There are a plethora of online courses to learn Thai from, but like all things online, not everything is created equal. The big upside of online courses is that you can access them from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection.
Nowadays that’s not much of a restriction. Prices range from free to ‘whoa’. But when it comes to exclamations and other utterances, online courses do often provide an advantage over books and other media: You not only get to hear what you read, but also have a chance to practice your own listening and speaking skills.
This article will give you a good overview of the available options, allowing you to make a more informed decision when it comes to learning Thai from the comfort of your home.
- 1 What’s It Like to Learn Thai Online?
- 2 Pros and Cons
- 3 Online Course
- 4 Online Tutor
- 5 Free Courses
- 6 Online Communities
- 7 Alternative Options
- 8 Now, on to You
What’s It Like to Learn Thai Online?
When it comes to learning Thai online, you have many options to explore. You can learn it for free. You can pay for online lessons. And you can even learn with a private tutor through Skype.
No matter which option you choose, you can get all of the fundamental skills for learning Thai.
Listening is the best part of learning Thai online. You have access to video and audio clips from native speakers. They usually come with scripts, so that you can read along while watching or listening to the clip.
You can also re-watch or re-listen to clips without reading along to see if your listening comprehension has improved.
Learning Thai online can help you learn how to speak Thai fast. Online lessons aim at basic conversations and words that you will use in your daily life. They teach you sentence by sentence.
You can listen and then repeat what you hear as many times as you want to get your pronunciation down.
Reading is no longer a weak point of learning Thai online. Many online courses, especially paid ones, now come with tools to help you learn how to read.
ThaiPod101, for example, has 25 lessons dedicated to the Thai alphabet and vowels. They explain in detail how to use and pronounce each consonant. And you can also practice Thai tones at the same time.
Now it’s even better to study reading with an online program than with a textbook, as having the audio right there while reading teaches you how to pronounce words correctly.
Writing is still one of the main weak points of learning Thai online. There are fewer tools available to help practice writing. And there’s often no one to help check your writing there.
Even if you take lessons with an online private tutor, it’s not that convenient to ask your teacher to check your writing online compared to asking when taking a Thai class in person.
Pros and Cons
There’s no absolute best way of learning a new language. This includes learning Thai through online channels.
It’s definitely a great way to learn a new language where you can do it anytime and anywhere without having to waste time commuting to classes in the heat of Thailand.
If you live in a big city like Bangkok, the traffic alone might make it unbearable to travel from place to place to study in person.
Here are the pros of learning Thai online:
- It’s cheaper. The average cost of in-person Thai classes is 200 baht per hour. 4 hours is going to be 800 baht. For this amount, you could subscribe to a one-month package from ThaiPod101.
- It saves a lot of travel time since you can learn anywhere you want. All you need is a computer or a smart phone with an internet connection. No commuting means you also save travel costs as well.
- You can learn at any time of the day, not just at your scheduled class time.
And here are the cons of learning Thai online:
- It’s up to you to have the discipline to keep learning every day. With in-person classes, your friends and teachers can help to keep you motivated. Without that, some people have the tendency to not take learning seriously, and their learning suffers as a result.
- Depending on how you choose to learn online, you might lack the chance to practice interacting with Thai people.
- You miss the chance of making new friends that you would get with real-life classes.
If you choose to learn Thai online, remember that success comes from diligence, interest, and a good internet connection.
These are the heavy-hitters among online Thai learning options. Offering the most structured approaches, these options come at a price.
Initially a podcast, ThaiPod101 has grown immensely and has a lot of resources. The course structure goes from complete beginner to advanced.
One of the best things about their courses is that you can read along with the transcript of the audio when you sign up for the Premium or Premium Plus packages. This helps reinforce both reading and listening skills.
The audio for all of the tracks is clear and consistent. The teachers also break down the lessons and speak slower along with an English translation that make it easy to follow.
The lessons along with the audio component also have a short quiz, vocabulary breakdown, and a review quiz. Some of the quizzes also have a Thai writing component which is a good addition.
Most of the lessons are about 10-15 minutes which is great to practice with on your commute or as a daily habit.
There is also a flashcard option, available in the Premium plan, which is handy and a good way to reinforce learning skills. The word bank can be built up to reinforce any words you are particularly keen on practicing or want to continually go through.
The best part about ThaiPod101 is the number of audio and video lessons. Thousands of lessons are available on their website. They are separated into 6 categories: Introductory, Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Bonus Courses. Each category is further divided into mini-series, with 10 to 25 lessons per series.
For example, in the Ultimate Video Getting Started series, there are 72 lessons in over 6 hours of videos, helping absolute beginners understand all of the basics of the Thai language, from the alphabet and pronunciation, to grammar and useful words and phrases that you might need.
Inside each lesson, you can access a lesson script and pdf file. All of the Thai words also have phonetic spellings. You also have the option to click and listen to the pronunciation at normal speed or 0.5x slower speed.
There is a convenient tool to help you track your own progress and show you what you should learn next.
Video lessons on ThaiPod101 are very unique, useful, and entertaining. You are going to learn Thai from native Thai ladies who can speak English fluently. All of them have a fun way to teach you Thai.
In addition to Thai words and conversations that locals really do speak, they will teach you Thai culture that’s relevant to the situation.
For example, when you learn about useful words for ordering a meal, you will also learn about etiquette at restaurants as well.
They also have 25 lessons teaching you how to read and write all 44 Thai consonants and 32 vowels. These lessons are sorted by popularity. This means that you will learn consonants and vowels that you usually see in your daily life before the more obscure ones, which is really great.
You can also download their mobile application and take all of their lessons directly from your phone.
Note that not all lessons are useful for learning Thai. Some of them are just a history of important Thai people or background about holidays, without teaching anything about the language.
However, there are still several hundreds of useful lessons, especially in the Absolute Beginner to Intermediate levels.
If you have the time to study 20 to 30 minutes, or 2 lessons, per day, it will take about 6-7 months to listen to all of them (395 lessons at 10 minutes per lesson).
Three packages are available at ThaiPod101: Basic, Premium, and Premium Plus.
For $4 a month, you get complete access to their audio and video lessons.
The Premium package at $10 a month comes with additional learning tools, including daily lessons, a list of 2,000 core words and phrases, interactive lesson quizzes, and so on.
With the Premium Plus package, you get one-on-one access to a teacher at ThaiPod101 as well as a personalized learning program and assignments.
If you are interested in any of these plans, you can use this link and get 25% off from ThaiPod101.
Learn Thai from a White Guy
Learn Thai from a White Guy is pretty good, with easy-to-learn-from courses. Brett, the site owner, starts students off with a How to Read Thai course. He states that with regular study that you will learn how to read in about two weeks.
It would take the average person longer than that but Brett does encourage people to spend at least 45 minutes a day studying the lessons.
If you do end up spending that much time on memorizing the alphabet and tone rules, you should have a basic grasp of reading.
There are some advantages to learning Thai from a westerner. With a native understanding of English, they are able to explain some terms, idioms, and grammatical structures in ways in which other westerners will have an easier time understanding.
For example, many westerners encourage students to learn the alphabet first by class (high, mid, and low), rather than in alphabetical order, which is how Thai kids learn the language. That being said, not every “white guy” teaching Thai will explain things well, nor are Thais incapable of teaching impeccable Thai to a westerner.
Learn Thai from a White Guy has an interesting technique to help you remember and understand Thai consonants, tones, and pronunciation within a short period of time.
He has written a detailed explanation on words, syllables, and vowels, and then compares them with English to make it easy for an English speaker to understand. It is like you are reading an online textbook with interactive tools including flash cards to help you memorize vocabulary and sounds.
For example, when he talked about how to pronounce “ก”, he explained that its sound is similar to “k” but without the strong blast of air from your month when you pronounce it in a word.
You also get access to quick and easy audio links. Every Thai word and sound has a corresponding audio file, making it easy to learn the correct pronunciation.
The site also includes a series of drills and quizzes to help reinforce the learning.
Another positive is that his sentences are simple and applicable. It is the sort of thing you hear everyday like เป็นไงมั่ง phen-ngai-mung (What’s up) and จะออกไปซื้อกับข้าว เอาอะไรมั้ย ja-ook-pai-sue-kub-khaw-aow-aa-rai-mhai (I’m gonna go pick up some food. Want anything?).
Lessons on Learn Thai from a White Guy are well-structured. The course starts with the “Read Thai in 2 weeks lesson”, comprising almost 50 individual lessons teaching you everything you need for reading Thai.
Once you master that lesson, then you can proceed to important Thai sentences, conversations, and vocabulary.
When you finish any lesson, you can mark it as completed for tracking purposes.
The online course from Learn Thai from a White Guy will help you to be able to read and speak Thai while having a clear understanding of Thai tones. You will also have enough vocabulary for basic conversation as well.
One downside is that the video and audio sessions aren’t as good as on ThaiPod101. It also still lacks situational conversations based on real-life situations.
There is also no space to do any writing. So it’s one-directional learning. The quizzes are self-correcting, which is good if you are self-motivated – not so much if you need some prodding.
However, if you want to speak Thai fluently, Learn Thai from a White Guy is for you. After you are able to read Thai, understand tones, and know Thai sentence structure and vocabulary for basic conversations, it is going to be easy to further study Thai on your own.
Learn Thai from a White Guy comes with three packages: a semi-annual plan, a yearly plan, and the VIP package.
The semi-annual and yearly plans are basically the same except for the price. You get 6 months of access to his lessons for $167, or 12 months for $217.
The VIP package at $367 gives you lifetime access, a personalized action plan, and an additional lesson on sentence pack modules. You can also have two 30-minute calls with Brett to let him teach you personally online.
You can use this link to find out more about his course.
If you want to master Thai, having a private tutor is undoubtedly one of the fastest ways. You get immediate feedback on your tones and pronunciation, although sometimes it can be a bit distancing to talk to someone over Skype.
To really get the most mileage out of your one-on-one sessions, you’ll want to know what exactly you are looking to learn.
For example, are you trying to learn just enough Thai to get around during your vacation to the islands? Or do you want to focus on vocabulary specific to boxing because of your forthcoming trip to a Muay Thai Camp? Maybe you are someone who wants to learn about Sin Sod and cross-cultural relations.
Each of these different areas will lead you to learn distinct vocabulary. For example, while on vacation you might need to know how to ask for directions and ask how much things cost. When studying Muay Thai, you might need to know the names of different body parts, how to ask how long each round is, etc. When getting married, the Sin Sod or Thai dowry system can be confusing without knowing all the terminology.
When trying out one-on-one Skype lessons, it is important to understand that not all Thai teachers are the same.
Some schools will have great teachers, others not so much. Even at excellent schools, you might end up working with a teacher that you don’t gel with all that well.
Rates significantly differ from one tutor to another, in the range of 300 baht to 900 baht per hour.
You can ask a tutor for a trial period at a discounted rate for an hour or two before committing to a long-term package.
Many schools and sites offer Thai language lessons via Skype. Our learn Thai article has a good list of schools.
Findmyfavouriteteacher is a website you should look at when it comes to finding a Thai tutor. Although the interface is rather outdated, you can find freelance tutors there. Their rates are usually cheaper than what you find from a school.
You can also use Italki to find a tutor.
There are many free Thai language courses available online.
It’s good to have a basic understanding of the Thai language before using these free courses.
They are good at teaching you new vocabulary and situational conversation, but they lack the learning structure from the sites we’ve talked about above.
They also don’t necessarily go into detail about how to read Thai consonants, tones, or sometimes even basic grammar.
There are a lot of YouTube channels providing free Thai courses. Here are our recommended channels.
Learn Thai with Mod
If you have ever searched YouTube or Google for “how to learn Thai,” you would most certainly have come across “Learning Thai with Mod.” She began her YouTube channel in 2013 and regularly posts content ranging from Isaan dialect tips to Thai slang to common Thai interjections – โห!
The videos are fun and useful for everyday learning. The production value is high and you can tell that they really enjoy making the videos.
Besides the YouTube channel, her site has some great cultural information, especially the short post on khanom khrok. Mod gives a brief history of the sweet coconut treat, explaining it’s origins as derived from star-crossed lovers.
If you sign up for her free ebook, you’ll be sent through the normal sales funnel along with a dictionary of 190 Thai words that are derived from English. Look forward to being able to already say useful words like “Air conditioner,” “Fashion,” and “Die!”
Mod and her crew also do private Skype tutoring using Becker’s books “Thai for Beginners”. The sessions are a little expensive. If you live here in Thailand, you can get more affordable sessions. If you are abroad, the prices are reasonable.
My Thai Language School
My Thai Language School has a comprehensive selection of videos. One of the good things about this channel is that some of the sentences Kru Nong explains are shown not only in transliterated English but also in Thai.
Kru Nong speaks slowly and repeats her Thai sentences to reinforce the lesson. You get a real sense of personality from her along with some lightweight acting.
Although the channel doesn’t have the most up to date graphics and lay out, it has better content than a lot of channels.
Adam Bradshaw runs a few English language schools in Thailand, one in Bangkok and another in Chang Mai. The interesting thing about his YouTube channel, on which he regularly posts, is his explanations of English grammar and terms. He does the entire videos in Thai.
It’s a great resource if you are familiar with Thai already (think intermediate and above), and you want to learn “backwards” or learn Thai through Thai speakers talking about English.
Although he does have some Thai language lessons, they are mainly older videos and don’t have the high production quality of some of his English language lessons. There are a few episodes entitled “Farang Rian Thai” (Foreigner studies Thai) in which a white dude goes around Bangkok trying to learn Thai and does all of the things that white guys do – meet and greet Thai people, buy coffee, purchase fruit, and ask what time it is.
There are free interactive tools that you can use to learn Thai. They are a good way to increase your vocabulary, as well as to learn new useful phrases for conversational Thai.
But these interactive tools probably shouldn’t be your primary method of learning the language.
The first interactive tool you should look at is Loecsen. 18 types of situational conversation are available there, from essential conversations you need, such as how to take a taxi, to basic sentences to use when you need help.
You can learn and listen to a conversation sentence by sentence or take a conversation quiz.
However, it doesn’t teach the exact vocabulary for that sentence. For example, they tell you that “ผมมีความสุขครับ” means I am happy. But they don’t tell you which word means “me” and which word means “happy” in Thai.
Everyday Thai has a good list of flash cards, listening quizzes, and matching games for both beginners and intermediate Thai learners. You can learn over 500 popular Thai words there.
They also provide free Thai articles with English translations to help improve your reading skills.
Women Learning Thai is a real go-to and one of the best resources on the web for learning Thai, created by the very committed Catherine Wentworth. While she admits that Learning Thai has taken a backseat to working on the website, she does a real service to Thai students. She has created a great list of free Thai online resources. You can really go down the rabbit hole on this site, clicking and learning from a multitude of projects.
Upon entering the site is a great blog. There were some great and cute entries transcribing a cat cartoon. The video series on YouTube is meant for children, but one of the guest writers for Women Learning Thai translated and explained the cute cats talking to each other. Learning from children’s resources is a great, simple way to increase a student’s cultural knowledge, vocabulary, and grammar.
Wentworth also has a great interview collection of Successful Thai Learners. Some of the students include authors that have been reviewed on this blog including David Smyth, the author of Thai: an Essential Grammar. It’s really interesting to read how and why successful learners went about their studies. Smyth incidentally learned how to read and write first.
Other interviews include the infamous Stickman of Stickboybangkok, James Higbie of Thai Reference Grammar, Adam Bradshaw, and the founder of this blog, Karsten Aichholz. Interestingly, Stickman advocates going to a school regularly, while Higbie found success in writing his book and Bradshaw attributes his learning to regularly studying the language for two hours every day.
Learning Thai online isn’t the only option you have when it comes to learning a new language.
You can take a Thai class at a language school, you can take a course at a university, you can buy a textbook and study it yourself. You can learn from friends. Or you can hire a private tutor.
You can find all of the available options from our learn Thai article.
Now, on to You
Even if you know a little bit of Thai already, really mastering it is will make your life in Thailand much easier. It can open up a new world of opportunities for making friends, finding work, traveling, and generally enjoying life here on another level.
If you plan to come to Thailand even for just a few months, it’s worth learning the language. You can start by taking a course from ThaiPod101.
With a few hours a week, you should be able to start speaking basic Thai in no time.