This post is a motivator for you to step up your Thai speaking game, because learning to speak time is a game-changer!
So I was thinking…how could you become fluent in Thai in 3-months.
I mean, we know it's possible in other languages, and Thai isn't all that difficult. Really.
All the tools are at your disposal. You don't even need to go to school!
So I came up with a plan using the resources I use and have used previously, and put it into a week-by-week guide designed to fast track learning the Thai language.
So without further ado, here’s how you can become fluent in Thai in just 3 months…
Month 1: Getting to grips with the basics using my blog, software, YouTube & Skype
Start with these 3 posts to get reciting some essential basic, everyday phrases:
Spend the rest of the week practicing these basics with Thai people. If you aren’t in Thailand then practice Thai with this lady on Skype for just $5 for 30-minutes
Sign up for a free Thaipod101 membership and start working on your pronunciation and going beyond “Hello, how are you?” “I’m fine”. See my review of this program here:
Spend the week finding your way around the portal and practicing Thai using the videos, audio and PDF lessons to advance. Install the app too (paid membership) – it's really useful.
Start utilizing YouTube for learning variation. Two of the best teachers I have found are:
Begin expanding your vocabulary beyond those basic Youtube lessons with my 199 Everyday Thai Phrases book. My book will also teach you numbers, months, days of the week, and time. There's no need to understand the Thai alphabet at this stage either.
Now you've been practicing the phrases in my book, start introducing yourself to tones. Thai is a tonal language and words will change meaning depending on the tone. There are 5 tones; low, mid, rising, falling, high. This is essential and you will need a week just on this: Start with this video:
Month 2 – Learning the alphabet & tones, 100 new words & learning from music.
Now that you have a basic understanding of tones, you should start learning the alphabet. Download this easy Thai language system for foreigners.
This week, your time will be split between speaking and writing, but remember the objective is to be fluent speaking in 3 months, and so the writing side of things is just a sideline to give you a better understanding of tones, tone marks and vowel/consonant formation at this point.
Spend the week memorising the 44 consonants and 32 vowels, and learning the tone marks and practicing the tones in that book.
Now it's time to rapidly advance your Thai using my Popular 100 Words Video. It has helped over 35,000 people to date. You may recognise some of these words from your learning so far, and that's good sign if you do.
While this is just 100 single words, the idea is that these popular words will help you start putting together your own basic sentences.
It's time to go a step further a learn Thai in reverse from an English speaker (Ajarn Adam) teaching Thai people English on a program called Wink Wink English. Flipping the table like this will improve your Thai very quickly, particularly your pronunciation.
Check out this YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/winkwinkenglish
Use Thai pop songs with phonetic subtitles to advanced your vocabulary and master more colloquialisms. I have been using this technique for ages. It's also cool because you get to know more Thai artists which advances your knowledge of Thai popular culture.
Start with these two popular songs:
Month 3 – Total immersion, Thai TV/radio & the Big Tests
This week you will be subjected to Thai soap operas (most foreigners' worst nightmare), Thai music and Thai radio. Get as much of it as you can. Try to follow conversations and lyrics, picking out the words you know and noting down ones you don’t.
If you can’t access Thai TV then do so on YouTube, all the series are posted there and there are plenty of Thai songs. Thai Lakorn (soap operas) are really easy to follow. The actors speak very clear, central Thai – which is the Thai you want to be able to speak. You'll find it very easy to pick out common words like “Tammai?” (why?), “man-nee luuk” (come here child), “gin khao yang” (have you eaten), “leow jer gaan na khrup” (see you later).
For radio stations see an extensive list here. Another cool way to get the popular radio stations is if you have an iPod or smartphone. iPods have a radio function that auto-tunes into the local stations. There's free apps too for Android and iPhones.
Listen to talk shows on the radio. Thailand has a bunch of stations that have call-in shows, which provide a great insight as to how Thais converse with each other. You'll pick up bits of common language like when songs are introduced and when the DJ says the time or comments on the weather.
If you aren’t already living in Thailand, then try and plan a holiday for month 3, because in week 2 you won’t be speaking any English (or whatever your native language is).
If you can't make it to Thailand, then make a plan to later in the year. When you do get here though, make sure you avoid solely hanging out in the tourist spots. Try and go to native Thai restaurants, Thai music bars and local Thai markets. In short, keep it as Thai as possible so that you are forced to speak Thai.
Speak with as many Thai people in Thai as possible. Don’t be scared! Thai people will happily correct your pronunciation and teach you new words; they will also be elated that a foreigner is making such an effort with the language.
Here's another cool video to help you talk about yourself and others:
When you are in Thailand, take a notebook out and about and write down the phonetic sound of new words you here, and also common signs so that you can improve your Thai alphabet skills.
This is a really useful way to learn because you will pick up slang words (colloquialisms) Thai people use to interact that schools might not teach you. You will also be very surprised how many new friends you make when they see you making notes and writing down the Thai letters of signs.
Week 3 goes a step further with full immersion. If you are in Thailand then email home by all means, but don’t call. This week you must by all means necessary, only speak Thai.
My friend’s Greek mother once told me she mastered English quickly because she had no choice. She was sent to a Saturday school where all the foreign kids weren’t allowed to talk in their native tongue. It was either say nothing or try to speak English, and that is the rule here too.
If you aren't in Thailand, book a couple of those Skype lessons on Fiver each week that I mentioned near the beginning of this post. That way you'll be able to get some regular time speaking with a native Thai.
Yep, 3 months is up already! Now it's time for the The Big Test:
Complete The Following 10 Tasks:
1. Ask a policeman for directions.
2. Order a pizza over the phone in Thai.
3. Take a cab and speak Thai, continuing the conversation for the entire length of the journey (regardless of whether the driver is interested in speaking)!
4. Take the bus and ask the driver in Thai to tell you when it is your stop.
5. Shop in the market and ask questions about product quality, price and origin in Thai.
6. Stop a Thai person and ask for the time, comment on the weather and explain that you are learning Thai and want his/her opinion on your efforts.
7. Tell a Thai man or woman that they look lovely today without using the words “suuay” or “narak”.
8. Go into a bank, change money or withdraw and refuse to speak in English.
9. Go to the dentist for a check up and conduct the entire process in Thai.
10. Order Thai food from a restaurant. First ask what they recommend, then ask if there are any specials today. Then choose a dish and ask that it be made with no MSG, not too much salt and not too sweet, or whatever your preferences are.
If you made it through that ,you are ready for The Bigger test!
Perhaps the hardest aspect of speaking Thai is phone calls, oh how I dread them. You can't see the other person's facial expressions and neither do you have hand actions to act as a guide, as you will have found out ordering the Pizza (step 2 above).
Call Dtac, One2Call, or whoever your Thai mobile network provider is, and DON’T “press 1 for English”. Explain that your phone hasn't been getting a good signal and ask for some recommendations to remedy the problem.
Get through this conversation and I’d say you’re fluent, or at the very least pretty damn good at speaking Thai!
Want one last test? Let's see if like Ajarn Adam you are ready for a TV appearance. Can you understand the conversation here?
You Did It! Well, Maybe You're Not There Yet, But…
…You tried, and you're not far off – so don't stop now! Make sure you keep up your daily learning, and if you haven't done so already, grab your free Thaipod account here.
It's a really useful program that has helped me a ton in becoming fluent in Thai.