Around this time last year, we announced our new year’s resolution: to learn to speak Thai. No matter how shoddy the pronunciation, we wanted to be able to share a joke with a stranger. Amazingly, one of us stuck to the chosen task! *applause* 12 months later, here’s his progress report and Learn Thai Podcast review.
Learn Thai Podcast review: 1 year later
After various attempts to learn foreign languages (whether French or Spanish in school and, later, Chinese), I approached Thai with some preconceptions of study methods that don’t work for my learning style:
[Learn Thai Podcast details: Each word, phrase or conversation has the English, Thai, phonetic pronunciation and a direct word-for-word translation – very useful!]
#1. I don’t like group language classes:
As an adult I’ve found them typically frustrating, with too much variation in purpose and ability.
#2. Always dread private tutors:
It seems like a noble idea, but it’s the last thing you want to do in the evening.
#3. I’ll never, ever “just pick it up”:
Attempting to learn only to speak Thai is hindered by total illiteracy in the language – especially difficult with the Thai alphabet.
Goals with Learn Thai Podcast:
With that background, I approached learning Thai with determination to acquire reasonable conversation skills in a matter of months (rather than years), supported by some grasp of the written language. Searching online lead me to Learn Thai Podcast (LTP), which seemed to have a well-structured plan to achieve various levels of ability. They offer free lessons to cover basic holiday phrases, but I signed up for the Premium course because I wanted to learn some grammar and wider vocabulary.
How to fit Learn Thai Podcast into a busy day?
I’m fortunate (?) to spend two hours a day commuting, so I have good opportunity to cycle through the lessons in Module 1. The content and length of each lesson is ideal – short enough to digest, long enough to leave me with a feeling that I’ve accomplished something.
One hour, max
One hour with Learn Thai Podcast is approaching my mental “saturation point” but I feel I learn a lot more than in a 1-hour classroom lesson. The lessons are well structured to review and reinforce, with an overall feeling that they’re leading somewhere useful.
After using it for a few weeks I found it definitely worked for simple conversations. I got a lot more out of a trip than my friends who mustered a single “sawadee khrap” between them. I could even ask for a beer!
The big test: Is it working?
The big test was going on a trip to Bangkok after about 2 month’s study. I found that being able to say more than the tourist stand-by phrases of “hello” and “thank you” was very effective and gratifying. I tried various phrases out on different occasions and found Thai people were often surprised and always helpful. One waitress in a hotel bar spent twenty minutes giving me detailed coaching on the subtle tonal details that distinguish “near” from “far” (complex!) and another member of staff took a large part of his lunch time teaching me to tell the time (very complex!).
[Learning to tell the time in Thai is hard… very hard]
Encouraged by that experience I’ve moved on to Module 2 to learn grammar and more demanding phrase construction. The goal is to have a grasp of “real” Thai to initiate conversations at the bank, in shops, restaurants and bars, etc. I have high confidence in developing my skill to the “universal 5 minute factual chat” (where do you come from, what do you do, how do your like Thailand, introduce family…). That will serve as a good basis for any conversation, allowing my vocabulary and confidence to grow rapidly. Definitely the best process for me.
Verdict: Very pleased!
After using Learn Thai Podcast Premium for 12 months I’m a very satisfied customer. I think Learn Thai Podcast is a good way to reach that critical point where you have enough knowledge to maintain the basic “starting” conversation in a shop, restaurant, bar or office. With that base, it’s your choice of where you take the language, and how fast. You can take that step knowing that your efforts will be rewarded with smiles and encouragement by the Thai people you meet.