In this video, I was interviewed by my boyfriend (he speaks Thai really well). Please feel free to download the transcript of the video here.
I talk about the struggles I notice many students who learn Thai face, the most important tips and advice I have for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students of the Thai language, and more.
I will summarize some of the key takeaways from the video.
How advanced do you have to be in order to begin to teach a language?
You guys might not know, but I also teach other languages such as Korean, English, Chinese, Spanish, French, and Indonesian. My best languages are Thai, Korean, English, but I also have a very high skill in French, Spanish, and Chinese. I teach all these languages full-time and have helped many students.
I think to teach a language, you obviously have to be more advanced than your student, but you probably don’t have to reach such a high level as you would think. Especially when teaching beginners.
Your role as a teacher is to make sure the student progresses, find learning materials appropriate for the student, encourage the student, etc. As long as your level in the language allows you to do this, you can teach the language.
A saying I like is: you don’t have to teach someone how to get all the way from A-Z. You just need to teach them enough so they can stand on their own feet – meaning give them a base strong enough for students to continue learning by themselves.
What advice do you have that can help students improve faster when learning Thai?
My number one advice is learning how to read Thai.
In the beginning, it might feel faster to just skip learning to read and instead just using transliteration. But pretty quickly, you will realize the limitations of not learning to read Thai.
First of all, it will be very difficult to self-study if you can’t read Thai. Thai books don’t come in transliteration. Thai movie subtitles aren’t in transliteration. Thai websites aren’t in transliteration, etc. You won’t be able to find good study materials without being able to read Thai.
Not only that, but by learning to read Thai properly, you will be able to pronounce the sounds correctly.
There will also be many words that will be hard to write transliteration for.
Basically, if I had one piece of advice to give, it will be to learn to read Thai.
What habits do students who don’t give up learning usually have?
The most important habit when learning a language is consistency.
Consistency in learning languages is when you decide you will study, for example, 3 times a week with a teacher and 30 minutes by yourself daily and you stick to that for months and years. This is how you improve in a language.
Read my article about consistency when learning languages in my article to learn more.
What do students normally have problems with when learning Thai?
Some students have problems with reading, but they can fix it with dedication. However, something I notice many students struggling with even after a lot of time learning Thai is with tones.
Many students struggle with tones because although tones are used in many languages (for example: when asking questions, when being surprised, etc.), the tones are built into the words in Thai. So, many people are used to being monotone, or they just struggle to produce the right tones.
The problem with not learning tones correctly is that not all Thais will understand you if you make too many mistakes with the tones.
Also, words in Thai can change meaning depending on tones.
I have an article about Thai tones that will hopefully help you produce the correct tones and read words with the correct tones.
As a quick example, simple words like “I” for men (ผม pŏm), or “I” for women (ฉัน chăn) have rising tones. Try to realize these things from the start and learn the words with the correct tones. It will help you not just sound more Thai but also be better understood.
Another thing I notice many people struggling with is listening to real spoken Thai.
One thing that can really help is listening to real authentic Thai as quickly as possible. Thai people use many particles and speak very fast, so it’s easy to not understand if you are not used to it. It will still take a while to understand and improve, but this will help you learn as fast as possible.
If you filter your learning to just easy material and then try to understand real spoken Thai, you will struggle and feel discouraged. So at least try to listen to authentic material from the start so that you train your ear.
To summarize my answer, I think you should pay attention to tones from the start. Also, listen to authentic material as fast as possible.
What specific advice do you have for beginner students of the Thai language?
Similar to the advice I gave earlier for students wanting to improve, I recommend beginner students learn to read from the start. It is worth the effort, and to be honest, it’s not that difficult! (Don’t get mad at me 🙈 ) It’s just a bunch of memorizing, and there are shortcuts!
Another piece of advice is to put an emphasis on learning tones correctly.
Any specific advice for intermediate or Advanced students learning Thai?
I highly recommend intermediate and advanced students to listen to a lot of Thai very often.
The more you listen, the better.
Listen to things you can understand a reasonable amount and listen to fun stuff.
I also recommend learning things THROUGH Thai. For example, do you want to learn music? Watch videos about music in Thai.
I made a course where you can get a lot of listening practice with everything explained through Thai. Please check it out.
I also have a bunch of videos with subtitles on my Youtube Channel and other resources for you to practice listening to Thai in this article.
Another piece of advice I have is to imitate the way Thai people sound. Listen to audio in Thai, imitate it, and try to get as close as possible. This will help you learn particles, perfect your tones, and help with your listening.
I really hope you enjoyed the interview and that the tips help you in your Thai language learning journey.
If you have questions for me, please comment on the video, and I will make follow-up videos. 👋