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Learning thai in thailand
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Paknam, Samut Prakan, Thailand
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
    Learning the lingo

    The Nation, Sep 30, 2002
    Rojana Manowalailao

    When a decision is made to live here an effort really should be made to learn Thai, just imagine what more fun you could have

    How long have you been in Thailand? Do you understand Thai quite well or nit noi (a little bit)? These are the questions foreigners always get asked when living here. Once you have been here for a while youíll probably want to fit in better or be able to socialise more with Thais, or understand the culture more. If so, there are some courses to help you to speak, read and write Thai.

    Speaking and listening

    Beginners and elementary

    You will first be introduced to basic conversation useful in daily life. The course will start with the traditional Thai greeting of sawadee khrap for males and sawadee kha for females. And have you ever wondered why there is a difference? Remember to ask your teacher in class.

    Then you will learn how to introduce yourself and others, as well as to say la gon, which means goodbye. How about when you bump into someone and want to say sorry? The teacher will ask you to say kho thort. What happens when you get hungry and want to order some yummy Thai food and a refreshing fruit drink? You will learn in your first course.You will also learn to ask how much things cost and how to bargain if you feel the price is too high. What do you do when the phone rings?

    Do you just leave it? The course will help you to answer the phone and be able to hold a basic conversation in Thai. Itís additionally important to understand directions so you never get lost again.

    Moreover, you will be introduced to a load of vocabulary. Since it will be your first time learning Thai, donít be surprised if it seems like you are being bombarded by a never-ending stream of new words. The vocabulary is necessary to help you gain confidence when speaking and listening. As it is useful to be able to understand dates and times, a list of numbers, days and months will be given. As will lists of vegetables and fruit to make it easier for you when you order or buy food.

    The names of important places, such as banks, hospitals, post offices and police stations also need to be added to this list. And on top of all that, there will also be the vocabulary of colours, stationery, clothing, accessories and general utensils.

    The course also focuses on business-like conversation and Thai culture. When you have developed a background in everyday language, you will be introduced to more formal conversation used when conducting business. You will watch a lot of videotapes about Thai culture, such as important celebrations and attractions.

    For this course the instructor might take the class out, for example, to a fresh market, or to a restaurant, a temple or museum to practice speaking and listening in real situations.

    Pronunciation will be heavily emphasised from the beginning. This is important because of the languageís five tones, which can completely change what the word means, even though itís ďspeltĒ the same when transliterated. So, you need to be careful with your pronunciation because what you say, in the beginning, probably doesnít match what you actually mean.

    Intermediate and advanced

    As you already have a background in the language, the teacher expects you to speak and understand up to a certain level. So in this course you will be encouraged to express yourself with more variety in a given context.

    The teacher will tell you a short story and you have to retell it in your own words. Then you will be exposed to more complex content, such as radio or TV news, and you have to discuss what youíve heard with the rest of the class. Do you like music? Here you will also practise listening to Thai songs and, hopefully, will be able to sing one (even though the teacher doesnít actually expect it).

    And what about Thai television programmes? Have you ever tuned in to any? You will, as the teacher will play you programmes such as soap operas and talk shows in class. And then you will get plenty of chances to voice your opinions on what you thought of them.

    Apart from radio and TV programmes, your teacher will show you TV commercials. Then your job will be to come up with your own advertising for a product of your choice.

    You will be introduced to more traditional things such as the Ram Wong, a traditional Thai dance and Wan Loy Krathong, a festival in which small floats are released onto waterways.

    Reading and writing

    Beginners and elementary

    There are 44 consonants and 32 vowels in Thai and you need to learn them all to be able to read and write. Once youíve memorised them, away you go with simple words.

    Once youíve got them sussed, you move on to phrases and simple short sentences, for example [I go to school] and [I go to work].

    The course focuses on structure and you will be given a lot of exercises on the art of making sentences. Moreover, public signs such as do not park and do not smoke will be added to help you read them in real-life situations. The instructor will also teach you about prepositions, conjunctions and transitions so you can make complex and compound sentences.

    When you are familiar with different sentence structures, you will practise reading passages and writing short paragraphs.

    The exercises will cover various topics related to Thai life, such as family, food, occupations and clothing. After reading, you have to write a short explanation on a similar topic in your own culture. A lot of vocabulary will be provided to build up your basic knowledge when it comes to reading and writing.

    Intermediate and advanced

    In more advanced courses, you will read more about Thai tradition and cultures such as Thai new year, boat racing and Emerald Buddha Temple. Again you have to write your own stories related to what has been read, but, of course, in longer paragraphs. More complex sentence structures, such as requests and commands, will be introduced. Teachers will also bring in articles from newspapers, magazines and academic journals, among others, so you can practice reading and then writing about them.

    You may only want to take speaking and listening, or reading and writing.

    Whatever you decide it is always good to understand another language apart from your mother tongue. And learning about other cultures opens gates to a more fascinating world.

    Information from Thammasat University, Faculty of Liberal Arts

    Where To Go

    - Thammasat University, Faculty of Liberal Arts (Tha Prachan Campus): tel (02) 613 2608, (02) 613 2675; e-mail:

    -Rangsit University, (Pathum Thani): tel (02) 997 2200

    -Chaing Mai University, Faculty of Education: contact person Ė associate professor Sriwilai Ponmanee: tel (053) 221285; e-mail:

    -Inlingua: tel (02) 254 7028-30 (Chidlom), (02) 631 1850-3 (Silom), (02) 745 6246-8 (Bang Na); e-mail:

    -AUA Natural Thai (Rajadamri): tel (02) 252 8170 ext 399; e-mail:

    -Union Language School (Surawong): tel (02) 252 8170

    -Unity Thai Language School (Sukhumvit): tel (02) 653 1538

    -PRO Language (Sukhumvit): tel (02) 250 0072-3

    -Nisa Thai Language School (Sathorn): tel (02) 671 3359-60, (02) 671 3343-44; e-mail: nisathai@cscoms.comInfo-Intro
    Support the forum and chat rooms and buy computer software and books for learning Thai at

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Paknam, Samut Prakan, Thailand
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
    Interviews with some people taking these courses:

    Wim Somers, 36: Belgian, international adviser for Golden Jubilee, Royal Goldsmith College

    Taking beginners speaking, listening, reading and writing

    There are two reasons why Iím doing these courses. First, I have to work with Thais and most of my staff cannot speak English. So, I think that if I learn Thai it will help me communicate better with them. Second, Iíve been here for two years and feel that Iíve missed a lot of great opportunities to talk to many interesting people because of the language barrier.

    I took the reading and writing course because as I drive I need to be able to read street signs so I know where Iím going. Also, I have a hard time remembering words when they are told me. To see them written down and being able to read them really helps me to remember.

    I find pronunciation the most difficult because of the five tones. Once you master the tones, the rest is a matter of remembering. Reading is also a bit difficult as the sentences are not broken up into individual words as we do in the West Ė here each sentence looks like one or two very long words. So I have to work on my reading as well. About writing, there are many consonants that have the same sound.So itís also quite confusing. To practise speaking and listening, I try to talk with those who canít speak English. If I speak Thai with Thais who do, I automatically fall back into English. To practise reading Iíve bought myself some childrenís illustrated books as they help me remember more words.


    Rebecca Stuart, 28: Australian, research and communications consultant

    Taking beginners courses in speaking, listening, reading and writing

    As I plan to work in Thailand I think itís important to learn the language first. I come to classes four days a week in the afternoon and do my homework in the morning. I practise my speaking and listening skills with everyone I meet Ė taxi drivers, people at food stalls and the security guards at my apartment. Personally, I have problems with the tones, which makes it hard for me to pronounce the words correctly. But as Iím a visual leaner, I found that the reading and writing course helps me to understand the tones better. When I practise reading, I read everything, such as road signs, shop signs and even bills.


    Jack Gittings, 62: US, retired

    Taking beginners Thai in reading and writing

    I plan to stay here and Iíd like to understand whatís going on around me, so I decided to study Thai. Iím taking reading and writing because the older I get the more trouble I have hearing. Iím also a visual person so I need to see what things look like. Listening just to sound donít really make sense to me. Iíd never pronounced ďChiang MaiĒ correctly until I took this course. When I visualise, I hear better. This is my own method of study. Learning Thai means a lot of memorising so I have to self-study at home for at least an hour a day.
    Support the forum and chat rooms and buy computer software and books for learning Thai at

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