Categorized | Featured, Language

Free Thai Language Learning Resources and Materials

Posted on 03 June 2014 by JB

 

rgbstock thai small thumb Free Thai Language Learning Resources and MaterialsI don’t consider myself especially talented with languages, but I do enjoy learning them. In fact, I have written a fairly comprehensive look at how to study languages. I find it useful to investigate the free sources available to help learn a language, whether you plan to study with a teacher or not. For the past year I have been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand and trying to learn Thai. I have just finished the first-year course at Chiang Mai University (I have also written about the different school options in Chiang Mai). Perhaps because I was enrolled in a class, I was a bit lazy about investigating useful resources until very recently. But, now I have given it a proper effort and below you will find the very extensive collection of free resources (site, tools, downloadable material) that I have found. I have started using many of these and at least spent enough time with each to get a feel for the content and quality and to draw the conclusion that it was worth including.

I have generally listed things alphabetically. Of course, some I like more than others, but I have chosen not to give any prominence because you and I are probably at different places in our learning curve and have different preferred learning styles. Most of these resources will be best for beginner and intermediate learners as that is what I am. If you are an advanced learner, you probably don’t really need this page anyway.

There is some fluidity to the categorization of sites. For some sites that have multiple features, I have listed them in multiple categories. Others I have only listed once, especially those in the comprehensive/grammar category.

Finally, I have created some of my own study materials that I will share with you and I start with those.

 

My Personal Study Materials

Over the past year studying Thai I have added all the vocabulary used in my one-year course—supplemented with words I learned from friends and found online—into a Google Docs Spreadsheet.

I tried not to just randomly add words I looked up in the dictionary because you can never be sure if those are commonly used or not, though occasionally I have included such words. In those cases, they are usually words that have many sample sentences so I had some confidence they are somewhat commonly used. Most entries are simple or compound words, but occasionally I include phrases or even complete sentences. For my primary two worksheets I have a column called Notes which includes sample sentences using the word in question, similar words, grammatical explanations, etc.

In total, the spreadsheet has the following eight worksheets:

  1. Notes: just some basic explanations about the spreadsheet.
  2. Speak Thai in 15 Days. This is the name of the book used at CMU. All the vocabulary on this sheet come directly from that book or from words covered in the classroom.
  3. Speak Thai in 15 Days #2. This refers to the vocabulary picked up after we finished the first book in class. There is actually a second book in the series but often it covers the same vocabulary as the first book so the majority of words included here are from the classroom or from my experiences out of class.
  4. thai-language.com is a list of 1176 words which are considered some of the more commonly used words in the Thai language according to the thai-language.com site (one of my favorites).
  5. Classifiers. This is not the complete list, but the more common ones. I have forgotten the original source.
  6. Idioms. These were sourced from The Fundamentals of the Thai Language by Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevong.
  7. Ending Particles. This is really a work in progress that hasn’t progressed very far.
  8. 20 ใ words. Self-explanatory.

Note that I am constantly updating the spreadsheet so if you previously downloaded a copy you might want to get the latest and check back occasionally.

This spreadsheet can be useful by itself, or as a source for your favorite flashcard program. If that program happens to be the one I use, Anki, you will be happy to know that I have also created Anki decks for three of the worksheets. Even better, I have included pronunciation audio files, which helps when working on those tones. When you review each card the audio pronunciation should play automatically.

In total I have created six separate Anki decks (collections)—three for each of the two main worksheets: one with only the Thai script on the front, one with only Thai transliteration on the front and one with only the English meaning on the front. Having all three is useful, because you don’t really know a word until you can recall it in both directions. Ideally, you will learn to read Thai sooner than later and the transliterated deck will become unnecessary but until then it can be very helpful.

  1. Thai – Speak Thai in 15 Days – Thai Script Front Card
  2. Thai – Speak Thai in 15 Days – Thai Transliterated Front Card
  3. Thai – Speak Thai in 15 Days – English Front Card
  1. Thai – Speak Thai in 15 Days #2 – Thai Script Front Card
  2. Thai – Speak Thai in 15 Days #2 – Thai Transliterated Front Card
  3. Thai – Speak Thai in 15 Days #2 – English Front Card

Now onto the many great resources I found around the Web.

 

About the Thai Language

 

Audio & Video

  • AUA Language Center Learn Thai Language Videos
    A large collection of ALG videos, most around 10 minutes each. ALG (“Automatic Language Growth”) is a language learning method. You can also find all the videos directly on YouTube.
  • Alif Silpachai’s Easy Thai YouTube channel
    I’m not sure that these well-made videos really qualify as “easy” as some of the dialogue used to illustrate the core expression get fast and complicated. Still, Alif is kind of funny and he introduces useful words or phrases that even beginners might want to learn. A big plus is that he includes the Thai script in the About section.
  • Everyday Thai Learning Videos
    Everyday Thai language school prepared a series of basic and intermediate Thai conversation with video, transcripts (Thai script and transliteration), and English translation. Note that although the site says these are for beginner to intermediate students, they strike me as a bit difficult for beginners. Advanced students should check out the animated video series on the 2011 flood.
  • Free Thai Language Lessons for Your Holiday!
    Learn Thai Podcast offers up a small collection of beginner Thai language lessons in various formats (video, audio, PDF). The lessons are thematic and geared toward practical tourist situations (food and drinks, shopping, getting around a city, getting a massage, etc.)
  • How to Speak Thai YouTube videos
    12 videos by Bua, mostly covering vocabulary and phrases and culture.
  • Langhub.com YouTube channel
    A large collection of short videos from Langhub. Most (all?) seem to be just a collection of vocabulary words written on the screen and pronounced by a native Thai speaker.
  • Learn Thai with Mod
    Thai teacher Mod has a good collection of videos helpful for anyone studying Thai. Along with Mia’s videos, these are my most recommended for beginners.
  • Learn Thai Podcasts YouTube channel
    Though LTP is a paid service, they do offer almost 50 videos for free.
  • Learn Thai Style Videos
    This blog has a videos category with some useful, if perhaps a bit advanced videos in Thai with transliteration and English translations. Many are music videos, some are grammar lessons, and there is a new “man on the street” interview series.
  • My Beautiful Woman (Full version, Part I, Part II, Part III)
    Three tear-jerking Thai videos (each based on a true story) about strong, beautiful women, with English subtitles. Anybody will enjoy these stories, but for studying purposes it is probably beyond the beginner’s ability, though the speaking is clear and relatively slow.
  • Pick up Thai Video Lessons
    Thai teacher Yuki Tachaya offers YouTube videos covering useful Thai expressions on various interesting topics. Watch these to “pick up” interesting Thai vocabulary and expressions. So far I have only seen one of the videos but it was quite good and the topics covered by the rest all seem quite useful so I will be viewing them soon.
  • Real-life Thai Conversation
    Thai teacher Yuki Tachaya (from the above Pick Up Thai videos) also offers a small collection of conversations with Thai script, transliteration, English translation, and audio (slow and normal speed).
  • Sanook Lei!
    An old blog (latest entry 2008) that highlights funny and sad Thai commercials. Mostly they are just YouTube embedded videos with a short explanation or background information in English so probably only good for intermediate to advanced learners.
  • SEAsite collection of YouTube videos
    A collection of YouTube videos from 2007 covering a variety of topics, many with a code indicating the level of Thai used.
  • Self Study Thai (SST)
    This site offers Thai audio, corresponding transcripts, line by line English translations and flashcards for news articles from Voice of America (VOA). Also shared are a few other Thai language resources. It’s all self-study and it’s all free, though you do need to be able to read Thai. This site also makes use of HTML5 for audio playback. I haven’t really checked these out yet but I presume they are more advanced based on the source material.
  • Speak with Pair YouTube channel
    A growing collection of videos from online teacher Pair. In the few I checked out, the use of transliteration and Thai script was inconsistent and when transliteration was used, it didn’t indicate tone marks.
  • Spoken Thai MP3
    Free Thai downloads at the Paknam Web Thailand Forums. Free registration is required to access these.
  • Stuart Jay Raj’s YouTube channel
    This is home to a well-known polyglot’s many videos, only some of which cover Thai (though still a lot and generally titled Thai Bites or Cracking Thai Fundamentals).
  • Thai Girl Talk
    This is a collection of podcasts and videos which are quite good for beginner self-study, covering both the language and cultural issues (like the wai, saving face, etc.). They have been created primarily by online Thai teacher Mia. At the beginning she is joined by Lani but then in more recent episodes Lani seems to have gone away and either Mia is alone or others are brought in. The production quality is generally very good and a lot of the topics are very helpful, though note that if you are already an intermediate or higher student, these might seem a bit too basic for you.

    Some of the Thai Girl Talk episodes offer a Thai-only version video or audio with a downloadable Thai transcript. These seem to start with Episode 15 though not all subsequent episodes include them. Also, note that I couldn’t successfully download the audio or transcript directly from the episode page but rather had to click each separately which opened them in from their Dropbox location and then I could download them. Though it’s on the blog not the podcast page, Mia has an interview with advanced learner Jan that will either make you cry for your inadequacy or inspire you by showing what you can become; plus, it is good for listening practice and vocabulary building.
  • Thai Language Hut School YouTube Channel
    A huge (250 as of this writing) collection of useful short (usually less than 3 minutes) videos covering a variety of topics.
  • ThaiPod101
    ThaiPod101 is part of the Innovative Language family and is a freemium course offering audio, video, and PDF learning materials. Generally, you can listen to most of the content for free, but if you want to download the transcripts, notes or extra material and services, you need to pay for a full account. Personally, I have used and enjoyed the sibling services SpanishPod101, PortuguesPod101 and JapanesePod101 though I still haven’t used ThaiPod101 much yet. From my browsing, it seems the videos that are available are only at the absolute beginner and beginner level whereas there are abundant audio lessons for all levels, though I have to say that their idea of beginner and mine are a bit different as I found the beginner audio I listened to a bit difficult, but maybe that’s just because I am a bad student?
  • Thai Recordings.
    This website has about ten hours of recordings (around 5 minutes each) with transcripts on a wide variety of topics. The recordings are for intermediate learners of Thai, are unscripted, 100% in Thai, and come with a short synopsis in English. The recordings cover relatively narrowly defined topics. This helps the listener to set expectations about the content and context. Usually, there are several audio clips per topic. Listening to several different recordings on the same topic helps to reinforce vocabulary and provides more variety. The recordings are not designed to teach anything in particular, and they don’t systematically cover vocabulary related to the respective topic. The intention is rather to provide examples of storytelling and talking about experiences.
  • Thai TV shows (and other videos)
    Josh from Sweet and Coolbeans compiled this Google Doc listing various TV shows and other useful videos for Thai language learners. It’s a bit old and I haven’t checked most of the sources included but they may or may not be reliable any more. Still, it should serve as a guide for some videos you can go find yourself.

 

Community and Forum Sites

 

Dictionaries – Online

  • thai-language.com (website and iOS app)
    This is my most-used Thai language resource, mostly because of its excellent dictionary, though also because it has useful lessons and reference materials. The dictionary also happens to be the only one I know of online that allows you to type a word in transliterated form. Unfortunately, although you can enter either an English word or a Thai word in Thai script in the main search box, to search transliterated Thai you have to use a separate search feature accessed from the main dictionary page.One of the best things about this site is that you can configure how it displays for you. There are many configuration options, but the most useful is the ability to choose the type of transliteration used. So, if your textbook or favorite dictionary or other learning materials use one of the 12 or so forms of transliteration, you can choose that one to display on thai-language. Another unique and wonderful feature of this dictionary is the sample sentences, which help you get a good feel for whether a word is common or not and how it might be used in practice.

    Other essential features include audio readings of the words, the listing of individual components of compound words, antonyms, synonyms, and—crucially—the relevant classifier(s) for the word in question.

    One last feature I use a lot is the bulk word lookup. Although it won’t translate the entire text as a whole (you can do that as an option with Google), it will list all the component words, their transliterations, and their definition, all in a compact format.

    Thankfully, the site has recently launched an iOS dictionary app for free. Hopefully, they are working on an Android version as well.

    All in all, this is IMO the best online dictionary out there.
  • Thai2English used to be my go-to dictionary online, not because it is better than the thai-language.com one, but because I found it first and because it is a bit easier to use. Like the thai-language.com dictionary, compound word components are listed when appropriate. Also, results include example words that the searched word is a component of. Some words have more than one distinct meaning, and for these the example words are appropriately categorized according to the meaning. Another useful feature is that if a word seems to be a spelling mistake, Thai2English will try to offer suggestions of words that seem to be similar. There is also a downloadable version (US $39.99).

    Note that you can supposedly input transliterated Thai, though in the online version it must match either that of the thai2english default scheme or the Royal Thai General System of Transcription whereas the downloadable dictionary is more flexible and will match any word that sounds similar to the transliteration entered. Yet, I have not been able to get the online version to recognize any of my transliteration attempts.

    The site also offers a translation option where you can enter complete sentences or blocks of text in Thai and get a transliterated output and a listing of each separate word and its definition.

    In my mind, the biggest drawback to this dictionary is that it only uses one transliteration system and it seems to not be one of those referenced at thai-language.com (and definitely isn’t my preferred system).
  • SEAlang Library Thai Dictionary
    I only recently came across this dictionary based on the Mary Haas Thai Dictionary Project. I still haven’t used it enough to form a final opinion but my first impressions are good. It has an advanced search panel on the left that lets you enter terms in English, Thai script (includes a virtual keyboard with predictive completion) or transliteration (and includes IPA phonetics buttons to make that easier). Results are displayed on the right-side panel. If you are having trouble finding a word, try using the approximate matching options, which let you have flexibility in things like vowel length, confused consonant sounds (e.g., r vs. l), ignore differences between Thai words with syllables separated by a space or a dash (-), search derivatives of English words (house, houses, housed, housing), and the combination of these options.

    I suspect the biggest problem with this dictionary for average users it the fact that it is based on the work of a linguist, and therefore the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is used, which will be a bit foreign to all but the geekiest of us.

    One small but nice feature is that you can easily change the font size of the results. My other preferred dictionaries generally present the results in a readable size so this hasn’t been a big problem, but this might be helpful for those that complain of Thai script being harder to read because of its size. Professor Haas’ innovations include:
  • Google translate
    I don’t particularly like Google Translate as a Thai dictionary but it does have two redeeming qualities. First, it is a good first-choice for translating blocks of text from Thai to English (not good in the other direction as the transliteration displayed under the result is practically incomprehensible…really!). Second, it is good for the pronunciation files available.
  • There are many other dictionary options, including paper copies and smartphone and tablet apps. Women Learning Thai has a fairly comprehensive listing of the various options (though it was compiled in 2009 so may be out of date). I admit I haven’t tried most of them so if you have a favorite other than my two favorites, please share in the comments.

 

Dictionaries – Apps

At this moment, there are really only two dictionaries I would consider recommending to any Thai language learner. One is free and one isn’t.

  • Thai-English Dictionary from thai-language.com (currently iOS only)
    Considering thai-language.com is my go-to online dictionary, and since this app is completely free, of course I recommend you get it. Hopefully there will be an Android version forthcoming. Unlike the online version, there are no sound files with the app, but one nice feature that the online version doesn’t have is the autocomplete. As you start typing, close matches will be shown to speed your searching. The Talking-Thai app doesn’t offer this feature.
  • Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary (Android, iOS)
    This has been my dictionary of choice since shortly after I started studying Thai. I had looked in vain for a decent free dictionary app (they were all pretty bad) and was hesitant to spend US$25 on an app, but as I read reviews and realized it had a few unique features, I decided to buy it and I would say it was absolutely money well spent, though to be fair, at the time the thai-language.com app didn’t exist. So, what makes this dictionary worth $25?

    First, besides searching in English or Thai script, it is one of the few apps that let you search for transliterated Thai words.

    Second, in the settings you can choose which transliteration system you want to use (you can do this with the thai-language app as well). This is really great because you can choose the one that matches whatever course or textbook you are using to study the language and keep some consistency. Eventually you want to be reading only Thai script, but realistically that point will take a while to get to so this feature is great. By the way, just as you can choose the transliteration, you can choose which Thai script font you want to use (8 to choose from).

    Third, the app includes a Thai keyboard so you don’t need to install one for your OS and switch to it. This is more convenient than you realize, though you won’t probably appreciate it until you get more comfortable with reading and writing in Thai.

    The fourth great feature—and perhaps the best one for beginners—is that audio readings available for all the words. When you are struggling to learn tones and perfect your pronunciation, this is a true lifesaver, and is one feature the free thai-language.com app doesn’t have.

    A fifth standout feature is the inclusion of relevant classifiers. As a complete beginner you often ignore these, but after a while you will realize that they are essential to speaking Thai well. The problem is there are so many and it is hard to remember them all. Fortunately, anytime you look up a word that has an associated classifier, it (or they if more than one can be used) will be listed.

    Yet another great feature is “Explain Spelling,” which will deconstruct the syllables in a word and tell you why they have the tones they do (including if they are irregular). You can even select any of the component sounds to find out more about vowels and syllables or consonants, which are two of the many subjects in the “Reading and Writing” chapter of the app. A related feature is the ability to find words inside, which will deconstruct a multi-part word and show you the meanings of each component. Since a great many Thai words are created from two or more words, this is very helpful.

    Anyone living in Thailand will know that many signs use stylized fonts that are much harder for beginners to read. This app offers the option to view words in any of 8 different stylized fonts, which can help improve your reading.

    These features alone make the app worth buying, but there are other a few others worth mentioning. For instance, where appropriate, you will be shown an icon indicating a word is either formal or mostly used in spoken language. There is a “Google Thai Word” option which will probably only be useful for more advanced students (though by checking the number of results returned you can at least get an idea of whether the word is common).

    There is also an “Easy Thai” option that is intended to help ease the transition from using transliterated Thai to Thai script. I haven’t actually used it, but it could be helpful for some. Essentially, it will show the real Thai word, and then instead of (or in addition to, you choose) the transliteration, it will show the word in a simpler version of the Thai script (if possible) along with the tone marks. With the tone marks, you can choose to include them, not include them, or include them only for irregular words, depending on where you are in your knowledge of the Thai script. I have never actually used this feature but it might be useful to some.

    Now, with all those positives there are also a few glaring negatives. The number one problem in my mind is that there is no way to save favorite words. This is really shameful, especially after all the requests for this feature from users and considering it is not a particularly difficult feature to add from a programming perspective. The second major shortcoming of this app is that it provides no example sentences. Finally, search results often list multiple possible words with no distinction on usage so you can’t easily decide which, if any, are appropriate for your intended use (and since there are no example sentences, you can’t get a feel that way either).
  • ClickThai Dictionary seems to be a decent alternative based on the description and what I have read online, though it is slightly more expensive and, oddly, has zero reviews.

 

Grammar and Comprehensive Learning Sites

  • Book2 (English-Thai, Thai-English)
    100 lessons, covering both useful everyday topics and grammatical concepts. Each lesson presents a list of phrases or sentences relevant to the topic in one language on the left with the translation in the middle and the ability to play a sound file on the right. Since versions are available for both Thai-English and English-Thai, you can practice both ways, though beginners will likely want to stick with the English-Thai version. A useful feature of this site is that the middle translation column is first shown as incomplete with spaces replacing letters, which you can fill in by clicking a link. The idea is to translate yourself first and then check if you were right or not.
  • Everyday Thai Free Thai Language Study Aids
    Everyday Thai Language School has produced a series of free online learning aids. Their main objective is to improve vocabulary acquisition and increase students exposure and interaction with the language. Their Thai language teachers have created hundreds of Thai flashcards and Thai language exercises. These learning aids cover most of the vocabulary introduced in their Thai language books and include over 4200 audio clips. Additionally, they have adapted part of the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) Thai language course to be used as a basic Thai reader for self-study. They have also developed an additional series of short Thai readers on various subjects (all accompanied by a reading comprehension quiz) for the benefit of all advanced Thai language learners. Finally, they offer a learn Thai with music series where each song includes the music video, Thai lyrics, English translation, and Thai transliteration.
  • Farang Can Learn Thai Grammar Section
    A collection of grammar-related explanations originally posted in the Facebook group of the same name.
  • Foreign Service Institute Thai Language Course
    The Thai Language Wiki offers the well-known Foreign Service Institute courses for the Thai language (volumes 1 and 2 plus the Reference Grammar guide). Unlike some sites for FSI materials in other languages, this site lets you read all the materials online and includes embedded audio as well. If you prefer to download FSI in PDF and MP3 formats, you can do so at the FSI Language Courses site.
  • GLOSS (Global Language Online Support System)
    Reading and listening lessons taken from articles, TV, radio, etc. Brought to you by the Defense Language Institute. You can select lessons based on level, modality (listening or reading), competence, and topic.
  • Into Asia Thai Language
    This site has some really good overviews of the Thai language. I especially like their easy to read and understand big-picture look at Thai grammar and how it diverges from English grammar, but most of their pages are worth reading.
  • Langhub.com – Learn Thai
    Text, audio and video files to help you learn Thai. Beginner, intermediate, advanced, and grammar lessons that include downloadable MP3s, PDFs, and embedded videos of translated Thai words and phrases (with Thai transliteration including accent marks) spoken in both English and by a native Thai speaker are available. Also available are lessons for expats living in Thailand, traveling in Thailand, business, and some columns about topics such as Thai words to use while getting a Thai massage and how to talk on the phone in Thai.
  • SEAsite Thai Language and Culture Learning Resources
    This site is a bit of a mess with an outdated design and you may have trouble viewing the fonts (they tell you how to install their fonts but if you use Chrome you may not need to). Anyway, enter the main site and on the left sidebar you will see many options, including: Alphabet, Beginning Thai review (follow my link as the link on the site is wrong), classifiers, Business Thai (again, their link is bad), Comics, Language (with sections on Reading, Vocabulary, Writing, and Conversation), Literature, Music, Reading, Self-Assessment, Signs, Spoken Thai, Tones, and more. Really, there is a lot to explore on this site so it’s probably worth reading the overview page.
  • Spoken Thai
    Spoken Thai for the Internet has been adapted from the book of the same name authored by Mary R. Haas and Heng R. Subhanka and first published in 1945 by the Linguistic Society of America. This is actually the Spoken Thai section of the SEAsite resource already listed, but since it is acts as a self-contained course I list it separately as well.
  • Thailand Cyber University (TCU) Open Courseware
    A pretty cool interactive course for beginners created by Chiang Mai University. Includes animation, sound, exercises and PDF downloads and is divided into two components: speaking and listening (25 multi-part lessons) and reading and writing (10 multi-part lessons).
  • thai-language.com Reference Information and Tables offers a variety of useful material about the Thai language including: handy phrases, a glossary of Thai language terms, common words, phonetics, pronunciation, tones, the Thai alphabet, grammar concepts, writing and typing, and some useful tables (telling time, numbers, kinship terms, months, days, etc.).
  • The Fundamentals of the Thai Language
    A Thai course with 26 lessons and some useful appendices (especially the ones for classifiers and idioms) by Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevongs. I found this to be a nice concise introduction to some fairly important—and often confusing—pieces of the Thai grammar puzzle. The explanations are concise with relevant examples.

 

Language Exchanges

 

Learning Thai from Songs

  • DADailymotion – AnothaiDara has videos by Potato, New & Jiew, and So Cool.
  • Deung-Dut-Jai (ดึงดูดใจ)
    Tahmnong offers a large collection of translated and transliterated music videos as well as a lyrics directory. If you are interested in knowing what music is currently popular in Thailand, a current Top 20 weekly chart is included on the site as well, with links to any songs that have already been translated.
  • Learn Thai from Songs
    This site from University of Hawaii at Manoa is designed for beginning readers of Thai who already know all of the Thai alphabet and writing system, and know some basic Thai. Seven songs are on offer with each having pop-up glossary help and an audio pronunciation guide, by word and by verse. Each song is also accompanied by culture notes, grammar notes and an explanation. Also, you will have a chance to sing along or read along, with the accompanying sung vocals and pictures which are provided to help your understanding.
  • Learn Thai Language Online with Music
    Everyday Thai offers up this series where each song includes the music video, Thai lyrics, English translation, and Thai transliteration.
  • Learn Thai Style has a good collection of translated Thai music videos.
  • Pick up Thai Music Station includes six songs with karaoke readings.

 

Learning to Read and Write (Thai Alphabet)

 

Reference Books

Compared to other languages I have studied, textbooks that present Thai grammar in an orderly fashion (or at all, for that matter) seem scarce. In my class at CMU our book mostly presents thematic chapters with a few sample expression patterns and supporting vocabulary. The teacher can expand on these and answer more general grammar questions, but mostly you learn by pattern. Not good or bad, but if you want a bit more structure and something you can use as a reference here are the books I have found in my research that seem worth considering. For even more, check out the WLT review of grammar books by Mark Hollow.

  1. Fundamentals of the Thai Language by Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevongs. According to the WLT review, “this is more of a language course than a grammar book” and it has “a strong emphasis on basic grammar and outlines some key differences from English which is useful for beginners. Each topic is presented with basic vocabulary lists and example conversations. The first edition was printed in 1956 so some of the vocabulary is showing its age but the clear explanations and well-structured content make this a useful book.” The book is now out of print, but you can read it online. Though I have only browsed it, I found the content clear and helpful but I must warn that the transliteration used is truly awful and doesn’t seem to indicate tones at all so it might be better to start using this after you can read Thai script.
  2. Thai: An Essential Grammar by David Smyth. As one reviewer writes, this book is well organized and “stresses practical grammar used in spoken Thai, and captures cultural aspects of usage in the manner of native Thai speakers. Nice features include cultural notes on certain grammatical forms with regard to their appropriateness in social situations, gender specificity, idiomatic expressions, and other interesting features peculiar to Thai, such as the use of special adjectives that intensify meanings and make the foreign speaker sound more natural to native speakers.” The one complaint I read about this book is its choice of transliteration. Apparently it uses a system that will be more comfortable for British English speakers (e.g., por instead of paw or pɔɔ [พอ]). Note: According to the WLT review, the “the Kindle and ePub editions use miniature graphics files for the Thai text and some transliteration symbols so resizing the layout doesn’t work properly,” though nobody has mentioned this in the Amazon reviews.
  3. Thai Reference Grammar by James Higbie. This book seems to be the consensus best for intermediate learners. One review has claimed this is the only book that goes beyond beginner level grammar (though apparently there is still no advanced grammar reference on the market). Two complaints I noticed in the Amazon reviews are the small size of the font and its excessive use of transliteration, including having that as the only option for some areas including the index. Apparently, tone marks are occasionally left off with some of the transliterations too.
  4. A Reference Grammar of Thai by Shoichi Iwasaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom seems to be the most comprehensive book on Thai grammar, but apparently is not really a good choice for beginners and perhaps not even for intermediate students as it tends to present its information in a style used by linguists more than average folks. Perhaps this is the book to get if you are an advanced student, though one reviewer seemed to think it was a good book to have for serious beginners as well.
  5. The Benjawan Poomsan Becker series (Thai for Beginners, Thai for Intermediate Learners) is very popular and usually easy to find in local bookstores in Thailand. It comes with an audio CD but when picking up a used copy that may or may not still be included. If you do pick up any of these books, make sure you check out Thai Language Study Aids, a site that offers a series of study aids and quizzes for people who are using the books. You will find word lists, comprehension exams, jumbled sentence quizzes and matching quizzes.
  6. Google Books: Thai Learning Resources” is a curation of various useful books by Catherine Wentworth for Thai learners available either partially or fully on Google Books, separated by topic.

Note that I haven’t used these books so I can’t offer a personal opinion of which to pick up. However, based on the reviews I read, it seems Thai: An Essential Grammar is excellent but not complete so you’ll probably eventually want to supplement it with Thai Reference Grammar. As for the Becker books, one review had this to say: “All in all, if you want to learn Thai, you might start with Thai for Beginners […] but after that, don’t bother with her Thai for Intermediate Learners, but get [Thai Reference Grammar] and you will find it will serve you for a long time to come.”

 

Reading Materials

  • Advanced Thai Reading and Vocabulary Building
    There are quite a few books and online programs that can help you to begin to read Thai but there are a lot fewer advanced books that will help you once you have achieved a beginner’s proficiency. So, when Hugh Leong needed to work at a more advanced Thai reading level, he wrote his own textbooks and now he is sharing them with the wider community of Thai learners.
  • Bangkok Post Translate It
    Translate It was a weekly column whose primary purpose was to help interested readers learn to accurately translate English texts into Thai. It found a loyal following among foreigners who are learning Thai at an advanced level and here you can find an archive of all the columns for 2006 and 2007. The 2003 columns are also available but have a different main page. Each column displays the English text on the left and the Thai translation on the right. Note that, at least on my computer, I had to specify the Character Encoding in my browser to properly display the Thai text. If you see gibberish you’ll need to do the same (use the View menu option in your browser of choice).
  • Languages on the Web
    This site offers a small collection of short stories—the Daisy stories written by Crystal Jones—presented as bilingual parallel texts in three columns for the original Thai, a transliterated version and the English original. Note that the Daisy Macbeth story is currently linked to the Indonesian translation instead, but it does exist, though without a transliterated column.
  • Learn Thai with Maanii Books
    The Maanii books were originally produced by the Thai Ministry of Education and were used to teach primary school students to read and write Thai between 1978 and 1994. Apparently, it has become very difficult to find these books in print so Mia from the highly recommended Thai Girl Talk series has been digitizing and translating them for free download. As Mia says, the books are not just textbooks to learn Thai, they also teach the morals of the Thai people and provide an insight into what it means to be Thai. In Thai schools the books were used in grades 1-6. Students read two books each year for a total of twelve by the time they were 10 years old.
    NOTE: if you use Anki, there are currently shared decks for books 2-4.
  • Learning Thai with Post Today (Archive)
    These are the current archives of Bangkok Post articles meant to help Thai language learners. Each article is posted in English and Thai and a list of vocabulary used in the article is provided.
  • SEAlang Lab “Just Read”
    This is a fantastic resource. Basically, you can select from a ton of readings listed by topic, difficulty level and source. You can choose whether to display only Thai, English, paragraph side-by-side, sentence side-by-side, paragraph over-under and sentence over-under. If you can’t read Thai script well yet, hover your mouse over a word and its transliteration will be shown. Click on any word and it will automatically be added to the search field. Click the search button and you a small window will popup with the word’s dictionary entry and usually an audio and video option for the word.
  • Talking Books
    15 illustrated story books made by Primary 6 students from Sriwittayapaknam School. Click on a book and you can flip through, with each page having an illustration, the Thai script, a transliteration, an English translation and an audio file to hear it read by one of the students. These tend to be short, simple stories so perhaps best for beginner or lower intermediate students.
  • Thai Basic Reader
    This online course offers 56 lessons, each one as downloadable PDF and MP3 files. The original textbook was developed by Thomas W. Gething and Pongsuwan T. Bilmes of the University of Hawaii and the lessons are designed to roughly correlate with Lessons 1 through 50 of the AUA books by J. Marvin Brown. Each lesson begins with a passage dealing with some aspect of Thai society, history, geography or culture. Following the passage are questions on the content of that passage. Also included is an accompanying glossary. The early lessons also have exercises designed to practice using the syntax and vocabulary of that and previous lessons.
  • Thai Newspaper Headlines
    In 2009 Paknam forum member Suthee made a large number of posts highlighting headlines from the Thai Rath newspaper, usually including a photo of the headline, the Thai script, transliteration and translation (including highlighting specific vocabulary).
  • Thai Reader Project
    This project at the University of Wisconsin at Madison provides a set of Thai language reading lessons intended to be used in a classroom setting by students who have completed a year of elementary study and attained at least basic literacy.
  • Thai Reader and The Thai System of Writing are two books by Mary Haas meant to be used together by intermediate students. The former is a link to an online version, with audio files (though in .wav format that you have use with an external audio player) and the latter is a PDF download. Frankly, I just perused the PDF and found it dull as dirt and a bit academic, but to each his/her own. Thai Reader is actually part of the previously covered SEAsite page and does offer some useful short reading passages and so my recommendation is use other resources to learn the alphabet if needed and then focus only on using the Thai Reader page for practice, though even it recommends starting with the first Maanii books already mentioned.
  • Thai Text Reader
    Thai Text Reader (TTR) hosts a Thai parser coded to work with FLTR (Foreign Language Text Reader), plus an extensive Thai dictionary to suck into FLTR, as well as Thai reading resources (both hosted and off-site) to get you started. This is probably too geeky and too much effort for most, but I include it here for any interested in that sort of thing.
  • Thai to English Fiction | เรื่องสั้นไทย
    Modern and classic Thai short stories in English, brought to you by Marcel Barang. No transliteration, just Thai original and English translation.

 

Thai Language Related Blogs, Facebook Pages, etc.

 

Thai Tones and Pronunciation

 

Thai TV Online

 

Tools and Apps

Honestly, I don’t have the energy to do a full review of all the apps available, and certainly not for both iOS and Android. If you are an iOS user however, Catherine Wentworth at Women Learning Thai has a ginormous list with prices (but without reviews). Still, here is a small collection of useful computer tools and mobile apps.

  • A Spaced Repetition System (SRS) is basically an electronic flash card system that takes into consideration what you have already learned so you are only shown the cards you don’t recall well. Read the Wikipedia article (main link) or Khatzumoto’s overview if you want to understand this incredibly useful language learning tool. When you are ready to get going, Anki is my personal favorite, not necessarily because it is the best (it may be, but it needs work on usability, especially for learning to created new flashcard collections from a spreadsheet and editing existing collections), but because it has a huge community that regularly contribute their decks which you can download for free. Still, alternatives exist, including Byki, cram, FullRecall, jMemorize, Memrise, Mnemosyne, Quizlet, and SuperMemo (to be honest, not all of those properly qualify as SRS but all are worth at least considering). I recommend choosing one that has free collections to download and a mobile app for whatever OS you use (which ideally will sync with your desktop version) as you will probably use it on the go most (it’s a great way to kill a few minutes while out and about).
  • Does Your Computer Speak Thai?” is an article by Catherine Wentworth that discusses various ways you can get your computer to read Thai text. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of this as a study aid until I came across her article, but will give it a try going forward. As a summary, she says that Macs have the capability already in the OS but for PCs your best bet will be with a Chrome extension like Speak Thai.
  • Language Immersion for Chrome is an experimental Chrome extension that aims to simulate the experience of being immersed in a foreign language. By switching certain words and phrases from English into a language of your choice, the websites you already visit can provide a way to experience the world from a different perspective. The amount of the page translated depends on the level you set. The novice level will translate hardly any words and phrase parts. Each level adds more until you get to fluent, which translates the entire page (not recommended considering Google Translate’s poor job translating blocks of text to Thai). For more, read the review on WLT. (Note the extension did not work for me).
  • LargeThai Firefox Addon
    Thai web pages frequently have text in a small font size that is difficult to easily read, particularly for a non-native speaker. Enlarging the font size by using Firefox’s zoom function has the undesirable side-effect of blowing up the reasonably-sized English text to an excessively large size. This addon solves the problem.

 

Typing in Thai

  • Branah.com Thai Keyboard (Kedmanee layout, Pattachote layout) is my go-to virtual keyboard. Either click the keys with your mouse or type them via your keyboard.
  • Mnemonics for the Kedmanee Keyboard offers just what it says.
  • typeinthai.com lets you type via a virtual keyboard, type directly in Thai (using the normal mapping a Thai keyboard would have), and practice your typing using timed input exercises (25 levels of challenge). There are also instructions for setting up your non-Thai Windows computer to type in Thai. Finally, if you want to type in some non-standard fonts, there are direct download links to 8 of them.
  • Thai keyboard offers another virtual keyboard.
  • Thai Notes Typing Thai is a collection of programs to help you learn to type in Thai. They are:
    Thai Typing Trainer – a 50 lesson tutor going from the first few keystrokes to complete coverage of the Thai keyboard, a practice program with 8 passages of Thai to type to help improve your speed (providing feedback on the number of errors made and words per minutes typed), and a similar practice program that lets you paste your own text for practice.
    Thai Steady Typer – a program to help you to practice typing at a steady pace, one of the keys to building up typing speed.
    Thai Typing Game – type the words as they fall from the sky and before they hit the ground. 50 levels of increasing difficulty.
    IPA Typing Tool – type characters like ɛ ə ʉ̌ o ô ɔ́ etc.
    Thai Typing Tool – a virtual Thai keyboard
  • Thai Typing – The Key to A Hidden World” by Stuart Jay Raj discusses the benefits of learning to type in Thai and offers some tips for doing so.
  • Thai Typing Tutor Game is a game developed by Josh Sager and hosted at thai-language.com that will help you master the Thai keyboard by playing a Space Invaders style game. You can set the speed and decide what to include (consonants, vowels, tone marks, Thai digits, punctuation marks, rare letters, and words). Quite cool, actually.
  • Virtual Thai Keyboard and type-thai.com are two more virtual keyboards that let you either type directly via your keyboard or click the virtual keys.

 

Vocabulary

  • Chanchao’s Thai Travel Menu is a generic Thai food menu that you can use so you won’t be intimidated the next time you go to eat street food with no English menu. More than that, useful tidbits about eating in Thailand are included (things you should know, vegetarian hints, food safety, types of restaurants and street stalls and some useful expressions).
  • English-Thai Vocabulary Quizzes
    Quizzes to help you learn and review vocabulary.
  • Farang Can Learn Thai Vocabulary Section
    A collection of vocabulary-related explanations originally posted in the Facebook group of the same name.
  • Learn Thai Proverbs
    Mia at Learn2SpeakThai offers a large collection of Thai proverbs. Each one has a nice illustration, the proverb in Thai script, transliteration, a literal English translation, the English version of the proverb, an audio file, a detailed explanation, and an example.
  • Lingopolo Online Thai Lessons
    Lingopolo organizes lessons into sets of words, and trains you to understand these words by quizzing you with flashcards. At the start of each quiz, you will be shown your current knowledge of the set of words, and at the end of each quiz, you will be shown your new knowledge level. The idea is that you move each set of words along from having a starting knowledge of 0% to the point where for each set you have a knowledge of 100%. Lessons are divided into easy-to-use categories. You can study in whichever way you prefer; by thematic lesson such as colors or animals, by particular parts of speech such as nouns or verbs or even by our complete global collection of vocabulary and phrases. Note that while it is free to join and try out everything on Lingopolo, after a free trial if you wish to continue to use the website, you will be asked to pay a membership fee (the current prices will be displayed at that time).
  • Peace Corps Northern Thai word list (PDF)
  • Phuut Phaasaa Thai
    Phuut Phaasaa Thai was a Bangkok Post column that gives students of Thai language useful topical and seasonal Thai words and phrases to help you out in common situations. On this page you will find the 2003 columns.
  • Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary (PDF downloads – Letter, A4)
  • Sap Jaak Khao
    Sap Jaak Khao is another old Bangkok Post feature that looked at a selection of vocabulary from a timely news story in both Thai and English.
  • Speak Real Thai is aimed at people learning Thai who want to speak “real Thai,” as spoken by Thai people. You want to use phrases and expressions that make your Thai sound natural and easy to understand. Lessons cover a wide range of subjects, from greetings to how to wai; from how to make a suggestion politely to giving a snappy retort and lots of useful in-between things like how much money to give a beggar and dialects. If you are reasonably proficient in Thai you won’t have to rush to the dictionary every other word, however, vocabulary pointers and transliterated sentences have been included.
  • Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions“ by Catherine Wentworth
    A thorough roundup of various Thai word frequency lists available. Many of them can be downloaded directly.
  • thai-language.com Classifier List is complete (319!) but if you want a more condensed version, there is a list of about 70 on my Google Docs Spreadsheet.
  • Thai Language Phrase Books: A Mega Review“ by Catherine Wentworth
  • Thai Language Tricks
    A very old and no longer updated blog (last entry 2008) by Jason Smith, who wrote about phrases or words as he encountered them, with conclusions coming from interviewing his Thai peers. His objective was to compile an extensive collection of unambiguous links between Thai and English so even though the blog is no longer updated, troll the past posts for some useful nuggets.
  • Thai Word Lists
    This site contains 4,564 unique Thai words with English translations (no transliteration), organized into 353 categories. The word lists have primarily been taken from the SEAlang.net website with a few additions and reformatted for use on small-screen mobile devices.
  • Thailand Bangkok Mission 1000 Word List
    A list of Thai vocabulary words geared toward missionaries.
  • Tweet Yourself Thai is a blog of short, timely, thematic lessons for intermediate learners of Thai. For those of you who know the basics (or speak fluent “Taxi Thai” as some call it) but haven’t yet got to grips with the vocabulary needed for the less run-of-the-mill situations, this blog should help you on your way. No long-winded explanations of things you already know, just key vocab for the featured situation and some reading practice to keep your eyes sharp.
  • Words Textbooks Don’t Teach
    Thai teacher Yuki Tachaya presents a small collection of expressions you are unlikely to learn in your Thai textbook.

Related Articles

Disclaimer: Please be aware that I belong to and use various affiliate programs on this site. If you see a link in one of my posts, there is a good chance it will be an affiliate link that will earn me a bit of money if you end up purchasing something. If you are not interested in helping me earn a few pennies for my efforts, I recommend you use Google instead.

6 Comments For This Post

  1. t6nd9r Says:

    Wow. I'm truly amazed how much resource you were collected. :) Thanks a lot for them!

    Did you make all decs and word lists (into this form) manually or have you generated them somehow?

    I would like to speak up for Learn Thai Podcast, I literally fell in love with their (premium – member) lessons.
    However if you are looking for free materials only, then not only the ones you mentioned can find at them:
    Check out the lesson files from these: http://learn-thai-podcast.com/sitemap/
    or check their trial page with lots of lessons (from real members section): http://learn-thai-podcast.com/trial/

  2. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for the comment and the feedback on LTP. It's good to hear from actual users, especially for premium products. You should try ThaiPod101 and compare it to LTP. If you do, please report back.

    As for the docs and word lists. The worksheets labeled Speak Thai in 15 Days I made manually, looking up each word or phrase in the dictionary. Most of the other worksheets I created from materials I found online.

  3. t6nd9r Says:

    I was member on both site (paying one). As you probably know for some ppl this site / technic / way works better while for others the other one so everything is subjective.

    For me the Thaipod101 made the following after taste:
    – really exciting small lessons but as mostly each lesson was about 1 topic and each lesson covered only really few words, even some lessons overlap each other, I felt they can create million and one lesson and even that way I wouldn't exactly feel I'm on the way from point A to point B. Like I'm just learning few random words (sometimes the same as I've learnt already) and I don't exactly see when these all will build together.

    – The thai sentences are not "spaced" (which is a good thing for absolute beginners), the not covered thai sentences were not translated word by word so you had no chance to figure out which word is which, where starts/ends and word, what is the exact thai word order for them.
    (Had chance to see some example from their 2000 wordlist which they sell with audio and that I couln't even figure out how could be useful for a beginner or how could use that for learn any words. )
    However I really loved and love their 2000 word list (which seems to me continously growing/changing) which is break down to bigger (and the bigger into smaller) topics. This wordlist (html based) had thai and english audio (could be really useful if you use these audio) , most word had example sentences, sadly half of them eng-thai audio, another (bigger) half with thai audio only. (same problem with sentences as I mentioned before, but had to deal with it).
    They have currently a running topic about thai alphabet, I like that series, feeling exciting and informative at the same time. (Loved learn-thai-podcast's one also but I like this one more)
    Both site has great word learning tools with flashcards, both are pretty great.

    About words/sentences I've checked thai-flashcards.com also (first 7 day you can use with audio, after only without audio) where the words/sentences are grouped by topics/difficulties, sentences are break down into words, able to listen the words one by one or the sentence as one.

    I could talk a lot about what / why I love LTP, but there are reviews on net or even their website has really great list about what they offer.

  4. Jeff Says:

    Very helpful comment. Thanks for sharing!

  5. t6nd9r Says:

    You are very welcome.

    One more thing.
    This happened not so long time ago, it was free to watch during live session (and re-broadcast) had some really great (for someone – known) idea about how to learn languages easier. Was focused to Anki but discussed everything in more details:
    https://www.creativelive.com/courses/become-fluen

  6. Jeff Says:

    I recall reading about that guy at Lifehacker – http://lifehacker.com/5903288/i-learned-to-speak-

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Thoughts on Learning the Thai Language after One Year | Lengthy Travel Says:

    […] patterns. There are a couple of well-regarded Thai grammar books, which I include in my list of free Thai learning resources, but for a decent general overviews of the unique attributes of Thai grammar, read the Into Asia […]

Leave a Reply

Enter Your Email Address to Get New Posts by Email


Follow Us on Twitter