The Tadoku Challenge: Read More THAI or Die

Read More THAI or Die

This article was originally posted on

  • Get your FREE Thailand Cheat Sheet ​by entering your email below. The ​Sheet, based on ​our experience with living and working in ​Thailand for 10+ years, shows you how to ​save time and money and ​gives you the tools the thrive in Thailand.

Read More THAI or Die…

Andrej from ‘Bakunin learns Thai’ (no longer online) recently reminded me that the registration for the Tadoku challenge, Read More or Die, is now open for July.

From Read More or Die…

The three basic Tadoku principles:

  1. Read without using a dictionary. If you can’t read it without using a dictionary, read something easier.
  2. Skip over whatever you don’t understand.
  3. If you find that what you’re reading is boring or difficult, toss it and pick up something else!

Quoting Andrej…

The idea is to read as much as you can at a fairly easy level, so that you:

  • Consolidate language knowledge.
  • Casually pick up new words.
  • Casually pick up new structures.
  • Deepen your relationship with Thai culture.
  • Increase your reading speed.
  • Develop a reading habit.
  • …etc.

The contest will be run via twitter. To register to read Thai, just tweet: @TadokuBot #reg #th

More about the Tadoku challenge: Tadoku – Read More or Die

I’ll be reading for the month of July but as I’m traveling extensively I’ll forgo registering. If you are joining the Tadoku challenge please let me know as I’d love to cheer you on.

19 thoughts on “The Tadoku Challenge: Read More THAI or Die”

  1. Hi Kevin, if you want a dictionary with excellent Thai sound files, then the Three-Way Thai-English English-Thai Talking Dictionary is the one I use. There’s a software version (Windows), iPhone / iPod, and iPad. Benjawan and Chris update often. Details are at Word in the Hand.

  2. Catherine, I’m using the 3rd Edition of the Domnern-Sathienpong Thai-English dictionary with the CD. The software allows bidirectional usage. Ironically, the English audio quality is superb but the Thai audio is … well…muddled. There is a 4th edition out there but I’m reluctant to buy it, for fear of the same-same.
    Has anyone else out there used the 4th edition yet? If so, please let me know of any changes/improvements, etc.

  3. Excellent. I’ll check out both (as a cat lover, the cat theme really grabs me). If you can think of any more that kept your attention… well… you know… I have a list that I’ll post later. Thanks!

  4. Not quite a list, but here are two books I really enjoyed: The first is เด็กชายในเงา by ตวงทิพย์ ยุวชิต. It’s about twin boys, one of whom has cerebral palsy. The main theme of the book is the importance of giving opportunities to handicapped children, but other themes are touched as well. I found it both touching and captivating, and it is very well written. It got shortlisted for the รางวัลนายอินทร์อะวอร์ด in 2549. The second book is วันที่โลกไร้แมว from nanmeebooks’ แว่นแก้ว series. Aliens abduct all cats from the earth to sell them to wealthy cat lovers on other planets, eradicating all human memories of cats at the same time. Only three kids can keep their memories of cats and start to fight to get the cats back. It’s a cute and lighthearted story; check out the cover with google image search, and you’ll know what to expect.

  5. Kevin, I’ve asked several programmers if they could put something like that together but nothing is happening for sure. There’s Spreeder but it doesn’t have the audio along with the scrolling text. As far as I know, the only way to get audio and scrolling text together is to use karaoke software with video. I’ll revisit the issue in the upcoming AUA reader project.

    Andrej, there are audio books for the Thai market but they are for beginners (the Disney books, for one). But you are right, plugging away will get you there eventually. In saying that… After following your progress I have a feeling that you are advanced in your abilities so others might not find learning to read as easy 🙂

    Would you please share the books you enjoyed the most? It’d be great for others doing the Tadoku in the future. And I’ll ask Hamish for his list too.

  6. By the way, the Tadoku contest is over. We were two in the Thai camp, Ajarnpasa and myself. I read a bit less than last time, because it’s summer where I live, but some of the books I read were really captivating. One book in particular was almost impossible to put down, and I was very happy to have reached that stage in my Thai learning. There’s still a loooooooong way to go to reach proficiency, though.

    The next Tadoku contest is in October. I’ll be traveling that month and won’t take part, but I hope that a few of WLT’s readers will keep the Thai section alive 🙂

  7. Mickmock, both Becker’s so-called 3-way dictionary as well as the monolingual Royal Institute Dictionary ( give the pronunciation of words with ambiguous spelling. There’s no need to take a hit and miss approach (recording yourself, asking friends to correct), just look up the pronunciation when you’re in doubt. Becker also pronounces it for you, which is even better in case you’re still uncertain about some letters.

    Catherine, my experiment with book recordings was two-fold. Firstly, I had children’s encyclopedias recorded to listen along while looking at the pictures (not the text). This was very entertaining and, I believe, effective to learn a lot of intermediate vocabulary. Not related to reading, though. Secondly, and much later, I tried to have some novels recorded with the idea of reading along. This didn’t work out. I quickly stopped and just read the books myself. At this point, most of what I was reading were words already familiar from extensive listening. Pronunciation was only an issue with unfamiliar words, and here the Royal Institute Dictionary and Becker’s iPhone app came in handy. As it turned out, reading is easy when you already understand a lot.

    Kevin, such a product might ease the transition from illiterate to literate, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Just jump in and read a few easy & interesting books *at or below* your current level in Thai, and you will have mastered reading. As of last year, there were no audiobooks available on the Thai market. This might have changed, but I wouldn’t waste time waiting for a crutch that you would anyway only use for a few weeks during the learning process. Read 100k words and the world (of Thai reading) is your oyster.

  8. Wouldn’t be wonderful if they had Thai audiobooks that would play on the computer while seeing the Thai text highlighted simultaneously? The Thais have a product like this for English called Live Interactive English published by a company in Taiwan.
    Each CD come with a magazine, so I just use it in reverse! I read the English and then the Thai translation.

  9. Mickmock, I like your idea of recording yourself reading. I don’t read aloud near enough so I’m game. Andrej has a Thai friend record books for him – combining your two ideas would work to get the tones down. So you’d listen to audio files while you read, and then follow it up by recording as you read aloud. And if you don’t have a Thai friend to check your results then use Audacity, BYKI’s recording abilities, or Chris P’s voice viewer.

  10. Id liked to make a comment, there is a big difference between reading in your mind and speaking what you read, there are loads of words in thai that you may know the meaning, but as Todd pointed out the context changes, there are stacks of words that have different meanings depending where its used

    Then you got the compound words, which if you read them as individual words totally mess up your way of thinking lol, i am sure readers will face that, or have done

    I think the best books are something you are actually interested in, so it grabs your attention, thus you have a reason to read, and if you can find other Thais that like the subject it helps build up vocab with other Thais, Thai culture has some savage long words that, even Thais cant remember, some of the previous kings have words that are so long, i thought they were sentences, when i 1st tried to read them

    Imo is a good idea to record yourself, then play it back to see where you are wrong, in fact get a thai to tell you where you are wrong, so you can improve

    Thai has some words where the tone rules dont work, so even as you think you read it correctly, its wrong, especially the words linked with sara ำ ie ตำรวจ the way thats written is not how its said

    you have to know the tone rules to understand words with missing vowels and how they should be said, this is why i say, reading then meaning of the word in your mind dont help if you want to use the word when you are trying to speak, as i dont see the point of reading if you are not going to try and use the vocab

    This is why i suggest trying to record yourself as you may think you know how to read a word but in fact you are saying it wrong, as just reading it in your mind dont help you as if you cant say it correctly, its a waste of time


    Ps, great site Cat

  11. Todd, participants are free to ignore the “principles”; I just copied them from the internet (tadoku is a wider movement), and Cat pasted them into the post. The idea behind the first principle is to ensure that reading is done for pleasure, and to get into a flow. Looking up words tends to interrupt this flow and makes it look like work. That’s all. Having said this, I have to admit that I underline the odd phrase myself to look it up later on the monolingual Royal Institute Dictionary (online). It’s my happy compromise.

    Sorry to read you won’t join in. But anyway, enjoy your Thai reading next month (or whatever other studies you’re up to)!


  12. BTW – here’s a timely twitter announcement by Richard:

    @RichardBarrow Reading Thai – Words & Sentences for the iPhone is FREE today only

  13. Todd, thanks! I recall reading about your stack of interesting Thai titles but couldn’t remember the exact names. I do have a fair amount of Andrew’s books but not the one about Twitter. I’ll source it when I next get the chance. If you remember anything else that might be good for any level of Thai readers, please feel free to share. My Thai reading library is scattered in subject (comics to classics) and I’m feeling the need to round it out even more.

  14. I think it’s a great idea! I like two out of the three basic Tadoku principles. I don’t really agree with Number 1, because sometimes no matter how low a level of material you’re reading in Thai, a foreigner just doesn’t know the meaning of a Thai word in the context it’s used (especially given the disparate meanings the same Thai word can have based on context). I do write down words I don’t know, with the page & line number so I can look it up later in the dictionary. My reading has progressed to a level (for the stuff I read in Thai) that I can usually glean the general meaning of a sentence even if I don’t know a particular word.

    I totally agree with principle Number 3, and if it’s not something that catches your attention or an interesting read, toss the book on the rubbish heap. I usually give a pass to anything related to Thai culture, history according to the Thais, buddhism, etc as that stuff is a dry read with a pretty skewed viewpoint on things. If material doesn’t pique my interest (even minimally) I can read it 4 or 5 times and not understand what I’ve read. I also pass up those inane Thai comic books, mostly because that handwritten font gives me fits trying to figure out what’s written.

    I found a series of books by ANIT publishing which all start with the words เรื่องเล่า, “a tale” (about). .. They are an easy read even for a high-beginner Thai reader. Some of the titles are; ไซด์ไลน์ไฮโซ, สาวข้างบ้าน, คุณหนูไฮโซ, สาวจุ๊กกรู๋, etc. There’s a two book series out titled ฉันคือเอรี่ which is pretty good too. I’ve also read all of Andrew Biggs’s books about teaching English to Thais. The latest book; Twitter English is really good. All his books show why we say things in English versus how they’re said in Thai. Even though I’m using his books backwards (to learn Thai NOT English) his books have given me a lot more information on “why” something is structured the way it is in Thai and I have found them of high value in my quest to learn the Thai language.

    Yes, I have gotten some side-long glances and strange looks from Thais when I’m sitting somewhere reading a book written in Thai titled; วิธีพูดภาษาอังกฤษเหมือนฝรั่ง. It can result in some interesting conversations with Thais who’re bold enough to ask a foreigner why he’s reading a book written in Thai about speaking English.

    I think it’s a good contest and although I won’t register or compete I’ll still keep pluggin’ along with my Thai language studies. ..

  15. Thank you Andrej. I also buy from as their printing is fairly good. Some of their children’s books are beautiful even. I’ll check out the แว่นแก้ว series asap!

  16. I’ll be reading books from the แว่นแก้ว series (nanmeebooks). I couldn’t find a neat link on the internet, but if you google หมาอยู่วัด and click the nanmeebooks link, you’ll find some of them on the right hand side. There are many, I’ve got about 50. These are proper books, but still not too long – usually 100-150 pages -, and not too complicated. They cover a wide range of topics: from a little girl’s friendship with an earthworm and a dragonfly all the way up to disability, poverty, AIDS, prostitution, parental neglect and gambling. There’s also the odd alien or ผี thrown into the mix.

  17. And thanks for reminding me about the challenge 🙂

    This week I bought Doraemon comics in Thai (I’ll be writing about them later). Some are English-Thai (for Thais learning English, so they have teensy Thai) and some are Thai only (legible Thai). I’ll be collecting other Thai readers to share so if anyone has their favs please so post them here.

  18. Thanks a lot, Cat! I’ve already signed up, but I hope a few of your readers will join me. It’s a friendly little competition, and anything goes in terms of reading materials (books, news, internet, subtitles, games, comics…).

    Tadoku is Japanese for extensive reading, and the read-more-or-die contest is dominated by learners of Japanese. But it’s now open to all language, including Thai (tag #th).

    I’ll be reading more books for young readers, hopefully some cool adventure stories among them. I’ve rummaged through my stack of books to find the easiest ones so that I can log the highest number of pages, ฮ้าๆๆ!

    Happy reading!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.