Studying Thai in Chiang Mai: Advice from a Long-Term Chiang Mai Resident

I recently came to Chiang Mai to focus on writing and other projects. As someone who is generally interested in languages and in getting to know locals that might not be able to speak English, I decided that studying the Thai language would be a worthwhile investment of time and money. While multiple people have recommended just going the self-study route, I think it is important to know yourself and which approaches are right for you. Moreover, one approach may be right or wrong depending on where you are in your mental state and which language you are studying. Indeed, in the past I have both self-studied and taken formal classes. Most recently, I was in Japan trying to re-learn the Japanese I had forgotten from years of neglect via self-study. Now, however, I realize I am not sufficiently motivated to do a proper self-study for the Thai language. Moreover, Thai is a tonal language, unlike Japanese or most Western languages, which means pronunciation will be a huge challenge. I consider proper pronunciation to be a weak point for my language learning abilities and thus I hope to benefit from taking formal classes with a trained instructor. Plus, the course fees are quite reasonable and I like the idea of spending a bit of my money supporting a local educational institution.

The ED Visa

When I first considered coming to Chiang Mai for an extended stay, I was just planning to do what most others do and get a multi-entry two-month tourist visa, which is slightly inconvenient for long stays, but definitely manageable. In fact, I didn’t even know about the ED visa until I decided to investigate courses. But, it turns out that if you enroll in an officially recognized course of study, you can be eligible for a special ED visa. This visa will allow you to stay in the country for extended time with only occasional renewals at the local immigration office. Typically, programs are promoted offering a one-year ED visa, but I believe it can be extended longer than that if you study longer.

The benefits of an ED visa are two-fold. First, after your initial visit to a neighboring country to apply for and receive the visa (which gets you an initial 90 day stay), you no longer have the hassle of needing to leave the country. On the flip side, if you actually want to leave Thailand during your stay on an ED visa, you will have to request a re-entry permit from the immigration office (1,000 THB) before leaving; if not, when re-entering your ED visa will get canceled. The second benefit is the cost savings of an ED visa vs. a tourist visa. With a tourist visa, you will need to leave the country three times (every 90 days) and renew the visa at the immigration office four times (1,900 THB each time). Two of the times you must leave the country involve a simple one-day jaunt to the Myanmar border. I did a quick calculation of what it would cost to stay a year on a multi-entry two-month tourist visa versus an ED visa and found that the ED visa would save about US$360 (see below, assuming a base in Chiang Mai and that you don’t leave the country while on the ED visa).

# Days ActivityTourist VisaED VisaDifference
0Trip to Vientiane*545054500
60Immigration renewal (30 days)190001900
90Trip to Mae Sai / Immigration11001900-800
150Immigration renewal (30 days)190001900
180Trip to Vientiane* / Immigration545019003550
240Immigration renewal (30 days)190001900
270Trip to Mae Sai110001100
330Immigration renewal (30 days)190001900
US $$646.88$289.06$357.81
* 2000 THB for visa; 1600 for transportation; 1350 for Laos visa; 500 for lodging
(using 1 USD = 32 THB)

11,450 THB savings is not insignificant, and in fact, is about half the cost of the cheaper one-year courses on offer in Chiang Mai (about 38% the cost of my program). If looked at that way, studying Thai in Chiang Mai really becomes a very affordable proposition for those who plan to stay a long time.

A Detailed Look at the School Options in Chiang Mai

So, with the decision made to commit to a one-year program and receive an ED visa, I started investigating schools in Chiang Mai that qualify. At one point, I made a request for feedback on the CMU course on the I ♥ Chiang Mai Facebook group. One member, Naoko Osaki, kindly sent me a very helpful and detailed look at the various school options in Chiang Mai. I asked her if I could publish it here and she kindly agreed. Here’s what she wrote (slightly edited).

Schools that assist you with the Ed visa application:

  1. CMU Centre for Thai Study.
    Cost: 30,000 THB for 216 hours
    A really bad incident happened in recent years (maybe in 2010 or 2011 I think, but not certain). The Thai course got cancelled suddenly and no refund was offered to those already enrolled, meaning they left lots of people stranded without the ED visa. Generally very unprofessional management of the incident at the time and since then people are generally very wary of their Thai courses.
    My Note: Things have changed; see below for my first-hand experience with this school.
  2. Payap University Intensive Thai Courses.
    Cost: 8,000 THB for 60 hours in 4 weeks
    I have two friends who studied there. They speak Thai fluently, read and probably write very well from what I see. Both of them swear it’s the best course in CM, as long as you can afford it and if you like studying in the academic setting and the approach to the study. VERY intense and demanding.
  3. AUA Language Center.
    Cost: 4,800 THB for 60 hour course in 6 weeks; for a one-year ED visa, you do 5 terms + fees = 28K THB
    In terms of the cost performance, I would vote AUA without hesitation. They do support you with the required docs to apply for the ED visa but they have a limited number of seats in a year to give out the ED visas for and they don’t seem to want to advertise as such (I suspect that they don’t really want to do the admin work that comes with it because they are not a visa school). Anyway, the upshot is that it’s not very easy to get the ED visa through them. The situation might well be different now but at least last Nov, they were offering the ED visa assistance and I have one friend who got the ED visa through them in 2011 (I think). The office staff can be quite curt and not very accommodating, which can be a headache if you need to solve a problem. However, the teachers here tend to be more experienced and mature as compared to other language schools, but at least a couple of them have a reputation of having a quite old-school, authoritarian style of teaching. One of my friends really didn’t like it so she quit. No textbooks (they have them but they are super-outdated so none of the teachers use them) so they all use their own hand-outs most of the time, which means the teaching style can vary depending on the teacher. Two of the teachers I had were excellent. To me, what makes AUA (at least the classes I took) different from other language schools is that they really force you to speak, rather than sitting at a desk and taking notes all the time. By the way, the teaching method at AUA BKK is VERY different from the methods used by the teachers at AUA CM.
    My Note: I recently met an AUA student who is very happy there and did receive an ED visa, though he said they are very strict about attendance and, I believe, making sure you are actually learning the language. I have also heard from him and others that a problem with AUA is that it seems rare that the more advanced courses are actually offered due to lack of enrollment. So, for example, this friend has taken the first two courses twice rather than progressing to courses 3 and 4.
  4. Walen International School.
    Cost: 25,000 THB for 180 hours
    Mainly a visa give-away school in my opinion. I have a friend who goes to the school in BKK (she does not require the ED visa) and she was not very impressed. I had a look at her text book but they do not use any transliteration whatsoever (they employ the Callan method), and it didn’t seem inspiring (no pictures or anything, just solid Thai texts), which could possibly work if you have an appropriate systematic teaching method in place but can be quite daunting if you’re a first-time learner.
    My note: When I went to investigate this school, they explained that at the beginning of the course the only thing taught is vocabulary, not even sentences, and there is no attempt to learn to use it in conversation. Next, you move on to sentences using that vocabulary. After that, I am not sure, possibly you get to conversation, but by then I think I would have been bored to death and long quit the program.
  5. Easy Study Thai.
    Cost: 21,000 THB for 180 hours
    It’s a fairly new school set up in early 2012 by Khruu Yai, who used to teach at CMU and YMCA. One of my friends got taught by her and she really likes her teaching style. I went to observe two classes. The staff were very helpful and the atmosphere was very friendly, but most of the students don’t seem to be so serious about learning Thai. The textbook is very similar to those used at YMCA. One teacher was 30 minutes late. A couple of my friends who also went to observe the class were not very impressed. It’s 2 hours per day, twice per week, which will end up covering pretty much one whole year.
  6. Pro Language School.
    Cost: 23,000 THB for 180 hours
    If you want the ED visa, I think this is probably the best compromise and I guess that’s why I’m studying here. The staff are very friendly and helpful; they seem to know what they are doing regarding the visa application and the subsequent procedures. They seem to assign 13 to 14 students to one class, assuming that at least 1/3 (or possibly 1/2) of the students won’t show up most of the time. And I think they are right! In my class, usually 5 to 8 students turn up, which suits me well! They have five teachers and I heard 3 of them were pretty good (luckily my teacher is one of them). Their textbooks are pretty good, considering, although their transliteration system is not very intuitive and can be confusing at times. If you go to school continuously you will complete the 180 hours in less than 7 months, though you get to stay in Thailand without going to school for the remaining time. Alternatively, you can have a 1-month (or more) break between the levels if you prefer, but you may need to start with a different class if you take more than 2-month break.
    My note: Most reviews I have read online and received in person about Pro Language are the same. Everyone likes the school (I also found the staff helpful and friendly), whether they are serious about learning Thai or just want the ED visa. I think they strive to be an all things for everyone school. If you want to learn, you can definitely do it there but if you just want the visa, they’ll take your money and help you with that. The reason I chose not to go to Pro Language is that they don’t teach the Thai script until quite close to the end of the course, if at all (I wasn’t clear on their answer to that question when I posed it).
  7. Talk Talk Language.
    Cost: I think 25,000 or 27,000 THB for 200 hours
    This very small school is one-lady operation. I went to talk to them. It turns out that there’s only this lady I was talking to who teaches Thai (and there’s another lady to take care of the admin). I got the impression that she is a pretty competent teacher but the course fee was a bit more expensive than the others and the fact that there’s only one teacher means that there won’t be much flexibility in terms of schedule so I didn’t go with them.
  8. Cornerstone Language School.
    Cost: 30,000 THB for the INITIAL 200 hours + 7,000 THB for ED visa administration
    I have two friends who studied there and none of them recommend it. I also went to talk to them. They are quite a bit more expensive than the others and the way they operate seemed a bit deceiving (after paying the initial fee you will be asked to pay more once you completed the 200 hours so basically it’s like credit you buy) and my friends ended up paying quite a lot more than they anticipated to begin with. I don’t know about the quality of teaching though.
  9. Sandee Thai Language School.
    Cost: 18,000 THB for one-year (200 lessons = 180 hours?)
    The opening of the Chiang Mai branch in late 2012 has been delayed and is now due to open some time in 2013. They are going to open their CM branch on Suthep Road.
    My note: The current website shows no information about a Chiang Mai branch so perhaps those plans have been canceled?
  10. YMCA
    Cost: Standard Thai – 1,800 or 2,100 THB for 30 hours; Thai Script – 2,000 THB for 30 hours; Elementary Thai – 2,000 or 2,300 THB for 30 hours; Intensive Thai – 3,800 THB for 50 hours; Exam Prep Thai – 3,500 THB for 50 hours; Thai Daily Life – 1,500 THB for 10 hours
    I also studied at YMCA’s Thai language course and lots of people seem to like it there. I guess it’s quite inexpensive and the schedule is 3 days a week so it suits many people. They don’t offer the ED visa but apparently they are going to start doing so soon, according to a Thai friend of mine who’s working there. But, who knows, this is Thailand… Their textbooks are okay, not great but I’ve seen worse. The teachers tend to be CMU graduates and some of them were good at the time. Quite relaxed and friendly atmospheres, I had such fun in my classes but really didn’t get me going with speaking Thai though.
  11. Effective Thai.
    Cost: 450 THB per private lesson, 225 THB per group lesson so 120 group lessons for ED visa = 27,000 THB
    My note: Naoko wasn’t aware of this school so I am adding it to the list. Effective Thai is the Thai language program located at EFL Learning Centre. ED Visas are available for 90 private lessons or 120 group lessons (50 minutes per lesson). Classes are held in the Chiang Mai school location as well as online via Skype. I don’t know much about this school except that I met someone recently whose husband is studying there and seems to like it. They arranged their ED visa in Australia before coming, which sounds convenient. I wonder if other schools offer that option. From a cost perspective, this school is awfully expensive. While it is true you only need 27,000 THB for the ED visa qualification, if you compare to the typical 180 hours/lessons at other schools, Effective Thai costs 40,500 versus 20-30K elsewhere. The school location is on the eastern side of the city, whereas it seems most others are central or west, so if you are interested in being in that part of the city and school location is an important factor, Effective Thai might be useful.

Note: Naoko studied at the YMCA in June 2010, two terms at AUA between January and Mar 2012 and is currently studying at Pro Language on a one-year ED visa course. She visited and inquired about the schools (Easy Thai, Talk Talk, Cornerstone and AUA) in Nov 2012.

Intensive Study Options

There are undoubtedly more options for doing shorter, more intensive Thai language study, but since my interest was in the ED visa I didn’t investigate these options. YMCA is included in the list above since Naoko had experience there and since it seems they might someday offer the ED visa. Plus, it is one of the schools you hear recommended the most. If you know of other school options, please share in the comments.

My Experience at CMU

After my investigation of the schools (with Naoko’s help), I decided to try the course at Chiang Mai University. CMU is known as “maw chaw” (mɔɔ chɔɔ, ม.ช.) in Thai. I admit to being nervous about doing so because almost all the information I could find online was discussing the unfortunate events that occurred a few years back (which Naoko mentioned). Still, I liked the campus setting, and I was especially excited by the fact that they teach a balance of Thai skills, including conversation and reading and writing the Thai script. Plus, the administrative office seemed to be well-run when I visited and I managed to find a couple of folks who took their intensive 15-day (45 hours) course who said great things about it.

At the beginning I was a bit concerned because it seemed there wouldn’t be enough students to start the June course and I would have to wait a month for the July course. This would have really tested my commitment to giving CMU a try, but fortunately a couple more students showed up with interest and the school contacted me to see if I was willing to start just a week or so later than the originally planned start date, which I was happy to do. So, I guess you could say that showed the flexibility of the program staff, which pleasantly surprised me considering it is one of the major universities in Thailand (thus, I would have thought, very bureaucratic).

As for the ED visa, in this respect I think CMU shines. Other schools told me that the paperwork would probably take 2-4 weeks, which would have meant, in my case, a trip to Mae Sai to prevent overstaying my 30-day visa waiver (I originally flew into Bangkok). With CMU, the paperwork was finished in exactly one week and that is typical, not a special rush for my situation.

So, how about my experience in the program? I have been studying there for a about four months now and I really like the course. The professor is professional but also very relaxed and likeable. In total, there are eight students representing eight different countries (Japan, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, Austria and the United States). We used the textbook written by a different professor at CMU for the first level 15-day intensive course for several months. It’s focused mostly on practical conversation with key vocabulary and grammatical structures, though it doesn’t systematically explain the grammar (the professor is good about filling in any blanks and answering questions). The book uses transliteration but also includes Thai script for most of the vocabulary. The intensive course doesn’t study the script at all, but we started to learn it after the first 3-4 weeks, which I am very pleased about. Very recently, we finished the first book and switched to the second level 15-day intensive course textbook. It covers many of the same topics, but apparently introduces new vocabulary and grammatical structures.

One thing to mention about the CMU program is the schedule. Basically, the class meets for three months and then takes a one-month break. So, in total the course takes up a year but only nine months of study time. I am not sure if I like this or not. On the one hand, it might be nice to have those three one-month breaks to do some traveling around Thailand or the region. Alternatively, it might be nice to finish the course in nine months and then have three months to travel around. In my particular case, I think either is fine, but you might find this a deciding factor.

Final Thoughts

The Thai language is a tonal language, and thus good pronunciation is a challenge. The basic grammar I have learned up to now has been straightforward with no verb conjugations, very few singular/plural distinctions and no masculine/feminine/neutral distinctions. The writing script presents a significant challenge compared to a simple alphabet like English, but it isn’t quite as horrible as it seems upon first inspection. I’ll probably follow up with a post going into more detail on the language itself, but for now I will end with an unqualified recommendation to study Thai if you plan to make Thailand home for an extended period of time. And, if you choose to base yourself in Chiang Mai, hopefully this guide will help you choose a school.

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    1. Yes, it can make things complicated, though many (most, perhaps) people don't bother to learn to read or write at all. If you do decide to study, I would say that reading/writing, while complicated, isn't THAT difficult and certainly is nothing to be afraid of.

    2. I would like to add something about Walen school. I attended Walen in bkk and it was brutal. Good teachers but horrible book and method. I am a teacher and couldn’t believe how disorganized the method was. Walen (Mac Walen) stole the method from Callen in England. He was making a fortune in bkk as he seemed to be the first to use the ED visa as a selling point and he could care less if you attended or learned. In fact, he hoped you didn’t show up. They are a Visa factory and I would not recommend anyone to go there.

  1. Recently I was searching for the language school in Chiang Mai and would like to say that this post on your website helped a lot. Thanks for that! I wasn't in Thailand so my research was limited to websites of schools and reviews I could google.
    Now my personal experience. In the end I was left with 2 options – CMU and Pro Language and I chose CMU, because Pro language doesn't start with teaching reading/writing. So I wrote them an email with few questions and when I completely had lost hope they replied. After 19 days. Then I wrote them an email again, to clarify few things and again I waited for 10 days for them to reply. That is my experience with CMU. While I was waiting for the second email I contacted Effective Thai. All replies were prompt – the same or the following day. All questions were answered. I payed for the course and now I'm waiting for visa papers. Hope to start in May. The reason I chose Effective Thai wasn't only flawless communication. As their prices are higher I hope that the quality of learning will be better. Higher prices should scare away not serious students who enroll only for ED visa and then drag all course to their level. Anyway time will tell how things really are.
    I hope that CMU course is great and it only suffers from bad management. Or maybe it was only me who got unlucky. Thanks one more time for this post. I guess it is the only one with decent systematic information about language schools in Chiang Mai

    1. Thanks for sharing. I only learned of Effective Thai after I had already chosen a school. I have only heard of one person studying there, but it does sound like they are very professional (they even administer tests) and also strict with the ED visa. I hope you enjoy it there, and try to remember to comment again once you have an opinion to share. As for CMU, I have heard similar criticisms of the administration. My dealings with that part of the school has been limited, though they were very prompt and professional with the visa paperwork. I can say that the teachers are professional.

    2. Hi Snifas.

      Let us know how you get on with Effective Thai. I am looking to start there in July for a 1 year duration.

      Cheers Duncs

    3. Hi Sniffas,

      you will see from my past post on this thread that I have expressed an interest in Studying thai at CMU and was grateful for Jeff’s most informative response. However I will be approaching SEETEFL to complete my TEFL course and am also torn between approaching them in place of CMU for the Thai study option as they do appear to have a good reputation in this regard if a little expensive. I would be most grateful for any first hand feedback that you can offer. Many thanks in advance

      Kind regards


    1. Thanks for the resource. I have heard good things about Payap but I think the two negatives are that (1) the average person probably won't want to study THAT intensively and (2) their enrollment periods are infrequent so timing can be an issue.

      As for your expense report post, you mentioned that I forgot the 270 day visa fee. Actually, I did not. For whatever reason, the way the ED visa works is that your first renewal is for 90 days and your second renewal is for 180 days. You still have to return at 270 days to file a "staying in Thailand" address update but you don't have to pay to renew the visa.

  2. When I was at Cornerstone a few years ago it was run by Christian Taliban, and most of the missionaries there were the same bible-punching fanatics. They will make you feel very unwelcome if you are not cut from the same cloth. They had employment policies that are not only not very Christian but are also illegal in most countries (and for all I know in Thailand too), in that they will not employ anyone who is not a Christian. When I was there one teacher decided to stop being a Christian and revert to Buddhism and the next week they terminated her contract. Basically this is a front organisation for a Christian infiltration of Thailand. If you support that – go for it, if not, think twice.

    1. Well uhm, I did study there, for 3 years, and both of my teachers were definitely NOT Christian fyi, although yes, otherwise yes, the admin is Christian. I found them to all be very sweet, friendly, polite…. although not necessarily creative/fresh in their approach to teaching, it was pretty much by the textbook, which I think is pretty common in these parts.

  3. If anybody has taken the year course at CMU, please explain what the exact day of week and time of day the classes held? On their website, it say 6 hours per week in evening or weekend, so is that meeting twice a week for 3 hours and what week day for evenings? And what time in the evenings? Also for weekend what time??

    1. I have taken the one-year course and am currently doing so again for a second year. Yes, it meets 2x per week, 3 hours per class. Both this and my first-year class actually met in the afternoons, not the evenings. And, weekdays (Tue-Thu) not weekends. But, I think the days and times are a function of student demand and teacher schedule. In other words, courses are not so fixed. I recommend going to the school and asking at the office for more concrete answers.

      1. Hi Lengthytravel,

        I am investigating a 1 year ED VIsa next year to study Thai whilst I also complete a distance learning degree. I am not just chasing a Visa but am serious about wanting to try to learn the language. I Have researched much and then stumbled upon this valuable resource. My choice is down to two schools to approach. Effective Thai ( because they are a strand of See Tefl) who I hope to eventually study TEFL with. And CMU. I am attracted to CMU because it says you will have access to all University facilities such as Library and fitness. I feel this might be a bonus to my Degree studies. However I am alittle nervous of the past bad press with CMU. May I ask if you would mind sharing your valuable hands on opinion of how you are finding studying there. Many thanks in advance

        Kind regards


        1. Hi John. I will finish my second year of studying at CMU next month and it has been a positive experience. The negative things you can find about it online are from years ago and are not indicative of how the place is run these days so pay those no attention. The teachers are good and the class atmosphere is very sabaai sabaai. Actually, sometimes I wish things were a bit stricter because the pace of learning is a bit slow for my tastes. I feel I am not nearly as far along in my progress as I could be after two years of study. Saying that, from talking with others, that is the case at all the schools. I suppose they are catering to their customers, who for the most part are not interested in working too hard. The lone exception is Payap’s intensive course, which is indeed intense. Still, in my current class we speak about 85%+ in Thai and most study materials are in Thai script. Depending on the student and assignment, we may or may not write our answers in Thai (less strict about that). This is the case in my second year class, not in the first year class. We did start to learn to read and write in the first year class, but the pace was very slow and the teacher didn’t really start writing mostly in Thai until toward the end of the year.

          I also thought access to the fitness center would be a nice bonus but was mistaken – the gym is worse than many fitness centers you find in an apartment building. The swimming pool is nice, but you will need to pay a per-visit fee to use it (don’t recall the price).

          I hope that answers your question. If you have other questions, I am happy to answer.

          Finally, I haven’t done it myself, but I know CMU has a popular TEFL course as well.

          1. Hi Jeff,

            first of all, my apologies for a very late acknowledgement to your response as I have only just read it. Very many thanks for an extremely informative piece from which I am pleased to hear shows CMU with good credentials now. A pity about the Gym but still a good UNI atmosphere to study in I would imagine. I am confident now that my choices of application to study rest with CMU and Effective Thai with a visit in November required to make that final call. Very many thanks again for the taking the time to get back to me and the best of luck with your continued study. All the best John

  4. Thanks a lot for the review! it’s not n esay way to choose which school to study THai…
    it’s a big deal between fees, what they teach (readig/writing) and the quality of teachers.
    guess CMU could be the best. they start 1-year courses any time?

  5. I don’t know when they start courses, but I think they list the starting dates on their website and you can call or visit and ask them. Either way, don’t trust 100% what they tell you as they will change the dates depending on demand, especially if they are having trouble getting enough students. This, of course, will be true for all schools.

  6. Wow………Just wow.
    I can not even start to thank you for this write up. This is by far the clearest real account of getting a visa and learning thai. I have been looking around frantically and nowhere else comes close to what you wrote up.
    I’m currently in a situation where I need to settle down somewhere fast to work on my online business, and the 1 year (possibly extending to 2) sounds like a perfect fit.

    Thank you for replying to people as well (about the fact that you are just finishing up year 2) so that we all know this info is current!

    Would you recommend just getting a tourist visa and taking the first 90 days in Thailand (60 plus an extension) to suss out what schools are best? I would really love to do a 6 month language followed by a 6 month Mui Thai split for my year. All of these seem to be able to be determined much easier once I’m actually there.

    (I’ve been living abroad for over 6 years in different countries so no worries on difficulty of figuring stuff out locally)

    1. I think your 90-day tourist visa first plan is good, but CM isn’t so big so if you opt to just fly in with a 30 day visa waiver, that should be plenty of time to get oriented and settled and choose schools. Either way, you will have to leave the country to actually get the ED visa. Also, be aware that a LOT has changed regarding immigration since the coup and there is a LOT of contradictory information around the Web about various changes. My understanding (which could be wrong or, at least, change quickly) is that you can now only do one year at a time, having to leave the country each year and re-apply for a new 1 yr visa. Also, in the past you could renew in the country for varying numbers of months, depending on the school and the paperwork they filed. I believe now you must renew at the immigration office every 90 days (and then, as I just wrote, leave the country to renew after one year expires). In your case, if you switch from language to Muay Thai, I don’t know what the implications are, but I suspect you will have to leave the country to change the visa sponsor / paperwork. These are the kinds of questions you will definitely want to ask any schools you look at, though don’t be surprised if some don’t give you perfect information.

      1. Forgot to thank you for this!
        I’ve got my Visa application in now and should be in Chiang mai withing a month to a month and a half.

        Great site. Defiantly bookmarked/reccomended

    1. My school didn’t help with accommodation and I don’t know if other schools do or not but maybe not. It is quite easy to find places in CM though and there are options for a large range of budgets and amenities.

  7. Hi, I’m an American who’s visited Thailand twice before and now want to live there for a few years with my wife (also American). With the recent changes in the ED visa, is it possible for my wife and I to stay in Chiang Mai essentially indefinitely while learning the language at CMU Centre for Thai Study?

    1. I don’t know what you mean by indefinitely. And, how old are you? I think the new rule (CMU only or more general, I don’t know) is that you must be less than a certain age (maybe 55) to qualify for the ED visa. If that isn’t an issue, at least one year should be no problem but a second year will depend if a course is being offered and, in any event, you will probably have to leave the country to get the new year’s visa. Some recent articles indicate the government might introduce a 6 month tourist visa in October so that might be an alternative to consider if it happens.

      1. Thanks for the info. I’m 41, and my wife’s 32. Not sure if you have this knowledge, but can my wife having a dependent visa on my ED visa? And that 6-month tourist visa–can you keep on renewing it for years? Haha, that would be great!

        1. I don’t have answers to your questions, but I would be very surprised if your wife was able to get a dependent visa on your ED visa. I am not even sure the 6-month visa will happen (supposedly approved, but haven’t heard any more about it since the initial article I read). If it does, your question about renewals will be asked by many I am sure. If you visit forums now you will already get conflicting information about how many times you can renew the existing tourist visas.

  8. Hi JB

    Many thanks for your posts – very informative – I am interested in the 1 year course at CMU and have been in touch this week with Ms Palida of the language office. I wanted to ask about the quality of the other students that took the course – how committed were they to learning the language ? I was told that there was no specific start date for the course but simply a rolling intake each month ? Did you have new students arriving all the time ? I would imagine this would be very disruptive and slow down learning dramatically – hope to hear from you when convenient.

    Best regards

    1. Sorry, I somehow missed this comment. Perhaps you have already started the course? If not, I would say that I found my fellow students to be quite committed to learning. Attendance issues, if they existed, were usually because of work/family issues rather than simply lack of interest (as is, or at least was, common with some other schools). As for no specific start date, that usually refers to the start of the course because they will only start once they have enough students to do so. After start, it is fairly uncommon for new students to join. It happened a few times, but never was a problem. Good luck with your study and come back and post any follow-up regarding your experience.

  9. Hello,

    I’m a graduate student who is looking into doing research in Thailand for my PhD. As a part of my program, I’m required to have a relatively high working knowledge of the language of the area in which I choose to study. I was wondering, of the programs, which ones do you think would offer the greatest amount of study (in written/reading, and spoken) the quickest? I would love to spend a year there, which is a definite possibility, but I wouldn’t want to commit to a program that only barely scratches the surface of the language after a year. Do you have any recommendations?

    Also I was wondering if you could clue me in as to how often classes are canceled due to low enrollment? Again I wouldn’t want to invest in a program, just to get stuck in country without any way to take the courses.

    1. I would think that the only good option in your circumstances would be Payap’s intensive program. You might want to supplement it with some private lessons as well. If you could manage some kind of homestay (no idea how to arrange that though), that would obviously be a huge help. There is a FB group called Farang Can Learn Thai Language ( and you might post in that group as well. Good luck!

  10. Like some previous commentaries, I am not chasing an Ed Visa nor strict academia-style courses but wish to improve my comprehension of conversational Thai.
    I’m here for at least the next 12 months and wish to commence class/ study again. I’ve noticed more schools opened and some closed since my last visit 6 months ago.
    Do you have any updates on schools which focus on conversation and introducing reading Thai script?

  11. Hi

    I am inquiring about either learning of an existing opportunity
    or in creating such an opportunity here in Pai for myself and a group of other interested individuals.

    I have written the schools you have above from your older article, although I have heard no response from any of them after a weeks time period.
    Pretty slacking in interest in having students it appears.

    Any other suggestions?

    Thank you very kindly for your upcoming response and assistance.

    Jaan Versch

    +66 (0)9 3120 3541 Thailand

    Please call after 11 am, Thai time.

    platipusinanhourglass: Skype

  12. Hi Jaan

    I have been in Chiang Mai for 2 weeks doing the intensive Thai course and Chiang Mai Uni. So far it has been excellent. 3 hours study per day Mon to Fri for 3 weeks. I am also interested in the 1 year course for 2017 and have appointments with Payap uni and AUA to discuss the language level and courses as well as CMU. The challenge with all language learning is balancing the abilities and motivation of all the students to ensure consistent improvement for all. Even in the short 3 week course we have students who do all the work and more – and some who cruise along and hinder the others. Essential to find a like minded group so all get what they want. If you are interested happy to pass on any information I find out. I do expect the basics to be how it has been explained by JB since all the info so far has been spot on. The only thing left is to find your fit.

    Good luck and tot ziens !


  13. JB, it has been almost 2.5 years since this article was posted. I am thinking of doing something similar but shorter duration. I want to learn conversational Thai, and not into understanding the script. The duration could be 2 weeks. I am a retiree and hence want to take it easy to explore the city and its surrounding. The last time I went to CM and CR was for cycling, and I had an enjoyable time with friends. I checked up on TripAdvisor and Airbnb for weekly rental of apartment and found a couple of reasonable ones. As a Malaysian, I intend to live like a local to better understand its culture and people in Northern Thailand. Any feedback will be much appreciated.

    1. Most schools offer intensive, conversation-only courses so I don’t have any special feedback about that. If I had to start over again (and in a way I am doing just that), I would definitely focus on pronunciation first before worrying about conversation. If you already speak a tonal language, then that advice wouldn’t really apply to you.

      I am not really sure what you mean by “live like a local” but if you are only coming for 2 weeks I doubt you will succeed at that, especially in an Airbnb apartment. Regardless, I wish you the best.

  14. Hiya JB,

    Great posts!

    Any thoughts on how much homework goes with the CMU course, in order to make progress? (And not get kicked out of the country. 😉

    I realize this can be a subjective question, but am wondering if you have a general sense of this based on your own experience and that of your classmates.

    1. Not much homework, especially during the first year course. Occasionally we got a single handout sheet of exercises to complete or were asked to come up with multiple sentences or a short story using some word or grammar we had studied in class, but I rarely had to spend more than an hour to do the assignment and often just a 5-10 minutes. That’s the course requirement. Since you also asked about making progress, that is a different issue that really depends on what you define as progress, how good your memory and pronunciation is, etc. 😉

  15. For example, I believe I once read a guideline for academic coursework in general that recommends two hours of homework for each hour of classroom time. (Does that sound familiar to anybody?)

    1. Well, it is a language so your best use of time will always be practice with native speakers but ultimately it is a question of how motivated to learn and use the language you are. How much you will study if you just want to be able to order food and get by as a tourist will be vastly different than if you want to get a job in a Thai company, for example. As for myself I can say that I definitely didn’t do as much homework as I should have 55 (and still need to even though I am no longer in any class). By the way, there is a language exchange 2x per week at Focus Cafe, so give that a try as well.

  16. I wld like to give my opinion on pro language chiang mai where i am currently studying. I booked my place at this school before coming to Thailand as my teacher in Australia came from this school and is very good, last year the 1year coarse cost was 23500 bht but in November 2015 before i arrived the thai immigration changed the regulations to study fron 2 lessons a wk 180 hrs to 4 lessons a wk 400hrs. The school gave a special price of 28000 baht for the late notice and then had to rewrite all paperwork before coming to Thailand no problem. My coarse schedule was 1 year basic +intermediate 10 am to 12.. 4 lessons a wk and starting early January. As its turned out coarse didn’t start until February, only doing 2 lessons a wk but told if asked tell immigration i do 4 lessons a wk and doing only basic 1,2, ive paid extra money for nothing. A few times the school has been closed the day of the lesson when have holiday the next day and my teacher sick numerous times and school dont seem to have another teacher to take lesson. We started with 10-12 people but now only 6-8 which is quite good, teacher is a little hard to understand and have to ask to slow down and write things on board more also could explain a little better,reading and writing is challenging enough without the teacher writing her own way instead of how it is written in our book, have already had 1 student wanting to change class or leave because has trouble understanding the teacher. On a positive note the school has been very good at providing the appropriate paperwork for immigration with plenty of time go and get your visa extension. Overall after living and studying in chiang mai i have been a little dissapointed with the school. Plan to see out the year but leave options open to continue studying next year, i think now if you are in Thailand and can visit the school and speak to someone in person is a much better way to go.I am passionate about learning thai and still enjoy every lesson.

  17. Hi JB ! Thanks for this article !
    Do you have any feedback about Manna Thai Langage School ? Price is curiously attractive there. I had a good review about this place but only by one person.

    1. Sorry, I missed seeing your comment. And, no I don’t know anything about Manna, sorry. But, if you give it a try, please report back on your experience.

  18. Jeff, thank you so much for all the information. Truly unbelievable how much information in one place regarding educational visas.

    I am just arriving in Chiang Mai and will apply for the educational visa. I have been teaching for a long time in America and Asia, but I would welcome a year off to study Thai and not have the every day grind of teaching. I already love Chiang Mai!

    You mentioned something that caught my attention about age limits.

    I am exactly 55 years old. You mentioned that as a possible cut off.

    Of course I can track down this info in due time, but getting settled into my new home of Chiang Mai I thought I would ask you first.

    All the best, Jeff. Thank you.

    1. Sorry Steve, I don’t really know about that issue, I just heard someone talking about it but that was another student not an authoritative source so it could have been incorrect or incomplete information. On the other hand, at your age, you do qualify for a retirement visa as well so you might consider that as an alternative to the education visa (of course, you can still take a Thai course). The only downside to that is you have to have a certain amount of money in a Thai bank account for a certain amount of time to qualify, so depending on your circumstances that may or may not be an obstacle.

  19. Thanks for a fantastic article. Very useful! Do you know from your research if Maejo University offers any program as well? We are outside the city of Chiang Mai to the north and are serious about learning Thai, but we would love to know if any options exist that would’nt involve constantly traveling back and forth to the city for classes.

  20. Hey Jeff, thanks for all the useful info. I was wondering if it was possible to extend the 1 year visa after you’ve completed your studies?
    Say I signed up to one of these schools, got the ED and completed the 1 year. Will I be able to sign up for another year if I wanted to?(either to extend my stay, or because 1 year is not ACTUALLY enough to know a language fluently. As someone who speaks 4 languages, I can almost guarantee that.)

    1. Yes, you can extend. When I last checked you could do a total of 3 years. I am not certain that hasn’t changed, but I haven’t heard about any changes so I presume it is still the case. In the past, you could extend and not even have to leave the country but I believe now each extension (for a new year, not the extensions that are part of the one-year visa itself) requires you to leave the country.

  21. Hi, thanks for your article. I was wondering if you have another updated website as this one is dated. This article was very informative, and I was wanting to know a little more about the language schools

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