This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Thai Language Schools in Bangkok…
I often get emails requesting information about decent Thai language schools in Bangkok. And as I don’t have any experience with the schools (yet), I started referring people to the long discussion on the Thaivisa.com Thai language forum. But the discussion grew to eleven pages (and was repeatedly disrupted), so I switched to cutting and pasting the detailed research shared by Todd Daniels.
During his continuing quest to improve his Thai language skills, Todd set out to compile a fair amount of data on the subject of Thai language schools in Bangkok. So far, out of the 25 plus schools he visited, he kept detailed notes of 14 of them. To help those wading through the many language schools in Bangkok, Todd retooled his information for the post below. Thanks Todd!
And now, over to Todd Daniels…
A review of Thai language schools in Bangkok…
Here is the list I compiled from the Thai language schools I’ve toured and/or taken free lessons from.
DISCLAIMER: The following is totally MY opinion of Thai language schools; their materials, their teachers and their perceived value – what I call, “bang for 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.
PLEASE: By all means feel free to post about your experiences at any of the listed schools, or those I’ve missed. The more people post their experiences and observations, the better informed potential students of the Thai language will be in making a decision in attending a school of their choice.
Also, realize 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 want to speak, some read, some write and/or a combination of all of the above. What works for me might be a shite method for you, and vice versa.
I urge ANYONE interested in learning Thai to attend and sit the free lessons at as many schools as they have time for BEFORE paying the tuition. It is only your time and travel invested, and well worth trying on different methods before deciding on the one that works for you.
Thai language schools in Bangkok…
Andrew Biggs Academy (no longer online)
- Info: The name says it all. He is probably the most recognizable foreigner in Thailand. And he’s certainly marketed his trademark “shaved head and big ears” into one serious moneymaking machine in the English language market.
- Material: Well thought out and presented. Very new. Developed (if I am not mistaken) by a professor from a well-known college. Side note: This is a set of textbooks I want, but don’t have.
- Teachers: Last year when I attended the evaluation (when the Thai language aspect of his school was just getting off the ground), there was only one teacher. She was very good and professional.
- Value: Mid-range. And, for the money, very good.
- Info: One of the oldest (if not the oldest), Thai language school catering to foreigners in Bangkok.
- Material: None. They now use the ALG (Automatic Language Growth) Method to teach spoken Thai. You observe two teachers (actors) who talk about a wide variety of topics with various props. There is NO class interaction, no question/answer period, and it is observation ONLY. Their claim: After attending 600 hours you will suddenly being speaking in tongues, I mean in Thai.
- Teachers: Interesting, amusing, and entertaining. However, as there is no interaction other Thai observation, I cannot comment further. But the teachers do seem dedicated to their methodology.
- Value: This is one of the cheapest Thai language schools a person will ever attend, and buying time in blocks gets you a further discount. I believe AUA is a valuable school, but ONLY if you have a grasp of at least basic spoken Thai. At that level of Thai comprehension, even a few hours a week will increase your listening skills as it’s only in Thai with no English spoken in class.
- Info: A good school that is somewhat expensive. However, they TEACH you speaking, reading writing, and are a no nonsense school. There is a TON of repetition in getting the tones correct and they hold you to a much higher standard than most native speakers in enunciation and clarity (which is not a bad thing). If your employer is footing the bill, go there.
- Material: Extremely well put together.
- Teachers: As I said before, they are no nonsense. You are not going to just coast by in this school’s program.
- Value: Expensive. But for the quality of education you receive, if you have an unlimited education budget, go there.
- Info: An international language company that teaches far more languages than I care to list.
- Material: GREAT textbook.
- Teachers: Good, dedicated, followed the book. Side note: This is a set of textbooks I want, but don’t have.
- Value: Expensive as all get out, but a good corporate choice.
- Info: Another lesser known, but high quality school. The owner (Jentana) caters more to corporate people who need intensive Thai in a limited time frame. Jentana will develop a personal program based on what a student wants, be it speaking, reading, or writing.
- Material: Very diverse, as many courses are individually tailored to a customer’s needs.
- Teachers: Very well trained and professional.
- Value: Another expensive school. But again, if you’ve got someone footing the bill, it is a good choice.
- Info: A relatively newcomer in the Thai language niche, with a brand spanking new school in a very convenient location.
- Material: When I was there, they were using Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s books as their course material: Beginning, Intermediate & Advanced. This is not the detriment one might think. Believe me (despite what ANYONE may claim, there are NO new innovations in learning this language). Benjawan has probably done more single-handedly than any other Thai national to encourage foreigners to learn this language.
- Teachers: Good, well spoken, and dedicated.
- Value: Good.
- Info: A recent (a year or so) addition to the Thai language market.
- Material: A well-designed textbook with Thai on one side of the page and phonemic transcription and English on the other. If you can read Thai script, you will not be distracted by the English text or Thai transcription.
- Teachers: Firmly dedicated to imparting the Thai language to foreigners.
- Value: Good.
- Info: Little used or known school. But with that being said, they offer a wide variety of courses.
- Material: Some of the least dated material I have seen. Well thought out, nicely presented.
- Teachers: Good, informative, and dedicated.
- Value: Good.
- Info: A little known school, trying to carve a slice of the Thai language pie for themselves.
- Material: Good, somewhat dated, but still not the worst by a long shot. They are in the process of redesigning their textbooks.
- Teachers: Again, this is a crapshoot. Some teachers are good; some are less so. If you’re in a class with a bad teacher, ask for another.
- Value: Good.
- Info: I mention the Bangkok branch as this company seems to be a franchise.
- Material: Well thought out, lessons build upon earlier ones, not as dated as Unity.
- Teachers: Seem to be a crapshoot. If you start a class with a teacher that you don’t like, don’t be afraid to ask for a different one.
- Value: Not as cheap as some, but it is still good value.
- Info: Again, not so well-known (but still a contender). I’ve met many people who have attended SMIT in the past.
- Materials: Well thought out, somewhat dated, but still good.
- Teachers: Friendly, professional, and dedicated (for the most part).
- Value: Good.
- Info: A good language school catering predominantly to other Asian nationalities learning Thai, but they are expanding their market to attract more native English speakers. Group classes are offered as well.
- Material: Good materials, well thought out, well presented, etc.
- Teachers: They cater to Asians, so unless you are Asian, you will need to get into a class that is NOT taught in Japanese, Korean, or Chinese. They are now employing teachers who have experience teaching Thai to English speakers, and have come a long way in this regard.
- Value: Good.
- Info: One of the oldest and well-known Thai language school. TONS of people have studied at Unity Thai.
- Material: Quite dated, yet still cohesive.
- Teachers: Honestly seem dedicated to teaching people to speak and learn the Thai language.
- Value: Their ‘intensive’ courses (21-24 days every day for 3 or 4 hours) are of good value. I know many people who have taken several levels and now speak quite clear Thai.
Here are other websites for the various schools I perused but have muddy memories of. After touring 25+ schools, some are less memorable than others, but in no way does that mean they are not quality schools (only that I am getting old and have a failing memory).
- Thai Language Solutions
- TLA School
- Thai Language Hut
- Sumaa Language & Cultural Institute
- Thailish Language School
I am sure there are more, as there is NO shortage of Thai language schools in Bangkok. I wonder why, with the plethora of language schools here, foreigners don’t speak better Thai or sometimes any Thai at all (especially long-stayers). Then again, I wonder the same about the plethora of English teachers I’ve met, and why the Thais don’t speak better English too.
Thai Language Learner
51 thoughts on “Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok”
Thanks… Just saw your message now.
…. I don’t know when they started (it’s news to me too).
Hi Lizzy – looks like you are in luck. Duke does do Skype.
Thanks Catherine. I think I emailed Duke but I don’t think they did Skype lessons
Great forum and reviews..
I have been studying Thai through Skype for 3 months now. I am living in Thailand but Skype works better for me. My level is: Elementary
1. Baan Aksorn- Excellent and highly recommended. I would agree very expensive (20,000 TB for 40 hours including book/audio) although while expensive you definitely get very high quality lessons. They don’t mess around like other reviews and they are quite serious in your learning although engaging and fun. While they have a book, they don’t just do the book but conversation too. From my experience, they also have the fastest email communication in the country. They seem to have many teachers who can teach you at the hours you want. You definitely will learn to speak with them. I also am doing reading and writing and its the best school I have found for that. They only accept bank transfer or I would assume cash.
2. Thai Language Hut- I just started this one but have found it too be very effective. The way the teacher teaches I remember almost immediately. They do have a book but I haven’t used it yet. The material is interesting and useful. They are expensive as well although if you buy around 90 hours you can get it to around $13.00 US per hour. You can pay by paypal. They seem quite busy to have a lot of lessons. I am already learning how to speak more with them.
3. Effective Thai (Chiang Mai)- They are quite expensive about $15.00 US per hour… They do have good teachers although what I didnt like is there is no audio with the material so I found it harder to study not having the audio. Especially when you are starting Thai this is important. The teachers didnt have a lot of availability all the time. They accept Paypal which is easier.
4. Thai Language Solutions- I tried them because they were cheaper than the first 3 I reviewed although I found them difficult because when they type in the word they don’t use the Thai accents (using phonetics) so it was hard to know the tone and that became frustrating. They had very limited availability so I didnt continue. Only do bank transfers or cash if you are there probably.
5. Walen Language School- I did 1-2 “live’ language lessons with them but didnt find the teaching method effective at all. We spend about a hour in small group class practicing hello and it just felt like the material was memorizing conversations like paying for a hotel etc..
6. Learn Thai Style- I did a few months of lessons with them. For a complete beginner they are good. They are also quite a bit cheaper like maybe $10.00 US per hour although you need to pay for your material. I think they are in Europe and Singapore too and they can come to your home or meet you in a coffee shop. Can do paypal.
The material was useful although you don’t learn to talk because you have to talk whats in the material. I don’t think the teachers got qualifications. They are just Thai speakers who know the material and what to do. I think its worth it for a complete beginner but after that I didnt find it effective.
CONCLUSION- What are your goals of learning Thai? I would recommend knowing that. If you are serious in getting fluent and living in Thailand, I would definitely recommend Baan Aksorn, Thai Language Hut or Effective Thai.
While those 3 are expensive language schools, you definitely get what you pay for. In the end, I think you will see your results. If you focus on something cheaper, than you may end up frustrated.
Some say its bad to learn phonetics- I wouldn’t completely agree with this as I do both and I don’t feel it messes with my learning or slows me down. What I do is I write it down how I will learn how its pronounced and not necessarily the phonetic way. When I do flashcards for example nobody could really learn from them but its really just for me anyways.
Some comments were about bad teachers- I think sometimes some teachers work for some while they don’t work for others. You can always change. I have changed quite a lot and I think some teachers you just can do for short time while others you learn better long term.
I study about 3 hours privately per day Monday to Friday. I think what is more important is doing your homework and self-study.
Lizzy, excellent review, thank you for taking the time!
Did you get a chance to check out Duke? Arthit (Principal, linguist and Thai native) has been revamping their materials to a high level.
Thanks, Catherine. Duke have been very responsive and thorough in getting back to me – I’ll certainly be checking them out further when I get to Bangkok.
They alerted me to the fact that if I apply for the EV in the UK (my home country) there is a chance of getting a multi-entry visa. When you start the process in Bangkok and apply/collect in Laos, you get only a single entry visa. My follow up on this shows that (1) the Thai consulate in UK says that in fact it will typically only grant a single entry visa – although they may grant a multi-entry (but the criteria for doing so are unclear to me), and (2) in any event if you have a single entry visa it is possible to apply for a permit to leave/re-enter (for a fee, of course!) and these are routinely given. There may however be other advantages to applying in the UK (or your relevant home country), including not needing to periodically extend the visa during the year or undergo a test part-way through the year by the Ministry of Education (to prove you have been studying!).
A final note: if you are 50 or over then you can apply for a retirement visa. One advantage of this route is that you are not tied to language schools that are registered with the Ministry of Education. A number of Tod’s reviews give great reviews to schools such as Jentana that are not registered – so studying at such places wouldn’t enable you to get an EV.
SXS, Tod has reviewed many more Thai schools for WLT – this one only the start of the series. Scroll down to Tod Daniels: Reviewing Thai Language Schools in Bangkok.
One school especially that’s put a lot of work into their materials over the years is Duke. It’d be worthwhile for you to check out.
Thai Language School Review: Duke Thai Language School.
FWIW, I recently wrote to three schools in advance of my trip to Bangkok later this month – I am planning to study intensively for maybe up to a year, and will need an Education Visa.
1. Baan Aksorn: very prompt, very helpful replies – now top of my list and will definitely meet with them when I get to Bangkok.
2. MTL (My Thai Language): prompt reply – but no longer assist with Education Visas (I understand the process has become more onerous, as the system has been abused by many simply looking for a means to stay in Thailand rather than bona fide students).
3. RTL (Rak Thai Language): no replies at all to my various emails. I shortlisted them because SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies, part of London University) send their Thai language students there as part of their year in Thailand. Disappointed.
I would like to share some thoughts on Everyday Thai Language School in Sathorn: I was in Thailand for a short project and thought it would be nice to be able to get a grasp of the fundamentals of the Thai language and maybe pick up something that would help me through the day (ordering food, giving directions, etc.). The school is close to the place I was living at that time and seemed decent. Due to time constraints and due to the fact that I knew from learning other languages that my brain is not capable of retaining too much new information, I took only the speaking classes (3 hrs. per day, instead of one extra hour for reading and writing). Thai 1 and 2 would be taught within three weeks and after that consecutive classes could be taken. I hoped it would be a positive environment to learn something new. Instead I have never felt being treated worse by a service provider. The teacher was not very empathetic and would constantly compare my progress to the other students and since I, the oldest in the group with a hearing disability, could not keep up with the pace he would badmouth me in front of the whole class telling the other students what bad example of a student I would be and made me feel guilty because he felt tired of teaching me. I left the school feeling very miserable for a couple of days and then stopped going. I understand that the Thai teaching culture is different to what I am used to, but I did not ask for special treatment, nor did I ask them to prepare me for any tests (I did not have to show anything to anyone), I did my homework and participated in the lessons. I paid for a service and expected nothing more than a fun way to learn something new and understand the environment I was living in better. I think that the teacher was not very well educated in terms of how to teach people and I found it very astonishing that he would treat customers with such little respect.
Regarding the learning material: For my situation I would have appreciated texts and vocabulary that deal with everyday-situations, such as telling the time, ordering food, giving directions to a taxi driver, and explaining who I am. This would have helped me to practice in real life. Although the book has some useful chapters, these come very late and do not really teach something very useful.
The location of the school is approximately a 10 minute walk from the BTS station next to a 7/11 and a food court.
Welcome Sophie. Rak has been reviewed here: Thai Language School Review: Rak Thai
Hello! Any feedback/experience at the Rak Thai Language School located in Mahatun Plaza Ploenchit) by any chance? Thanks a lot and thanks for your blog, Sophie
Any suggestions on schools that do language immersion for kids? I would like to put my kids in for a few weeks to learn Thai while we are in Bangkok. Thanks.
Walen School at Asok (have been a student there on an Ed Visa for 6 months)
Absolutely terrible materials. I have been a teacher for years and have seen some poor materials but their book is the worst. It is clearly just designed for the teachers – most of whom just read the page, have the class repeat it, and move on. They put you in the “alphabet” class first and you just repeat the letters over and over while learning no classroom Thai nor any practical beginning phrases whatsoever. People often spend months in this class. When they take a test to move to the first book class, they are expected to be able to repeat the consonants and vowels in order by memory. It is not a reading or recognition class – it’s just like singing the ABCs but much longer. Useless and impractical – especially considering that you are then thrown into any Book 1 class and none of them start with a group of students at page one. I was put in a class that was on page 45! I could only singsong the alphabet and was in a completely mixed level class and expected to read and know the previous material immediately. Very discouraging and not productive – I spent 15+ hours each week for the first month trying to catch up and prepare for class – also, not helpful in my own ability to use the language in any practical way.
Teachers vary enormously – from experienced and caring to novice and irritated with students who want to learn. Some of the teachers, wisely, work outside the book and the students actually get something from those lessons. The classroom method is all simply listen, repeat, turn the page. Very little review, the language presented is not practical for business or casual use, the students are told to have perfect pronunciation or no one will understand them and that they will “just naturally get it” in the same lesson. We are not native speakers and we won’t just naturally understand grammar and pronunciation.
After six months of 4-6 hours a week and 4-6 hours outside of class studying their lessons and text on my own, , I can read anything (slowly) but cannot speak at all. I can barely use the 10 phrases I started with of casual everyday Thai as we never have conversations at all. If you are with a Thai partner and reguarly trying to speak and use the lessons in a natural context – these lessons might help. But, really, I have learned more from my fellow students than from the text or teachers. I am very disappointed with my progress and would never recommend this school.
First of all this is a very useful website – congratulation to all of you for your enthusiasm. However, most of you are obviously already advanced with the Thai language, more or less.
I’m a German and an absolute beginner, though married to an educated Thai women and living in Bkk for more than 3 years. As an academic teacher (MD) working at a university hospital I’m supposed to speak, teach and publish in English, which (my English skill) is pretty good. My Thai (shame on me!) is near to zero. Eventually I’ve decided to start a serious attempt to learn the language, suitable at least for communication in normal life. I believe this can only be done by joining a school and following a clear schedule. I’m 68 years old, indeed dedicated but no language genius, the more as in my age learning a new language may be difficult anyway.
My question for advice to all of you, what is the best school for an old guy, who’s a beginner and can attend only max. two days a week? Money and transport are not the number one issue, as long as the quality is adequate. Every recommendation is highly appreciated; thanks’ in advance.
I have to say that the different schools really have different quality. I learned Thai at Pro Language and it was good, I had a great teacher but the text book didn’t really make sense. Friends that are Thai and want to learn English, Andrew Biggs suppose to be really good, and the text books seem great.
I went to a trial lesson at NISA. It seemed that the teachers there had many years of experience compared to other schools.
My trial lesson the teacher tried to explore my level and suggested level 2 reading book. I beleive the book has vocabulary, patternsand stories to readand practice.
Their prices seem cheaper than other schools I investigated.
Does anybody have experience with this school.
Joe, there’s a fair amount of bad Thai study materials floating around. Pity, when we are in a country filled with Thai speakers!
Jaimee, I’ll pass your recommendation over to Todd (he visits the various schools in Bangkok and keeps a lookout for new ones to review).
I studied with a private tutor because of my schedule. We used old Union lessons that she adapted and added to for me. Then last year I attended UTL to see what an intense month of studying was like. I liked my teacher at first. I already knew that I wasn’t a fan of the method. After a time my questions couldn’t be answered and so I stopped asking and counted the days for it to be done.
Since last fall I’ve been studying at Thai Language Clinic (Ram 1). It’s a small school and I’ve been in a private class the whole time. I like many things about TLC. The books are updated and new modules keep being written. The teachers also work with me and are able to answer most of my questions.
Yes,that is I want to say
Sometime I spent more than hours to understand what is the book suppose to say but useless
in the same time my teacher tried very hard to explain all that stuff to make it easier !!!!
Hi Joe, I personally haven’t been to STL but I’m curious… if the teachers are good then how can the materials be confusing? Do you mean that the teachers are making the best of bad materials?
Have you ever tried STL school around Asoke
Wow!! The material is so confusing me but all teacher are good
Traci, it really bugs me when a school is tight with their materials. What they don’t realise is that course books make great marketing tools so having them floating around is a positive, not a negative. Well. Unless their books are cacca. There is that.
Pss… I deleted double posts. No worries 🙂 And as you are avidly looking I’ll get you that review.
Catherine – Nope, I didn’t get any books! They said they only sell their books to enrolled students, and at that, they’ll only sell the level that you’re actually studying. No big deal though, as Baan Aksorn’s books were actually better (professional-looking, with impeccable English), plus they don’t do that petty nonsense of restricting who they sell to.
Also, how interesting that Tod has just reviewed AAA — so far he’s been on the money with his reviews (yes, Tod, your posts are useful!), so I’ll be curious to see what he came up with. . . .
Traci, I’m also partial to patterns. Were you able to come away with any of their books?
Btw: AAA Thai Language School is Tod’s next school review. But as a review went just recently, it’ll be a week before it appears. If you are in need I can send you what he wrote.
I visited two more schools (neither of which are listed above). Some comments on each:
AAA Thai Language School: I didn’t actually do a trial lesson here! (Whether they offer such a thing, I don’t really know.) What happened was, over email they recommended that I come in to observe a class, but after a quick informal assessment in their lobby, they concluded (as I kinda already know) that I know a crap-load of vocabulary but am shaky on sentence structure. So if I were to take private lessons there, we would need to go through their speaking 2 and speaking 3 books (but pretty quickly) to get those patterns into my head. All of this was right on the money. However! I never actually saw one of their rooms. I never actually laid eyes on a teacher. I liked their books (they have the “patterns” sections that teach sentence structure, as the books of several schools do). Prices were 400 Baht an hour for less than
Traci, good work! Additional input is always needed (more opinions, the better). I too prefer the older Thai teachers. I like their no-nonsense approach to teaching Thai.
Two more schools:
NISA THAI LANGUAGE EMPORIUM (not mentioned above): This school was noticeably different from all the run-of-the-mill places out there. Right off the bat, I could see that the teacher for my trial lesson was a bit older than the usual “cute girl between 20 and 35 years old”. Plus, she *really* tested me to see what I knew and didn’t know. For example, she took out their level 1 book and checked whether I could pronounce the letters of the alphabet correctly (including dtaw dtao and ngaw nguu) and whether my tones were clear and properly pronounced. I got the impression that if I were to study there, we would work through their materials systematically and fill in all the missing pieces as we came across them. Their prices for private sessions were 420 Baht per hour for a pack of 30 (their smallest package). Only negative thing I can say was that their materials were written in karaoke Thai (without any of the “real” thai included on the page as well). Presumably their more advanced materials don’t have this flaw!
PARADIGM LANGUAGE INSTITUTE: This was the only place so far that had a class that was truly well-suited to my (advanced, but spotty) level. They placed me (somewhat arbitrarily, but it turned out to be correct) in a mid-level #2 class, where Khruu Stop did a really good job. Their classes at this level seem to be very small (two or three people max), so seem to be quite the good value: 125 Baht per hour for a 72-hour course. Drawbacks: this level of class wouldn’t directly help with “everyday fluency” — the ability to quickly and correctly say something like, “Oh! I forgot my sweater.”
If I may add a few comments on the schools I’ve visited this week:
BAAN AKSORN: Was very impressed with them. They really took the time to figure out what was most lacking in my Thai language abilities and where they could help. They also have excellent materials that are presented in a very organized way (which is the thing that seems to be lacking in all the Thai language schools & materials I’ve encountered). The place was quite pretty and relaxing, and the staff offer their students coffee free with their sessions (nice touch, right?) The only negative was cost: They are 600 Baht per session for a pack of 10 (their smallest package, if I remember correctly). It was 500 Baht per session if you bought a pack of 40. Even if the prices seem steep, I would still recommend taking them up on a trial lesson there (why not, right?). I did buy one of their workbooks (for 500 Baht) and am finding it really useful.
THAI LANGUAGE HUT: The place had a “hole in the wall” feel to it — kind of dumpy. Plus, they seem to use a “freestyle” or “small talk” approach, where you and your teacher have a conversation (about what you had for breakfast or whatever) and they correct you here and there. This seems to be the most common approach at schools here in Thailand, but also my least favorite. On the plus side, my teacher for my trial lesson was genuinely sweet and fun and likeable. But in the final analysis, I would cross this off my list entirely, as their prices were rather high (about 450 Baht per lesson for a pack of 15) for just medium-quality offerings.
Thai is pretty difficult but I have managed somewhat to pick up some from the locals. Now that I want to get serious I will probably reconsider which one based on your review. Considering I have a business there I should.
rem is correct. Unity is only 10 years old. Could be the author has it confused with Union Language School, which was founded in 1955. AUA may be slightly older. As rem wrote, Unity uses a similar curriculum, and no doubt chose the name for its similarity.
Hans, my sympathies on locating schools (or anything in BKK). Note: each of the links go to their website which I’m sure have directions. Also, Tod’s individual reviews do have directions (he physically goes out to each one).
Johannes, Tod has a dedicated review on Pro Language and others. The dedicated reviews have more detail.
Thanks for a great post. I have been taking private lessons at pro language and have been lucky to have a great teacher there, but will maybe go on and try somewhere from your list. Again thanks
All these nice descriptions don’t mention where in the huge Bangkok they are located and how to reach them. Getting to them can be a major problem and extremely time-consuming. For instance, there many foreigners around Banglamphu (and not all of them are short-term süperficial travellers), but not a single language school is residing there. Not economically rewarding ? Pooh !
I’ve studied with Unity Thail Language School twice now and have dropped out both times. Even though I wasn’t completely satisfied with the course in Level One, I thought I would give then another chance for Level Two. Not a good decision in the long run. I’m a former English teacher and I’m wondering if the teachers there have any training in teaching a second language. My experiece with Level Two was that it’s all teacher talk and hardly any student talk. My confidence decreased this time and I’m left with the feeling that I’m sure I can speak more Thai that what I did in those classes. In addition, the material they use, both the ‘book’ and the tape, can only be described as just awful and not really that useful for the classes. As the old saying goes – you get what you pay for and I think going to a more expensive but more effective and professional school is the best option for me now.
I’d imagine if price and/or time are no object, you could go to Chula’s Intensive Thai program. They’re priced out of the ball-park as far as the private Thai language market, they use OLD material which is littered with mistakes, BUT they are INTENSIVE! Srinakharinwirot or Ramkhamhaeng University would be other choices. I recently reviewed Jentana & Associates, and that school is a cut above the rest too.
One last thing, there is a HUGE vacuum learning-wise at almost EVERY school once you progress past a high-medium, low-intermediate Thai speaker/reader. Nearly every school uses the same out-dated material about topics (which to me, have ZERO interest or relevance in my life here); “thai culture & tradition” “buddhism”, “the history of thailand according to the thaiz”, “the guy who never smiles”, “thai holidayz”, etc. These appear to be offered at a LOT of schools in the intermediate to advanced students. Personally I think they’re more an ‘indoctrination’ or not so subtle attempt at ‘brain-washing foreigners’ into a ‘thai-mind-set’ rather than advancing ANY modicum of Thai language skills. I think a LOT of this was developed to be used as study material when foreigners would sit the ป.๖ exam at the end of every year. Those were all possible topics on the exam; (but that test got tossed out the window a coupla years ago).
I’ve yet to find a school which offers contemporary, interesting and informative intermediate/advanced Thai course material.
Anyway, that’s about the best I can do recommendation-wise.
I was the International/Immigration Advisor for a major Texas university’s English as a Second Language program for 15 years. All of our teachers had at least a Master’s degree (and many a Ph.D) in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL). Our program was top-notch and very formal, with daily homework, tests, activities, etc. It scares me to see some schools having none of these. I have a member of my immediate family working and living in Bangkok and am seriously thinking about moving here. (I lived in Asia as a teenager so it’s really a second home to me). I am looking for such a program in Bangkok. From the posts, I see that perhaps Baan Aksom may be a good choice. Could anybody recommend any other schools that fit the criteria as having a formal, very serious language program? Many thanks.
I’ve had a very different experience of Baan Aksorn than “B”, who commented above. I’ve been studying there for over a year and am happy with the results and the teaching methods. The teachers do each have their own teaching styles (that’s a positive, of course) and I’ve always found the lessons to be enjoyable and informative.
Now I’m mainly working on reading exercises (newspaper articles, extracts from novels etc) to increase my vocabulary/understanding, and also learning grammar to a higher standard and the lessons have been very beneficial.
I concur with Marc & Sam – recommended.
Tip: Regarding Sam’s comment about using flashcards, I use them too, everyday. However, I use an app on my phone instead. If you have an iPhone or Android phone, check what apps are available for your phone as they’re so convenient – no need to carry boxes of paper cards around.
First, I want to commend Women Learn Thai for this excellent post; it really helped me select my school. I went with Baan Aksorn partly for the review (“no nonsense,” “hold to a higher standard”); and partly because their website showed that their building was very beautiful and very Thai (not like a room with plastic chairs in some high rise).
I was very pleased with the courses and the result; I don’t think I could be MORE pleased. I thought the course was well worth the money, and I’m not funded by a multinational or the Chamber of Commerce, either! At the entrance interview, I explained to the director that I only had two weeks in Bangkok, and that my objective was to learn how to learn, as it were: To understand enough about the language to study fruitfully at home, until I could return to Bangkok again. And so the director arranged a custom course for me, one-on-one with a tutor, two hours a day for ten days (plus the textbooks and the CDs). And now I am going home with a rough understanding of Thai syntax (no classifiers yet!), a rough grasp of the tones, a vocabulary of around 500 words, and — this is very important — true confidence that I can be a successful learner. Certainly I was confident enough to practice my Thai on the street!
Why the confidence? The no-nonsense approach. Here’s an example: I’m a writer (as well as a programmer), and so I learn best when I can write (and not just read or speak). So I made myself flash cards (after the school found me cards; for some reason, index cards aren’t to be found in stationery stores here, at least the ones I went into). And after a few days I had a pretty good stack, and I would go over my cards on the BTS going to school. I mentioned this to my teacher, and showed her the cards, and she actually took the cards out of my hand and tested me with them!! Now, that’s no-nonsense! So, when they say “good” at Baan Aksorn, it’s not sweet talk; they really mean it.
One caveat and two further remarks:
The caveat: I’m not sure that Baan Aksorn is for people who think that they’re farther along than they really are; that goes back to the “no nonsense” idea, because Baan Aksorn won’t let you progress to a new level until you have achieved mastery at your current level. I had to discard all the practicing I’d done from the Internet, because I simply got the pronunciation wrong. There are Thai sounds that an English speaker literally cannot hear, let alone pronounce, and the Internet doesn’t help with that, because there’s no feedback. Therefore, having a teacher, “live,” sitting across the table providing feedback and correction is invaluable. I simply accepted that they were the teachers, and I was the student.
On transliteration: In theory, I’m with those who say go for the Thai alphabet, straight up, first thing. In practice, with the limited time that I had available, the transliteration “bootstrapped” me into learning right away. And a teacher sitting across the table from me is a have-to-have for speaking, but only a nice-to-have for reading. So in retrospect I’m glad that Baan Aksorn didn’t invest my time for me in reading. Next time!
On speaking only Thai: In theory, again, I’m with those who say speak Thai only. In practice, I would shift to English to ask the “why” questions I couldn’t ask in Thai, and so got a little bit of an education in how Thais think about the world as well. This two-way will help me learn when I am away from Thailand, because understanding patterns of thought helps me recognize patterns in language.
In summary, I was very happy with the teaching and the results, and plan to continue studies at Baan Aksorn.
Marc, I’m impressed. You went at your Thai studies full force! A ten minute speech all in Thai, after only six weeks of study, is commendable.
I too agree with the ‘no transliteration’ stance but I had to figure it out the hard way (I knew I was frustrated but I assumed that it was down to the many different transliteration styles bouncing around).
Being a senior executive in a multi-national company in Thailand it is essential to at least be able to speak some Thai if you want to get close to your employees.
I have worked in many countries before coming to Thailand and this was really my first opportunity to learn the language before starting my work assignment.
When I first came to Thailand in 2008 I spent more than 500 hours learning to read, write and speak Thai. I also insisted on doing it the right way, meaning, no learning from phonetics, straight to the Thai alphabet. It was a bit difficult in the beginning and I had a slower start than other students, but I now believe it was worth the effort because after 6 weeks I was able to give a 10 minute speech at a formal function in Thai (written in Thai, not phonetics).
I studied 4 hours per day (2 hours reading/writing in the morning and 2 hours speaking in the afternoon), 5 days per week. I’m a strong believer in immersion language study whenever possible. I can honestly say that although I am not yet fluent, my Thai is extremely clear when spoken because I understand the proper pronunciation of words (because I can read proper Thai), and no one ever seems to have a problem understanding me when I speak. I feel quite comfortable to give speeches in Thai at my company on a regular basis and also at employee weddings, etc. I know it means a lot to my employees and they feel closer to me because they can feel from my heart what I am saying in their language.
I studied at Baan Aksorn near Emporium. I had 4 different teachers on rotation in order to provide diversity and variety to the experience. It was a lot of fun and I feel I was able to learn at a reasonable pace given the structure, environment, and teaching method. I would highly recommend this school to anyone looking to truly learn how to speak Thai (or read and write for that matter).
I live in Krabi and thought I would come to Bkk for 60 hrs of thai lessons in 2 to 3 months. I have only contacted a few schools and met with one but nothing of them in the serach of reviews. Everyday Thai language school.
A heads up: I just came across Cassandra James’ article:The Best Language Schools to Learn Thai in Bangkok: Learn Thai in a Fun Atmosphere in Thailand (no longer online)
From personal experience, I would like to add that I have serious reservations about BAAN AKSORN. I am an intermediate learner, so they placed me with a private tutor because there was no class that fit my skill level. I was rotated from tutor to tutor.
My first tutor made fun of me constantly, called me weird and laughing at almost everything I said. I know that this can be taken as a “very Thai” way of reacting, but it often hurt my feelings. Eventually I asked to be transferred to another tutor and the owner of the school (who is very nice) obliged. My next tutor never ever prepared for our lessons. We had the same conversation every day about what I’d eaten for breakfast, long after it was clear I had a grasp on the vocab and grammar, just to kill time. It got very frustrating quickly. When we used the book, we basically just read what was inside as fast as possible. It was not a good use of class time at all.
In short, I think BAAN AKSORN has good intentions, but the staff is very hit or miss and I’m not sure they are consistent in their methodology.
A better bet might be Chulalongkorn’s intensive language classes, or one of the schools run by their former instructors. (Including Suma.)
This is a very good post… I mean, its great that foreigners are looking for Thai language schools.
Tod – A worthy effort. I just have a few comments :
1. While I agree that TONS of people have studied at Unity (I studied there myself for a while), it is far from being one of the oldest school. I am quite sure it was created in the 2000’s. The school uses the Union method. As for the oldest Thai language school, I don’t know for sure, but I believe it should be one of these 3 : Union language school, Nisa Thai language school or AUA
2. While i don’t challenge the fairness of your review, it seems rather difficult to evaluate a language school based on perusing their materials for a few minutes and attending 1 or even a few free lessons. Another approach (time allowing and i guess you must have spent a lot of time already) could be to prepare a questionnaire (which would include evaluation of materials, teachers, usefulness of the course, learning atmosphere, etc.)and submit it to current students of the schools.
In any case, thanks for sharing the information.
Tod, great resource material. Being the former AUA director for Chiang Mai, but now having no connection with them except using their library, I want to point out that the Thai teaching method used in Chiang Mai is quite different from the one used in Bangkok. I knew the late Marvin Brown, the person who helped to develop their present program. He was also the person who developed AUA’s older audio lingual method which had lots and lots of repetition; almost the exact opposite of today’s method. He dissociated himself from that method in favor of the present one. I told him that I disagreed with this new approach and thought that he had it pretty right on to begin with, although it might prove just the right thing for some people.
The AUA Chiang Mai program might or might not be good for you, but it is worth checking out. Here is a short writeup I found about AUA Chiang Mai’s program:
The AUA Thai program is one of the oldest in Chiang Mai with both group and individual classes taught by teachers who have a lot of experience and are very dedicated to teaching Thai. Class size averages 8 students so there is plenty of Teacher to Student and Student to Student interaction. The school is set in a nice compound conveniently located in the heart of Chiang Mai. There’s a wonderful library with lots of resources for learning Thai language and culture. Materials are out-dated but the teachers don’t always follow the book. Instead they have developed lessons which attempt to get the students to understand and use tones correctly in grammatical patterns and short conversations. Besides speaking there are writing courses as well. Great value for money.
Talen – I started looking for a Thai language school / method to suit me last year, so reading Tod’s research was a help. I read that about immigration checking too. And I’ll bet they will be looking closely at some of the schools known as ‘visa mills’… 😉
Ben – Thanks! Tod went through a lot of trouble to try out all of these schools. After the week is out, this post will be added to my ‘Top posts’ in the sidebar (so you will be able to find it easily).
Jon – Tod’s research was compiled over several years so I am not sure if putting the exact prices over that period of time would apply. But I might be interested in calling each one to compare prices… we’ll see…
This is interesting but would love to see some actual prices rather than just *cheap* and *expensive*.
.-= Jon hopes you will read…Thailand’s First Twitter Wedding =-.
Wow. What great research, very handy to know this list is on your site for reference… Many thanks!
More great resources for us Cat…There is a plethora of Thai language schools throughout Thailand but it can’t be easy finding the right one.
Now that immigration is beginning to crack down on the education visa holders who are using learning Thai as their long term solution for a long stay it would seem that they better make the right choices.
From what I’ve heard immigration is now asking rudimentary questions to ed visa holders to make sure they are actually learning the language instead of just using the ed visa for long stay. If they don’t respond well they are being tools their skills better improve by the next check in or they might be checking out.