Successful Thai Language Learner: John Bugden

Successful Thai Language Learner

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Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: John Bugden
Nationality: British
Age range: 20-30
Sex: Male
Location: London
Profession: Self employed decorator

What is your Thai level?


Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?

Street Thai.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

After an initial quick holiday to Thailand, I knew for a fact I would be going back so thought it would be useful to learn some phrases. Seeing the huge positive response for my efforts made me hungry to keep going with the learning.

Do you live in Thailand?



How long have you been a student of the Thai language?


Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

I self studied for a couple of years and had some tuition with Thai style. After that I just used the language in everyday life.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

Yes everyday in the evenings. Also any spare time during the day.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

Self study using Youtube, Facebook and websites. Various Smartphone apps. Books. Tutoring with Thai style. Podcasts. Writing down everything and keeping notes. A lot of practicing with Thai people. 

Did one method stand out over all others?

I found the combination of all of them was how I became successful in learning the language. However, depending on what stage of the language I was at, I may have used some methods more than others. For example, at the beginning I was writing down a lot of information from websites and youtube, then as I was progressing using podcasts, and when I reached the plateaux stage, tutoring pushed me going forwards.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

After one year.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?


What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Trying out my Thai that I had been practicing by myself in my local Thai restaurant and seeing the joy and surprise by the staff. It felt fantastic and all I wanted to do was learn more.

How do you learn languages?

More self taught using a lot of repetition and then practical use.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

  • Strengths – Confident using the language and very much enjoy speaking to people.
  • Weaknesses – Because I learnt 99% of my Thai outside of Thailand I feel sometimes even though it sounds like I have a good grip of the language. I have missed out on a lot of exposure and may not communicate in exactly the same way a native Thai person would.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

You don’t have to learn the Thai alphabet to be able to speak fluently.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I used to go to France a lot and got an A at GCSE level. However these days I can’t perform when put on the spot.

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?


What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Study hard using all the spare time you have and enjoy yourself. Being able to speak to friends family or even friendly locals in their native tongue is such an incredible feeling. If you put in the hard work now you will reap the rewards for the rest of your life. Good luck!

John Bugden

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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