Successful Thai Language Learner: Celia Chessin-Yudin

Celia Chessin-Yudin

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Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Celia Chessin-Yudin
Nationality: American
Age range: 20-30
Sex: Female
Location: Mahachai, Samut Sakhon, Thailand
Profession: Working at an NGO

What is your Thai level?

I would say I am at an advanced Thai level. Though not fluent yet.

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

I speak professional Thai as I have been working at a Thai NGO and translating for the past year.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

I learned Thai when I came here the first time four years ago. I learned just from friends and then I went back home and studied Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington for two years, until I came back here to Thailand in November 2008 and have been working here ever since.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?


I was in Thailand from Dec 2005 to August 2006 and then November 2008 to the present.

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

I began learning Thai when I first came to Thailand, but just from friends. Then I studied for two years, and I have been here for the last year.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

I have tried to speak everyday since I came to Thailand first.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

I learned the alphabet on my own. I tried transliteration but I didn’t begin speaking clearly until I took a University class.

Did one method stand out over all others?

Reading and writing really helped me speak clearer.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

After about six/seven months.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

Reading isn’t difficult, but remembering how to spell is hard.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

When I memorized the tones and the rules for the tones.

How do you learn languages?

By talking with people.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I “get” a language very quickly, but I am not good at paying attention to rules.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

French and Spanish.

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


Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?


Do you have a passion for music?

I like to listen to music.

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

Get a speaking partner, who will correct you.

Celia Chessin-Yudin

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.

5 thoughts on “Successful Thai Language Learner: Celia Chessin-Yudin”

  1. Amy – I agree. Immersion has to help (but I’m not sure how I’d do with it). Being able to pick up a language easier is something on my wish-list for this year. I can but hope 😉

    Martyn – I’ve been looking into how people learn. Some, like Chris Baker, get a lot out of listening and talking. And his extraordinary approach of learning Thai via translating is one that appeals to me especially.

    Everyone learns with their own twists, but it is notable that there is a growing group who gravitated to schools offering a Southeast Asian Studies type of program: Celia Chessin-Yudin, Tom Parker, Jonathan Thames, and David Smyth. David teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies where Tom Parker studied. Still others ended up with excellent Thai after working with the Peace Corps.

  2. Catherine – This is probably the shortest interview so far. Short and sweet, but to the point. Celia has got to the advanced stage really quickly and a lot of her learning appears to have benefited from talking to friends and in the classroom, group sessions if you like. The benefits of such lessons are that someone always asks a question you didn’t think of yourself and any new friends you make you have at least one thing in common, learning Thai. That makes swapping ideas and solving riddles a lot easier.

    Your answer to Talen’s computer programming question makes a lot of sense. It’s a language and a reminder to me of another that I have yet to grasp.

  3. Nice interview, as usual. Celia, it seems, is one of those lucky few who grasp a new language very quickly. She hasn’t been in Thailand all that long, yet she’s advanced. I’m sure it helps that she’s living in a town that likely doesn’t have much English and she MUST speak Thai.

    Wonder what her university courses were like as it seemed to accelerate her learning.

  4. Talen, over the course of this series I noticed a trend. That many of those who are successful at learning languages are also successful at music too. After discussing this with Hugh (I believe), programming was injected into the conversation. Programming is a language, so it fits.

    Btw – I do have a book review on WLT: Language is Music

  5. “Get a speaking partner, who will correct you.” I have one of those but sometimes she doesn’t stop at language 🙂

    As always another fine interview, Cat. It’s nice to see where other learners are coming from as I make my journey through the language. The best advice that has shone through with every interview is to immerse yourself in a setting where the language is always there. Either through living in Thailand or having constant contact with the Thai language through a friend or lover.

    I am curious though about one question you ask every interviewee..

    “Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?”

    I can understand the passion for music question as for me music relates to language and I think someone more musically inclined may have a better go at learning Thai or other languages.

    I’m thinking maybe a computer programmer may have a more analytical mind and therefor do better at languages as well considering the various computer languages that are second nature.


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