New expats arriving in Thailand often wonder what is the best way to learn Thai. There are many different opinions on the best ways to learn the Thai language. Some successful Thai language students are adamant that the best way to learn Thai is at a language school or a Thai language program at a Thai university like Chulalongkorn.
Many self-taught Thai language learners say that Thai language schools are unnecessary, but that the best way to learn Thai is to learn how to read Thai first. Then you have teachers like those at AUA who say that the best way to learn Thai is not to write (or even speak) Thai at all. AUA teachers say that the best way to learn Thai is simply to listen to Thai speakers for hundreds of hours passively like a baby would.
The truth is that there is no one correct answer to the question, “What is the best way to learn Thai?” The best way to learn Thai for one expat, may not be the best way to learn Thai for another. Every Thai language learner is a unique individual. There is no magic pill for learning Thai. That is why the best way to learn Thai is to experiment with as many kinds of Thai language resources as possible. But even then, the only thing that can be said with confidence is that the vast majority of people who try to learn Thai end up far short of their goals when they started.
It is a well-known fact that most adults fail in their attempts to learn a second language unless there is a vital need for it. And for most expats in Thailand, learning Thai is not a vital need. Most expats and tourists can manage well enough simply speaking English and knowing a handful of Thai phrases and expressions. Nothing wrong with that.
However, being able to converse in Thai is a requirement for expats who want to live life to the fullest in Thailand and have the absolute most fun. While having fun isn’t listed on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is a big motivational driver. That’s why at e-Learn Thai, we think that the best answer to the question, “What is the best way to learn Thai?” is to have fun doing it!
At this Thai language website, we teach Thai language and culture by keeping our free lessons as light and humorous as possible. Some foreign language teachers say that you shouldn’t joke in a foreign language until you have reached a level where you can be sure that you aren’t making a fool of yourself or accidentally offending someone. Hogwash! Life is too short.
The best way to learn Thai or any other language is by having people laugh with you (or even at you). Laughter is good for the soul, so get at it. We hope that as you learn Thai with our free e-Learn Thai language lessons that you’ll come to think that having fun is the best way to learn Thai too.
If by chance your joke does fall flat and you think you may have offended a Thai person, just remember today’s online Thai lesson, and you will quickly be forgiven:
please v. – โปรด – bpròt
โปรด ยกโทษให้ ผม ด้วย นะ ผม เป็น แค่ ฝรั่ง โง่ๆ (Audio)
Bpròt yók-thôt-hâi phǒm dûay ná. Phǒm bpen khâe fà-ràng ngô ngô.
Please forgive me (polite) (soften). I am just Westerner foolish foolish.
Please forgive me. I’m just a stupid farang.
e-Learn Thai Language Tip: The colloquial Thai word for please (bpròt) and the more formal equivalent gà-rú-nah (กรุณา) are used far less frequently than Westerners use the word please. To add politeness Thais tend to add softening particles like ná (นะ) to their sentences instead. Use this rhyme to remember how to say please in Thai: “Pick up your coat? You forgot to say bpròt!”
Update: We realized that in our lesson on what is the best way to learn Thai that we introduced a word that may be difficult for readers to pronounce. The Thai word for dumb/stupid is one of this words that begins with “ng”. Many Westerners find difficult to pronounce such words—since no words start with an “ng” sound in English. So, if you are having trouble with learning & pronouncing ngô ngô, you could replace it with dting-dtáwng (ติงต๊อง), which means crazy in a foolish and dumb way. Remember this Thai word by imagining knuckling someone on the head and saying: “Ding dong! Don’t be a dting-dtáwng!”