Many foreigners have different reasons to learn Thai (e.g. have a Thai partner, work in Thailand and travel for holidays frequently) but some of them might still struggle with how to get started with Thai language as a beginner.
Some started with a few guide books. Some learn on their own with free Youtube contents, and some decided to go to a Thai school near their home.
The question is what is the most effective strategy for beginners to succeed at learning Thai?
This Ultimate Guide to Learn Thai will guide you to get started with learning Thai with the right pace and in the most practical yet effective ways.
1. Find your reason
Before defining a clear goal, it is important to know WHY? you want to learn Thai. There are many reasons you might agree with:
- I just moved to Thailand for work and my colleagues are Thai.
- I have a Thai partner and I want to build a meaningful relationship with his/her family and friends
- I am an exchange student for a semester at a Thai university. Hopefully, I will find some local friends.
- I am a digital nomad in Chiang Mai and I plan to stick around here for a few months.
- I fell in love with Thailand and Thai cultures, and I just stop coming back for vacation.
2. Define your goals
Once you know your reason(s) what makes you learn Thai, you can now plan what level of Thai language you want to achieve. See the chart below and the 3 levels of learning Thai.
There are 3 levels to master Thai language:
- Survival: You can say basic Thai words and phrases in your daily life e.g. ordering food, getting around, counting numbers but can not yet hold a proper conversation.
- Functional: You have a good Thai foundation i.e. Thai sentence construction and word choices, so you can hold a proper conversation. You can have a chitchat with your Thai colleagues or small talk with locals at a Thai bar.
- Professional: You can both speak and read Thai fluently. Your Thai skill keeps non-stop improving as you learn new words and phrases all the time. Now you can watch Thai movies, sing Thai songs, and hang out with Thai people like there is no more a language barrier.
3. Set your time
As you already know your reason to learn Thai as well as the level of Thai that you want to master, it’s time to think how much time you need to master each level.
- Yellow boxes are a beginner (survival)
- Blue boxes are an intermediate (functional)
- Green boxes are an advanced (professional)
You should also ask yourself how long you will live/stay in Thailand as it will help you plan the amount of time you want to invest in the learning process
- It would not make sense to start with reading and writing when you plan to be in Thailand for a few months and later on move back to your country where you will never use Thai again, instead, it would make more sense to master survival or functional level to mingle around happily.
- It would make sense to master the functional level when you want to establish a good relationship with your colleagues as well as your partner’s family and friends.
- It would make sense to learn reading and writing Thai after you have a good Thai foundation when you plan to live in Thailand for at least another 5 years.
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4. Choose your method
Should I start with speaking or reading Thai?
To learn Thai effectively as you will be able to keep learning new things on your own, a reading course should help.
However, many people failed to keep the learning flow and fell back to the beginning with reading because it takes quite an amount of time and effort.
That’s why I would recommend you to start with a speaking course. Knowing a couple of Thai words helps you to learn faster with a reading course later on.
Do not forget, it takes at least 2-6 months to be able to read Thai fluently.
5. Find your learning sources
There are a couple of sources to learn Thai language for both paid and free contents e.g. online courses, video lessons on Youtube, blog posts, private teachers or Thai schools.
Here are the links to see different sources to learn Thai:
As there are many free contents to learn Thai available online, it could be a bit messy to jump from a lesson to another without clear goals and plans.
To start learning Thai with the right pace, you have to know what exactly is right for you and your goals i.e. know what is the reason you want to learn, what level you want to master, how much time you want to invest, what approach you want to use before choosing a course.
Even though some people insist to learn Thai own their own with available materials, taking a proper course might help you get started in a more structured and faster way.