This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Jentana & Associates…
School: Jentana & Associates
Website: Thai Lessons by Jentana
Telephone Number: 02-260-6139
Address: 5/8 Sukhumvit Road Soi 31, Khlongtoei Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110
Location: Jentana & Associates is located near the Phrom Phong (Emporium) BTS Station about 700 meters up Soi 39. Currently, Jentana’s main school on Sukhumvit Soi 33 is undergoing renovations so she’s using a beautiful townhouse on Soi 39 as her Bangkok base of operations.
Basic Info: This time I decided to review a school that hasn’t jumped on the “selling of ED visas to foreigners” bandwagon, that so many schools in Bangkok are capitalizing on these days.
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The school is called Jentana & Associates and it’s been in the business of teaching Thai to foreigners for over 20 years.
In my quest to find a good Thai language school, many years ago I toured Jentana & Associates. Jentana then came to my apartment, assessed my Thai, and offered a suitable program for me to study.
Jentana is one of the most engaging Thai school owners I’ve ever had the pleasure to speak with. Her English is flawless, and her ability to discover a student’s shortcomings and strengths is evident after a mere few minutes of conversation.
She targets a completely different demographic of customers than other private Thai schools. I am almost comparing apples to oranges in regards to just how dissimilar her target clientele is.
This Thai school is not geared towards your run-o-the-mill Thai language student. By that I mean the type visitors who often sign up for a student visa in lieu of playing the ‘tourist visa’ game.
In order to make a new hires transition to working in Thailand easier, oftentimes companies foot the bill for their staff to learn Thai. These employees are Jentana’s target market – her students are gathered from international and local companies employing foreign staff in Thailand: corporate clients, private business people, and their non-Thai spouses
I talked with several students who had progressed to level three at Jentana & Associates. The students could speak Thai quite clearly (much better than I can). They also said that their reading skills were on par with their speaking.
Given her target market, it’s no surprise that most of her students are taught either in their homes or at their workplace, although a few do come to the school.
Materials: Jentana goes all out to provide high quality Thai language course materials. After looking at the various ways schools teach the Thai language to foreigners, she cherry-picked what she felt was the best from each methodology and then wrote her own course books from scratch.
The books use the standard formula most schools use to teach Thai to foreigners: transliteration, Thai script , and English. But that’s where the similarities end.
Each level comes with three different components: A speaking workbook, a reading workbook, and an additional workbook with audio files on CD for home study.
If you can read Thai, you can request workbooks without transliteration; they have Thai script and English only. This is to avoid students getting distracted by the phonetics.
In English, the books explain subjects in a concise fashion. They include the ‘whys’ of the Thai language. And not once did I encounter the dreaded, “because that’s just how Thai is” , a pat answer that oh-too many schools fall back on when faced with questions.
Jentana is currently nearing the end of a massive re-write process where the three sections will be combined into just one book for each level. I looked at proof copies of several levels and they’re quite slick. The course books are printed in full color with pictures, charts, and rules for toning, etc. A huge investment of time went into redesigning the books, and it shows. The materials are some of the most professional I’ve seen.
Method: The teaching method starts out in typical fashion. The reading section introduces you phonetically to the Thai consonants, vowels, and tone marks. It concentrates on consonant class, vowel length and ending consonants from day one, so you’re starting to get an idea of tone rules right out of the gate. And to get your head around the Thai tones, this is a critical step! New vocabulary is introduced, used in a short story, and then a question/answer comprehension test follows.
The speaking section is situation-based, which is a plus. It’s so you know what sentence constructs you’re likely to encounter in specific situations. In order to ask questions as well as answer them correctly, student are taught the vocabulary they are most likely to encounter.
This is NOT a “where is the pen?”, “The pen is on the table” sort of mindless parroting. The lessons get students thinking about the structure used in both forming and answering coherent questions.
The homework book has exercises where you copy Thai consonants and vowels, write out the vocab you learned, etc. For comprehension, it also includes short story question/answer type of mini-tests.
In class a great deal of emphasis is placed on speaking Thai as much as you possibly can. You can use English to ask questions but only if you can’t get your point across in Thai. The teachers can quite easily switch from English to Thai and back, but again, a HUGE emphasis is put on speaking Thai from page one, day one, so be prepared to speak Thai!
Teachers: Jentana & Associates employs 22 full-time Thai language teachers. This school easily has the largest number of teachers I’ve seen in Bankgok.
They are super-motivated and highly qualified Thai teachers; professional to the n-th degree. They all seem to have plenty of experience in teaching Thai to foreigners, in that they know what foreigners are likely to misunderstand. In addition, the teachers go out of their way to explain the lessons in the clearest and most easily understood way.
I can’t stress enough just how much this school concentrates on their students speaking Thai as often as they possibly can.
The teachers took a somewhat dim view when I answered their Thai questions in English, or when I translated what they’d said in Thai back to them in English. You see, in order for me to make sure I understand what Thais are on about, I often communicate this way. Even though my spoken Thai is more than adequate for almost anything I wanna say, if I know that the Thai person understands and speaks English, then I ‘fall back’ and answer with an English translation. This shortcoming holds me back more than I’d care to admit.
Classes: Jentana’s business model concentrates primarily on one-on-one Thai lessons. As that’s her targeted demographic, and given the success she’s had in this niche market, I can’t fault her for that approach. But on a case by case basis she will put together a small class of similarly skilled (or unskilled) foreigners who are interested in studying together.
Jentana mentioned to me that at one time she did offer group classes to her students, but she noticed difficulties using this method. In a group setting the teachers must adjust the class speed to the slowest learner in the group, which penalizes the fastest students. To Jentana, it was apparent from the feedback that a one-on-one approach would provide all students with the correct speed to learn Thai.
Each class is 90 minutes long with a break between two 45 minute segments. The teachers keep you going from the first minute and you’re still going strong at the 90 minute mark. So if your idea of learning Thai is to sit at the back of a group class and coast, don’t even contemplate attending Jentana & Associates. The teachers at this school are serious about their job to teach students to speak, read, understand, and to a lesser degree, write Thai.
Bang-4-The-Baht: As evidenced by the materials, the quality of the teaching staff and the professionalism in the school, this is a higher-end Thai language school. And there is a HIGH bang-4-the-baht return in terms of what you as a student receive when you study with Jentana.
For those who missed it, I’ll say it once again: this isn’t a ‘visa-mill’ type of place and it doesn’t do group lessons.
Neither is it by any stretch of the imagination the most expensive school in the private Thai Language market. Her pricing for blocks of lessons is right up there with what you’d pay for a qualified private Thai tutor. But then again, that’s what you are getting at Jentana & Associates: private 1-on-1 lessons.
Note: It’s my experience that oftentimes finding a good teacher can be hit or miss – and I’ve run thru more private Thai tutors than I care to remember! Just being a native speaker doesn’t qualify someone to teach Thai to foreigners. Also private tutors don’t always have the quality material to facilitate the learning in a meaningful way. Jentana & Associates has BOTH! She’s got super-qualified teachers and excellent, well-written material.
If someone is genuinely interested in getting a firm grasp on the Thai language by attending the one-on-one lessons, applying themselves to the exercises, listening to the CD’s, and is willing to start speaking Thai right away, I’d give Jentana & Associates a call.
Hope you found this review of interest!
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
(who BTW: is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)