Yesterday I finished my 40 hours of learning Basic Thai language with Thai Solutions (www.thaisolutions1502.com). It was a bit sad to finish the course as it has been very enjoyable, educational and I will miss the interaction with the excellent staff at Thai Solutions who have been very nice to me.
I have been meaning to write about my experience learning Thai language for a while as I would like to encourage others to learn Thai. It is a very beneficial thing to do. But I must admit that now I have finished the course and experienced the wonderful teachers at Thai Solutions, I also want to blatantly advertise for them as well.
Learning Thai is much easier than it seems, although I am not yet fluent and certainly it does take work, it is possible. If you are lazy, like me, there are plenty of companies available (in Bangkok and Chiang Mai at least) that can teach foreigners Thai language. I have only experienced one, but I would assume and hope that most others are probably pretty good also.
My course cost about 5000 Baht (I think) and it was done 3 days a week, 2 hours per day. My teacher was an excellent teacher who taught us not only Thai language but passed on plenty of information about Thai culture as well. She spoke very good English and understood the learning difficulties that foreigners have with Thai language.
In the class were 3 other people, an English man, an Indian woman and a Filipino woman, who were all very nice and fun to learn with. The classes were relaxed and enjoyable (as you’d expect in Thailand) and there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions and go at whatever pace suited. Most of us could speak a tiny amount of Thai before we started and the group structure was very good for us, although our teacher suggested that perhaps some-one with absolutely no knowledge of Thai would be better off studying 1 on 1 with a teacher to start with.
By the end of the course, I am still not a fluent Thai speaker, but I am much closer than I was before. For example, I still cannot understand most of what is being said on Thai TV; however my conversations with taxi drivers can go for about 15 minutes with a reasonable amount of information being exchanged. Prior to the course, I could say hello, how are you, where I wanted to go, how much and thank you. Not exactly in depth discussions. My ability to communicate with my girlfriend’s kids has increased as has my ability to communicate to the people I interact with everyday, making my life and theirs, better.
About a third of the way through the course, I took some Australian volunteers to Chiang Rai and we traveled through some hill tribe villages and taught some Basic English. I was very happy to be able to communicate and understand much more from the local people than I previously could and pass that on to the volunteers. Having a bit more Thai language I was even able to help my monk friend and his Abbott teach meditation to the Australian volunteers.
One of the interesting things I learnt from being able to talk to the hill tribe people was this: One lady asked me how much I would sell the photos I was taking of her and the other hill tribe people for. I said that I would not sell them, they were to keep and show my friends and family. She said no, some of the hill tribe people had been to the city and seen the post cards for sale with hill tribe people on them. They had made the logical deduction that the westerners who travel so far with such expensive camera equipment and constantly take photos must be doing it to make money. She eventually believed me that only a few people sell their photos and for most they are just to keep and show family. It made me even more amazed at how polite, considerate and kind these people are, that they had thought that we were making money from them, but still they were always the most hospitable and kind people to us.
Clearly anyone who is living or staying in Thailand for a reasonable time could benefit from learning Thai. Your experiences and understanding will greatly improve and you will get much more from your stay. Added to that, I found studying Thai was fun and I am motivated to continue with my studies so as I can one day be fluent.