Now that we’re settled in to the new semester, you might be interested in learning or brushing up on your Thai language skills. Here are a few resources:
Learn Thai Language blog
I’m a big fan of blogs (duh) and Thai Language Hut’s Learn Thai Language blog updates frequently with useful topical information, like this recent post about how the word /lɔɔng/ ลอง can be used in a few different ways (it means to test or try out).
Curious about what they’re singing about every day when school starts? Here’s their translation of the Thai national anthem so you can sing along!
Thai For Beginners
Thai for Beginners has more or less been my manual for learning Thai. I think it’s one of the best publications out there because its method for transliterating Thai to English is clear and easy to remember. I’ve got the audio and a copy to share with you when you want it.
Another reason I like this book is because Benjawan Becker also does a great job of encouraging you to learn how to read Thai! Plain and simple, if you learn how to read, it’s going to vastly improve your pronunciation and comprehension. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly possible to do within a month or two.
I’d recommend pairing this book with a communicative book like Instant Thai, which I found helpful for cross-referencing words and concepts.
Thai Alphabet Flashcards
Speaking of learning how to read Thai, Slice-of-Thai has consonant and vowel flashcards that you can print yourself, for free! These are great because they show you the things you’d expect from a flashcard (a picture, a translation of what the consonant represents, and the consonant class), but my favorite feature is the examples of different Thai fonts. I was baffled by the different fonts I saw on signs and in menus until I got these flashcards.
I really like memrise.com because it encourages you to learn via mnemonic devices (for example, if you can remember that lumberjacks LIKE to CHOP then you can learn that ‘chɔɔp’ means “to like”). Besides, who doesn’t like feeling like learning is a game? Memrise gives you points and you can compete against your friends if you login using Facebook.
I’m in the process of adding my own Thai “course” to it, using the transliteration and vocabulary from Thai for Beginners. Here’s a quick peek at Lesson #2. Let me know if you’re using it and I’ll keep adding more!
Everything around you
There’s no better way to learn Thai than to get out there and practice constantly with the people you see everyday. Most Thai people are eager to teach and laugh with you as you try out those tricky tones and that impossible “ng” sound. It’s scary, but making mistakes is how we learn! Most importantly, it’ll give you a chance to experience what your students go through every day – which is something we all need reminding of every once in a while, don’t we?
I never expected to learn Thai, but it’s been incredibly helpful for everything from my night market meals to not getting ripped off in a scam. Plus, you never know when it’ll will lead you to interesting situations – like when I surprised a group of Thai people gossiping about us near Mount Everest Base Camp (the next day, they returned me the beanie I accidentally left behind). Just remember the phrase “Rak muang Tai” – “I love Thailand!”