This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
AAA Thai Language Center…
School: AAA Thai (Advance Alliance Academy Thai Language Center)
Website: AAA Thai
Telephone Number: 02-655-5629
Address: 35 Wannasorn Tower, 10th floor, Phayathai Road,Ratchathewi, Bangkok Thailand 10400
Location: BTS – Phaya Thai Station (Exit 4) … Airport Rail Link – Phaya Thai Station.
Basic Info: AAA Thai was founded by one of the original Union School teachers. If I’m not mistaken the Union School and its methodology have been around more than 30 years. The method was originally created to teach Thai to foreign missionaries.
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The engaging principal of AAA Thai, Patcharee, took far more time with me than was necessary to explain the method, show their text books, and outline the various Thai programs offered. After seeing SO many different schools I am rarely impressed, but to have an owner of a school devote so much time to me was refreshing.
AAA Thai is the first school I’ve visited where my cover of being a newbie wanting to learn Thai was almost blown. A student coming out of a class saw me sitting in my usual attire of KISS t-shirt ‘n Levis and asked, “Hey aren’t you tod-daniels, the guy who’s now banned from the Thai Visa forum? The one who wrote stuff about Thai language schools?” I said I was and he mentioned he read my posts, lol. None of the school staff paid any attention to our interaction, so for now my cover is still good. Although pretending to be a newbie just washed up on the shores of the glorious “Land ‘O Thais” isn’t that easy now that I can read & speak Thai fairly well.
Materials: As I mentioned earlier, AAA Thai uses the Union-based methodology. The books are near perfect copies of Unity Thai and other Union-based Thai language schools. So perfectly copied, they all have the same color jackets. Thankfully, their transcription (karaoke Thai) is close to Benjawan Becker’s so it’s easy to understand.
AAA Thai has three levels of spoken Thai textbooks with Thai, English and phonetics. The chapters are broken down into meeting/greeting, basic pleasantries, asking/answering simple questions, etc. To teach a solid foundation in conversational Thai the lessons build on previous levels, getting progressively harder as the levels increase.
For students who wish to learn to read and write Thai, AAA Thai has four levels. The books are fairly well designed, starting out with writing Thai consonants and vowels, with the low class Thai consonants being taught first. In most schools they teach either the high class or middle class first, leaving anything else to be low class, but here the teaching is reversed.
Method: The conversation Thai lessons follow the typical Union structure. Using phonetics, conversations are read aloud by the teacher, followed by the students. The method gets students speaking something resembling Thai quite rather quickly.
The teachers at AAA Thai are merciless when getting proper intonation and vowel length (both critical in being understood in Thai). They spend a good deal of time (even in a group setting) getting a student as close as possible to the correct pronunciation before moving on. And I’ll bet that in one-on-one classes the teachers would be even more merciless!
Teachers: This school has quality teachers who’re well versed in using the Union method to teach Thai to foreigners. The teachers are engaging, speak clearly, and stick to the format quite well. And if a student has a specific question that can’t be answered during class, it’s written on the board for further discussion during break. This keeps a group class moving along rather than getting bogged down in the minutia of the ‘whyz-in-thai’. Sadly, the day I showed up they didn’t have a class for me to observe; this was told to me by a student on break. I’ve yet to sit an actual class, sorry about that.
Classes: The class size is purposely kept small, around 3-5 students. AAA Thai encourages students with a basic grasp of the Thai language to enroll in private lessons versus group. This makes sense because if you start a group lesson with people who have disparate levels of Thai, the teacher is compelled to teach to the person who knows the least, reducing the bang-4-the-baht for a student with a better grasp of the Thai language.
AAA Thai offers VERY competitive rates on blocks of private hours. For myself, group lessons have a dynamic conducive to new learners of the Thai language, but only if everyone is on the same page. Whereas private lessons can be much more focused on overcoming individual shortcomings (like mine).
At AAA Thai I took a comprehension test by silently reading a short story in Thai, and then answering questions put to me by the principal. Unfortunately the principal also asked me to read aloud. I’ve found when a Thai covers their mouth with their hand to hide their smile it’s not the best thing going. To the principal’s credit she didn’t actually guffaw, although a few Thai teachers lurking about the counter did snicker and snort. In the ever so tactful Thai round about way of handing out criticism, the principal said that she’d never met a student who could speak something close to Thai in free conversation, read/understand Thai as well as I could, yet when reading Thai out loud was so far off the mark on pronunciation. Obviously she couched it more politely than that. Sad, but she sure hit the nail on the head with her observations.
AAA Thai is also big on 60 hour intensive Thai courses where students go five days a week, three hours a day, for 20 days. If you choose to go this route, you can do a one-month-on – one-month-off sort of study dealy. So 1 month you study for 60 hours and the next month you take a break from class, resuming the following month.
ED Visa: AAA Thai has ED visas for students who wish to study the Thai language. I’d really like to explain the options (as they have TONZ of ’em). However, there is quite an intricate system of the many ways a person can study and still qualify for ED visas and 90 day extensions. In fact, it’s so diverse that even after I had Patcharee lay it all out, I’m at a loss on how to explain it to readers. Suffice it to say that I’ve NEVER EVER seen a school that is so accommodating in helping foreigners genuinely interested in learning the Thai language.
This isn’t a ‘visa-mill’ by ANY stretch of the imagination. AAA Thai has a program to study Thai that meets students’ needs AND the requirements of the MOE as well.
Bang-4-The-Baht: I’d rate this school right up there as far as bang-4-the-baht. Due to a previous bad experience of an un-named Union based school I’m not a fan of the Union methodology BUT it does work, and work quite well. In fact, almost every foreign missionary I’ve spoken to in Thailand has been taught at a Union type school and they’re pretty darned good foreign speakers of Thai.
I do recommend potential students to check out AAA Thai and sit a free observational class. And as always, I hope you found this review of interest.