The ins and outs of learning Thai

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It’s not for me to get into some debate about whether you should learn Thai, but if you’re in Thailand, learning the language opens up many doors. One of my big regrets after three years in Thailand is that my Thai is pretty average. If I were to do it all again, I’d brush up on my Thai skills a lot earlier. Part of the problem for me was that ever since my arrival I assumed I’d be leaving in the near future. As a partner of this blog, the guys over at Learn Thai Podcast gave me a password to their premium program and asked me to check it out.

First up, Learn Thai Podcast is website comprising podcasts of Thai-to-English audio and video, covering words and phrases by topic and translating them for you from Thai to English. The podcasts focus on learning Thai by going over practical phrases and expressions that can then be applied to everyday situations.

The lessons follow a standard pattern: you listen to a word in English and then to its Thai translation several times over. Longer sentences are broken down into individual words.

At the moment, there are a bunch of free Thai lessons up on the website. Lessons include:

The lessons are easy to follow and the main words and phrases are transcribed. There are also audio and video files for learning the alphabet, tones and vowels. While the free lessons on the site cover most of the basics, to really progress with the course you need to become a premium member. At the moment, you can subscribe to the premium course for $19.95 a month, which works out about 650 baht or so.

For your 20 bucks a month you get access to the premium content, of which there are well over 100, covering everything from body parts and time to conjunctions and various tenses. A vocab lesson is added daily and there are twice-weekly premium lessons. You basically get access to a whole lot of resources for learning Thai, which can be accessed on the Internet, downloaded to your computer or loaded onto your MP3 player of choice.

The website is powered using blog software and so there are RSS feeds you can subscribe to, granting you access to new content without the need to continually visit the website. There is also a newsletter that grants access to even more information for learning Thai.

One of the coolest parts of the website is the Flashboard section. It can only be accessed by premium subscribers, but it features a range of interactive photographs. You hover your mouse over something in the photograph, click it and an audio files plays. There are heaps of photos that inject a bit of fun into the whole learning-Thai experience.

As I’m leaving Thailand, I don’t have a whole lot of use for Learn Thai Podcast, but if I were staying, it’s something I’d be keen to check out. If you want to learn Thai, even if you’re an absolute beginner, then Learn Thai Podcast is worth a look.

As I said, Learn Thai Podcast is a partner of this blog and hence I am reviewing their service. If you’ve visited the website then leave some feedback and share your thoughts. What I’m most interested to know is if other people think this could be a valuable resource for learning Thai.

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6 thoughts on “The ins and outs of learning Thai

  1. That's an unfortunate selection you've made to illustrate the Flashboard section, as it gives an incorrect pronunciation for the word 'accident'; it leaves out the connecting syllable -tì-, to make /ù-bàt-tì-hèet/. The lack of indication that the final syllable should be a long vowel is also troubling (hèt vs. hèet).

    I'm sure they've put a huge amount of time an effort into it, but for a paid product, especially at $20 bucks a month, one needs accuracy and expertise. This doesn't inspire my confidence.

    So is this an anomaly, or the norm? Any response from the folks at learn-thai-podcast? What kind of native speaker review of content is there?

  2. A podcast sounds like a good idea although I'm not sure how helpful textbook learning of Thai really is.

    When I first came to live in Thailand I started trying to learn from a book. As I've always lived in Southern Thailand (Krabi in the main), I found that the stuff I was learning from the book was practically useless when speaking to people in the area.

    I guess it depends on what context you are going to speak Thai in, if you need to speak formal/Bangkok Thai then maybe a formal way of learning (books/podcasts/etc.) is better.

    For me it made a confusing language even more confusing as no-one understood what I was trying to say and I couldn't find any of the words I was hearing in the dictionaries.

    So I just listened to people and copied them (it helped having a Thai partner). I now speak fluent Thai but it is extremely Southern (and therefore not particularly polite!). The people around me think it's great as they feel they can have a real conversation with me.

    The biggest turning point (and I advise anyone who seriously wants to speak Thai to do this to) is when I learnt to read and write Thai. Even just learning the alphabet helped my ear recognise the slight differences between some of the letters (ด and ต for instance).

    I still use a dictionary every now and then to look up words but I'm a great believer in just talking… and talking… and talking… but then, I suppose everyone learns in different ways.

    I had this notion that one day I would compile a Southern Thai dictionary or learning aid… whatd'ya reckon??

  3. ^^ trouble is, southern Thai is only going to be useful in the south and mostly only during informal conversations. To say that they wouldn't understand you if you spoke central Thai is quite incorrent. What do u think they listen to when they are glued to the TV soaps? Also, there are many dialects of southern thai which vary quite a lot from province to province, although you should be understood for the most part.

    Central Thai is the lingua franca, and i would recommend learning that first, before any of the dialects.

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