Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai

Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai

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Assimil Thai…

In his post, How to use Assimil Courses, Josh at Language Geek shares Assimil’s (often) missing instructions. Now, I’m not here to sell you on Assimil Thai out-of-the-box. With 50 lessons, Assimil Thai is a decent enough program but that’s if you don’t mind using transliteration (only). There is no Thai script in Assimil Thai. And come to think of it, there’s no English either because it’s for the French speaking market.

Using the Assimil Method

I don’t mind the French so much (I can almost muddle my way through). But I’ve never been able to get my head around Thai transliteration. So did I switch all of Assimil’s 50 lessons to Thai script? You betcha, but more on that later.

It’s the Assimil method I’m attracted to. It works (just ask the members of And I believe the method can be used with most any language course.

Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai…

As I’m a huge fan of Essential Thai by James Higbie, I chose to run it through a modified Assimil Method. With Essential Thai you can follow Assimil’s Method pretty closely, but given the differences in the materials, tweaks come in handy.


The Assimil Method has us reading through the explanations after we listen, read, and listen again many times. Fair enough. But Assimil Thai’s audio files are Thai only, while Essential Thai’s audio files are a mixture of English and Thai.

If you aim to follow Assimil exactly, and are extraordinarily ambitious, you’ll have to extract the Thai audio from the English. A no brainer, a fair bit of time will be needed.

Just my opinion… with the combination of Thai and English in Essential Thai’s audio files, reading the English translation (as often) isn’t necessary.

Essential Thai the Assimil way (sort of):

  1. Read an entire lesson (or a manageable chunk).
  2. Listen to the accompanying audio files on their own.
  3. Listen to the audio files while looking at the Thai.
  4. Read the Thai text aloud. Take time to understand the meanings.
  5. Read the Thai text again, but this time without looking at the translation.
  6. Listen to the audio files while looking at the Thai.
  7. Listen to the audio files with the book closed.
  8. Repeat after each word or phrase.
  9. Read the explanations until you understand the lesson.

Note: 1 & 2 are interchangeable.

Obviously, whether you chose to read script or transliteration is totally up to your Thai level. And even if you are past beginners level, Essential Thai is good for reading practice.

Tip: To control the audio speed or extract the Thai phrases, drag the files into Audacity.

Updating Assimil Thai…

If you have your heart set on Assimil Thai, I strongly suggest studying with Thai Skype teacher Khun Narissa.

You see, after getting the Thai script typed the way I wanted it, I showed it to Khun Narisa in order to get a professional walk-through of the materials. Khun Narisa tisk-tisked at the many iffy phrases, and for Thai practice, guided me through a rewrite.

When I showed the updated Assimil materials to a Thai friend (another Thai teacher, just not mine) she looked surprised and said, “this is REAL Thai”. And that’s exactly what I want in Thai language materials. Real Thai, not old-fashioned Thai, poetic Thai, or faranged Thai.

If you do study with Khun Narisa using the corrected Assimil materials, to keep to the spirit of copyright you’ll still need to purchase Assimil. But that’s only fair.

Khun Narissa can be contacted at Thai Skype Teacher.

19 thoughts on “Using the Assimil Method with Essential Thai”

  1. For me worked so good assimil.
    By the way i agree with you.. I’m not fan of transliteration, and always I try to lear the alphabet before lewrn1 language.
    I did not try yet the thai assimil version, wo I can not make my opinion about that course yet.
    Anyway worked so good for me in Italian, French, German, Catalan, English, Portuguese and ancient greek.
    I have to say that is quite cheap the course for the level you get in you study constantly. Anyway there is not a perfect system, so you need to get better your study with another listening and talking with people.

  2. I have visited Thailand 3 times in my life. The last visit was 20 years ago. I haven’t learned Thai language but I am sure I will learn it when I visit there again. I have bought lots of Assimil series books and “Introduction au Thai” is one of them. Thanks for your article.

  3. Hi Rachid,
    I don’t know the English Assimil book. But if it is like the learn Thai one, the book will give you some small grammar explanation in each lesson, with examples, and exercices too.

  4. Hi Bernard I am learning english for book assimil but the question his book is good for learning English or i need to learn grammar first
    grammer is too hard to understand it

  5. Oups… If you take en look at previous replies on this post, I seems that there is really a Dutch version of Assimil Thai, never heard before about it.

  6. Hi Algernon, as far as i know, there’s only a French version of this book from Assimil. The French used in the book is quite very basic, as the conversation in Assimil are not sophisticated. Could be a good training to use it as a test of your French ?

    An another way to work around is first translate in French all the English sentences, then, let down and later start to work with the Thai. I work like that with all the thai language books I have, that are almost in English : ignoring completely the English as much as I can (and the French too of couse, but later as I work a bit like Lucas Lampariello suggests to use Assimil method).

    Happy new year !

  7. Is there a dutch version of Assimil Thai? I can’t seem to find it in their site. If there is, that would make my learning much easier. My french is only at a beginner level. I’m still halfway through Assimil french.

  8. Kris, the Assimil books are heavily touted on the polyglot forums – that’s why I put in the extra effort to get the phrases updated. Some of the Assimil courses are known to be terrible (people especially complain about the newer courses). Thai courses are notorious for having wacky phrasing so I wasn’t that surprised at what I found. My main aim was to get as many phrases / vocabulary as possible to use with Jim Higbie and David Smyth’s grammar books (wading through the French would have been way too painful).

  9. Of all the books about Thai language I had, the Assimil book is the only one I left at home (when I came to Thailand). I had the Dutch version of Assimil Thai. I tried studying with it, but it didn’t work for me. It was so bad/useless that decided it was not worth loosing kilos in my luggage (although it’s a very small book). It was lacking Thai script and a structured way of teaching Thai. I don’t know if the Dutch and French version are identical.

  10. I don’t believe Assimil updated their Thai materials so what I have might just be the same version (book + audio). Compared to English, Chinese, and French, Thai isn’t exactly a huge moneymaker for language companies so they might not have bothered.

    I do have the materials in Thai script but it’s been updated (modernised + upgraded to Bangkok/Central Thai). But I should have the original update to match with your sound files around here somewhere.

  11. Oh, I see, in fact I understood you…
    The problem is, when you learn alone, to determine which sentences are old fashion style. The thai friends I have here s-don’t bother at all about my thai language studies, they prefer I speak English (or French) with them. It is not fait, but it is like that !
    I work with a quite old edition of the Assimil method (and other materials too), I bought in France when I was just started to get some interest for Thailand. The book was printed in 1996. Perhaps they have new version. But I guess not, usually editors change the cover, make it more “sexy” not don’t touch to the content, as it will also imply to change the sound tracks on the CD… Too big job !

    You said you did a complete rewriting the the method in Thai script, will it be able to get a sample in somme ways ? Or it is an exclusivity for your teacher friend ? I have the original method and “translated” in Thai script about 1/3. It is a not bad for learning at the same time, but very time consuming too… hopefully the Talking Thai Dictionary on my iPhone/iPad helps a bit.

  12. Bernard, some (not all) of the phrases on Assimil are old-fashioned and some no Thai would use. Since day one, running into weird phrases in Thai courses has bugged me.

  13. Hi Michel,
    will we agree to share your work in Excel ? I will be very interested, as I planned to do it my self. I did write nearly 1.3 of the Assimil in thai script before discovering the site I report in, and I i’ am a bit tired… If you are OK, I could give you my e-mail address, or Catherine could do and you could send it to me. Thanks anyway.

    Hi Catherine,
    I don’t not speak English as fluently I guess to understand what you mean with “iffy” Thai phrases… Can you explain if there is a problem with the sentences in Assimil Thai – apart the fact that it is not very modern language ?

  14. Great site, but just noticed that Thai sound is missing for some of the lessons (8-16. 19, 25, 26)
    I did an excel word list of the Assimil Thai vocab (French, Assimil tranliteration and Thai scrip). Good for use in ANKI or BYKI.

  15. Hello Catherine,
    perhaps you do not know this little site yet…
    It is not of mine at all. It was made by a French guy and his pen friend thai Wattana. They translated in thai scripts Assimil Thai (French book) and you get all the sentences online with various possibilities to see or not French, Thai or transliteration. You can also ear the Thai or the French they recorded.
    The site has no many refinements but it is very functional.
    Of course if you haven’t bought the book, with all the vocabulary and grammar notes (very important but in French too) and exercises, the site is rather useless, but if you have it, it is a very good complement.


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