This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Reviewing Thai language schools in Bangkok…
For this series I will focus on a Thai language school a post. In an earlier post I reviewed 13 Bangkok schools using the following tag line at the end:
DISCLAIMER: This will be totally MY opinion of Thai language schools, their materials, their teachers and their perceived value – what I call, “bang-4-the-baht” – as far as what you get for the money you pay. My experience will, in all likelihood, be different from yours. And my opinions MAY indeed run contrary to yours too.
Also, realise different people have different goals in learning the language. Some use it as a means to an end, via the education visa route and take the language as a freebie. Some people want to speak, some read, some write and/or a combination of all of the above.
If you are looking for a good resource to learn Thai online, check out Learn Thai from a White Guy. Upon entering your email, you'll get five free lessons to help you start learning to read Thai.
What works for me might not work for the way you learn things and vice versa.
My search for a bang-4-the-baht Thai language school…
In my quest to learn Thai I found there was (and still is) a great disparity in methodology, material and efficacy with private Thai language schools in the greater Bangkok metro area. Being inquisitive (err, nosy), last year I decided to visit as many different schools as possible. I always go in like a newbie foreigner who just washed up on the shores of Thailand. I look over their material, question their customer service staff, look around the school, sit a free class if I can and get their pricing for different programs offered. I started compiling my take as far as the good, the bad and the ugly about the schools I visited. I posted a LOT of those reviews on the Thai Visa Forum in the Thai Language Sub-Forum on a pinned topic appropriately titled Best Thai Language School.
Sadly my take on all-things-Thai doesn’t run along the most politically correct line. I tend to call things as I see them and I long ago misplaced my rose-colored glasses. This has lead to many warnings and suspensions on that forum for my errant posting penchants. Be that as it may, I do feel it’s a great forum with plenty of good info about almost anything to do with Thailand (if you take the time to wade thru the b/s).
So who is this Tod Daniels anyway?…
Who actually is Tod Daniels? (in Thailand I use only one ‘d’ in my first name as Thais tended to pronounce the name Todd as “toddy” if I used the correct spelling with double d’s. In Thai I spell my name as “ท้อด” which has no other meaning in Thai except as a name).
Hmm, who am I? A single, tall (6′ 2″), thin-ish, nearly 52 y/o American living in the glorious “Land ‘O Thais” the last 5+ years. I am oh-so identifiable when out and about as I wear a black t-shirt with a pic of the rock band KISS on it everyday (I brought 120 different KISS t-shirts from the US when I moved here). Also due to a severe spine injury I’m forced to walk with a cane (which really looks more like a baseball bat). I’m not all that hard to spot, if you know what to look for. Although why anyone would care or want to spot me, I dunno.
I undertook studying Thai seriously about 3 years ago via the free resources available on the Internet. I taught myself to read, type and understand Thai. I admit several years ago when I was in a “visa pinch” (not having turned 50 so no retirement visa option) I did pay for 180 lessons (and a year’s worth of visa extension paperwork!) But in actuality, I taught myself to read Thai before I started.
I would put the level of my ability to read, comprehend and type Thai via a keyboard as medium good. It’s probably close to ป.๓-๔. It’s funny that I still don’t know the Thai tone rules (but am getting closer). I differentiate similarly spelled words from the context and from massive word memorization. However my comprehension in reading Thai varies dramatically. Things written in Thai which I have no interest in, I could read 15 times yet not understand even an overview of the topic. Then again with things like gossip column articles, magazines in Thai like: FHM, Maxim, Playboy, Penthouse, and the like, I can read, understand and really enjoy the articles (Yes I buy Playboy & Penthouse ONLY for their articles, 555+). I also bought and read ALL of Andrew Biggs’ books he’s got out which teach English to Thais. They have given me no end of useful vocab, and as his explanations are all in Thai I have a much better understanding of how things fit together in Thai. He’s really quite the witty, funny and informative author.
I think my spoken Thai is far below the level of my other Thai language skills. I can certainly make myself understood and converse/interact about most things with the Thais. It does take them a bit to get over the fact that a towering, long-nosed foreigner in a black KISS t-shirt can speak semi-coherent Thai, albeit with a foreign accent. Once they get past my appearance they’re fine chatting about anything under the sun.
PLEASE, by all means share your personal experiences with the schools I review in this series. The more people posting their know-how and observations, the better informed potential students of the Thai language will be when searching out schools that provide students with good “bang-4-the-baht”.
And I sincerely urge ANYONE interested in learning the Thai language to attend and sit the free lessons at as many schools as they have time for BEFORE paying ANY tuition. It is only your time and travel invested and well worth trying out different methods before deciding on the one which works for you.
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
(who BTW: is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)