So you have decided to start your journey towards mastering Thai and you are going to take this challenge on your own. While your motivation can get you further than any school training, a little guidance doesn’t hurt especially if your starting language is fundamentally different from the Thai language.
Embrace the journey, surround yourself with activities and content in Thai, set up specific and measurable goals that keep you accountable but treat it like a game so that it doesn’t feel like a chore.
It’s not going to be easy but you are on a noble quest that will boost your confidence and pride as you progress to the next level of this life-long game.
To jump-start your journey, I am going to suggest some of the best tools available online for self-learners and the strategies to accomplish your goal. With the right resources, dedication, and a well-thought-out plan your efforts will pay off.
A good way to start with Thai or any other language is by learning its alphabet, vowels, and numbers. ThaiPod101 offers a comprehensive 25-videos long series called the Thai Alphabet Made Easy lesson that will set you up for success and it also provides you with free writing worksheets.
Another interesting way to approach this is by knowing how to type in Thai. This is especially useful in this day and age when you can make Thai friends online. If you head to branah.com you will find a program that will illustrate how to find characters on the keyboard. If you are more of an app user, try TypeScout. You only need less than a day of practice to get the gist of it and start typing your Thai sentences away.
Using an app like "Write Me" for learning Thai Alphabet is also a good way to practice and acquire the letters. The app has many fun games that make your learning journey even more interesting.
After learning the Thai alphabet, to get on with your learning you should check out Everyday Thai for Beginners by Benjawan Becker, a well-structured textbook for beginners who want to get their basic communication skills down.
If you are into knowing all the grammar minutia and word variations, then Thai Reference Grammar is probably what you are looking for. This book is aimed at intermediate to advanced learners, despite having almost 100 pages covering basic grammar. What makes this a precious resource is that when it teaches you a new word, it gives you examples both in English and transliterated Thai.
Starting with the language platforms, ThaiPod101 has a free resource section on its website with hundreds of vocabulary lists on everyday conversations as well as an online library of online video & audio lessons, flashcards, dictionary and cheat sheet you can download to practice wherever you want. If you are always on the go and prefer to study on your phone, their app “Innovative Language 101” will let you continue your lessons and practice while you are commuting.
Another interesting website is languageboost which claims it can make you fluent in 21 days thanks to VocaBooster, a system that combines the most useful Thai vocabulary (and how to use it) with example sentences that are used in everyday conversations.
Moving on to the apps, there are several options you might want to consider depending on your learning style.
If you like games and want to avoid the classic academic approach to learning then “Learn Thai Language with Ling” is probably what you are looking for. You can learn grammar, vocabulary and more with puzzles, games, challenges and quizzes. It’s available for both iOS & Android and can be downloaded on your ipad too. You can also enjoy learning on your computer with Ling for web browsers.
Do you mostly want to learn vocabulary and are fond of flashcards?
Then “Vocly”, one of the most popular apps for learning vocabulary with spaced-repetition flashcards, is one of the best flashcard apps around. The best thing about Vocly is that you can learn vocabulary from 110 different topics and listen to the audios recorded by native speakers. You can also review the words that you have learned.
Finally, if you are spending a good amount of your time driving to work, then “Simply Learn” is another app you should check out. The app is an online phrasebook that teaches you most common phrases you will use when travelling. Quizzes in the app help you remember the phrases in a longer time.
The best way to improve your listening skills and pronunciation, as well as understanding the cultural aspects of a language and how it’s used in real life situations, is listening to podcasts.
Again, according to your goals and your learning style, here are 3 sets of options you should get on to speed up your learning.
If you are looking for an academic approach to learning, ThaiPod101 podcast offers a range of language-learning resources, including quite a few episodes suited for beginners, with additional episodes for intermediate and advanced learners. Each lesson focus can range from basic grammar, vocabulary words, or phrases you will need while traveling in Thailand. Lessons include linguistic, cultural topics, so you’re not only learning words and phrases but actual useful information about Thai culture and history.
If your main goal is to listen to native speakers having casual conversation as well as learning the basics you need before moving to Thailand then have a look at everyday-thai.com and learnwiththaimod.
Speaking of getting ready before moving to Thailand, there is another podcast BYU99.COM, whose lessons are only a few minutes long, condensed with essential words and phrases, equipping you with the language to navigate an emergency situation, how to talk to your taxi driver or how to tell a restaurant you’re allergic to a certain ingredient.
Finally, for advanced learners you might want to listen to more complex conversations about a wide range of topics. Here are two great resources, ThaiPBS Radio podcast, which focuses on international news told from a Thai perspective, and SBS Thai podcast that showcases interviews, news stories, and international features.
After setting the base to your Thai language learning it’s now time to step up and speed up your journey to fluency. The only way to learn a language that is relevant for everyday use is by moving to a country where your target language is spoken.
Immerse yourself in the language and avoid the trap of constantly falling back on your native language. Do not be afraid to talk to people, even if you won’t know all the words, you will have a chance to work around them to understand what they mean and this will leave a long-lasting impression in your memory, more effective than any flashcard app Thai people are actually very welcoming and appreciative of you learning their language, which makes it so much easier for you and also makes you feel part of the community.
If you are not convinced, there are some perks about studying in Thailand that you might not find easily in other countries. First and foremost you will be able to experience a new culture, eat great food, explore nature all with a student-friendly cost of living. It’s an opportunity not to be missed!
It takes dedication and determination to learn Thai outside of a traditional classroom setting, but it can be done. If you’re passionate about learning Thai and want to teach yourself, there are plenty of resources out there and when you are ready to fully immerse yourself in the cultural aspect of the language as well as leveling up and become fluent, studying abroad in Thailand should definitely be your final goal.
About the author
Graziana is a marketing coordinator at Innovative Language Learning, an online language learning program teaching 34 languages, including Thai at ThaiPod101.com. Since 2005, Innovative Language has been teaching learners to speak a new language with fast, fun, and easy audio/video lessons by real teachers.