Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai

This article was originally posted on

  • Get your FREE Thailand Cheat Sheet ​by entering your email below. The ​Sheet, based on ​our experience with living and working in ​Thailand for 10+ years, shows you how to ​save time and money and ​gives you the tools the thrive in Thailand.

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai …

Only a handful of Thai courses are highly thought of, and David Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai is at the very top of that list.

When I asked polyglot Stu Jay Raj which books he’d recommend to students of the Thai language, David’s Teach Yourself Thai was the only course mentioned. And if you remember, Luca Lampariello (another polyglot), explained how he uses the series for his method described on WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages. There are many more kudos aimed at TYT, but I’ll stop here for now.

A heads up: Due to David’s generosity, I ended up with an extra boxed set of Complete Thai: Teach Yourself Thai. If you want to win one of your own, please read on.

Teach Yourself Thai: Contents…

When I sit down to write a review, I first check the contents to see what’s on offer. And skimming down the list below, you can see that Teach Yourself Thai is designed to continuously reinforce each lesson.

  • What you will learn: Overview of the lessons.
  • Dialogues: Thai script and transliteration that follow along with the audio files.
  • Quick vocabulary: Newly introduced words.
  • Insights: Language and culture tips from the author.
  • Key phrases and expressions: Important phrases studied in the lesson.
  • Language notes: Grammar usage pertinent to the lesson.
  • Exercises: Questions to solidify the lessons into your brain.
  • Reading and writing: Practice studying the Thai alphabet, vowels, tones, etc.
  • Reading practice: Practice reading the Thai script previously studied.
  • Key points: Outline of the main elements of each lesson.

To make sure the necessary subjects are covered, I also spend time with the chapter contents.


David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai

  • Meet the author: A brief background on David Smyth.
  • Only got a minute, five minutes, ten minutes?: Crash course on Thailand and the Thai language.
  • Introduction: A bit more about the Thai language, as well as how to use the course.
  • Pronunciation: Introduction to a tonal language.
  • Lesson 1: How to say hello and goodbye, polite particles, addressing people, low class consonants, vowels, 1-10.
  • Lesson 2: Your name, your nationality and place of origin, confirmation seeking question: chai mai, what questions, mid class consonants, vowels, 11-20.
  • Lesson 3: Job conversations, where questions, location words, possession, live and dead syllables, 21-101.
  • Lesson 4: Polite expressions, yes and no questions, mai and ler, location expressions, low class consonants, vowels, vowel shortener.
  • Lesson 5: Taxi talk, how much questions, using can: verb + dai, hesitation device: gor, high class consonants, 1000-1,000,000.
  • Lesson 6: Buying food at the market, asking what something is called, asking someone to repeat a word, question word + nai, yes no questions: ler and na, script review.
  • Lesson 7: Shopping transactions, polite requests: kor + verb + noy, how questions, classifiers, colours, continuous actions, tone mark: mai ayk.
  • Lesson 8: Ordering food, polite requests: kor + noun, reu yung, questions, alternative questions: X rue Y, location words: krun and tahng, two different uses of dooay, mai toh, and other tone marks.
  • Lesson 9: Names of dishes, would like to: yak ja + verb hai, getting someone to do something, using can, verb + bpen, if sentences, verb + lairo, low class consonants, vowels.
  • Lesson 10: Talking about your knowledge of Thai, verb + bpen + adverb, why questions, comparisons, mai koy – tao rai, using not very, words beginning with consonant clusters.
  • Lesson 11: Kin terms, asking how many, asking who, nah + verb, less common consonants, vowel shortener.
  • Lesson 12: Talking on the telephone, talking about the future, ja + verb, when questions, polite requests: chooy + verb + noy, verbs for saying and thinking with wah, seeking advice and making suggestions, miscellaneous spelling rules.
  • Lesson 13: Coping strategies for when you don’t understand, to know: sahp, roo, roo jack, use of hai to mean for, names of letters, using a Thai dictionary.
  • Lesson 14: How to talk about living and working in Bangkok, talking about things that happened in the past: keree + verb, ways of intensifying adjectives and adverbs, more uses for gor.
  • Lesson 15: Making travel arrangements, to visit: teeo and yee um, expressing distance between two places, telling the time, questions about time.
  • Lesson 16: Booking a hotel, days of the week, rue bplao, questions.
  • Lesson 17: Looking for accommodation, gum lung ja + verb, negative questions, relative pronouns, months and seasons, dates and ordinal numbers, hai: to give, mai dai + verb.
  • Key to the exercises: Answers to the lessons.
  • Appendices: Consonant classes, Vowels, summary of tone rules, taking it further.
  • Thai-English vocabulary: Roughly 400 words.
  • English-Thai vocabulary: Roughly 400 words.
  • Grammar index: Page numbers to locate the grammar rules discussed in the lessons.

I’m not going to go over each aspect of the course, but I would like to bring up the above mentioned 400 word vocabulary list.

The early stages of learning a tonal language such as Thai can be rough because everything is new. But with learning most any language, we are told that communicating at a basic level is possible with a bare bones vocabulary of 500. Fine. I buy that. Sort of.

But here’s the thing… where do we start with Thai? I’m bringing up this because, unlike with other languages, there is no such list available for the top 500, 1000, 2000, or 3000 words even, that one must know to get by in Thai.

Bottom line: David’s course is designed to teach students how to use 400 of the most commonly used Thai words (yes, I peeked – and yes, there are more than 400).

So there you go. The top 400 must know Thai words = an important selling point of David’s Teach Yourself Thai Complete.

Going for the quotes…

For comparisons, I do have the earlier version of Teach Yourself Thai. But instead of explaining the differences to you, I thought it more beneficial to ask David Smyth for a run-down of his updated work.

The new version of Teach Yourself Thai (called Teach Yourself Complete Thai) is, at 358 pages, rather longer than the previous edition (242 pages).

I like to think that there have been a number of improvements. The first and second editions had 2 long dialogues in each unit, which was the standard format for all Teach Yourself language books. The result was that the dialogues were rather long and sometimes contained too much vocabulary and grammar for the learner to take on comfortably in one section. In the present edition, most units contain 3 or 4 shorter dialogues which, I hope, makes the content easier to absorb.

Another significant difference is that Thai script is now included in the language notes, with example sentences now appearing over 3 lines, in Romanized Thai, followed by Thai script and then English translation. This means that there is now more Thai script in this edition than the previous one. By covering up one or two of the lines, users can use the examples to test themselves on their reading and writing. I was really pleased that the publisher recognized the value of this revision, even though it is not the most efficient use of space on the page.

Other changes include revised ‘insight’ notes, a ‘key points’ section at the end of each unit, more pronunciation exercises, replacing some unwieldy dialogues (e.g getting to the Reno Hotel in a samlor, and buying four 12-baht stamps) and updating with words like ‘internet’ and ‘Suvarnabhumi.

No matter how many times you proof read a book like this, there are always misprints and errors that slip through. If any users notice errors and care to inform me at I will try to ensure that the corrections are incorporated in future reprints.

Btw: David’s interview on WLT can be read here: Successful Thai Language Learner: David Smyth.

Polyglot Geoffrey Barto from Multilingua (and others) recently wrote a review of the Teach Yourself Complete update.

With Teach Yourself Complete, it feels like some real strides have been made. There seems to be more emphasis on content and doing something with it and less emphasis on puzzling things out by means of vocabulary lists.

If you take up the whole package – text plus CDs – and load the CDs on your iPod, you wind up with a fairly handy program for learning [ ] 5-15 minutes at a time. If you’re short of time, you can do one dialog. If you’ve got half an hour to kill, you can make it halfway through a chapter. In either case, you should start by listening, then turn to the book to make sure you’ve understood. In this way, for the first time, you can really use a Teach Yourself course to learn a language by ear while having a text as a fallback, instead of the other way around.

And as Sophie (regular visitor and fellow hermit) is presently learning Thai via TYT, I asked for her opinion as well.

I cannot say enough positive things about Teach Yourself Thai by David Smyth. I have been trying other resources and I have to say this one works the best for me and is my absolute favorite. It is the one I will be using. Why?  Because it is so wonderfully well written, clear, and easy to understand.

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai I love the way the lessons progress and build upon each other. He puts it all together as far as the study course. Read, write, listen, and repeat, repeat, repeat. The audio is clear and easy to understand and I love the voices of the people he chose to use. If I don’t care for someone’s voice it is extremely hard to listen to them. I like the way he gives you a road map of how to draw the letters. I love how he explains everything so well and it is actually interesting to read and certainly helps one grasp the reason behind it all. I am so new to learning Thai but his book truly makes me feel like I can definitely do this.

How to improve this course…

As I mentioned – or did I? – I believe that Teach Yourself Thai is one of the top courses for beginners of the Thai language. But even so, improvements can be made.

  • Thai script: Even with the increased amount of Thai script, more could be added.
  • Binding: The binding of the book did not last long (either that or I’m awfully hard on books).
  • Audio: In addition to the present audio files, audio without English speakers would increase the usefulness.

If I were to shoot for the moon, I’d also like flashcards with sound, online games, etc, to compliment this course.

Now, this next point I’m making is not about improving the course, but a heads-up. The transliteration targets some British speakers and you might be confused when the audio files are not what you expected. So when you come across fuzzy spots, perhaps write down what you believe you are hearing? Just a thought.

Where to buy Teach Yourself Thai Complete…

When Teach Yourself Thai Complete first arrived in Bangkok, it was the book only (no boxed set with audio files). A few weeks later, the entire package appeared at Kinokuniya. It was total weirdness back then so I’m guessing that the delay was due to the Red Shirts taking over our shopping district.

For online stores, Amazon has the product at their UK branch: Complete Thai: Teach Yourself (Book/CD Pack).

Now about that contest…

When I decided to review Teach Yourself Thai, I bought a copy at Paragon. And when I contacted David for a quote, I was sent another copy (thanks TY!) And now one of those copies is up for grabs.

To be included in the draw, the rules are simple.

  • You need to leave a comment(s) below.
  • The comment(s) need to be reasonable.

Each comment gets counted, so go ahead and leave as many as you like. But the comments must add to the conversation as well as pertain to this post. So ‘cool’ ‘great’ ‘rad’ on their own do not count as comments. Nor does, ‘this contest is really really fab and I really, really, really, wanna win a copy’.

The draw will run a week and be over on Thursday morning, 8am BKK time. I will number the reasonable comments and email the total to Kaewmala (Thai Women Talks). Kaewmala will throw the numbers into a beautifully coloured bowl, stir them around a bit, select one, and then announce the winning number in the comments below. Ajarn Pasa (Tweet Yourself Thai) will come in with the name that matches the winning number.

And that’s it really. If this draw goes well, I will consider a repeat as I’m sitting here with dual copies of a number of Thai courses and resources.

65 thoughts on “Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai”

  1. I recently purchased the book without the CD’s and then realised that the CD’s were absolutely essential to the course itself. The book is excellent, however, I am unable to purchase the CD’s anywhere. According to several outlets, the CD’s are no longer available.

    I would recommend the course but please make sure that you have the complete package including CD’s otherwise you’ll be filling up space in your book shelf.

  2. i bought an earlyer version of this book back in 2005. It was the start of my passion for languages. After finnishing this book i could allready have a basic conversation in thai.

    Khap coon khap Ajan David

  3. Hi Camille. Yes, it was a popular post – and what a fabulous prize 🙂

    For the next draw…

    Benjawan Becker and Chris Chris Pirazzi donated two copies of their new software dictionary.

    For those who haven’t read it, my review is here: Three-Way Talking Thai Dictionary

    If you want to know when the draw(s) start, be sure to sign up for WLT’s RSS feed as I’m never 100% sure when posts will happen. As you know, life goes WHOOOOSH in Thailand, and I’m hanging on for the wild ride same as the next person.

  4. Great idea Cat to have a draw, unfortunately I dropped by too late. Did good on your comment box as well with 60+ entries!

    Looking forward to a new draw.

  5. Yes, you can get Teach Yourself Thai in Bangkok at Siam Paragon. But Speak Thai with Confidence I’ll have to check to be sure. I’ve just asked David if there is Thai script in the STWC. I have a blind spot for transliteration, so it matters to me.

  6. Unsure about NorthAm.

    I can’t remember, but can I buy it in BKK? Sicne I’ll be there in a month’s time, I’ll pick it up there.

  7. Rick, Thank you for posting about Speak Thai with Confidence. It’s in already, so it should be in Thailand soon.

    I wonder why the delay in getting TYT to the North American market. Reprinting for US prices?

  8. Hey Cat, being ever watchful for a copy of this book/CDs, it’s now on the pre-order list at Sad part is it won’t be available in NorthAm until February 2011.

    It appears to come as just a paperback (Feb. 18, 2011), then paperback with two CDs (March 11, 2011), plus there will be Speak Thai with three CDs (Feb. 18, 2011). I don’t know, but maybe you can suss it out with David.

    Go here for search results.

  9. Wow! First let me say thank you very much. But please can you draw again for someone else to win? I’ve already purchased a copy as I thought the program sounded good and that I was probably a long shot in winning the drawing.

    It’s an excellent program–thanks Cat for highlighting it or I wouldn’t have heard of it. While I can easily read the Thai conversations, the ability to listen to them is what I really need help with–that’s the “hole” in my basic Thai language skills.

    I bet the next drawing winner will find it’s a great resource!


  10. Drum rolllllllllllllll please……

    On behalf of Women Learn Thai (and some men too) I am delighted to announce that the winner of a brand spanking new copy of David Smyth’s extremely well regarded Teach Yourself Thai (as drawn from the lovely coloured bowl by Miss Keawmala) is number 25: Peggy J.

    Congratulations Peggy. Enjoy your fab prize.
    .-= AjarnPasa´s last blog ..Tune Up Your Thai – Taking your car for a service =-.

  11. Hi All. Apologies for my tardiness. I’ve come down with something so went to sleep early last night (antibiotics are making their way through my system). Kaewmala took photos of the winning number and sent it to me. The number is 25. Hamish will announce the name of the winner.

  12. I haven’t checked, but I’ll bet you could order something through Borders and pick it up. You can’t flip through the pages beforehand, but you can look at it when you pick it up. And if you don’t like it, you don’t have to buy it.
    .-= Bill Kerschbaum´s last blog ..Almost Incredibly Influential! =-.

  13. Jessica, I agree with Bill. I have also used Pimsleur’s Thai and it is very good. It is easy to understand and I found myself being able to learn a lot just from listening to it. It has a way of really sticking in my memory bank for some reason. I love David Smyth’s book but Pimsleur’s is also very good. The phrases and sentences have an almost musical rhythm to them and they are easy to pick up. I envy you being able to go to Bangkok and go book shopping. Is there any place here in the states that has children’s books in Thai?

  14. Jessica, I’ve found a few resources in local bookstores (I live in a university town with a strong international population, though). I’ve got a number of Thai-English dictionaries and phrasebooks, but my favorite resource so far has been Pimsleur’s Thai on CD. It goes at a really nice pace and breaks down words and phrases into syllables so you can hear very clearly how the words should sound. It’s a good start, but only very basic.
    .-= Bill Kerschbaum´s last blog ..Almost Incredibly Influential! =-.

  15. Sophie, have you checked out Thai For Lovers? It’s not all for lovers as there are some basic sentences one would use in a letter. I haven’t spent much time there so no guarantees. And fabulous that one of your kids is learning both Chinese an English. Impressive. I have Chinese Singaporean friends who didn’t get around to studying the language until in their 40’s and beyond. All those characters…

    Jessica, I guess Thai, not being a popular language, would be too expensive for bookstores to keep in stock. Paragon used to be slack about keeping the top books in the shelves so I had to order from People even did the grand books search, announcing whenever they saw a copy. But now if I order new books, Paragon also has them in at the same time the post arrives here. So far anyway.

    Can you get advice from your boyfriend about what Thai his grandmother will understand? The younger generation use a lot more English. For instance, for American, they might say Khun American, while his grandmother might say Khun America instead. And the politeness aspect might be higher as well. It’s interesting to think about (I wonder if anyone has written anything on the subject?)

  16. Catherine, yes surprisingly it is next to impossible to find any good Thai resource material over here in the US. I have bought everything I could ever find in a brick and mortar book store except Rosetta stone (too expensive!) and only have 3 books. A lot of my material I find online and when I visit Bangkok next month I hope to buy a lot more childrens books and hopefully some from the Manee series.

    Hi Bill, yes I found that although the native Thais I know just tell me to listen rather than learn to read or write, I have a feeling that I wouldn’t get a strong foundation without it.

    I definitely think that and emotional bond that proceeds the language learning was a helpful factor for me particularly. I was never a good language learner, my grandmother speaks Spanish and I still couldn’t or want to learn. Now that my boyfriends is thai and we will be visiting his ailing grandmother, I feel compelled, almost like its a duty, to put 100% into learning it. I just hope it doesn’t fade after my trip.

  17. Cat, I haven’t created any lessons for them but I have written to them in Thai. I did not create my own sentences as I am not that advanced but did make use of my learning materials and was able to copy quite a few sentences to form a letter. It was good practice for me and the children wrote back and said they understood everything that I had written. You told me at one time that learning English would be very important for them as far pursuing their education. Out of my six children only one is interested in learning English, but then he is also learning Chinese as well. Good for him!

  18. Welcome to WLT Sarah 🙂 I have two versions of TYT so I checked. And yes, lesson 1 covers 1-10. Lesson 2 gives 20, 30, 40…100. Chapter 3 has 21-99. As mentioned, a lot of the basic grammar/vocabulary in the two courses are the same, but arranged differently to assist studies. And when I stack the two books the newer version is noticeably fatter (another plus).

    Sophie – Nice. Being able to read letters from the Thai children you sponsor would be a motivator. Are you able to create lessons from their letters? That sounds quite fun actually. Because even if you muddle through at first, each letter would give you new words. And with children, there are bound to be a repeat of sentence patterns and vocabulary.

  19. Me again. I do think the personal reasons are great motivators. Friends, family, lovers. If they speak Thai, it is a more compelling reason to want to learn. I live in the U.S. and help children in Thailand. I receive their handwritten letters and see all the Thai words and really want to be able to read what they are saying to me without having to have someone translate for me. That is a huge “heart” reason for me to learn. I also would like to write to them in their own language. That will be a while I am afraid.

  20. I have just recently started Teach Yourself Thai and stumbled across this site. 🙂 I’m learning because I will be teaching English for a year in Nakhon Phanom with WorldTeach starting in October. I’m really enjoying the book so far. I do the best work listening and following along with the audio, repeating everything a bunch of times to make sure I got it all down, both on paper and out loud. I’m surprised at how much I can get out of the book by itself, though.

    I have just started lesson 2, and I am glad that its content (the market) was moved back to lesson 6 in the updated edition. There are a few more things I would have liked to touch on before haggling, but I’m afraid they would have made the content too advanced so I don’t want to skip ahead. Anyway, it was a good move to split up some of the things in lesson 1, if for no other reason than to introduce some more letters before some more words. It looks like the original lesson 1 is now split among lessons 1, 2, and 4.

    If I’m not mistaken, in the original edition, lesson 1 teaches you the numbers 1-10, and then lesson 2 teaches you all the multiples of 10 instead of 11-20. I’m glad they changed that too, it seemed silly to me.

  21. Jessica,
    Reading and writing are HUGE gaps in my understanding of Thai. I tried one or two resources, but found them very unhelpful. We have a Thai children’s word book in Thai/English that I’ll be trying next – so far, from what I’ve seen, it’s going to be the most helpful resource I’ve come across so far.
    .-= Bill Kerschbaum´s last blog ..Almost Incredibly Influential! =-.

  22. Hi Jessica. I never thought about how many Thai courses could be found in the US. In the UK there are a fair amount at the main bookstores (at one time, more than I could find here).

    For the reading, writing, listening balance… some Thai courses don’t pay attention to learning how to read at all. It’s all karaoke Thai. The ones that teach how to read from the beginning might scare people at first, but they are the best (in my opinion).

    Sophie, So funny (and I do know what you mean). I was putting the idea forward for a group of people to give moral support for keeping up their studies. I do use the ‘don’t break the chain’ app for my iPhone, but checking in with real people doing the same might be helpful. Or just cause a lot of guilt 😉

    To anyone I missed out – welcome and thank you for your interesting comments. We all have our different reasons for learning Thai and the majority seem to be for loved ones – kids, wives, girlfriend/boyfriend, friends – with some (like me) due to work and living in the country. I’d be curious to know if the drive to study is stronger when there is an emotional push over a practical one. Of course, personalities and previous foreign language successes are a factor.

  23. Cat, A “buddies” club!!!??? Well, let me think about that one for one second. No. Well, at least not for me. Well, let me rethink that……perhaps if we could be “buddies” without ever having to actually “get together”. I think that is why I enjoy your site so much. We can share thoughts, ideas, learning tools without ever having to actually meet. I do know that all the social people out there are rolling their eyes but well, you know how hermits are. I do think linguists learn just because they enjoy it and I also believe some people just have a natural ability, such as musicians that can play by ear. The rest of us need to really focus and put quite a bit of effort into it and if there isn’t a pressing need to learn it, it does make it more of a challenge. I have to admit that visiting your site and reading all the interviews and comments about learning Thai is actually more enjoyable that actually sitting down and doing it.

  24. I love reading review of Thai language learning programs etc. I find myself buying as many language learning materials over here in the US as I can find. Which unfortunately is not a lot. I have found that leaning through listening only is helpful although I so prefer seeing the thai script as well. It seems that the best language learning materials are in thai (this product may prove me wrong) so I find that learning to read thai is also very important. I currently have two Phrase books both that boast a overview of the thai language by providing a canned number of words but don’t put them together in a cohesive manner.

    How do you all feel about the reading,writing,listening balance of thai language learning?

  25. Sophie, I am enjoying the comments as well. I’m especially interested in everyones reasons for learning Thai. Perhaps linguists can learn a new language ‘just because it’s there’, but I feel that the rest of us require a strong rationale to put the time in.

    Everyone has busy lives, so finding time to study a foreign language is something each person needs to sort out for themselves. And there is that continuous necessity to keep our learning drive alive. I’ve wondered if a buddies club for learning Thai would be helpful.

  26. I am really enjoying this post and reading all the comments. I also enjoy hearing about everyone’s level of study. I can really relate to BobThailand’s comments about putting it off. I finally began to realize that just having the courses sitting around did not get me even close to being fluent in this language. How I would love to just sit and listen to an occasional audio, scan a Thai lesson and begin speaking. Don’t laugh. I was actually hoping this would work. I’d be curious to hear more about how much time people put in to this on a daily basis and what they do to keep themselves motivated.

  27. I have been here for 2 years and learn best by writing and reading – so have been working on thai script. This doesn’t help though with pronounciation and I do need extra listening practise . One houre a week with my thai teacher doesn’t quite cut it and most of my environment is English. Audio tapes with thai script would be great. Transliteration doesn’t work as the way I think a letter sounds is always different ! And yes- learning on consonant clusters is far easier than memorising letters – and seems to make more sense when learning tones. I am hoping that with tapes at home I will actually do my hoemwork instead of relying on an hour’s panic before my class!

  28. This sounds like a great resource! We adopted our son from Thailand in 2008 and he’s lost almost all of his Thai. I want to learn it well enough to speak fluently and help him regain his Thai language skills again. Fortunately, we live in a university town with Thai college students, so hopefully I’ll find someone to help me practice what I learn in the TYT course.
    .-= Bill Kerschbaum´s last blog ..Almost Incredibly Influential! =-.

  29. I am 64 years old living in USA. My wonderful son, Luke, lives in Bangkok attending Ram University. He is fluent in Thai–so if you can’t fight em join em–I am ready. Whatever gets me closer to my son–I hope I win.

  30. If there are any germans out there who want to learn Thai: there is another great book with CDs which is called “Thai zum Selbststudium” – It is about 120 euros and it is very old but it is a great!
    Good review though! I like it if books have different learning modules (small and intense) so learning continuously is more fun.

  31. This sounds like a great overall resources for someone just getting into learning their way around Thai. Learning the alphabet from day one was something I regretted not doing. Now I am having to go back and learn after a year in. I am going to classes at a local university and my teacher has made me right everything at least 100 plus times! I guess this is the way Thais are taught…by rote.

    When I first started out, the phonetic helped me for awhile but to get the nuances of pronunciation, knowing the Thai alphabet and being able to read are key. So, I’m glad to see that the author has included both the phonetic and the Thai alphabet.

  32. I’ve been in Thailand for three years now and was thrown in at the deep end because I had to use Thai at work.. and most of the day every day.
    It is hard to find a course that really supplies the basic vocabulary for everyday needs. And of course these ‘needs’ vary from person to person and situation to situation.(eg.taking your car to the mechanic for repairs and trying to follow his diagnosis of the problem as he babbles on at top speed!)
    I think the grammar structures(verbs and tenses) in Thai are fairly straightforward so the problems are: vocabulary, sentence structure, colloquial uses of language, pronunciation and of course using a dictionary (it is so hard not being able to look a Thai word up, which of course you can’t do if you have picked it up by ear and have little idea how to spell it)
    To acquire vocab in the early days I more or less ploughed my way through a basic dictionary and extracted every word I thought I might need!I also bought a couple of children’s vocab books English/Thai, you know the sort of picture word books with maybe 5,000 words. But of course here you need to be able to read Thai or have someone to read for you!
    Pronunciation is a huge problem – it’s all about trial and error! I used to have to travel by taxi every day, so I used that time to experiment. The poor driver had to listen to boring stories about lots of dogs and horses coming with their mothers! and so on…We do our best with what’s available to us!
    But now I really feel the need for a smooth course that might help me to tackle all of the above…and it sounds like David’s could be the one!It sounds like a great programme.

  33. Thanks for a very comprehensive review.

    I tried the previous edition of Teach Yourself Thai, and indeed found it very useful. I’d like to see this new version, it looks like it may have it all. A friend recently asked me where was a good place to start – I think i can recommend this with confidence.

    The turning point for me, to be honest, was going to classes; much as I tried various books and CDs (and I tried a fair old few!), things never gelled until I put in the long hours of weekly classes.

  34. My wife is learning English as a migrant to Australia, she is doing 510 hours of classroom work plus she practises writing and reading daily.

    As we spend time in Thailand each year and my in-laws do not speak English, I need to study Thai to better communicate with them.

    I have been looking for a well structured system to help me get up to speed and Teach Yourself Thai has the goods.

    it appears to deal with everyday situations not esoteric circumstances

  35. Hi Stuart. Thanks! I’ve been on an insane search (I won’t go into here) for the top Thai vocabulary for awhile now. And you are right, words on their own are just words – sentences and sound are needed as well. And that’s why courses like yours and David’s are so important.

    Hi Bob. There are a growing number of Thai courses on the market these days, so picking the right one will save you a lot of grief. If you are like me, you don’t want to unlearn what you’ve painstakingly put so much effort into. Ok, maybe you spend 90% of your energy towards getting yourself to actually study, and 10% actually getting Thai into your brain, but that 10% needs to be right the first time around.

  36. Well, after muddling along for 6 years, I guess I really should learn the language better. Been putting it off. Putting it off. Bought a CDROM once and never installed it. Said I was going to go to school and didn’t have the cash or time. Always some excuse. But a big problem for me was picking which program to choose. This obviously sounds like one of the best out there. Be nice to win a copy!
    .-= BobThailand´s last blog ..BobThailand- @IvyInSF Wondered what happened to you! =-.

  37. Cat, thanks for another great review. You never cease to amaze me.

    You mentioned wanting a list of common Thai words, and I found a few doing research for ITS4Thai a while back. Just for yours and everyone else’s benefit, here are a few good places to start:

    Rikker posted 1000 words from various Thai corpora on Thai Visa (login required)

    Richard Barrow had 1000 common Thai words over at his Paknam Forums

    And I also found 100 common Thai words at Wiktionary

    Of course, the only problem with these lists is that they do not have any context or example sentences, but if you are just looking for word lists to make vocabulary flashcards, these are great places to start.

  38. Martyn, ‘The book and accompanying CD’s are excellent but the pupil is a bit of a let down’. I totally sympathise. If we could get our heads around what little it takes – doing lessons often – then there would be no problem learning a new language. Because day by day, without much effort, more and more will attach itself. Sounds simple, yes? Then why do we always find excuses to avoid doing what we know we need to do? (I’m talking to myself here…)

    Sophie, thank you so much for helping out on this review. I agree, the willingness is the key here. And thinking about it, it’s past time for me to get back to a language challenge, because as soon as my last challenge was up, I slid back down. And (no matter how attractive it might seem) getting a Thai hubby is not an option for me 😉

    Welcome Peggy. It’s always nice when someone comes out of lurking 🙂 David’s course is indeed a winner. And I too am focusing on finding the holes in my Thai skills. What I started doing recently is find iffy bits (to me) in TYT, create sentences on my own, and then get with a Thai teacher to see how I’m doing.

  39. Hi Cat, based on your and others assessments, David Smyth’s “Teach Yourself Thai” sounds like a great program. Thanks for the introduction!

    As somone who’s studied Thai sporadically over the years, my skills are pretty variable, as in I’d probably score higher in reading basic Thai than in listening comprehension. The 400 basic words used in sentences on audio CD with written script provided might be just the ticket to fill in the missing pieces. And due to my schedule, self-study is probably the only way I’ll make progress at the moment.

    (BTW, am a newcover to posting on your site, but have “lurked” here before. Good idea, this “drawing”!)

  40. Cat, You knew this post would bring me out of “hermit” mode. Actually I just now saw it. David Smyth is the best, in my humble, hermit opinion. I like things clear and concise and easy to understand. He does all of that for me and is my main source of learning along with singing in Thai which I really enjoy. It is true that no matter what the course the interest and the willingness to invest the time is absolutely crucial. It comes and goes for me as I suppose it does for others. Some days I feel like practicing my Thai and some days………well, I don’t. I think it would help to have a husband who is Thai, like Amy. Hummmmmmm, perhaps that is something I should look in to. Great post as always Cat.

  41. Catherine, I must teach the young one to say incorrigible, having two r’s the word should give me a load of mileage of fun. It’s weally wotten of me but Wilai has a real hunger for learning new words. It took her ages and lots of giggles to learn the word lawnmower but we got there in the end. BTW, our lawnmower’s broke, just thought I mention it.

    I do have David’s old version of Teach Yourself Thai and the book bind is still in excellent condition. Perhaps it was printed in the days when recycling meant getting back onto your bike after a nasty fall, books were sturdier in those days. The book and accompanying CD’s are excellent but the pupil is a bit of a let down. Here’s his latest school report.

    “Hoo Don has a wandering mind and quite frankly I wish he’d wander to another class. The boy is thicker than marmite and Bob Hope has more hope of getting a Christmas number one in Afghanistan than he has of learning Thai.”

    I should study David’s book more often because I do really like its format and Sophie is right about the roadmap for drawing the letters (big bold script) being an excellent lesson.

    The problem I find with Teach Yourself Thai and so many other Thai language books is when it comes to reading Thai scripted words (not single letters as above) the print is too small and everything becomes a bit of a blur. That’s with my glasses on. I think these language books could do with making the Thai script much much larger.

    It’s great that David has added on to his original work and hopefully he’ll build even more on this latest one sometime in the future. For me it’s a case of sticking with the old version and trying to focus my mind and time on a more disciplined approach to learning.

    I can’t believe my teacher wrote that about me. Bitch.

    Best lishes flom the UK.

  42. ‘cool’ ‘wow’ ‘great’ ‘horseradish’ ‘fantastic’ ‘mind blowing’ ‘enlargement cream’ ‘wonderful’ ‘creative’ ‘bookmark’ ‘brilliant’ ‘rss feed’ ‘animal sex’ ‘this contest is really really fab and I really, really, really, wanna win a copy’ ‘large breasts’ ‘top banana’ ‘excellent’ ‘Maria Sharapova nude’.

    Just trying to see if this gets past your spam detect, I’ll be back with a serious comment later. Apologies but you did kind of ask for it.

  43. Ben, this is indeed a good resource to add to your collection. Good luck!

    Talen, I can see you getting a lot out of David’s course. Ah, and btw – David’s Thai: An Essential Grammar is on Kindle so doing a search is dead easy on the iPhone/iPad. I have both the Kindle version and the hard copy, but I’m starting to reach for my iPhone for answers.

  44. Cat, this sounds like a very good program that might be a very good addition to the other programs I am using. I am really hoping that between classes I will be starting and various programs I have attained I will be speaking and understanding Thai a lot better very soon.

  45. I’m always on the lookout for good resources to help me learn more Thai. This sounds like a great product. Thanks for the review.

  46. RIck, I too depend on being able to hear the Thai. And to get it solidified into my head, I also need to read the Thai script. So David adding more Thai script will be helpful to those who learn as I do. As mentioned, they are only short lessons. If you are coming into Thai aiming to learn the alphabet, those short lessons will feel the stretch until you catch your stride.

    Curious that it’s not available anywhere else online but the UK. I too will keep an eye out, and if you find it elsewhere, please let me know.

  47. Cat, I’ve got the most value out of the audio discs. Listening and listening again really helps, because a fourth or fifth listening sometimes makes my sieve like mind capture an extra word here and there until, presto, I can understand the whole sentence, even if I might not get the entire meaning. Then when you hear it on the street you have one of those recognition moments that makes one happy. One more milllimetre forward, so to speak.

    I’m very happy to read David Smyth has a new, expanded book and more audio discs available. A few months ago I realized my current copy was falling to ratcrap, as you noted, right at the binding. I might just have to duct tape my new copy. Unfortunately, Teach Yourself Complete Thai is not available at or Chapters Indigo. Will keep an eye out.

  48. Hi Jake. I have the majority of Thai courses so plan on comparing them at some point (spreadsheet style). As it will take time, it will be later in the year rather than sooner.

    And if anyone wants to take a shot at it… I’d love to read their evaluations as well.

  49. Welcome to WLT Roger and Diana.

    Roger – The course should give you the basics of speaking Thai. And not just the two-three word sentences used in taxi and market Thai either. If you look at the table of contents shown above, you’ll see what ‘s covered. I’m also interested in the 400 word vocabulary list so I’ll compare it with the free download on WLT later today (Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary).

    Diana – Being self-taught is commendable. I know several people in Thailand who jumped into speaking Thai and never looked back. And you are right, effort and interest is key. Learning a new language takes a lot of time and to pull it off, you need to keep your interest level up.

  50. Can anyone compare this program to some of its leading competitors? I’m interested to hear what other programs people have used, how helpful they found them compared to David’s, and why. Thanks!

  51. I’ve been in thailand for 3 years and I’ve learn everything I know on my own,
    I guess I can have a simple good conversation and my understanding is significantly much better.

    What I like about this book is the fact that it teaches vocabulary and its usage in a simple way. For me that’s more than enough
    Since it’s what I need the most… Vocabulary, I’m sure this will be a great learning tool for a lot of expats in thailand.

    In the end and this is a personal remark, it doesn’t matter what method one uses if there’s no effort and interest, I think that’s the first thing to stress,
    There’s no learning without effort.

  52. Hi Amy. Thanks for bringing that up. In one of the amazon reviews (I believe) someone mentioned that they were not happy to learn alphabet out of order. And others feel that learning the high tones first is advised as there are fewer of them. So knowing David’s mindset is helpful.

    David’s method of learning how to read Thai (especially the tones), has been noted on several forum posts dotted around the Internet. And it’s one of the reasons his course is highly regarded. You just read along as he instructs, and by the end of the book it’s in your head.

  53. I have been trying to learn Thai since I came to Thailand – not very successfully. I can tell taxi drivers where to go, sometimes. I can tell shopkeepers what I want, sometimes. But largely, I cannot understand what is being said to me, nor how I should respond. I should certainly like to know the 400 basic words, and how they are used. It shouldn’t be difficult as I probably know many of then already. But I need help in understanding what I hear. Will this course give it me?

  54. I played around with the lessons to write this review. One thing I did was edit out the English speaker and add the same pause lengths between phrases. It shortens the listening time, and you end up concentrating on just the Thai. Also, listening to instructions over and over is not needed, so not having them there is a plus. But to do that to the entire course would take time…

  55. The endorsement by the Stu Ray Raj and Luca Lampariello made me feel really good about this course. I have purchased the previous edition of Teach Yourself Thai and have been very pleased so far, so that Mr. Smyth has improved on an already quality product is good news. I’ll look into getting my own copy of the upgraded book once it’s listed on American Amazon. (if somebody else gets the lucky draw, that is!)

    One of the more interesting things he said in his interview was that it was easier to learn to read Thai when you learn the consonant classes rather than learning in alphabetical order. I know I was reading some of the Thai script on my own and writing my own words after just a few chapters. Having a Thai husband to check my work has been greatly helpful in that regard! 🙂

  56. I haven’t had the time to try and slow it down in audacity, I’m sure in the long run it will pay dividends though 🙂 .

  57. Hi Ashley, I just read on another language site that it’s better to have audio at a natural speed, but I’m not sure that I agree. When phrases are too fast it can be irritating, not helpful. Btw – have you tried bringing the audio files into Audacity?

  58. I recently bought this from Amazon and it’s an excellent upgrade from the previous edition.

    -Thai font is much clearer (larger and easier to read).
    -Dialogue has been expanded and includes more informal phrases that are in common use.
    -More Thai script than before.

    My only gripe with the set is that the audio dialogue seems fast paced and as a beginner it takes several playings to understand them correctly.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.