200 Hours of Formal Thai Language Classes

Pro Language Thai Language School

I guess it’s safe to say I started my Thai language learning odyssey almost 6 years ago on my first trip to Thailand. It started with small words and phrases meant to help tourists get by. Getting by is generally okay if you are only here for a couple of weeks on vacation but when you increasingly spend more time in Thailand and or move to the Kingdom as I did then just getting by doesn’t even begin to cut it.

As each year passed I found new words and phrases as well as programs for the PC or iPhone that were extremely helpful but while they did keep my education in the Thai language moving forward they didn’t fulfill the desire and need to speak Thai fluently. The move to Thailand in August of 2010 would definitely begin pushing me in that direction.

As soon as I Landed in Thailand my quest for Thai language began as I checked out all the local schools in Pattaya and even sat in on classes at some. You can read more about that in a post I wrote for Women Learning Thai and Some Men too… entitled Review: Thai Language Schools in Pattaya. I finally settled on Pro Language School as I felt that their style of teaching and course books fit my style of learning better than the other classes available in Pattaya.

And so it began…

My class schedule was Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays ( Wan Jan, Wan Puut and Wan Sook ) from 1pm ( Bai Mong ) to  3pm ( Bai Sam Mong ), 2 hours each day. The class was great as that it was a structured environment where the sole focus was learning Thai, no T.V. or any other extraneous distractions. My teacher was fluent in English and made each class enjoyable as we would often go off on tangents from the written material to make the lessons more personal to our lives in Thailand. The class was small with only 4-6 students at any given time and much attention was given to detail.

A third of the way through our classes the teacher gave us the option of splitting the 2 hour lessons in half with one hour being dedicated to vocabulary, grammar and conversation with the second hour being solely devoted to reading and writing Thai. We decided that was a great idea and moved forward. Now that the class is over I am in a much better position to judge the school, materials and how far my Thai has progressed.

Beginners Thai Language Class

School: Pro Language, Pattaya Branch

Course: Beginning levels 1 & 2 Thai Language/with Education Visa

Days per Week: Monday, Wednesday & Friday

Hours per Class: 2 hours

Total course hours: 180

Total Course Cost: Beginning level 1 & 2 Thai Language + ED visa 25,000 Baht

I think I made a very good choice in Schools as I have spoken to quite a few people that have taken classes at the other schools I initially reviewed and they seem to know far less than I do. This could be a ascribed to many factors and might not be solely the school. Some people learn at a different pace and some take the lessons more seriously than others but sitting in a Thai language class for 180 hours you are bound to learn at least the basics just by being present and awake.

The crux of my Thai lessons was vocabulary, grammar and conversation. In 180 hours I learned just about 1200 new Thai words and I would say that easily 800 of them have easily stuck in my mind. I still have problems remembering some words that are not used regularly but I am working with these words more often now and should have them committed to memory soon enough.

While the vocabulary taught in the beginners class is more than adequate to get you started the teacher went the extra mile by also giving us words not in the books that might be better used as well as some slang and more formal Thai depending on the lesson.

The grammar was hard to grasp at first for me as the Thai language is written in the flow of Noun+Number+Classifier, it’s not that it’s hard to remember or put into use it’s the fact that my 45 year old English language mind likes to fight the system and try to say things in a more English flow. As time goes on and I speak more Thai with Thai friends I am getting much more used to the flow and when I get it wrong they are quick to correct me which is great.

While the vocabulary, grammar and conversation part of my Thai language classes went very well my Thai reading and writing lessons didn’t go as well. It’s not that the lessons weren’t taught well but the fact that my brain had a much tougher time wrapping itself around the written Thai word. Looking at a paragraph written in Thai can best be described as one long run on sentence with no breaks between words. You have to look for certain characters or letters for endings and beginnings. As my penmanship in English can best be described as chicken scratch it came as no surprise to me that my Thai penmanship would be markedly worse.

I realized early on I would have problems with the written Thai so I started taking a 2 hour private class on Wednesdays for one on one learning to reinforce all the rules and get a better understanding of what I was looking at. Reading is definitely not my strong point and I will need extra help in the future as well but I have to say my reading of Thai has really progressed and I am very happy at this point with my progress.

I think the learning materials used by Pro language are put together well but I firmly believe that it’s the teacher that is teaching from these books that can make the class very powerful or mediocre at best. My teacher, as I said before, put together the lessons very well and in most cases expanded on each lesson with real life experiences from the class which brought up even more lessons for us.

Final Thoughts on Learning the Thai Language

After 200 hours of formal classes to learn the Thai language I am very happy with my progress. While I am not speaking Thai fluently I have my fluent moments and I can generally understand most conversations taking place around me, which can be quite fun at times. I can also communicate my needs in most situations and be understood by most Thai’s. I still get tones wrong here and there and sometimes use the wrong word but I am generally understood and thankfully the Thai’s aren’t afraid to correct me when I get it wrong.

While I started out gung ho on my Thai language classes the momentum wore a little thin at times. I found that 3 classes a week at 2 hours each was a bit more than I really like and a better balance would probably have been 2 times a week. Even if my excitement wore thin at times my Thai friends kept the passion for learning Thai high as just being around them and observing Thai conversations taught me much more than just a formal class could.

I can’t say enough about my Thai Language classes at Pro Language in Pattaya and to prove that point I begin my next round of Thai classes in June with another 180 hour class on intermediate Thai as well as more private lessons to drill on the problem areas. It might take a decade for me to get fluent but I got the time and I’m going to do it!

Note: I’ve just been to immigration for my second 3 month check in for my Education Visa as well as my reporting of place of residence. For those of you contemplating or on an Education Visa no doubt you have heard they are informally testing ED Visa holders to make sure they are actually learning. From my experience it is hit or miss as to whether you will get tested. My first trip to immigration on the ED Visa I was asked very simple things in conversation such as ” how are you today” Where do you come from” etc. This trip I said Sawat Dee Cup, my papers were looked at and I was reminded to report my adress then waived off.


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13 Comment(s)

  1. Great information.

    Phom kit waa doon nee Khun TIM phuut phaasa Thai keng mak mak !

    Joe | May 20, 2011 | Reply

  2. Good going Talen! Your next slot of classes should see you well on your way to fluency in Thai :-)

    Catherine | May 21, 2011 | Reply

  3. Congratulations on your progress.

    It would be interesting to know your thoughts on your time in Thailand, and studying, so far to date and how it has compared to your “plan” or vision.

    BTW seems your post on dengue fever was contageous, Singapore General Hospital kindly bothered to inform me my “mild viral infection” is actually dengue fever. I’d spent one evening at a small park the day I arrived, symptoms started within 4 hours, was stopped from boarding flight to UK in BKK with a fever of 39.8, spent 2 nights in hospital and only got the OK to get another flight after doctors ruled our SARS, they never bothered with dengue as I had no skin symptoms.

    Lloyd | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  4. that should be “24 hours”!

    Lloyd | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  5. Talen well done on completing your 180 hours of language lessons and good luck with the next chunk. I still believe the best lesson you’re getting is by living in the country itself and fully integrating with the Thais.

    Martyn | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  6. I was wondering how you’ve been getting on with your Thai lessons so thanks for the update. I’m sure that all the work you are putting in won’t be wasted. From personal experience I’ve found that it is very easy to get stuck at the intermediate stage of Thai. When you can understand most of what is going on, and you can make yourself understood, there can be a temptation to just stop there. I hope that you keep pushing until you are 100% fluent.

    Paul Garrigan | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  7. Joe, doon nee put passa Thai ha sip ha sip….baang tii sip pee puut passa Thai mak mak :)

    Talen | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  8. Cat, I think fluency, real fluency, is a decade off at best . I’ll settle for understanding whats going on around me and being able to at least get across my thoughts even in a childlike manner now.

    Talen | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  9. Thanks, Lloyd.

    Studying was all gung ho in the beginning ( studied every day for 2 hours for the first 4 months ) not easy for me to keep up and that kinda fell through. When I think about I still study every day though as I speak with Thai’s and hear words or phrases not as I would suspect, I then go home and work it all out with dictionaries and such. I never had a plan or vision as such other than getting enrolled in classes and learning to the best of my ability. I have been surprised though that I have learned a lot more than expected by observing and listening to Thai’s speak with each-other and me. These interactions really drove points learned in class home and sometimes were better examples.

    I’m sorry to hear you have dengue again… the doctors here didn’t check me for dengue at first either because there was no rash…I always thought that was a mainstay symptom but it isn’t. I hope you are feeling better now and just think you are now immune to another of the 4 dengue strains.

    Talen | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  10. Martyn, the 180 hours was extremely helpful especially with the grammar and rules but you are 100% correct, just living here is the best teacher of all. Being immersed in the country and surrounded by the language keeps you on your toes…something that’s hard when you aren’t here full time.

    Talen | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  11. Paul, the work I’ve put in so far is definitely not wasted, they have become the foundation and hopefully stepping stone to fluency in a decade or more :P

    I hope I don’t stop as well but can’t predict the future…I’ve always been inquisitive though and as long as I keep hearing things I don’t understand I’ll keep figuring out the best I can and the one thing I love is how Thai’s are quick to correct you if you mispronounce or say something backwards so I have a feeling I’ll keep at it even if it takes the rest of my life :)

    Talen | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  12. I agree. Most beginners misjudge how much work goes into being fluent. And of course those sites with names like ‘Fluent in Xxx Months’ don’t really help the reality.

    Catherine | May 23, 2011 | Reply

  13. Cat, so true! Anyone that says you can be fluent in any language in three months is a fool. I saw where one supposed polyglot said he could be fluent in Thai in 3 months and then he came to Thailand to prove his prowess and failed miserably on video even…at best he knew some words and tourist phrases.

    My plan is fluent in 10 to 20 years…leaves me a lot of room to maneuver :P

    Talen | May 23, 2011 | Reply

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