This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Rak Thai Language School…
School: RTL – Rak Thai Language School
Address: 888/104 Mahatun Plaza 10 Fl., Ploenchit Rd. Lumpini Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
Telephone Number: 02-255-3036
Location: Rak Thai Language School is easy to get to from the Ploenchit BTS exit. The only tricky part is to enter the Mahatun Plaza building you hafta go around to the west side of the building, as you can’t enter from the front. Other than that, take the lift to the 10th floor and you’re there. Just a note: IF you go to their website, the Google Maps ‘stick pin’ is in the wrong location for the school (it’s incorrectly marked as Chidlom Station and the school is in front of Ploenchit Station).
Basic Info: Rak Thai is a brand spanking new Thai language school. It is what I call a Union Clone school insofar as its methodology is based on the original Union Thai method designed and written 40+ years ago to teach foreign missionaries to be proficient in Thai (or at least proficient enough to undertake their task of converting Buddhist Thais to Christianity).
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Rak Thai Language School is nicely laid out with well lit classrooms, a small sitting area for breaks, and a really fresh feel to it. I found everyone, from the principal right down to the teachers, great to interact with.
Materials: As I said the original materials were written quite a while ago (as in 40+ years). At Rak Thai Language School the director decided that while the Union methodology was good, the materials weren’t up to date. So Rak Thai re-wrote almost every book to include more contemporary dialog. This was an excellent decision as the Union stuff was really antiquated. Updating the materials gives the best of both worlds (at least as far as this school is concerned), with a proven methodology and updated, current materials.
Method: Seeing as Rak Thai Language School is a Union Clone it should come as no surprise that they follow the original Union methodology. In a nutshell, BEFORE exposing students to reading and writing, it teaches conversational Thai via phonetics with no accompanying Thai script (just the English translation). Once you understand their particular quirks the phonetics are legible.
Note: I’m still on the fence about the phonetics only methodology for the first 4 levels. My own opinion (and seeing as this is my review I can do as I like) is this: exposing students to the Thai script, as in just including in the book along with the phonetics and not even teaching it, would give them a heads up when they advance to the levels where they’re starting to read and write Thai. There is no downside to doing this, and it familiarizes the students with what Thai script looks like, what groups of characters (BTW: called words) look like in real Thai versus karaoke. I see something like this as a win/win for students and not that critical of a change in how the material is taught either.
There are 5 books which teach only Thai speaking/conversation. The lessons build on each other to reinforce the learning process. Each book or level comprises 60 hours of class time. There are also 4 levels of reading/writing and advanced topics of specialized study with topics such as social problems and current Thai news.
Rak Thai Language School also offers the prep course for the Ministry of Education Thai Proficiency Exam.
Teachers: Rak Thai Language School has a motivated group of teachers who are well versed in the material. They all came from another well-known Union Clone school, so again, no surprises there. While I am not party to what caused the mass exodus, I can say that Rak Thai appears to be the cream of the Union crop. Although I have no proof, from meeting most of the teachers I am lead to believe the other school, as far as quality teachers goes, is perhaps at a disadvantage.
The person I spoke with, Juntima, is an interesting and engaging person who came across as sincerely and wholeheartedly believing in the methodology and material.
Classes: Classes at Rak Thai Language School run 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a total of 60 hours. If you don’t invest serious time into the materials you’ll wash out after a coupla days. Plain and simple, this school is not playing the “study Thai 4 hours a week just so you can live here” game. There are enough schools hawking their visa programs, so go elsewhere if all you wanna do is live in Thailand.
The material is covered thoroughly in class thru vocab and sample dialog. The students study the dialog in class by pairing up, and then again one-on-one with the teacher. Because these classes are 3 hours long, and because they run 5 days a week, there is no way students are gonna retain the material without studying and reviewing it outside the class. It is just too fast paced and too intensive to even think you’re going to get away without additional study.
The sample class I sat was a Level 4 conversation class. Honestly, I didn’t want to sit it, and it was only after Juntima’s urging that I did. I tend to do poorly when put under pressure; my comprehension and clarity in speaking Thai takes a noticeable and precipitous dip.
Upon entering the classroom the teacher introduced me to the other students and then had them ask me questions in Thai. I was sweating bullets, being put on the spot like that. Plus, the teacher was pretty merciless about me using my internal tilde key to toggle between Thai and English. She chided me several times to speak Thai NOT English unless I honestly didn’t know the Thai word.
My classmates included a Japanese woman and an American woman (both who in my opinion spoke Thai FAR clearer than the off-toned stuff comin’ outta my mouth). The American had only been in Thailand 7 months yet her Thai was really clear and totally understandable!
Anyway, after this question answer period (which seemed to go on forever), we covered new vocabulary which had come up in our free-speaking dialog. It was the most continuous Thai I’d spoken in over a month. I came tottering out of that class drenched in sweat and limp as a noodle from speaking that much Thai at one time.
It was possibly the most fun I’ve had in a Thai language class in quite a while.
ED Visa: Rak Thai Language School does offer ED visa support and has several promotions for people interested in studying Thai and getting an ED visa too. It’s pretty much the same as other schools although I believe due to the intensity of the classes (60 hours), there’s some tricky twists as far as studying, taking time off, etc. Certainly studying Thai 60 hours in a month meets the 4 hour a week minimum set up by the Thai Ministry of Education. Check with the school for current promotions and schedules
Bang-4-The-Baht: Like I mentioned, Rak Thai Language School has to be at the top of the heap for a Union Clone school. I say that not only because of their excellent teachers but because of the re-write in their material. Most of the other clones of this methodology are still using the original material which is quite stale, often too formal, and not all that applicable in Thai society today. But using this method certainly does get students speaking something resembling Thai with both a good vocabulary base and good grammar structure.
I 100% recommend ANY student of the Thai language who is sincere about learning Thai to go visit this school, take a level test, and sit a sample class. As far as price point they are in line with, or a little cheaper, than other Union Clone schools.
Classes are intensive and run on very clearly defined timetables (as opposed to schools who’s material repeats endlessly so you can jump in when ever you want). So after you enroll, you might need to wait until the next cycle begins to start your class from book one, page one. That’s NOT a negative thing at all and given the intensity of these classes actually makes pretty good sense.
I give this school possibly the highest “bang-4-the-baht” rating I’ve ever given a Union Clone school. Rak Thai Language School is well worth checking out..
I hope you found this review of interest. Good Luck.