Thai Language School Review: 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.