This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Thai Language Express…
School: Language Express (premium Thai language course)
Website: Language Express
Location: Mahatun Plaza (1 minute from Ploenchit BTS, Exit 2)
Telephone Number: 02-675-3915
First off, this is my first single school review on this site (thanx Cat). This review is based solely on Language Express’s premium Thai language course and its curriculum. I went there when they first opened, but I gave them a pass because they were using Benjawan Becker’s Basic, Intermediate and Advanced books for their standard class. Then when I saw on their webpage that they were offering a premium course, I went back to check it out. After speaking with the owners recently, I was told that even their standard course will use their books and methodology, written in-house (more about that below). Please keep reading!
Basic Info: I know appearances don’t always equate into quality but this is a real looker of a school. It takes up the entire ground floor frontage of Mahatun Plaza on Sukhumvit. You will also see from my review that in this case appearances do equate to quality. The school’s modern design, spacious entry area which includes a coffee shop, a relaxing area, wi-fi access and computers with free Internet are all right there in front. They even have grown-up sized chairs (as opposed to those totally b/s kindergarten chairs where your knees almost touch your face when you sit down!) Actually, the entire mood of the place invites you to stop in and spend some time.
It’s super easy to get to by taking the BTS Sukhumvit Line – just get off at Ploenchit Station and take Exit 2. In fact, now you can’t miss it, as they put up a GIANT banner that you can easily see looking south from the platform of the BTS Station.
Materials: Quite honestly, in touring over 25 private Thai language schools, I’ve NEVER EVER seen material like this. Currently they have 6 levels in print and are working on 4 more! It’s based on the successful ‘Talking Step’ method of teaching English as a second language. This is a ‘situational based method’ of learning a language using high frequency vocabulary and phrases. New words are introduced in the beginning of each lesson, then these words are used in situations where you’d use them (kinda makes sense, huh?) There are dialogs (questions/answers) that you go thru to practice the vocab. Then the dialog changes and some words are substituted for others, giving you different but still useful sentence constructs. This does several things. FIRST, you’re not just learning meaningless Thai vocab, but high frequency, often used words. SECOND, it shows you how Thai sentence constructs differ from English and how words go together in Thai. As opposed to other methods, this lets you start making your own sentences pretty darned fast.
Method: The class is broken down into two segments. In the first hour you start to learn to read, write and recognize Thai characters. I know, daunting for a newbie! BUT, remember this: while the Thai alphabet has 44 characters, they ONLY make 21 sounds, so Thai is not that far off of from English. Also, while it’s true Thai has 32 vowel sound combinations, if you factor in all of the vowel combinations and various sounds they make in English, you’re just 3 sounds short (yes there are three vowel sounds that English doesn’t have but Thai does).
The thing foreigners get all too hung up on is that English has a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y and w as vowels. However those 7 characters make a myriad of different vowel sounds in English. The great aspect of Thai is, for example, the vowel sound is a long ‘e’ like the English word ‘reed’. In Thai it will always be a long ‘e’ sound. It’ll NEVER EVER change to another spelling of that vowel but with the same sound, like the English word ‘red’. One question. If ‘read’ can be pronounced as ‘reed’, why in past tense is it pronounced as ‘red’. And if you put a b in front you get bread, but to get the long ‘e’ sound you hafta go with ‘breed’? See, Thai is NOT that far off from English if you factor in all the various combinations you learned as a kid, and accept without a thought when you read English . <- is that reed or red? ANYWAY… The second hour is situational conversation which I briefly touched on before. Like I said, I have never seen this type of material designed to teach primarily English speakers the Thai language. Even if you can't read Thai, they use Benjawan Becker's method of phonemic transcription (a big phrase which means to use a combination of English letters and other characters to represent Thai word sounds). From now on in ALL my reviews I will refer to this as ‘karaoke Thai’ as it's just easier to understand. Benjawan’s method of karaoke Thai is about the most widely recognized method (no doubt because she has the most ‘teach Thai to foreigners’ language books currently in print!) Another great factor of this school is that at this time they have 6 levels of Thai. BUT, you're not compelled to be in the same level for both reading/writing and the conversational portion of the lessons. They are separate animals entirely. Let’s say your reading/writing is low but your conversational skills in Thai are at a higher level. NO PROBLEM. Take the first hour of reading/writing at what ever level fits you, and the next hour SWITCH to the level of conversation which best matches your Thai conversational skills. I've never seen this type of flexibility offered in a private Thai language school before! Teachers: Their Thai teaching staff is top-notch (a cut above the rest). I always gauge a Thai person teaching a foreigner Thai on that teacher’s ability to explain the ‘why and how’ of something in English. Some people prefer that their teacher speak ONLY Thai to them. Sadly, you can sink quite quickly if your Thai isn’t good enough to ask “why do they do this in Thai” or “how is it similar to English”. I have ALWAYS hated a Thai teacher telling me, “In Thai we do it like that”. That is NO answer! I want to know WHY Thai does it that way. I need to know so I can effectively use the language. L/E’s teachers seemed to have no problem switchin’ from Thai to English. They easily explained the whys in Thai as well as how Thai differs from English.
Classes: Their classes are offered at a wide variety of times during the morning, afternoon, nighttime and even on weekends. They even have an early-bird class that offers a substantial discount in tuition (cheapest in Bangkok). Currently, I am checking into their rates of private tuition. I don’t know if they offer online classes at this time, but will get back to you.
Bang-4-the-baht: Note that this is my own private rating system. It has NOTHING to do with what you feel is good value. It is what I feel is good value for your hard-earned baht.
A person would be hard-pressed indeed to find a better Thai language school, one which offers more in the way of quality compared to pricing than Language Express. Much more expensive Thai schools don’t offer near the quality insofar as materials, methodology or customer service. Ditto on cheaper schools.
The two foreigner owners of this school both have extensive education and business background in teaching language. In my search through Thai language schools in Bangkok, they are two of the most motivated, outgoing, and friendly foreigners I’ve met. Their business plan seems to be geared around actually teaching Thai to foreigners rather than providing a loophole for foreigners to stay here via an ED visa.
Be that as it may, enroll in either their standard course or their premium course and you’ll get supporting documentation to extend your stay in Thailand for another year.
Hope you found this review of interest!
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com
(who BTW: is NOT affiliated with any Thai language school)
21 thoughts on “Thai Language School Review: Language Express”
MR B, thank you for stopping by and sharing your experiences with the schools. They are needed.
Todd, I’ve seen the first coursebook, and as you say, it’s well designed (and similar to Duke’s). Again, thank you for all your updates!
BREAKING NEWZ UPDATE;
As you might glean from the words above here’s an update on Language Express aka L/X.
A couple years ago I mentioned L/X was re-writing their thai books from scratch. I just had no idea it’d take this long to get them out. They are head and shoulders above most material available in private thai language schools.
First off they’re character driven. There are a group of people which experience different things and drive the lessons in the books. Secondly the lessons are topic driven. So rather than just exposing you to vocab (you may or may not use) and dry question answer stuff, this new material teaches you thai for situations you as a foreigner here are likely to experience every day. This makes a HUGE difference because you can practice what you learn in class almost the second you leave it.
Also the books have illustrations which set the theme of the lessons so less time needs to be spent by the thai teacher setting up the situation so the students understand. Looking at the illustrations a student immediately can see the relationship between the people in the lesson. They can see who is superior who is subordinate and glean valuable insight into the ‘back story’ of the lesson itself.
The back of the book also has the dialog in phonetics, english and japanese, along with ‘extra vocabulary’ which ties into the lesson so a student can build on the base lesson. Also the lessons are not thai’d err tied to one another so missing a previous lesson won’t severely impact a student’s understanding of a subsequent lesson. This lets a student enroll and start the next day, no matter what lesson is being taught.
The first book for their level 1 thai class is in use right now. Each book has 48 lessons for a total of 144 lessons in level 1 (once the three books are all released).
The other two books for level 1 should be out shortly, quick on their heels will be the level 2 books and by years end they should have all three of their thai levels up and running with the new material.
They’re clearly a giant step in the right direction as far as teaching thai to foreigners.
I am really glad that there is a website like yours. I wish I have found it out before registering in the current school.
I am attending this school along with the one on the 10th floor of the same building. I agree with you that the material and method are really good here. However I am not sure that the 3 months cycle works quite well. For example if you don’t speak any Thai and you decide to join level 1 and the course has already started for few weeks, you find yourself in a class with people that already speak reasonable Thai and they find themselves to have to practice Thai with a new student that can hardly speak a word. I personally think that level 1 cannot run in 3 months cycles like this. You can’t just through in the same class people that don’t speak any word and people that have practice for 2 months. it’s going to be frustrating for both type of students.
With regards to the teachers I really like the people, but most of them work by the book with the only Saturday part-time teacher that think a little out of the box. When I say “work by the book” it is not just metaphorically, I mean they tend to just read what is on the book and make the students repeat that. I personally feel is a bit of a waste of time, as the book should just be a reference. I can read the book at home on my own. I agree with the comment above “that all you do is to read conversations from the book, without generating any of our own sentences.” This limit hugely your development.
Another example is that during the writing class we can spend time on practice writing the alphabet in the class. To be honest if feels like an exercises used by the teacher to fill up the hour. Again we could do that at home. Students would benefit more by getting to do collective exercises like dictation and by given homework for practice writing rather than wasting half of the class time practicing writing while the teacher is just watching the students.
I agree that is a good thing if the teacher can a explain a beginner some grammar rule. But in Level 1 the teacher speaks hardly any Thai in class apart from when he/she reading the book.
It is true that the school building, facilities and book are extremely nice. At the same time, I think it is just a bit of a marketing strategy, in a country whether appearance matter more than substance. This is a very expensive school comparing to any other I have been. it works out only a decent price if you buy the 1 year unlimited package. which allows you to attend as many classes as you like for 1 year. there is a catch though. There is only 2 new subject classes per week. So yes you can attend as many hours as you like, which means that you can repeat the 2 subjects as many times as you like in a week. How many time is someone willing to attend the same class though? this is a big limitation if you wanna progress quickly in your Thai.
Personally if you are really serious about learning Thai, this is not the place. As mentioned I am attending 2 schools at the same time. I have progress more in a month with the original Union Thai method than here in 3 months and I now kind of regret to have bought 1 year package. However if you have time to waste, money are not a problem and you need a visa this is your place.
P.S: Wi-FI in the school is a myth. I have been there for 3 months and never worked. I know students that have been there for a year and they told me the same.
That sounds good. I wonder if they will expand it past level one?
Is that four hours solid or with some breaks inbetween?
BREAKING NEWS!! This just in, hot off the presses…
Language Express is rolling out a new program called “Intensive Thai”. It will use the same great material in their normal Thai language program, BUT it will be taught on an intensive schedule; hence the catchy name “Intensive Thai”. ;P
The classes will run four hours a day, five days a week for two weeks. That’s 40 hours of in class instruction. The class size will be purposely kept small so students can get the most “bang-4-the-baht”. The curriculum will cover all the lessons in their level one Thai books. It covers the basics; meeting, greeting, asking questions, etc. It will also cover important differences between the English and Thai language in regards to structure.
Now this class does NOT qualify for an ED visa (unless you enroll for a year to study Thai), but it does include the lesson book and supplemental study materials.
I looked but there’s nothing on their website (that I can see) about it, so it appears to be slightly “under marketed” at this point.
If you’re interested in an “Intensive Thai” course that doesn’t use “Union Clone” methodology, I’d give ’em a call 02-675-3915, as I said the class size is limited..
Good luck learning Thai..
Todd, thanks for letting us know what’s happening 🙂
I just wanted to let people know the Thai Language material at Language Express is undergoing a substantial re-write in their material and in the way their courses are structured.
Their material is already some of the most unique stuff in the market today, as opposed to so many schools which are near carbon copies of dated material. Having seen the early drafts of the re-writes I think once this major-overhaul is finished they’ll be at the very top of the heap in regards to material. They’re gonna have contemporary, high-frequency, useful vocab and sentence structure.
The advanced reading/writing classes are already some of the most well thought out stuff I’ve seen in a school as far as an “advanced” class goes. There is reading for comprehension, testing, fill in the blank, writing answers, and in class discussion with each lesson. Quite good stuff really.
The modification to their course structure is also going to benefit the students with the inclusion of what’s called “Voice Room” (previously an optional thing). It is a class set up with tone drills, vocabulary building exercises, and also where questions from students can be addressed. It’s now included in the normal curriculum for a yearly student.
All in all I’d say this school is doing what it can to meet students needs as far as undertaking the study of the Thai language.
Just thought you should know. .
IN OTHER RELATED NEWS (which I may have mentioned previously):
L/E now has what’s called “Voice Room”. It is available for currently enrolled students (and does NOT count against your hours if you attend, in other words you can still attend your regularly scheduled classes AND the “Voice Room” for free too.
This is a class is composed of mixed level students; levels 1 & 2, and levels 3 & 4. They practice tone drills, cover tricky words, structure, activities, and are run a little less ‘dialog based’ than the regular classes.
The “Voice Room” runs Wednesday afternoon from 4-5 for levels 1 & 2, and Thursday 4-5 for levels 3 & 4. Plus they have them both again on Saturday from 2-3 for students who attend only weekend classes OR for students who attend during the week but can’t make it during the week.
It’s something I’ve never seen in any other school that I’ve been too and well worth checking out.
Well, as I always say, don’t take my or anyone’s recommendation on ANY school;
Before payin’ a single baht in tuition, a person should peruse the text books, sit a free class to observe how the material is taught, talk to the teachers, currently enrolled students, etc.
Very few schools out there are a “perfect fit” for everyone, and L/E is no exception.
What it sounds like to me is the person who posted about their experience is in too low a level for their current ability. Also, like it or not, very few schools (with the exception of the “Union clone” schools) enforce “Thai only” in the classrooms. This is mostly due to the students NOT possessing enough Thai to ask questions about the language in a coherent fashion. Obviously this is a double edged sword. Being too lax about students speaking the Thai they know doesn’t help them develop their language skills; conversely being to hard core about NOT speaking English in the class can hurt them too. I don’t think there is a good answer, but I believe a “happy medium” can be reached in most schools and most classes I’ve seen.
L/E currently has level 4 classes for both reading, writing and speaking. This level is a BIG step above level 3. (I know, because I sit the level 4 class every week). The topics are short story format, with vocab, true/false questions, fill-in-the-blank, writing answers to questions and discussion about the topic. This level may be a better “fit” for the poster, I dunno, and they won’t know until they sit it and see.
I couldn’t really weigh in on the “high teacher turn over” comment because I’m still seeing the same core group of teachers I’ve seen since they opened the school. They did bring in a few who “didn’t make the cut”. Then again, just being a native Thai speaker who can also speak English doesn’t mean they’ll be a competent Thai language teacher to non-native speakers.
I’m truly sorry the poster doesn’t feel they’re getting a good “bang-4-the-baht” from L/E. Perhaps they’ll take my suggestion and try the level 4 classes. Certainly they should voice their concerns to the management. I do know that L/E takes teaching Thai seriously, and while they can’t please everyone, they try to be as accommodating as they can when issues are brought to their attention.
I started at Language Express about a month ago, and I am really unhappy. I had studied at another school before (Sala Silom Thai Language – which is amazing) but I needed to switch for the Thai ED visa. I started at level 3 speaking, and realized my classmates could barely speak, even though they have been studying there for 6 months already. All we do is read conversations from the book, we don’t generate any of our own sentences. I feel I am not progressing at all.
I highly recommend NOT attending this school, unless like me, you need the flexible hours and ED visa. The students that have been here longer tell me there has been a high turnover of teachers, and lots of brand new teachers with no experience.
What put you off about them using the ‘Thai for Beginners’ series of books at the start?
To get an idea of what Bang for the Baht really means it would be better if you were to state prices (and the time of the price reading, 11 Nov 2011, for example). Otherwise it is far too vague to have semantic weight.
Todd, thanks for letting us know about their updated materials. I’d love to be able to see the new books (they do sound rather good).
Thought I’d add that Language Express just finished an entire re-write on their Thai Language course materials with a new run of books which include comprehension reviews every 4 lessons and testing every 8. Some lessons which didn’t provide high ‘bang-4-the-baht’ in terms of vocab were eliminated, and the lessons flow much better with previously learned stuff being used in the following lessons much more.
This new set of books is even better than it used to be (and it was darned good already!).
Jon, if you do try out Language Express please come back and tell us how it went. I’m not into schools (my schedule is too erratic for one) but this school seems to top them all.
To date I’ve been self taught but I’ve always been keen on something more regimented from a school. After the positive mentions (which echoes which of what I’ve heard from friends), I might well go check it out, particularly as I work round the corner.
Thanks Tod and Kat.
Nice article Tod. I can say that I fully agree with what you say. I orginally started with another Thai school. (I don’t want to say which one, it’s well publicised, but basically I feel it was a total waste of time being yelled at). I wanted to learn Thai not only get a visa and Language Express is so much better. The teachers are better, the system is better, the tests are better, the books are 100 times better and the atmosphere is…well, lets just say it’s a real school. Full marks for giving this school a mention – it deserves it.
Thanx for the positive comments! As is evidenced by my marginal skill; sadly, I’m not a professional writer. Still I hope you find the post(s) of value.
Oh, and FWIW: Language Express is offering a free week of classes the entire month of February! Although I gave the writing thai lessons a pass, I did manage to sit many hours of different conversational thai levels.
I found the students in every class really motivated to actually learn the thai language as opposed to some places where they just “put in 4 hours for their ED visa”. The difference in attitude made it very worthwhile.
Paul and Rick, if I was looking for a Thai school, this one would be at the top of my list. I’m doubly interested in seeing their course books.
Cat and Tod(d), this couldn’t come at a better time. I am soon going to resume my Thai language education after having taken a longish break because of visiting friends.
Since this school gets high marks from Todd, I will visit for an introductory class.
I like the idea of having different levels for reading and speaking. I think a lot of use will tend to do better in one area then the other. It does sound like a professional school.