Although I’m a firm believer that you should not speak Thai in the classroom, I do recommend studying the Thai language and become proficient in it. Being able to converse in Thai will not only help you to get around the country with ease and better understand the local culture, it will also help you to build deeper rapport with your Thai peers at school.
There are many ways to learn Thai: formal classes, regularly meeting with a private teacher in person or on Skype, making Thai friends who do not speak English, self-study with books and audio programs, and increasingly on the internet. This post focuses on a few of the mostly free resources available online.
This is by far my favorite online destination to immerse myself in the study of the Thai language. The frequency and quality of posts is unmatched, resulting in the most comprehensive collection of resources and tips that will make learning the Thai language easy and fun. The author, Catherine Wentworth, is an expat living in Bangkok and an avid student of the Thai language. She is known as @WomenLearnThai on Twitter and also has a Facebook Page. I highly recommend to connect with Cat on either or both of these social media sites to not miss any of her frequent blog posts. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the RSS feed of the blog.
Although the full course is subscription based, there are enough free lessons on the site that warrants listing them here. When I first learned about this site, I’ve consumed all the free content available, and then subscribed to the paid course for a few months. Each lesson is structured in a logical format. Phrases are displayed in English, Thai script, and transliterated. My only gripe with the program is the method of transliteration used, which is a moot point as soon as you have some understanding of Thai script. The authors of this program also have a Facebook page and can be found on Twitter as @thaipodcast.
On first glance, the Thai Alphabet looks complicated and you may think it will take weeks or even months to learn. Once you get into it, however, you realize that it is an alphabet just like the one you once learned. There’s no magic to it and it can be learned relatively quickly. When I learned it, the program 60 Minutes to Learn the Thai Alphabet didn’t exist yet. Unfortunately. It would have saved me so much time.
Although this program is not free, the cost is very low and it is so powerful that I added it to this list of online resources.
Mod is an experienced Thai language teacher that offers one-on-one lessons, either in person or via Skype. Naturally, those are paid lessons, however, she is very active on Facebook, where she offers free language tips and readily answers any question you may have. She also has a YouTube channel with short video clips teaching a range of subjects in an upbeat and humorous way and can be found on Twitter.
The classes at AUA are taught using a rather unique approach. It’s based on listening and watching. All of it is centered in experiences, similar to when we learn our mother tongue. Observe, absorb, and start to make meaning of the words you hear. I’ve attended several classes at AUA’s school in Bangkok and found their approach refreshing and effective. Watch the videos and judge for yourself. You can also find AUA on Twitter and Facebook.
Although the heart of this site is an online English-Thai dictionary (the one I use most often), their lessons section offers a wide range of topics, ranging from basic conversation all the way to reading and writing. I especially like the reading exercises, which includes more than 50 short stories to practice your reading comprehension. And if you want to learn how to type on a Thai keyboard, check out the Thai Typing Tutor Game.
There are numerous other useful destinations online to learn Thai, including FSI Thai Language Course, the program used by American diplomats before moving to Thailand, and Spoken Thai, a collection of video and audio clips that will teach you many new words and sentences.
I hope that these resources will help you to learn Thai in the comfort of your home. Do you have some favorite sites that I didn’t include in this post? Please feel free to list them in the comments.