Increase Your Thai Vocabulary: Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

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Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer…

I just can’t get enough of free stuff. There’s a lot out there but not all free stuff is good stuff (if you know what I mean). I also have an addiction for the ‘how to learn languages’ type of stuff. Sure, sure, as far as advice goes, there really isn’t anything new so you’d think that after all this time I’d be ho hum on the subject.

But, if written with just the right twist, I can get re-energised into tackling my studies in a slightly different way. And if you are in the long-haul for learning Thai, then you know that fresh injections of energy are needed.

In my collection of actual books (hard copy) I have: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Language Learning, Lingo – How to Learn any Language, Fast Language Learning for Adults, The Complete Guide to Learning a Language, The Art of Teaching a Foreign Language, The Learning Revolution, Second Language Acquisition, Learn Any Language, Speak Like a Native, The Whole World Guide to Language Learning, Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, and Learning Foreign Languages (there might be more filed away in the wrong bookshelf). My pdf collection is too numerous to list (also, I’m too lazy to type them out).

Boiled down, the good ones pretty much say the same thing – to learn a new language you need to do the time. And if the books differ at all, it’s all down to how to tackle that time.

On Saturday I didn’t feel like doing anything productive – like get out of PJ’s even – so I started looking for free stuff. A couple of hours into my search I found Bernd’s free ebook, The Word Brain.


The Word Brain describes the steps to metamorphose yourself from a perfect illiterate to a person who has fluent hearing and reading abilities in another language. To develop these abilities, you will ideally study on a daily basis. Depending on a number of variables that I will discuss, the time estimated to accomplish your task is between one and five years.

From what he’s saying, if it’s an easy language (high number of similar words) then you can get away with learning 5000 new words while fudging on the rest. But if it’s a language such as Thai (not much of a crossover with your native language) then to become fluent you are looking at learning 15,000 new words. From scratch.

At a conservative estimate of 10 words per hour, it will take you 500 hours to learn 5,000 words (French/Spanish) and 1,500 hours to learn 15,000 words (European/Arabic). Based on the number of hours you are prepared to invest on a daily basis, your total study time can be predicted with fairly good accuracy.

Talking ballpark figures, if you learn 10 new Thai words per hour, 5 days a week, then the time it’ll take you to learn 15,000 new Thai words is…

0.5 hours per day = 150 months = 12.5 years
1.0 hours per day = 75 months = 6.25 years
1.5 hours per day = 50 months = 4.16 years
2.0 hours per day = 37 months = 3 years
3.0 hours per day = 25 months = 2 years
4.0 hours per day = 19 months = 1.58 years

That’s right. Going by his reckoning, if you have been wobbling along with a half hour of vocabulary study a day, then you could very well be limping along 12 years later.

So now do you see what I mean by getting re-energised?

Bernd goes on to give advice on listening, speaking, reading, grammar, teachers, etc. But, for this post I’m interested in his ideas for increasing Thai vocabulary so I’m going to extract what fits and leave you to read the rest of your own.

To go through the process of language acquisition, you will:

  • learn 15,000 words in about 1,500 study hours.
  • train your ear and associated brain regions to perform real-time speech processing.
  • train your eyes and associated brain regions to perform fast reading.
  • train your vocal tract and associated brain regions to produce intelligible speech.

There are a lot of Thai courses that will teach you a vocabulary of around 500 words but we are aiming at 15,000, remember? And to get your eyes, ears, mouth, and brain involved, not just words are needed, but their sound files too.

The highly recommended beginners course, Teach Yourself Thai only has a vocab count of around 400 words. Ditto on Pimsleur Thai at roughly 500 words (but it’s sans visuals). Whereas Learn Thai Podcast has a huge vocabulary straddling beginners, intermediate, and advanced, all with visuals and sound files. And that’s one of the reasons why I recommend LTP – it’s a honker of a language course!

The ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer…

ClickThai (known for their extensive ClickThai Dictionary with sound) has a new product, the ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer. And for learning new Thai vocabulary, it’s quite handy. No, it does not have the full 15,000 recommended words but if you are a relative newbie at learning Thai, then their 5854 word count is a decent start.

Thai for BeginnersCT VocTrain EN - ClickThai
Price: £8.99 | US$14.99
Author: ClickThai, Theodor Pitsch
Date: March 19, 2011
Version: 1
Internet connection required: No
Word count: 5854
Thai script: Yes
Tone tips: Yes
Zoom: Not needed
Sound: Yes, Male
Quiz: Yes

ClickThai has a decent tutorial on their site but I’m going to mix it up. From what I’ve been able to suss, the majority of those reading WLT already have a bit of Thai so I feel a different arrangement of instructions are needed. And here’s why:

The ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer gives you 100 words per session. When you’ve successfully recognised a Thai word 12 times it disappears and a new word takes its place. So even with a beginner’s vocabulary, you could be clicking for awhile before you start getting to the words you don’t know. So here’s my suggestion:

  1. Create a user name.
  2. Click on that name to start your session.
  3. From the top blue nav, click on ‘learning’.
  4. Delete (DEL) until you get words you don’t know.

Don’t worry, the words will not be deleted permanently, they go to your review list.

Also across the main blue nav you are given a choice of:

  • Thai: A Thai word across the top with three English definitions to choose from below.
  • English: An English definition across the top with three Thai words to choose from below.
  • Audio: Sound (nothing across the top) with three English definitions to choose from below.

In the secondary (orange) nav: sound, auto sound, and transcript – they are all pretty much self-explanatory so I’ll leave it at that. Across the bottom (blue) nav: back and forth arrows (scrolls you through the vocabulary), show (let’s you peek at word), and a sound icon. Then at the very bottom (black) nav: user (to create up to 5 users), exercises, review (this is where your deleted words await), help, and a Thai-English dictionary (the entire 5854 Thai words with longer descriptions).

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer

My only complaints so far have to do with transliteration. Review words have the Thai words in Thai script on the left and the transliteration to the right. I realise the need (saves space) so it’s not that big of a deal but it could be presented differently: Thai script, transliteration, one word description.

Anyway, just like Benjawan Becker’s Thai for Beginners iPhone App, ClickThai’s Vocabulary Trainer for the iPhone is also great for long hours of study as well as those ten minute taxi moments.

EDIT: Theodor says there’s a new version of ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer, due to go live in iTunes next week sometime. Instead of the 12 repetitions, you can choose a number suitable for your learning style. Also, it’ll be compatible down to iOS 3.1.

14 thoughts on “Increase Your Thai Vocabulary: Word Brain & ClickThai Vocabulary Trainer”

  1. Michel, I don’t know why he’s listed them as such (a mystery).

    I’m glad you like ClickThai – it’s the very best of its kind. And the updates since it came out are grand. It’s a nice app for learning Thai.

  2. “…500 hours to learn 5,000 words (French/Spanish) and 1,500 hours to learn 15,000 words (European/Arabic).”

    What is European? French and Spanish are not?
    BTW: using Click Thai and like it!

  3. Josh, I started compiling that list a long time ago. I’ve gone at it from different angles but what I really need is someone more knowledgeable to finalise the word groupings (500, 1000, 2000, 5000).

    For instance… I extracted the vocabulary from the top Thai language courses and then collated the results to get the frequencies. But it still needs to be tweaked…

  4. I’m right there with you, Cat. I’ve been looking for that definitive list as well. Sounds like another project you/we need to embark on.

  5. Very true Hugh. It’s all down to what you aim to do in Thailand. From what I read though, going from illiterate to fluent is his focus. Whatever fluent means (but 15,000 is a good start… well, as long as you know how to use them 😀

    If you could bottle your drive to study Thai consistently for one to two hours a day, I’d buy a gallon of it. With my new arrangement I’m getting closer but life still gets in the way.

    Btw – I haven’t forgotten my desire to locate those top 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 Thai words one must know to get by. Someone somewhere, please, put me out of my misery!

  6. Lest Thai learners get discouraged, the number 15,000 vocabulary words is basically arbitrary. There are many plateaus that we reach in our studies and most need much less than 15,000 words. For instance (numbers given are also arbitrary) Survival Thai is probably about 1,000 words, Everyday Chit Chat – 2,000, Wooing a prospective paramour – 5,000 (or 0 depending on the object of your desires, but my advice is the more the better), Talking to the governor of your province – (500, he’ll probably want to practice his English with you), etc. etc. Use the time chart above to see what this will take in terms of time. BTW, for the past 10 years I have averaged between 1 and 2 hours of study EVERY DAY. I’m retired, why not?

  7. Talen, darn… I forgot that you don’t have an iPhone… I just know that you would LOVE this one. I have very few apps that I consider top for the Thai market and this is one.

    Legs – deep sigh… 😉

    But no worries, I’m collecting a list of places that you must see on your next trip to Bangkok. And I dare say that there will be a few legs amongst the stops. Heh…

  8. Cat, The study of Thai female legs is a passion for me 😛

    Unfortunately, as with quite a few apps, I downloaded the app before reading about it. It’s only compatible with the iPhone and iPad…not my iPod….damn *sigh*

  9. Paul, since reading that, I’ve been trying to put in four hours a day but the time just won’t fit. My schedule is really tight for the next couple of weeks so I doubt I could even fit in 2 hours. Mixing up though, is what I’m 100% for. I get bored easily so have my ‘other’ computer set up so that I can move from one to the other.

    Josh, apologies, I should have thought about sharing the transliteration – it’s up there now.

    I sort of think of transliteration as not good or bad, but personal preference. I have to think that way because I dislike all, but to varying degrees 🙂

    LTP and the ClickThai Vocab trainer both teach you an extensive Thai vocabulary but ClickThai is quiz focused. ClickThai is faster paced – there are no explanations. Just the word, the sound, the Thai, recognising or not, and then moving on to the next.

    Both gain you a nice vocabulary, both can go on your iPhone, but I need both because I get restless. Also, I love the quiz aspects of ClickThai.

    Note: With ClickThai I still haven’t made it to where I’m getting majority words I don’t know, but it’s a good review regardless.

  10. Catherine, can you give me/us an idea of what the transliteration is like? I don’t rely on transliteration much at all anymore, but for $14.99 USD I’m curious as to how bad (or good) it is.

    So far I haven’t found anything better than LTP.

  11. Hi Catherine, you are right about having to invest the time if we want to improve our Thai. It is lack of time that has been my biggest stumbling block. During my first few years I would spend at least a couple of hours each day learning Thai but now I’m lucky to get 15 minutes. I’ve also found it useful to mix things up with changes in approaches.

  12. Talen, I truly believe that you are going to love this app. And just think about it, instead of studying at all those lovely Thai legs walking by, you could be studying your Thai vocabulary instead 😉

  13. Cat, this looks very interesting indeed and perhaps a fitting app to add to my collection. You always bring something new to the table I just need to sit down and consume!


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