FREE DRAW: James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

FREE DRAW: James Higbies' Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar

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FREE DRAW! James Higbies’ Essential Thai AND Thai Reference Grammar…

Someone is going to get lucky soon. Originally, the prize for this draw was to be a signed copy of Essential Thai by James Higbie. But when Jim and I got together over a beer he agreed to offer both Essential Thai AND Thai Reference Grammar. Kudos to Jim, that’s quite a healthy prize!

As before, 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.

Explanation: Each comment gets counted so please feel free to leave as many as you like. But here’s the thing… the comments must add to the conversation as well as pertain to this post.

How it works: Each time a relevant comment is made, I’ll write the name on a slip of paper. When I meet up with Jim over a beer, the papers will be stirred, shaken, whatever, for him to pick the winning name.

After it’s over: The draw will close on Saturday morning, July 6, 8am BKK time. The winner will be announced that very same day.


Thai Reference Grammar and Essential Thai..

Both Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar are on my ‘must have’ Thai book list. Essential Thai because it covers the basics in an easy to understand manner. And Thai Reference Grammar because when I need to know something grammar-wise, it’s easily found.

Thai Reference GrammarThai Reference Grammar
Author: James Higbie
Paperback: 443 pages
Size: 9.4 x 6.9 x 1 inches
Published: July 10, 2006

Thai Reference Grammar has already been reviewed in Mark Hollow’s Review: A Guide to Thai Grammar Books, so I won’t cover it again.

Essential ThaiEssential Thai
Author: James Higbie
Paperback + CD: 234 pages
Size: 7.8 x 0.5 x 9.8 inches
Published: 2012

Most of those interviewed in the Successful Thai Language Learners series have a favourite Thai course. Mine is Essential Thai. When I first started learning Thai I heard of the legendary but out of print Essential Thai. Cherished copies of copies were being passed around, but by then, even those had all but disappeared (I looked). Lucky for beginners, Jim reprinted Essential Thai in 2012.

Teach Yourself Thai and Thai for Beginners are also good, so why do I favour Essential Thai? Well, if you pinned me down for a reason I’d have to say that it’s because the lessons get straight to the point. When you first start studying a foreign language you often don’t remember long, detailed explanations. In Essential Thai, after a brief overview of the subject matter, you get a selection of vocabulary and useful sentence patterns to practice with. And then you move onto the next subject.

What the course doesn’t have is a quiz (I’m partial to testing). If that’s how you learn, you can get around it quite easily by following the suggestions in Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai.

Essential Thai: table of contents…

I could spend hours extolling the virtues of Essential Thai but if I do this review will never happen. Just ask Jim (he’s been waiting for a year). Instead, here’s the robust table of contents that clearly includes everything a student of the Thai language needs to get started.

Introduction: pronunciation, numbers, colours.

First Things: greetings, going places, very/not at all, already, thank you/excuse me, do you understand, pronouns/I am, speaking politely, I don’t know, can you speak Thai?

Shopping, getting around: money and shopping, paying in restaurants, how many, bottles of water, food and drinks to go, buying clothes, getting change, bargaining, where is, asking for a restroom, travelling – basic questions.

Questions and expressions: what’s your name, how are you, where are you from, how old are you, have you eaten yet, have you been in Thailand long, goodbye/good luck, phrases for learning Thai common expressions, expressions from Thai culture.

Step by step conversation: basic sentences, to be, too (too hot), this/the, the same/not the same, comparing, like more than/like the most, possessive, this person/that person, who/which person, numbers of people, using verbs, yes/no questions, maybe/I might, go with verbs, I like to/I want to, have to/must, can/able to, I’d rather, I’ve/I’ve never, have you yet, not anymore/never again, so/shall, connecting words, request/commands, let/allow, there is/there are, somebody/nobody, many/a lot, a little, more/again, only, each other, together/myself, a different one/not this one, what kind/what style, particles, notes on vocabulary, compound words and prefixes.

Conversation topics: family, marriage, work, religion, asking Thais where they are from, foreign people and things, important cards and documents, children and adults, some people/most people, weather, talking about places, feelings, dialogues.

Time: days of the week, morning/afternoon/night, telling time, minutes/house/days/weeks/months/years, how long, times/occasions, time conjunctions, other time words, months and years.

Food: ordering, drinks, ingredients, friend rice and noodles, Thai dishes, vegetarian food, western food, fruit, buying foods on the market.

Transportation: kinds of vehicles, stations/airport/pier, city bus, city to city bus, driving instructions, renting a vehicle.

Hotels and bungalows: hotels, asking for things, beach bungalow.

Getting around town: places in town, directions, near/far, prepositions of location, inside/outside/above/below, which floor, bank, post office, tailor/dressmaker, invitations/appointments.

Medical, emergencies, phone: parts of the body, medical problems, medicine, emergencies, telephone.

Around Thailand: areas of Thailand, Bangkok, Central Thailand/the East, the North, the Northeast, the South, forest, ocean, countryside, a Thai temple, home, Thai culture.

And the rest: reading Thai, classifiers, Thai dictionary.

FREE DRAW recap…

So there you have it. To enter the draw leave relevant comments below. As many as you can muster. The draw will end next Saturday morning. The results of the draw will appear sometime that same day (after I wobble back home from meeting with Jim). I hope you get lucky!

38 thoughts on “FREE DRAW: James Higbies’ Essential Thai and Thai Reference Grammar”

  1. I just ordered both books. I’m sure I’ll not regret that. Thanks for making the recommendations!

  2. Hi Daniel, a friend got it partially working on my computer but it still won’t read text out loud and having to record each phrase into the computer (not import) is time consuming. He’s using a beta version of the next Mac system and has no problems with Gradint. I believe the Mac upgrade will be around Xmas time? But… it could just be my computer…

  3. @ Catherine Wentworth No! I had no idea this software even existed! I’ve been using 3 separate programs to piece everything together and it takes quite a bit of time. Have you tried this GRADINT program with Thai?

  4. Hi Roy. Pimsleur has a great method for learning languages. I wasn’t too pleased with their Thai version (too much stuff to unlearn) but it does get people talking rather quickly (and with confidence). Men, anyway. Pimsleur’s “an American man sat next to a Thai women on a bus” was the final straw for me. That’s how WLT got its start 😉

    “High frequency words in Thai” … we are still working on a list here (it’s not enough to have a decent list of words, you need to know how to use them too): Using High Frequency Thai Vocabulary: The Double อยู่

  5. I know that the draw is now closed, but I would still like to offer these 2 language learning resources:
    (1) My kindergarten teacher niece told me about “Sight” words, commonly used to teach young children ~ 220 words they should learn and easily recognize without the need to sound out each letter: Sight words, often also called high frequency sight words, are commonly used words that young children are encouraged to memorise as a whole by sight, so that they can automatically recognise these words in print without having to use any strategies to decode. With this in mind, we can all create our own Thai sight words. I’ll soon try to create my own set of Thai sight word flash cards. I know it’s not the same as a native English speaking child learning reading of many words already known, but that does not deter me from wanting to recognize common words without sounding out each letter – since that will be the result of learning the language eventually anyhow.
    (2) With the idea of using multiple resources for learning Thai, I found this 1/2 price intro Pimsleur offering, for which Thai is an option and also children’s options for many languages. It includes a CD with the first 16 thirty minute lessons – as an enticement to buy the full 30 lesson set. I just ordered it – unfortunately, only available to be shipped to a U.S.A. address. Half price is $25, plus state sales tax. Slightly complex ordering process with separate sights to buy the voucher, redeem it and pay your sales tax:

  6. Lawrence – if you are worried about gaps, then both of Jim’s books would come in handy for you. They are structured in such a way that you can dip into just the bits you need.

    Edward – I agree. They are written in such a way that the materials are easily understood. Jim has a special knack.

    Donna – “most of the material I have come across is geared towards male speakers” that’s how WLT got started. I was so tired of all the krap 😉

    Darren – I thank you for the kind comments about Jim’s work and I’m sure he’s quietly thanking you too 🙂

  7. I have both and I can honestly say that they are a boon to Thai language learners. Thai Reference Grammar is especially useful for those who want to explore the language at a deeper level. It has excellent explanations as well as examples so that learning the language becomes easier. Oh, not forgetting there is Thai script too. Kudos to James for this fantastic piece of work!

  8. I would like to learn because I would like to speak with my family in bangkok instead of asking my husband “what they say”? Also, most of the material I have come across is geared towards male speakers, I guess they figure women don’t have a reason to learn thai. This is my quest, to learn to speak and understand to carry on a conversation, and I know the older you get the harder it is but I believe with the right tools and ambition that I can do it.

  9. Hi Catherine,

    Thai Reference Grammer shows clear how different of sentence structure is between Thai and English but it is better to have some basic Thai foundation first with the support from Essential Thai or other basic Thai level to take this go further and practise effectively.

    Essential Thai is much easier and faster step for every foreigner to understand and use the basic Thai in the daily life in a short time with various examples provided. It is highly recommended.

  10. Thanks Catherine for turning me onto these two books, I have never heard of them before your post. The Essential Thai seems pretty basic, but I’m sure I could still learn a thing or two. There are pretty gaping holes in my beginning Thai knowledge for some reason. That’s what I get for being mostly self taught I suppose.

  11. DPL – what English grammar books for Thai learners do you have? A few I’ve browsed have mistakes in the English.

    Owen – seems you are partial to Higbies grammar as well 🙂

    Anna – one year isn’t bad at all! There are expats living in Thailand 20 years who don’t speak Thai.

    Roger – have you tried a Thai language school, or a Thai Skype teacher?

    Daniel – are you using Gradint?

  12. For me, the key to learning a new language (at least at my age!) is to throw as many sources and learning styles into the mix as possible. For example, I have begun to make my own mp3 audio review recordings à la ‘The Pimsluer Method’ by using text-to-speech software and a sound editor I found online as freeware. Of course, good ol’ fashioned books are still an essential for me. 🙂

  13. Dear Anna

    I have been here now for ten years. I started out with Benjawan Bekker’s excellent beginners’ book. I asked the teachers at the school for help, but got the response “Why do you want to learn Thai? They (the school) will only give you more work”.

    This sort of thing went on for years. I could get no committed instruction in speaking and listening. I can read, and write, slowly, and can tell taxi drivers where to go, sometimes.

    I now have all of Bekker’s books, and Higsbee’s Grammar, and other stuff I have picked up on the way, but getting to Tesco’s by taxi is still 50-50.

    Your office environment should help you well.

  14. I am embarrassed to admit that I have lived in Thailand now for just over a year and have I progressed at all. It’s no ones fault but my own. However 6 weeks ago I started work in a Thai office and am really trying hard to learn as much as I can. I picked up Let’s Speak Thai by James at the weekend, for no other reason than it seemed the simplest and most well written for a non speaking Thai to try and learn. I spent an hour skipping through it and then had my first ever Thai conversation, where I was understood and I understood back. I would love the opportunity of adding to my collection of James, books with either copy!

  15. I’ve tried to learn several languages [French, Italian, American Sign, Mandarin] and know no Reference Grammar in another language equal to Higbie the Great’s.

  16. I’d like to check out the reference grammar book. I’ve already read David Smyth’s. I find after long periods of focusing on getting comprehensible input a review of grammatical concepts can solidify some of the Thai that I’ve learned. I would also recommend reading and any English grammar books for Thai learners, for anybody learning Thai. Even though people learning Thai may not be the target audience you can get a good idea of how to explain different ideas by looking at how English grammar is broken down in the Thai language. This has helped me a bit transpose some ideas (especially in a future or past tense) into Thai language. I still find listening and reading authentic materials the best way to learn, but as I mentioned before a quick grammar recap may reveal some things you didn’t even know you knew.

  17. Niels – everyone has their preferences but I haven’t found anything better 🙂

    Kris – “…numerous examples. I don’t feel bored wandering around in this book like I feel with other reference books” that’s how I feel about both of them. The writing style is clear, easily understood. You can get in, find what you need, and get out. Or you can just browse, soaking up knowledge.

    Sure, there are bits I’d change, but that’s the same with any Thai resource I’ve come across. Essential Thai, the way it’s written, would make an excellent online course. Add snippets from Thai Reference Grammar, and quizzes … and wow.

  18. I think the grammar book is very good and it’s very complete. In my opinion that grammar book is not only a reference book. It’s a book I spend reading 15 to 20 minutes in just because the numerous examples. I don’t feel bored wandering around in this book like I feel with other reference books. What I don’t like about it, is that transliterations come first, before the Thai script and at some places the Thai script is missing. Sometimes the book is also in-consequent when it comes to using written vs. spoken language.

  19. Catherine, thanks for the advice. I guess that if I don’t win the draw I’ll have to reconsider and go buy the book as there’s apparently nothing better out there 🙂

  20. Roy, it is a pain to jump between transliteration systems. I could never produce the same tone twice! That’s one of the reasons I gave up and learned how to read Thai.

    Nikki, while Essential Thai is aimed at the beginner, there’s some intermediate stuff in there as well. And of course Thai Reference Grammar is well suited for beginner, intermediate, on up.

    Niels, “if it hadn’t been for this flaw I wouldn’t have hesitated to buy the book” then you are out of luck for Thai grammar books created for the English speaking market. There are three decent grammar books and they all follow the same style – transliteration only for the main elements and transliteration plus Thai script for sample sentences. A forth grammar book has both throughout, but there are so many typos it’s not worth buying. Up to you though 😉

  21. The reviews of Thai Reference Grammar on Amazon are a little mixed. Mostly they agree that it’s an excellent book, but also complain about the romanization transliteration used. It especially seems to be a problem that in many places only transliteration is used and not Thai script.

    If you’re serious about learning a language, why would you not want to learn to read it too? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

    It’s really too bad, because if it hadn’t been for this flaw I wouldn’t have hesitated to buy the book.

  22. Like Roy, I think the combination of books is great! I am an intermediate Thai learner, but my husband has barely started so I think they would suit us down to the ground!

  23. The combination of a beginner’s book with a reference volume for continued study at a higher level is welcome news. Using several Thai learning texts, as I am, along with online resources can be a bit confusing, most importantly due to the lack of standardization of a transliteration system. With this in mind, I’ve been putting in a lot of effort to learn the Thai script: reading, writing and speaking. I’m close to being able to read the Thai writing only, bypassing the approximations to pronunciation and allowing for making the direct connection of Thai writing to the true, correct Thai pronunciation. I’m hoping James’ books can be key tools as I continue along this path toward my goal of fluency ins Thai. Thank yo.

  24. Patrick – “the homework got eaten by my dog” I sympathise (and I don’t even have a dog 😉

    Robert – “The thing I like about it the best is that a complete beginner like me can get the “essential” vocabulary and phrases I need”. Exactly. The book has all of the basic phrases and vocab needed to start Thai conversation. The sentences are kept short, so they are easy to remember. “It is by far the best course I have seen for practical vocabulary and phrases”. That’s how I see ET as well.

    John – Thai Reference Grammar was published in 2006. Jim has been rereleasing his books so perhaps TFG is next? It’d be a good time to add an index then.

    Keith – “Thai Reference Grammar. It is THE essential book!” So true! I have the other grammar books, but when I go to look something up, I can easily find it in TRG (not so easy in the others). Odd that didn’t have TRG when I did a search.

    Liam – I too have a beef with transliteration. I checked “Thai, an Essential Grammar” (Smyth – 2002) and “A Reference Grammar of Thai” (Shoichi Iwaskai and Preeya Ingkaphirom – 2005) – they all use transliteration only in places as well. Perhaps that’s just how grammar books were done at that time?

    Donna – With both of these books, a Thai speaker to help, and a study regime, you’d get up to speed quite quickly!

    KM – “I wish there were more intermediate-advanced books on learning Thai like this one”. I do as well! There’s certianly room for more. Looking at their print dates, all three of the top grammar books are due for updates, additions, etc.

  25. I agree with Liam about the use of karaoke Thai in Thai Reference Grammar, which is sometimes frustrating. Otherwise it’s an excellent book and very well organized. I wish there were more intermediate-advanced books on learning Thai like this one.

  26. I have been married now almost 40 yrs to a thai husband but am living in the US and have been all along. You would think I would know how to speak the language by now but no. Since he speaks great english never had a reason but now we are older and I do understand and speak some I really want to learn since we plan to make Thailand our home when retirement comes along. I seem to have a problem with the tones as I tend to speak with a monotone voice and really cannot distinguish between high med and low. So I would like to get your books as I do have someone who I can practice on.

  27. I think I’ve owned both of these at one time or another too; it’s amazing how many books I have misplaced or just flat out lost.

    The only thing I never really cared for was the dependence on the transliteration system. I think it’s a good thing that the other uses it for those that can’t read Thai, but those that can shouldn’t have to hunt so hard to find the Thai spelling. Thai Reference Grammar especially, it seems to be aimed at intermediate and advanced learners, most of which can read already and who have little interest in learning yet another transliteration system, but most lines and passages are written only in karaoke Thai.

  28. Like so many others who have commented here, I have not used Essential Thai, but Thai Reference Grammar. It is THE essential book! My copy is very dog-eared with loads of Post-Its throughout. I have checked on and they do have both, though in limited quantities. They also have second hand (or should I say, pre-used) copies available.

  29. Catherine,
    I haven’t used Essential Thai as I haven’t yet won a copy. I have a copy of Thai Reference Grammar and use it often. One comment you could pass on to James Higbie is that the Reference Grammar would be much better with an Index in Thai script.

  30. I bought a copy of Essential Thai shortly before leaving for an extended trip to Thailand. I am a graduate student in a MA TESOL program at Payap University, and when many of the other students find out I’m an American they want to practice English with me, so I don’t get a whole lot of opportunities to practice Thai. Still, I would like to learn the language, and I make an effort to speak it when I go out. This is where essential Thai has come in handy. The thing I like about it the best is that a complete beginner like me can get the “essential” vocabulary and phrases I need for day to day needs like ordering food or simple greetings. This I where I have found it to be most useful. Within the first few days I was using phrases I learned in Essential Thai to order food and say thank you. I like the way the book is divided into categories of the basic functions a person might need to accomplish in Thailand like ordering food, travelling, or even visiting the doctor. It is by far the best course I have seen for practical vocabulary and phrases.

  31. I used the Grammar book years ago to motivate me a little bit to learn Thai. Very nice structured and all use cases of language you could think of are included.

    One day my dog got babies and from then on… well, lets put it this way, “the homework got eaten by my dog” is an explanation I would believe as a teacher 😉

  32. Hi Bernard, I bought Sabai-Sabai years back. It has a nice design and plenty of audio files, but it just didn’t grab me at the time. I’m not sure what it was … the writing style? I do agree that it has great exercises and drills.

  33. Hello Catherine.
    I have the two already. Very nice draw. Grammar is exceptional. Don’t know what to think about Essential…

    I guess I need something more structured, with dialogues, quiz, games, speaking, reading and writing exercises… to force me out to use what have learned.

    I have just discovered some course called Sabai-sabai from Mahidol University International College. It is very good for me, book and audio dialogues too. There plenty of exercises (need someone Thai to correct you after completion)… The book includes a very remarkable large grammar section in the second part, after the main course, with all the most important structures/patterns of the thai language simply explained. The University uses it for its own international students who want to learn thai, but also sells it by mail for 800 hundreds baths (plus shipping). I bought it one month ago, and i’m working with it, I achieved the first five lessons on twelve. As far as I know, they still have less than one hundred of copies.
    You can download the audio files from the web site, but they are not very useful without the book of course.


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