced on their knees. But at the same time the arrangement makes the exercises requiring speaking to everyone that much easier. You just stand up and walk across the room without having to move desks around or trying to navigate between them. This open system also encourages switching conversation partners and getting used to different accents.

Conversation Level One…

In the Conversation Level One course I attended, all my fellow students were super friendly and motivated; everyone was there to learn Thai. Not one of the 12 students had an ED visa, and on the quietest day attendance was seven. There were only three farang (non-Asians) in my class, which seemed a common theme at AUA. Missing a few lessons is enough to fall behind and AUA gives the impression that if you do miss too many lessons, you’d be politely asked to rethink whether you should continue with the class. This reinforced the idea that Digital Nomads do not often enroll at AUA (could be because avid attendance and participation is expected).

However, the level among students was very different, making it hard at times for lessons to flow at a steady speed. I also found having a dialogue with others in Thai a bit tricky for the same reason. But it does make you concentrate on listening more. At the same time, our teacher made sure to get everyone to understand and follow, so no one was purposefully left behind. In saying that, there was no excessive hand-holding for anyone. 

In the beginner’s course, for the first two weeks we focused on practicing tones and vowels for 30 minutes. We played ‘guess the tone’ games quite a bit and while it was frustrating at first, eventually we all started to agree on the correct tone. 

The teaching was built around repetition. There was a great deal of repeating of words and phrases out loud every day. The teacher expected us to use all new words taught, plus find new words to use on our own. And to make us understand the thinking behind the language our teacher illustrated ‘weird’ words and expressions using her own life experiences and situations.

For this class we didn’t have a book, just handouts and a whiteboard with notes. Not following a set curriculum allowed our teacher to focus on what she felt was relevant, in a way what also suited her, thus making the classes fun and interesting for us. The only wish I have is that they taught more everyday Thai; things you need to say to the street vendor or the taxi driver. What we ended up learning was a bit more sophisticated and didn’t help me when ordering food. But this could very well be my European thinking since I have had to forget every single European language I speak and start from a blank piece of paper. 

While I feel that we could have spoken a bit more in class, thanks to their repetition teaching method, most of what we practiced did stick. We covered a great deal of ground, with everyone managing to follow along. 

I’ve now finished Level One Speaking and have decided to try out Payap. I went for an interview and they said I was ok for Level Two. So stay tuned :)

Conversation Level Three…

AUA Level Three included a small group of nice students from Taiwan, Korea, Japan, China and Europe. In this course the speed and level increased significantly. The teacher spoke at a relatively normal speed, but used words and sentence construction that everyone could understand. This way of teaching has you recognising normal spoken Thai and responding actively.

Again, the time flew by and the lessons were great fun. Everyone was pushed to learn and to try to explain stories and compound sentences. English was not used in class but any new vocabulary was given in Thai / English / phonetic handouts. I found that many of the students could already read and write quite well and took their notes in Thai script only, although there are still a few, including me, who could read but struggled to write.

Despite the fast spoken language and assumption that certain things should be inherently understood, there was surprisingly little homework in this course. In saying that, to be ready for the next lesson all of us appeared to recap at home to some extent.

Same as with the previous course, it’s an untraditional classroom with all pupils sitting in a semicircle around the room, with no desks, taking notes on notebooks balanced on their knees. There’s a lot of work in pairs though, and you’re forced to work with different people every day, which apart from making new friends helps you to hear other people’s pronunciation and see in detail what level they’re at.

Private Lessons…

I went for an intake assessment at AUA in Chiang Mai and was told that while I had a good vocabulary my grammar was messy and unstructured, so was advised to take private lessons before joining the second level. Cost per hour was THB340. This consisted of one hour, two or three times a week, speaking with a teacher who would simply kick off the discussion by asking questions. Each of the lessons actually covered different grammar elements, although it was never presented like this, so I only became aware at the end of the month. The hour flew by, with discussions ranging from immigration and unemployment, to baggy trousers and the Russian mafia.

Because it’s a private session, and you’re one-on-one with the teacher, you simply can’t hide and pretend that you know what’s being discussed, so you learn a lot. It was quite hard work but I enjoyed it and it paid off. At the end of the month the teacher put me not into the second, but the third level.

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