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Thai Language School Review: PRO Language Chiang mai

Thai Language School Review: PRO Language Chiang mai

PRO Language: Chiang mai…

School: PRO Language
Website: PRO Language Chiang mai
Telephone Number: 053-400-980 , 086-431-0377

Address: 6/4-5 Nimmanhemin Rd. Suthep, Mueng, Chiang Mai.

PRO Language School in Chiang mai is located on the northern end of the trendy Nimman Heimman street where a lot of the Digital Nomads live, but the building itself is a bit older. Classes are two times a week: 2h at a time, with a 15min break in between.

From my experience with PRO Chiang mai, the biggest motivation for people to choose this school is the location, the price, plus the flexible attendance rules.

In my opinion, Pro Chiang mai is a great school if you want to attain the student visa and speak basic Thai. But, if you really want to learn Thai, then you’ll need to do a lot of work yourself on your own, take supplementary private classes, and/or enroll somewhere else as well.

Beginner level…

At the beginners’ level, the first class covered the tones and the vowels in an hour and then moved on to greetings and basic phrases. The pace was fast and each class or each 1.5 classes covered a different subject. And while they did follow a book (written by the school itself I believe) they also used a lot of handouts and had simple homework once a week. Considering the class was twice a week and 2h/day with a 15min break, that’s a good amount of homework (and we always checked it the following lesson). 

There didn’t seem to be much focus on making sure that every student could follow along. But, as many students were lax in their motivation, I cannot blame the teachers. If the teachers tried to get everyone up to speed all the time, they’d never get anywhere with the students who are motivated to learn. 

We spoke in pairs a lot, read out aloud from the book, and our teacher asked us a lot of questions. Our teacher was young, energetic, and happily took the time to explain. She generously went off-topic to answer our questions about how to say this and that in Thai so we’d often ask her about everyday Thai things (such as how to speak to the taxi drivers and market sellers, what foods in restaurants are called, etc). And after answering our questions, she always got us back on topic again. 

Intermediate level…

I was in an intermediate class at Pro Language for about six weeks. Officially, there were 15-18 students in my class.

The teaching was divided into speaking for the first hour, often following photocopied texts brought by the teacher, and then a reading and writing section after the break. The teaching was actually OK, albeit based on continual repetition.

I did learn to read basic Thai as well, so something must have worked.

The level was generally very easy and it was obvious that many students had absolutely no understanding of the Thai language at all. I genuinely liked the teacher, who tried hard to motivate students and get them to take part, but it must have been a thankless task.

I could have asked to move to a different class but as I was effectively getting private lessons at Pro Language I was more than happy to stay there. However, due to the low numbers of students showing up, the group was finally cancelled. I’ve just been moved to the next level where I’m hoping that it’ll be a bit more challenging.

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Data Survey Part Two: Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell

Say it Like a Thai Would

Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell…

This is part two discussing the survey data I compiled about Thai Studentz-From-Hell. If you haven’t read the first post, go to Data Survey Part One: Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell.

Below, where I talk about the data I’ve mined, I’m going to use some specific terms. I’ll use Westerners for people from the west and Asians for people from the east, okay? If I use the word students or foreigners, I’m talking about everyone learning Thai. Also, in an effort to be a kinder-gentler (not so blatantly racist) Tod Daniels, I’m not gonna use the term white people like I usually do. Honestly, I don’t like the hate mail it garners!

Btw: I’ve included a What can you do? section at the end of each category. That’s where I offer wisdom and information to hopefully help you overcome possible limitations in your learning Thai experience.

But before I get to the survey compilation, I just want to say this one thing.

The teaching Thai language to Westerners system is broken…

I know this will ruffle a lot of feathers, but the system (method, text books, etc.) used in the teach Thai to non-native speakers (and Westerners especially) is badly broken. It has stagnated for years with schools popping up all over the city using nothing more than copied textbooks from the original Union Thai Language School. Sometimes the only difference is the cover of the book!

I’m not saying the Union Method doesn’t work. Time and time again I’ve pointed out that their methodology turns out more proficient foreign speakers of Thai than any other method out there, period, end of story. Even the illustrious uni known as Chula teaches Thai that way. Sadly (for us learners of Thai) there’s been no total overhaul of the materials for years. The vocabulary is antiquated, the lessons don’t build on each other, and the advanced materials come from the Stone Age.

In saying that … I will speak up in the defence of several schools: Rak Thai Language and Duke Language especially. They took the tired material and re-worked it, putting it head and shoulders above the old stuff. But, it’s only a matter of time before contemporary Thai study material appears on the market. The new method will use the technology of today, in a way that revolutionises how Thai is taught. It’s coming soon. I know that for a fact. I’ve personally seen some of the material in the development stage.

What can you do? Unfortunately what’s out there is what’s out there and that’s that. So you’re either gonna use what’s available or you’re gonna come up with your own way to learn Thai. And that’s what some of the advice in this post is all about: Using what’s available in this day and time.

Finally, here we go!

Age and sex of students…

One of the most interesting things found in the data was that neither age nor sex seemed to play any role in a student’s ability to learn Thai. There was a good make-up of males and females and a broad age range of people from their early 20’s to their late 60’s (even older) of both Westerners and Asians. From what the teachers told me, age doesn’t affect anyone’s ability to learn the language at all. That at every school included in this data review, old people seemed to learn as easily as the younger students.

My personal experience: The b/s excuses you read on every forum concerning learning Thai where Westerners parrot out “I’m too old”, “I’m not good at languages”, “I can’t hear the tones”, blah-blah-blah were just plain and simple not represented in the feedback from teachers at ANY school.

What can you do? Stop using your advanced age and (supposed) inability to learn languages as excuses and start learning Thai already! And of course, if you are deaf, there’s obviously going to be a problem. But for the rest of you, get off your butts and ramp up your listening time!

Hemispherical origin (a polite way of saying ethnicity!)…

What started to come to light was, hands down, Asians (Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc) learned the Thai language far better than Westerners. ANY Westerners!

On further reflection of this conundrum, in the data I did come to a conclusion of sorts. Asians as a rule are less question driven in their education systems and lean more towards rote learning. Also, Asians accept any teaching methodology without question. But, due to our question driven education system, Westerners sometimes try to buck the methods (especially rote) that are often used here to teach Thai.

What can you do? Face it. If you aren’t Asian, you’re unlikely to be able to change your learning mindset overnight. So when you do go to take in the material presented, be as open-minded as you can. Try and adopt a less question driven strategy and go for rote. Go with the flow. If just for now.

Speaking multiple languages…

Another interesting point made was that the more languages a Westerner knows that use a Latin based alphabet, the harder it is for them to get Thai to click. Now, I know some of you will come out in force against this, but again, that’s what I got from talking to the teachers. I don’t know why the data shows this but it clearly did.

I do think it’s possible that studying a multitude of Latin languages gets in the way with learning Thai somehow. It’s not so bad in the early speak via karaoke part of learning Thai (like is taught in 99.99% of the schools) because they use transliteration (karaoke), which is mostly legible to English speakers. It only becomes an impediment when a Westerner makes the leap from learning to speak Thai via karaoke, to actually reading the Thai script. The teachers mentioned that at this point Westerners come off the rails, learning far slower than their Asian counterparts.

From my study, the best Western learners are those who only speak their mother tongue, or at most another language closely related to English. The best Asian learners mostly know their mother tongue, although they oftentimes possess fairly proficient English language skills too. Compared to Westerners knowing more than one Western language, Asians who knew other Asian languages didn’t have a problem.

What can you do? Perhaps you speak more than one language that uses the Latin alphabet, and good on you if you do. BUT, do note that learning the Thai script will take a slightly different mindset than what is needed for French, Spanish, Polish, etc. So when you do enter a classroom to learn Thai, be prepared ahead of time for differences. Don’t fight it.

Impediments to learning…

The anecdotal data I gleaned in the meetings with teachers hands down showed that there were two big impediments to Westerners learning Thai. One is that Westerners often over-sold or completely overestimated their ability in Thai. Meaning, they went into the school saying, “I’m not a beginner!” “I can read Thai already!” “I want Thai script only textbooks!” Yet when the teachers tested these students, turns out the students couldn’t speak or read Thai to the level needed to keep up in their chosen class. Asians, on the other hand, had no trouble admitting they didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Also, some Westerners were adamant that they weren’t beginner level students, to the point they became confrontational, even when they could see from the informal interview they were basic Thai speakers (and that, only when under spoon-fed conditions).

The Thai teachers said that even when they tried to sell beginner courses as a refresher/review, few Westerners would go for it. Conversely, Asian beginners of Thai bought right into the premise that you start learning things at the beginning, not partway thru. When Westerners forced schools to let them into the intermediate classes, they were left in the dust because they just didn’t have the foundation they should have. Rather than suck it up and admit the truth, more than a few Western students turned the blame away from themselves by putting down the methodology, the school, the teacher, and even other students.

What can you do? Obviously, don’t overestimate your ability in Thai, period. If you can’t keep up, face the truth. Instead of pretending, start on book one page one and don’t progress into the next level until you really get it. Because believe you me, you ain’t fooling anyone!

The second really big impediment was that Westerners, to a person, thought they knew how Thai should be taught to Westerners. It is true that as adults we are fairly locked into the way we acquire new information. Some people are visual learners, some are tactile learners, some are aural learners, and some use all those avenues to learn new stuff. And equally important, rote learning goes against the Western grain.

What can you do? Sometimes the rules just plain don’t apply and this is one of those times. Attempt to be open to how the information is being presented, even if you think it’s not the right way. Give it a chance, a real chance.

I’m NOT saying to sign up at the first Thai language school you wander into. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the teaching Thai as a second language system is broken, or at least in a terrible state of disrepair and neglect. What I am saying is be open to the methodology used at a particular school and see if it jibes enough with the way you learn things. Do your due diligence, but don’t discount a school’s methodology right outta the gate. Well, you can discount one school’s methodology as total b/s, but at least give the rest of the schools out there a decent chance. Because seriously, until the changes come, that’s all there is.

Education level…

In regards to Westerners and their ability to get Thai to click, education levels seem to play a VERY important role. The reverse doesn’t appear to be true for Asians because no matter what education Asians have acquired, they learn Thai just fine. The data shows that where Westerners are concerned it’s almost an inverse proportion. The more education a person from the West has had, the less they take to Thai as it’s taught in schools. Westerners with a high school education or a bachelor’s degree learn Thai far easier than those with a Master’s or PhD. It also appears that foreigners with a ‘teaching anything’ background have more difficulties with learning Thai via the methodology available in today’s marketplace, than Westerners with degrees in non-teaching fields.

My personal experience: On the topic of education and Westerners learning Thai I have to agree with the teacher’s perceptions. I’ve ran into more than my fair share of Westerners with a high level of edu-ma-cation. In talking to some (not all of course) it’s clear they think they know best on how Thai should be taught to Westerners. And rather than taking personal responsibility for their failures, that it’s possible to be their own worst enemy, they instead blame the school, the teacher, the methodology, other students, or any distraction they can think up on why they can’t learn Thai. They even meet with the teacher or manager of the school between classes to offer suggestions on how teachers can improve how they teach. They also whine and cry about this or that on breaks with other students. Now, it’s fine for students to commiserate with one another on the difficulty of learning Thai, because for one, it can build classroom cohesiveness. It’s just that this particular demographic of student has often tried many schools, all the while not learning Thai. These kinda people are the bouncers I mentioned in Part One of Studentz-From-Hell.

What can you do? As with the discussion about Impediments to Learning listed above, even if you think it’s not the right way to learn, be open to how the information is being presented. Give it a chance. Remember, if you aim to learn Thai in a classroom setting, what other choice do you have?

Group versus private…

I looked at the subject of private versus group lessons using the same methodology, but there just wasn’t a big enough sampling of annoying students in the private section. This is because at most schools, in private classes students can tailor the lessons to the way they learn. While in groups, students are dragged along with the rest of the class and are more likely to kick up a fuss.

What can you do? If you do find yourself failing in a classroom setting, then do give everyone a rest (yourself included) by signing up for one-on-one lessons. The solution can’t get simpler than that.

Thai teachers…

Another complaint from the Thai teachers (ALL of them) was that some foreigners think that the reason they weren’t learning Thai is the teacher’s fault. There certainly are marginal and even extremely poor Thai teachers out there. But clearly, not every single foreigner who fails to learn Thai can point their finger at their teacher’s lack of skills.

What can you do? If you gave it the old college try with a teacher and it just plain ain’t working, switch teachers or schools even! You’ll certainly find out right away if your problem was the teacher, or you. Either way, a change of scenery is better than sitting thru an entire module seething.

Class size…

One thing I tried to pin the teachers down on was class size versus efficacy in their methodology. This was a touchy subject, especially when talking to the owners of the schools. Most schools employ teachers on a fixed monthly salary so whether they’re teaching a handful of foreigners or a group of 15, the hard cost to the school is the same. It was no surprise to me that the owners thought there was nothing wrong with cramming in as many students as there were chairs in every classroom. Because face it, the more students per class, the more their profit margin.

The teachers, on the other hand, totally disagreed with this premise. It had nothing to do with what the teachers are being paid and everything to do with the pride they take having students become proficient in the language. They all said that the best size for a group of students (Westerners and Asians) was between six to eight people at most. Group lessons are conversation or dialog based and they incorporate practice with other students or with teachers, and large classes fall way short of the mark as far as having enough useful practice time for each student.

My personal experience: I have witnessed the detriment a large class size (more than 10 people) can be to students. There’s just not enough of the teacher to go around and they’re pulled six ways from Sunday. In those early levels of learning it is crucial that the teacher has adequate coverage to correct pronunciation and structural errors EVERY time! With too many students in a class they just can’t do it. The teachers also can’t effectively keep that many students on topic either, so it becomes more like herding cats than teaching Thai.

What can you do? If you enrol in a group class (especially an intensive one) and there’s more than seven or eight people in the class, bail out! DON’T waste your money and your time! March right up to the front desk and inform them you’ll wait until either a new class starts or the next term rolls around. Again, stand up for yourself in this regard because it’s way important early on.

In summary…

I’ve tried to present the information from the data and the feedback I got from the teachers as accurately as I could. However, as is my penchant to do, I did ride some of my hobby horses as far as what I think works acquiring the Thai language. I am nothing if not opinionated, and that my opinion differs from yours is fine by me. I had more fun going to the schools, interacting with the staff, getting this information than I’ve had here in Thailand in ages!

Remember, Tod Daniels is NOT affiliated with ANY Thai language school. I’m about learning Thai by whatever means works for you.

Good Luck,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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Data Survey Part One: Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell

Say it Like a Thai Would

Thai Schools on the Studentz-From-Hell…

Awhile back I went to seven previously reviewed Thai schools. I asked the owners of the schools, the teachers, as well as the front desk staff, if they’d be interested in participating in an informal survey. I explained that I wanted to find out what they thought were the best and worst foreign learners of the Thai language.

Now, before you poo-poo this survey as just another hare-brained idea from Tod Daniels, or try and say my study sample is too limited, please let me explain. In just one of the schools, eight teachers contributing to the survey have taught Thai to non-native adult speakers a combined 128 years! That averages out to about 16 years experience apiece. And that was just at ONE of the schools I queried. The other schools are equally impressive, so if anyone is to be believed, it’s the Thais in the trenches.

Anyway, I set up meetings after school hours because there was no time to hash out this stuff during the short 10 minute breaks between classes. At the meetings I asked what they thought were the best learners of Thai versus what they thought were the worst learners of Thai. Surprisingly, every teacher was more than happy to offer their opinion. And often in a animated, humorous way, with anecdotes and stories of the Studentz-From-Hell. As you can imagine, a good time was had by all. Taking copious notes, I phrased questions in different ways to weed out spurious answers.

Some of the time I spoke in Thai, and some of the time in English. The mountain of information I gleaned was insightful (to me at least).

After I finished with the school owners and Thai teachers I then asked the front desk staff to start obliquely quizzing new students about what education level the students possessed, what other languages they spoke, and how old they were. Now, some of the schools were already doing this so it was just a matter of handing me a pile ‘o paperwork and letting me paw thru and take notes. But some of the schools never did this before, and now many do. So when you enrol in a Thai language school and they bug you for this stuff you can either thank or hate me for getting them to pry into your personal business.

After compiling the data I’d gleaned from the teachers I waited a couple months, then went back and met with the front desk staff to see what other information they’d accrued. I also revisited the teachers to see if they had more to add. We then reviewed my findings.

Thankfully, the fact that I was going to other Thai language schools as well didn’t come up even once. You see, I wanted as much cooperation as I could at each of these schools and I found out early on that the school’s owners didn’t like each other one little bit! Even though some are in the same building, have swapped out teachers on occasion, and the owners know each other, they can be awfully prissy when it comes to mentioning other schools.

Once I had the data I put it in a semblance of order. At first everything just seemed random, almost nonsensical. But after sorting it in different ways several issues appeared over and over. What threw me at first was that the information I gleaned from the various schools was presented in different manners. Once I realised this fact, I started making real progress.

Although I’m just gonna present what I found, you’ll be glad to know the results are based on the empirical data and the feedback I gleaned from the schools. Plus, I came up with a viable criteria to sort through it all.

Trust me. I didn’t make any of this up. And you can totally disagree with my findings, and that’s ok by me.

I gathered the below data on foreigners learning Thai, because plain and simple, I’m nosy about other students. Incredible as it may seem (what with my off-the-wall personality) I have a fairly good relationship with the Thai language schools scattered around Bangkok, that made compiling data not troublesome at all!

If you recognise yourself in this post, hopefully you’ll find my tipz-n-trickz a help in skewing the odds in your favour to learn Thai.

What are “STUDENTZ-FROM-HELL”?…

Studentz-from-hell: Plain and simple, students from hell are just that. Hell. They are students who refuse to accept they’re in class to learn. They are somehow unaware that they are in a roomful of other students, with what should be a competent teacher of Thai. These annoying students do whatever they can to make the class time drag out. Other students and the teacher end up miserable as well.

Classroom Commandeer-erz: These are students who monopolise and/or commandeer a class (much to the chagrin of the other students). For every one question asked by other students, they ask five inane and often unrelated questions. They constantly interrupt, interject, and unconsciously or not, become such a detriment to the other students that they are even ostracised during breaks! They make the teacher spend an inordinate amount of time on them and their issues rather than realising the other students deserve an equal share in the teacher’s time as well. This particular student would be better suited to private lessons, and in that way, they could bother a teacher to their heart’s content.

Non-participantz: The exact opposite of the Commandeer-erz, these students do not participate in class either with teachers or students. They often act miserable. I dunno, maybe they are miserable. What I do know is that a negative attitude, especially in something that has the potential of being difficult, is a losing proposition.

Why-erz: No, I’m not talking about mindless foreigners who wander around Thailand wai’ing every limbless beggar, 7/11 worker and Soi Dog! I’m talking about students who insist on asking “why” at every opportunity. In Breaking Down the Wall of Whyz (shameless plug) I pointed out that knowing the why behind the way things are in Thai doesn’t help you become more proficient in the language itself. It does give you tidbits of the background on the language, but unless you’re ever going to be on Jeopardy and the Thai language comes up, the knowledge doesn’t really help you progress.

Laterz & Skipperz: Laterz are people who waltz into class 10-15 minutes after it starts like it’s not a problem. They don’t know what lessons are being taught, and they disrupt the entire flow of the class when trying find the right page, etc. The Skipperz believe they can miss a couple days of class and still keep up. Now, I know once in a while we all have business to attend to and need miss a class or two. That doesn’t mean we can’t study what was covered so we can semi-participate in the next class. Both of these types of students are a detriment to other students who do manage to show up on time, and are doing their best to learn. Some schools have now implemented a policy of locking classroom doors 10 minutes after each class starts, forcing the Laterz to wait until the next hour to rejoin the class.

Teaching Expertz: Not surprisingly these are foreigners who think they are experts in how Thai should be taught in class. It’s true we all develop our own little tricks and tips which make Thai click for us. And there’s nothing wrong with sharing this information with the other students at an appropriate time, like on a break. However, if you were indeed an expert, you’d already speak Thai. Right?

Know-it-allz: This particular demographic of student just flummoxes me. They clearly have taken the level at least once, sometimes several times. They know the material inside, outside, upside down, in a box, with a fox, but they won’t advance themselves to the next level. I think they enjoy making us squirm in our seats as we stumble thru sentences mangling new words. Don’t confuse the Know-it-allz with people who take a level, but want to really make it stick so take it again. They know that each level builds on the previous and bluffing your way thru just ain’t gonna cut it.

Kibitz-erz: These are students who, no matter their nationality, clump together and whisper to each other in their own language during class. This is especially troublesome in lessons at schools which have ‘Thai ONLY’ rules. It is distracting to others trying to learn Thai.

Over Their Head-erz: As you might surmise these students bluffed or blustered their way into a level of Thai which is way beyond their current ability. They drag down a class pretty fast because they don’t have the foundation of material which was supposed to be learned in previous level(s). To accommodate, teachers try to draw a happy medium by teaching to neither the slowest nor the fastest learners, so this type can easily kill the flow of a class.

Technoz: These are students who are glued, and I mean glued, to their mobile devices. They check their dictionary apps for every permutation of a Thai word and get totally lost in their searches. It results in being unable to keep up with what’s going on in class. I’m all for using tech. And there’s certainly no shortage of really good Thai dictionary apps out there. I just suggest that people use their class time wisely by getting the most out of it at the time. There’s plenty of time during break and after class to look deeper into a subject.

Interrupterz: These are not people who interrupt in class with questions. These are students who just will NOT turn off or mute their mobile devices! They’re constantly getting and responding to SMS’s, Facebook updates, and conversing with people on Line. They drive me up a wall. They also take phone calls in the classroom, walking out to chat and then wandering back in again. Now, I know that some of you are in business here, and that’s great, but you have no business learning Thai in a group setting if you can’t go 50 whole minutes without communicating with the outside world. I was sitting a class just the other day and a student got a phone call. He answered it, talked IN the classroom for two or three minutes like it was nothing. That is just plain poor form and I think at the very least the teacher should have called him on it.

Rusherz & Blurerz: These are students who have an adequate command of the vocabulary being covered in a particular module or lesson plan but for some reason spit out what they want to say so fast, so incoherently, that even the teacher has no idea what they just said. I had this particular affliction when just starting to speak Thai. It was almost as if I needed to get out what I wanted to say as fast as I could. I didn’t care if it was right or wrong, I just felt the overpowering need to spit it out. It ended up coming out like a blur of jumbled up syllables. Tip: take a deep breath, slow down and try to enunciate what you’re saying. This will let the teacher hear enough of what you are trying to say to correct you (and that’s a good thing).

Mice or Whisper-erz: These are students you can barely hear. They seem to purposely lower the volume when they’re speaking Thai. It’s frustrating to the other students and to the teacher as well. I know we’re all hesitant about having other people hear us speak Thai, especially when we are at the “I speak sucky Thai” stage. But that’s part of the learning curve. There is no wrong when learning conversational Thai. It isn’t a test. Do the best you can to practice what you’re learning, and speak up so the teacher can correct you.

Bouncerz: These students bounce from one school to another, trying method after method, book after book, and program after program, yet still can’t get Thai to click. I’ve met a LOT of this kind of students and to a person they’re primarily westerners NOT Asians. It’s almost as if the westerners are trying to find the school or the method which works for them instead of realising they have to adapt their learning to the available methods. These students often possess an eclectic vocabulary in Thai, but fall short on good Thai sentence structure.

Are you a “STUDENT-FROM-HELL”?…

Realising disruptive in-class behaviour is valuable for those trying to make their way thru the minefield that is the Thai Language. So, what can you do if you have a particular personality trait that lumps you into one or more categories? Do take note of it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step in solving it. The second step is actually doing something about it.

Anyone who’s studied Thai in a group setting has met at least one, perhaps more of the studentz-from-hell that I’ve outlined above. Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments section below – I’d love to hear all about it!

Next I’ll cover the school data in-depth, breaking it down by category.

Good Luck,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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Thai Language School Review: Rak Thai

Thai Language School Review: Rak Thai

Rak Thai Language School…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thai Language School Review: AAA Thai

Thai Language School Review: AAA Thai

AAA Thai Language Center…

School: AAA Thai (Advance Alliance Academy Thai Language Center)
Website: AAA Thai
Telephone Number: 02-655-5629
Address: AAA Thai Language Center, 6th floor, 29 Vanissa Building Chitlom Rd, Patumwam, Bangkok Thailand 10330

Location: Traveling by the BTS sky train, get off at Chitlom station and walk through Central Department Store or walk along Chitlom about 50 meters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thai Language School Review: Baan Aksorn

Thai Language School Review: Baan Aksorn

Baan Aksorn Thai Language School…

School: Baan Aksorn
Telephone Number: 02-258-5617 or 02-662-3090
Mobile: 084-769-6449
Address: House #40 Sukhumvit Soi 33, Klongton Nua, Watana, Bangkok 10110, Thailand

Location: Baan Askorn has a PDF that shows exactly how to get to their school either by walking from Phrom Phong BTS or by driving. Meaning, I don’t need to give you directions!

Basic Info: I looked at this school a few years ago, but kinda forgot about it. Actually, when I toured the school the first time I was quite put off by the condescending attitude of a particular student. But, in retrospect, students shouldn’t come into play so an in-depth review was in order.

I have to say the overall ambiance of this school is the best of any I’ve been to. From the outside it’s the most un-school looking building I’ve ever seen. Baan Askorn is located in a 30 year old Thai house that has been totally redone as a functional Thai language school. The garden area is full of towering mature trees, with places to sit. It’s shady and certainly more than adequate for having a Thai lesson outdoors (weather permitting). Honestly, I wouldn’t mind just stopping by their garden to “hang out”. Inside the school is just as inviting. The downstairs is the reception area, with the classrooms are upstairs.

Materials: The first four books are pretty standard fare. And I don’t mean that with ANY negative connotation. It’s just that they’re close to the materials seen in the better private Thai Language schools around Bangkok (as far as basic intro Thai books go). These types of books are designed to get you speaking something that at least resembles Thai. The books also provides a student with a base line vocabulary with the means to concentrate on conversation, reading, writing or a combination.

Baan Askorn’s advanced reading and writing materials are not the same old beat to death stuff I’ve seen at other schools. The course books are contemporary, up to date, and interesting. Stories start out with just a few sentences and progressively get longer in content and harder in vocabulary. New vocabulary is introduced at the beginning. And to gauge a student’s comprehension, questions (both spoken and written) are asked afterward. Quite honestly, as far as advanced materials go, these were some of the most interesting books I’ve come across in any school I’ve toured.

Method: The initial methodology at Baan Askorn is similar to other schools. Their phonemic transcription uses a system pretty close to Benjawan Becker’s Paiboon Plus. The material is presented in Thai, karaoke and English. This is situational-based material, covering the basics: greeting, meeting, getting around, asking questions, etc. It’s presented in a straightforward manner. The more advanced classes have discussions about topics relevant to the material being covered. Their advanced classes discuss articles from Thai newspapers.

Teachers: The teacher I had was more than capable insofar as teaching a foreigner the Thai language. She obviously knew the materials. In fact, she was so adept at teaching she was even able to write both English AND Thai upside down and backwards (so it would read right side up for me) as we sat across the table from one another! (I give her kudos for that feat in and of itself). I tried it after I got home and it’s definitely a skill-set which takes practice to pull off proficiently.

I spoke to a student who who sat the Thai proficiency exam after attending Baan Aksorn. He said teachers in all levels were more than competent and able to explain the “whyz-in-Thai” versus “that’s just how it is in Thai”.

Classes: Baan Aksorn offers group classes but only for those at comparable levels of Thai. However, I definitely got the feeling that they really prefer to teach private 1-on-1 lessons. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve sat group classes in many Thai language schools where the disparity of knowledge between students compels the teacher to teach either to the slowest student, holding back the faster ones, or to the fastest student, dragging the other ones along. As this can create bad feelings, some schools prefer to give private lessons.

ED Visa: Baan Aksorn offers education visas for students who enroll in a year long Thai program. It’s operated pretty much like all private Thai language schools registered with the Ministry of Education. Once students have paid their tuition, the school supplies support documentation for a Thai Embassy or Consulate (in a neighboring country), and secure a single entry 90 day ED visa. This is extended every 90 days at Thai Immigrations with additional documentation supplied by the school.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I rate this school quite high on the ‘bang-4-the-baht’ scale in terms of real value versus cost. They have some of the most contemporary and error free material I’ve seen. Their books are all written in-house, instead of being 5th generation copies of the oh-so dated Union Method material still in use by some Thai schools. They put a lot of time and effort into coming up with a solid curriculum of material for students to learn to speak, read and write Thai.

I’d recommend Baan Aksorn to anyone serious about undertaking Thai. You aren’t going to show up for the Ministry of Education’s stated minimum class time of 4 hours a week and suddenly start speaking Thai like a Thai. And you aren’t going to coast thru a class parroting material like a mynah bird (as is done in a school which shall remain nameless). This school will challenge you to learn Thai, but more than that, it will teach you the necessary skill-set to meet that challenge.

After perusing Baan Aksorn’s material I realised that I was quite remiss in my earlier dismissal of this school. And if I was still looking to attend a Thai language school, I’d certainly put them very near the top of the list.

Hope you found this review of value. As always I rate schools on what I’ve found works for me. This may or may not work for you. I urge ANYONE contemplating enrolling in or attending a private Thai language school to check out as many as you can BEFORE you pay a single satang of your hard earned baht.

Good Luck.

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

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Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Station

Thai Language School Review: Thai Language Station

Thai Language Station…

School: Thai Language Station (TLS) Bangkok
Telephone Number: 02-632-9440
Address: Thai Language Station, 62 Thaniya Building 11th floor, Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok Thailand 10500

How to get there on foot: BTS (Sky Train) Sala Daeng Station Gate No.1 or the MRT (Subway) Silom Station

Basic Info: Thai Language Station belongs to a chain of schools founded by a half Thai, half Japanese guy named Fuji. Fuji has 2 schools in Japan and 2 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thai Language Station’s main location is in the Times Square Building, BUT, here’s the thing. At that site they don’t teach Thai to English speakers. They only teach Thai to Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese. In fact, they don’t even have English language Thai textbooks at Times Square, and not a piece of advertising inside their office is in English either. So, if you’re not one of the nationalities mentioned (Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese), don’t even bother going to the Times Square Building. Native (or second language) English speakers are taught at the Thaniya Building on Silom.

When I entered Thai Language Station in the Thaniya Building I thought I’d mistakenly walked into the Times Square building. That’s how close the schools are to being carbon copies! The only difference is at Thaniya, the signage is also in English.

Materials: Thai Language Station has 8 different levels of material. The first 4 levels start out like most other phonemic based transcription systems. You are introduced to the phonetics used to represent Thai sounds and corresponding Thai characters. Next up is conversation-based text such as: greetings, information gathering (name, age, etc).

The conversations are very straightforward, although there is NO corresponding Thai in the book to start exposing you to the Thai writing system. You’ll only see phonetics and English (and their phonetic system is more than a little squirrelly). In fact, it’s downright confusing! If I hadn’t known the Thai vocabulary beforehand their system would have been totally impossible to understand without taking the time to learn it first. As it worked out, I ended up asking the teacher to write the sentences in Thai script.

However, due to a massive re-write, their quirky phonetic system is about to change. I was informed that it’s going to include Thai script and incorporate a universally understood phonetic system (Benjawan Becker’s Paiboon Plus, to be exact).

Method: The method is conversation based. After the first book of basic Thai it progresses into longer, more difficult, yet still high frequency conversations which are useful in day-to-day Thai living.

The first 2 books on reading and writing have karaoke Thai, real Thai, and English. Once you get thru 4 levels of conversation you’re then exposed to writing and reading Thai. The last 2 books are ONLY in Thai and English.

Aside from the squirrelly phonemic transcription (karaoke Thai) the methodology is pretty good. It has a lot of high value, high usage phrases, sentence constructs, etc.

Out of class homework is assigned for people learning to write Thai. The final 2 books are in a short story format with questions. The materials have been upgraded to a more “current events” based reading class. The teacher takes articles out of the newspaper, magazines, etc., or the students bring an article of interest.

One other thing you don’t see all that often is that Thai Language Station WILL sell their text books to any Tom, Dick and Somchai who walks thru the door. This is total departure from other schools where you hafta enroll before you can purchase the books, and even then you can only buy the books for the level you’re attending.

Then again, with the quirky phonetics and no written Thai in the first 4 levels, unless you know which characters make up which corresponding Thai sounds, the books are of little value as self study material.

Teachers: I spoke to several teachers and they seemed more than qualified to teach Thai to foreigners. They also have an entire contingent of teachers who ONLY teach to a specific demographic (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese) and don’t teach ANY of the English speaking classes. Sadly, the teacher who taught the class I sat had to go to a private lesson right after so I couldn’t talk to her. Fortunately a Thai teacher of mine from 3 years ago teaches at Thai Language Station part time so I called her to get the low-down on the qualifications and quality of the teachers. She said ALL the teachers who teach Thai to native English speakers are required to pass an “in house” test, so yes, they are indeed qualified to teach.

Classes: At Thai Language Station classes run for 45 intense minutes of learning Thai. The books are not taught in a format which repeats endlessly (like some un-named schools) where you can just jump in when ever you enroll. No matter the level, the entire class starts on page 1 of what ever book you’re learning. Given that fact, you might need to wait until a sufficient number of students enroll in a particular level before a class will start.

From what I’ve heard the classes at Thai Language Station are well attended, and some have as many as 10-15 students. This can be a double-edged sword. Big classes can get side-tracked quite easily as new learners of the language question the minutia of Thai. The class I sat only had 5 students so moved along quite well.

There is a HIGH emphasis on getting both the tones and vowel length correct and the teachers hammer students to get it right (even if she makes him say it 15 times). While this may seem frustrating to early learners of the Thai language, in reality it is a blessing as those 2 things are the most problematic areas for foreign speakers of Thai.

ED Visa: Thai Language Station offers the cheapest price I’ve EVER encountered for the yearly ED visa. They have the most lessons for students who sign up for a year (a mind-wobbling 210 lessons!) They offer a 6 month visa program (105 lessons) if students don’t want a full year. And if you don’t need an ED visa, the price for group lessons drops to the lowest price I’ve ever seen offered in Bangkok (60 lessons at just 75 baht a lesson)!

Interestingly enough, Thai Language Station has an innovative “intern program”. This is where someone works at the Thai Language Station office, answering correspondence, speaking to people interested in studying Thai, and various other office tasks. In return the school provides an ED visa, extensions of stay free, and the freedom to study Thai when ever.

I spoke to a Chinese girl who’d just graduated Uni and was enrolled in the program. Now, to my foreign ears, it sure sounded like she spoke Thai pretty darned close to a Thai national already.

Bang-4-The-Baht: I give Thai Language Station a very high “bang-4-the-baht”, based on their methodology, the teachers, and their incredibly low price point. I wouldn’t deduct ANY points for anything but their quirky phonetic system. As I mentioned earlier, that is changing with the new material (supposed to be rolled out sometime after the New Year).

Hope this helps,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com | Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok
Your man on the ground, in the trenches, errr, I mean, in classrooms at Thai language schools in Bangkok.

NOTE: Tod is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school.

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Thai Language School Review: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute

Thai Language School Review:AUA-Thai Language Program

Sumaa Language & Culture Institute…

School: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute
Telephone Number: Tel. 02-286-0129
Address: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute, 36 Sathorn Soi 1 South Sathorn road, Tungmahamek, Sathorn, Bangkok 10120

Location: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute states that they’re conveniently located not far from the Lumpini MRT Station. But if you are walking with a cane it’s a LONG slog down to their school, just opposite the Goethe Center on Sathorn Soi 1 Yake 2. Next time I’ll take a taxi from the MRT.

Basic Info: Sumaa Language & Culture Institute is on the second floor of a house. The first floor has a clothing shop; you enter the second floor from the outside stairs. It’s a nicely set up school, with friendly outgoing English speaking staff. The staff’s demeanor really put me at ease. During our initial conversation they asked what my goals were in learning Thai, what level of Thai I thought I was at, etc. Of any school I’ve been to they did the best job of pre-qualifying me as to my specific learning Thai needs. Then again, because this school doesn’t do ED visas, they have an entirely different clientele than schools which cater more towards that demographic of Thai language student.

Note: I’m NOT saying schools which offer ED visas aren’t quality schools. I’m only pointing out that this school doesn’t do it. How you stay in Thailand is your deal, not the school’s.

Materials: Their materials are available both in phonetic Thai with English, and Thai script. That’s a plus for me unless I can see the English translation and guess the words by context, I can barely read phonetics. The phonetic system they use is a little squirrelly but not so bad that it’s unreadable. The text books start out like most do: greetings, what’s your name, questions about where you’re from, what your occupation is, etc. They progress to more complex conversations as the books advance. Reading and writing Thai script is on offer as well.

Method: The methodology is phonetic based. It concentrates on getting you to speak in Thai as quickly as possible. The consonant sounds, vowel sound and length, as well as the toning are all covered in a matter-of-fact straightforward method (the toning was explained so well that I almost understood it).

Sumaa Language’s intermediate and advanced reading/writing Thai books start out with a short paragraph and then progress to longer and longer stories. New vocabulary is introduced before the story is read. The students read the story to themselves first, and then they read it aloud. The teacher corrects any errant pronunciation. After the story is finished there is a conversational portion with questions where the story is discussed to gauge comprehension. There are also a written questions where answers in Thai are required. This is assigned as homework.

After seeing so many advanced reading writing classes at the various schools, I’ve become somewhat jaded because the material is usually the same-old-song-&-dance stuff that’s been beaten to death: Thai culture, the history of Thailand according to the Thais, holidays in Thailand, the weather, blah-blah-blah. Surprisingly, this school didn’t have those stories. While the first story covered wasn’t exactly edge of your seat reading by any means, it did expose me to different structure and new vocab I didn’t have. It was interesting enough to catch my attention, and easy enough for me to comprehend.

The second story we did was much longer. I believe the teacher realized that despite my assertions that I didn’t know much Thai, during the discussion about the short paragraph which comprised the first story she decided to raise the proverbial bar a notch or three, lol. Still, I got thru it, although the portion where I read the sentences aloud made the teacher cover the grin on her face with her hand (like Thais do when they don’t want to guffaw out loud at someone’s fox-paws). Even so, she patiently went through the story sentence by sentence. First she read it aloud, and then I read it back using the intonation she’d used. Sometimes we had to go a couple words at a time for me to get the tones correct, but she was patient with my mangled pronunciation to the n-th degree. The conversational portions went better and I was able to answer most of the questions with complete Thai structured sentences. If I couldn’t understand something she’d explain it in Thai first, and if I still was blanking out, she’d graciously switch to English so I could catch on.

Teachers: I spoke to three teachers and the owner of the Sumaa Language & Culture Institute. They all seemed to want foreigners to learn the Thai language; it shows in their materials and their dedication in class. The teacher in the intermediate reading / writing class was excellent. I couldn’t find a single downside to her ability, methodology, or the materials used (and believe me I tried). Any shortcomings were due to my inability to understand, replicate the proper tones, etc., rather than from the schools side of things.

Classes: The sample class I sat was originally supposed to have three students but alas (or to my benefit) the other two were no-shows and I had a private lesson for two hours. They do offer group classes IF they have people at the exact same level. They also offer discounts if you and a friend join together. However, the Sumaa Language & Culture Institute is more along the lines of schools like Jentana & Associates in that they really cater more towards private 1 on 1 lessons. This can be quite good for study as you can go as fast or as slow as you want and there’s no pressure on dragging a group of students through a particular lesson in a given time frame.

During the class I sat the teacher ran it to the minute. This obviously wasn’t the first time she’d taught that material. She wrote on the white board in Thai, and if I couldn’t get the toning she’d write the karaoke Thai so I could see the tone mark. As I’d mentioned, their toning chart was so easy to read (even for me) and the teacher was gracious enough to give me a copy. She also explained how to use it quickly to discern tones of unfamiliar Thai words.

ED Visa: The Sumaa Language & Culture Institute doesn’t play the ED-visa game, so the caliber of students is completely different (I’ll state one more time for the record, I’m NOT downing schools who offer ED visas to students, only saying this school isn’t in that group). While I was taking my sample class several businessmen in suits showed up for their Thai lessons. When I queried my teacher she said their companies pay for them to attend school to learn Thai. I’d imagine even in a small group class the demographic of students would be quite different from private schools which cater more towards the ED-visa crowd.

Bang-4-The-Baht: The Sumaa Language & Culture Institute rates quite high as far as my perceived bang-4-the-baht. I tried to find fault with their methodology, their materials, and their teachers, but came up empty on all counts. If a student wants high quality private Thai lessons with good materials, good teachers, and a flexible schedule be it a crash two week course where you go every day for several hours a day, or a more relaxed schedule where you attend only a couple hours a week, this school can meet your needs. Price-wise they’re right in line with other schools offering similar courses, and far below almost all the private lesson prices offered in schools which cater more towards those group lesson discount rates.

Hope you found this of marginal value. Personally, to get my pronunciation of spoken Thai up to speed, this would certainly be on my list of schools I’d consider attending.

I do want to apologize to the readers or my reviews if I repeat things. After so many schools I’m finding it difficult to remain objective and think I’m more than slightly jaded in my objectivity. Plus, now that my Thai language acquisition has progressed to the level I’m at, it’s getting harder to go into these schools as a newbie-Thai-learner. After they interview me, it becomes readily apparent that I’m a little more advanced than someone fresh off the boat, who’s just washed up on these shores and wants to learn Thai.

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

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Thai Language School Review: PRO Language Bangkok

Thai Language School Review: PRO Language Chiang mai

PRO Language: Bangkok…

School: PRO Language
Website: PRO Language
Telephone Number: 02-250-0072

Address: Times Square Building, 10th Floor, 246 Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok, Thailand 10110
Location: Exit BTS Asok, take the sky bridge into Times Square and then the lift to floor 10.

Basic Info: Unless I’m mistaken, PRO Language is a chain or possibly a franchise with the main school in Times Square. PRO Language has locations in Pattaya and Chiang Mai too. This review is ONLY about what they offer at their Times Square location. I did call the Chiang Mai location and they use the same textbooks, material.

When I went to PRO Language they were courteous enough to let me sit two levels of conversational Thai classes and part of a reading/writing class. I was there almost 4 1/2 hours! I thought the front office staff were well versed. They spoke English proficiently, outlined the programs they offered, talked about various options for learning (private and group), and explained the ED visa for yearly enrollees, etc.

It’s an easy school to get to via either the BTS Asok Station or the MRT Sukhumvit station. And if you drive to PRO Language there’s a parking garage with free (validated) parking.

Materials: PRO Language has level after level of learning materials! I mean, they have more materials then I could get thru during my visit. I perused 6 or 7 different books and didn’t make it thru half of the materials available. PRO Language even has learning materials developed specifically to teach the inz-n-outz of taking the Thai proficiency exam offered at the end of each year (although the books are still titled ป.๖ Prep Test).

PRO Language’s beginning books are in both English and karaoke Thai if you can’t read Thai script, and in English and Thai script if you can. The books have the English translations and the special notes (the whyz-of-Thai) written in English. PRO Language also has supplemental handouts for reading and writing exercises in the classroom and workbooks for home use. Note: ALL of the textbooks, workbooks and handouts are FREE if you sign up for a year’s Thai language program.

Method: The method is pretty straightforward in regards to learning to speak Thai via karaoke (phonetic English). They start out with standard situational Thai: meeting, greeting, getting around, etc. The vocab is introduced, practiced out loud in a group, and then each student participates in a round robin. The conversations are read aloud, with the class breaking into pairs for the ask/answer part.

Even in the karaoke only class a LOT of emphasis is put on learning the correct tone for Thai words. Drill after drill, the reading/writing class goes over consonant class, tone marks, and the toning possibilities of words. This is repeated again and again, in a fairly easy (as easy as toning Thai words can be made) manner. I almost understood it even!

The class I sat through was involved in an exercise on differentiating the tones in similar sounding Thai words by using the different tone marks. Not being able to recognize the tone of the word solely by how it’s spelled, I failed at this portion abysmally. Then they had a word matching test where they matched the Thai words to pictures of words meanings. In that exercise I got almost all right.

The reading class is more story-based. First you read a short story, talk about the topic, and then take an exam to gauge your comprehension. A large portion of the reading/writing class is assigned as homework because it’s not cost-effective to sit in class writing out the Thai consonants, vowels, and Thai words over and over. In the more advanced writing classes answers to the questions from reading lessons are also done in this manner; out of class.

I think it’s a plus that they assign homework. I’ve yet to meet a single person who sat in a class the required minimum 4 hours a week to EVER learn anything close to speaking or reading Thai without supplementing their learning with outside activities. Sadly, as far as valuable out of class activities go, sitting in a beer bar chatting with the service staff oftentimes falls far short! Having assigned homework makes the student focus on the topics they are learning so it ties the studies together quite nicely.

Teachers: The classes I sat had some pretty sharp teachers who were able to field questions asked in English about the whyz-of-Thai. The teacher would answer first in Thai. Then, if the students’ Thai wasn’t at a level to where they understood, the teacher would answer in English. In the higher level classes students were encouraged to ask questions in Thai and were answered in kind. I’d say past level 3 or so about 85-90% percent of the class was taught only in Thai. If you’re reticent to speak Thai this will get you over it fairly quickly. I would rate myself as an extremely reluctant but at least semi-capable Thai speaker. But by the end of the Thai conversation class even I was speaking all Thai which for me is a HUGE thing.

Classes: PRO Language has reading/writing classes and strictly conversational Thai classes too. Most students I spoke with said they do 2 hours of reading/writing and 2 hours of conversational Thai each week.

If you enroll for a year you are given the choice to focus on your primary goal. So if you aim to learn to speak Thai only, don’t go to the reading/writing classes, just stay in the conversational ones. Several students I spoke to are currently studying this way. I feel that a new learner of Thai gets great benefit out of attending BOTH because at some point you’re going to need to learn to read Thai to know how things really work with the language.

PRO Language offers classes at a wide variety of times: mornings, afternoons and evenings. If you sign up to start book 1 level 1 in a group setting there might be a time lag because they need to get a sufficient number of students together (2-3 minimum) first. Seeing as the classes don’t merely go thru the book over and over (like some schools do) you can’t just jump into an existing class; you have to start with book 1, page 1, to get off on the right foot.

Like most schools out there, PRO Language isn’t going to teach you 1-on-1 if you paid for group lessons. They do offer private 1-on-1 classes and the price point is about the same as private lessons at most schools.

ED Visa: PRO Language is running the same promotional pricing for the year-long ED visa type deal that most private Thai language schools in Bangkok. As I mentioned earlier, if you enroll for a year ALL the textbooks, workbooks, practice books, etc., are provided FREE. Depending on your motivation (as in how much you learn, how many levels you take, etc) this can be a factor as most schools charge per book.

Their ED program is run pretty much like other Thai language schools. You enroll in class, pay your tuition, start studying, and the school processes your paperwork. Once they get it back from the Ministry of Education you go to the Thai Embassy or Consulate and get a 90 day Non-Immigrant type ED visa. Every 90 days the school provides additional Immigration documentation to extend your stay in Thailand.

Bang-4-The-Baht: Very Good. I toured PRO Language a long time ago and from what I remember, they’ve re-written their materials. And that far back I didn’t have near the idea about the quality of materials that should be offered at private Thai language schools. As far as schools in Bangkok go, there are certainly worse places to attend but only a few are on the same level at PRO Language, or a little better.

I’d say that PRO Language would be a very good fit for students looking to speak, read and write Thai. If you’re not afraid to start speaking Thai right away and willing to invest the time it takes to learn that particular skill set, PRO Language could be for you. To find out for yourself just stop by, look at their materials, and sit a free class.

PS: A lot of my perceived bang-4-the-baht is subjective but then so are my reviews. I’ve seen many schools and perused a lot of material, that unless a school is really outstanding, or is standing somewhere out in left field, they tend to blur together.

Hope you found this of some value.

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

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Thai Language School Review: AUA Thai Language Program

Thai Language School Review:AUA-Thai Language Program

AUA Thai Language Program…

School: AUA Thai Language Program
Website: AUA Thai
Address: 21st floor, Chamchuri Square, Rachadamri Road, Bangkok Thailand 10330
Telephone Number: 02-252-8398

Location: Take the MRT to the Sam Yan Station and use exit #2 (the Chula Uni exit).

Basic Info: This is quite an established school and has been around a long time. The primary AUA campus is devoted to teaching English to Thai nationals, and most of the classrooms are utilized for this purpose. The Thai Language Department is located at the back of the building on the 3rd Floor. This campus has a library, a Book Store, and a pretty good food court too. There are ample places to sit in the shade outside, relax, interact with other students before class, etc.

Materials: Early on (as in a fair few years back) they used a set of books written by Marvin Brown, which taught Thai the conventional way. By that, I mean via karaoke or phonetics, with the English and Thai translations. However that stopped some time ago (although those books are still for sale at the AUA Book Store and well worth purchasing). Now there are NO materials, as in no textbooks, no hand outs, no vocabulary sheets, really no nothing at all! (read below to see why)

Method: AUA Thai now teaches via a method called ‘ALG’ (Automatic Language Growth). It is a totally passive learning methodology. It’s based around the concept that children learn a language by watching and listening to adults interact. What this means is there’s no verbal interaction between the students and the teachers; as in you can’t ask questions and there’s no ‘repeat after me’ or question/answer stuff in Thai with this type of learning. Students just sit in the class and the two Thai teachers use a variety of props, white board examples, and mime to convey the meaning of what they’re saying in Thai to the students.

I’ve sat a class in every level they offer and to say the least, they are entertaining! Even a person with a limited Thai vocabulary can get the idea of what the teachers are talking about. They talk about a wide variety of subjects with differing degrees of difficulty based what level you’re in. Some of the topics are: Thai Culture, Current Thai News, Thai Holidays, Provinces in Thailand, Buddhism, Ghosts, etc.

They also offer a Reading & Writing Thai course. If you haven’t progressed to at least their level 5 via the ALG method you hafta test into the class. They use the same two book set Marvin Brown developed. They don’t follow them page by page but use supplemental support material for learning. I like both the Reading and Writing books because they’re typeset in a ‘handwritten’ style of font, making it a little bit more difficult to read initially. However once you can read it, you can read about anything written in any font in Thailand (well except maybe that super-stylized one they use in adverts which looks like backwards English letters).

The writing course is equally good. There are ample practice exercises to get your hand used to writing Thai characters. They also teach you to write Thai script in a more ‘Thai-sized’ manner than those kids books you can buy to practice writing Thai where you’re writing in 1 inch script. Is it only me or do Thais seem to write really, REALLY small, yet have no difficulty reading it?

Teachers: Honestly, even though I was (and still am) totally flummoxed by their passive learning methodology I’d be hard pressed to find more motivated Thai teachers. I’ve rarely met such good actors, ones who could mime out meanings of words to a group of foreigners better than the group of teachers they have there. The props are multi purpose. An umbrella can become a sword or a cane, given the need. Really, the teachers are quite the creative lot! My hat’s off to them for their skills in this area.

Classes: This school wins on availability of classes HANDS DOWN. You can show up about any time they’re open (which is a good number of hours a day and on Saturday too) and find your level of class to sit. It’s one of the most versatile schools in that regard I’ve ever toured, and even a quick perusal of their website bears this out. The Reading and Writing classes are a little more structured versus the listening ones, and are given at defined times throughout the day.

ED Visa: This school most definitely does NOT fall into the ‘visa-mill’ category in any way shape or form! In fact, AUA seems to go out of its way insofar as not hawking ED visas as a means to an end to stay in Thailand. With that being said, they do offer visa assistance service but you must pay tuition and attend I believe a minimum of 15 hours a WEEK for the entire year! This is far more hours than most private Thai language schools require. Most schools usually follow the Ministry of Education’s minimum guidelines which is 4 hours a week of class time.

Miscellaneous: AUA recently started a program known as Real Life Bangkok (no longer online). It’s a 30 hour course with 30% class-time and the other 70% spent traveling around Bangkok learning situational Thai in the actual situations! It’s broken down like this:

Orientation & Group Language Classes (4 Hours): This covers basic techniques, and gives insightful methods of communication.
Getting Around (10 Hours): Taxis, Trains, Boats, Busses, and Motorcycles
The Market (3 Hours): Trips to various markets, learning bargaining techniques, etc.
Food & Eating (13 Hours): Food stands to restaurants, noodles to rice, food from the North to the South.

The price point for this class is quite low especially as the classes are done either 1-on-1 or in groups no larger than 3 people. I think the value should be quite good and if I had money to spare I’d enroll just for the novelty of trying to speak Thai with Thais in unfamiliar situations. It’s about the most innovative thing I’ve seen come down the pike in the ‘learn Thai as a foreigner’ market in a while. I’ve know some private schools to do field-trips with students, etc. However, I’ve never seen a class designed totally around learning Thai in situ like AUA’s offering.

Bang-4-The-Baht: This school also wins hands down on price point! AFAIK, there is no school in Bangkok offering hourly rates or ‘blocks of time’ as inexpensively as AUA does and the more hours you buy, the cheaper it gets! This alone would make me pick it as a good investment ONCE you have some basic Thai under your belt.

I say this after witnessing more than a few newbie students exiting a level 1’s class (and even some exiting level 3 classes too). They had the ‘deer in the headlights’ look you see so often on Thai language students. It’s that totally overwhelmed glazed over expression. I think this is exacerbated because you, as a student, can’t ask questions during (or after class), there’s no formal vocab, no hand outs, etc. I most definitely am NOT downing their methodology! If it didn’t work I doubt they’d continue teaching it. I’m only saying, for a ‘fresh off the boat’ foreigner wanting to get a handle on the Thai language it might not be the best choice or course of action. Even though it’s cheap as chips to attend AUA I think a newbie would be better served taking one of the crash courses offered at a myriad of private Thai language schools BEFORE enrolling in AUA’s program.

Did I get anything out of the classes I sat? Yes, most definitely! It increased my comprehension of ‘normal speed’ spoken Thai (versus that over enunciated ‘retard speed’ some schools teach but not a single Thai speaks). I sat every level up to 5 and understood them all quite well. Perhaps I’m no longer the best judge of how much bang-4-the-baht a new Thai language learner would receive.

Hope you found this of some marginal value.

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
(who BTW: is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)

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