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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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5 Comments

  1. Dear , The Board of Management !
    I am Mr. Le Van Phat , a Vietnamese , like to learn Thai language at the AUA Chiang
    mai .
    What should I have apply for a VISA when I come to Thailand for learning ?
    If have, could you please give me conditions and fees for learning Thai ?
    I am appreciate for your supporting .
    Yours sincerely
    Le Van Phat

  2. Dear Mr. Le Van Phat. This is a review of AUA Language school, not the website of the school. Please follow the links in the post above to contact the management at AUA. Good luck! It seems like a great school.

  3. This review seemed to raise as many questions as it had answers.

    This could be partly because the AUA Chiang Mai web site is out of date or because the review is incomplete.

    Essentially the review differs from the description on the AUA Chiang Mai web site in that the web site mentions AUA course books, but the review states that “only” handouts are issued (at least in the “Conversation Level One”/”Speaking 1” classes).

    There is no mention of, or review of, any AUA class course books in the school review which it would be helpful to address/clarify.

    One reason most previous students of AUA (by that I mean those who studied the “original” Brown method, i.e. pre-ALG (Automatic Language Growth) method) always rated the AUA course as excellent was because of the “original” seven (7) AUA Course books (by J. Marvin Brown), those being the Course Books 1, 2, 3, the “Mostly Reading” book, the “Mostly Writing” book, and the two additional books, Book A (Small Talk), and Book B (Getting Help with Your Thai).

    Does the AUA Chiang Mai branch now teach:-
    1) the old AUA method in full with most/all of the original J. Marvin Brown books,
    2) the old method now minus the books (using copies of the previous AUA books’ sections as handouts, or, a new curriculum based set of handouts, or, ad hoc one off teacher composed handouts?), or,
    3) the (bookless) ALG (Automatic Language Growth) method that I believe is the only method/course currently being taught in the Bangkok Chamchuri Square branch, or,
    4) have they abandoned both the original AUA method, and ALG, and are now teaching either what the web site seem to call a new “Communicative Method” with either:-
    a) updated/different “Communicative Method” books, or,
    b) “notes & handouts only” (again are the handouts copies of sections of the the old books, or, a new “Communicative Method” curriculum based set of handouts, or, just ad hoc one off teacher composed handouts?)?

    Can the reviewer (Triin?) or anyone else clarify any of this please?

  4. Dear Gordon,

    Thank you for reading my review.
    At AUA , I have only studied in the Chiang Mai branch and I’m afraid I cannot add much to my review about the teaching method than already has been mentioned. The reason I didn’t talk about the books used in teaching, and mentioned just handouts, is because there were/are no books used in Conversation level 1 and 3. I don’t know how the teaching was carried out previously in Chiang Mai, but the current AUA Chiang Mai website doesn’t seem to indicate that books or ALG method are used.

    I don’t know whether the handouts are copies of previously used books, but the copies don’t indicate the source or that they have been copied from a book. They’re just white pages without headers/footers.

    The method used is not ALG though, which as far as I know is used in Bangkok, and which I have only seen on video.

    I’m sorry I can’t help more.

    Best wishes,
    Triin

  5. Hi Triin,

    From what you say it looks like the AUA Language Center Chiang Mai web site (linked from the AUA main web page) is out of date. The Web site (http://www.learnthaiinchiangmai.com/index.php/the-course) does indeed reference what looks to be five (5) to seven (7) books (“Course Book 1”, “Course Book 2”, “Small Talk (AUA Thai Course Book A)”, “Book 3”, “Book 4”, and, “Basic Reading and Writing”, and, “Reading and Writing More” and from the titles it appears that at least the latter two (2) to four (4) of these appear to be different from the original J. Marvin Brown books.) that you say are no longer in use.

    Extracts from the web site:-

    “BEGINNING SPOKEN THAI
    Our beginning spoken course is divided into 2 books, AUA Thai Course Book 1 and Book 2. ”
    “THE INTERMEDIATE COURSES
    Our intermediate course continues to develop fluency in the spoken and written language. Small Talk (AUA Thai Course Book A) provides ways for students to start and sustain conversations and chat in various social situations. Book 3 offers more complex patterns of Thai language, while Book 4 focuses on discussion on various topics. Basic Reading and Writing introduces the writing system and emphasizes tone and spelling rules, and provides practice in the mechanics of reading and writing. Reading and Writing More introduces students to reading for meaning, and writing at the sentence level and short paragraph.”

    From your review this would appear to now be outdated information.

    Thank you for your reply.

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