I've been using ThaiPod101 for over a decade now. I started just a couple of years after moving to Thailand.
Fast-forward to 2020 and it's still very much a learning tool I use to help me speak this wonderful language.
I update this review yearly to reflect newly added features and changes in the format of the program, so that you can get deep and current insight as to what to expect.
You'll notice that I promote this program around my blog as my recommended go-to learn Thai resource. The reason for that is that it's simply the best there is.
The platform keeps being improved year-on-year, and has everything required to take you from beginner phrases to conversational Thai.
In this review, I'll give you a comprehensive overview of what to expect from the tools and materials provided with your free account, and those you'll get when you take up a paid subscription.
I also offer up some of my own learning tips along the way.
My Personal Learning Experience
Initially, I started using the program to get ahead of my fellow students at Thai school.
But what with work commitments pulling me away from classes, I ended up leaving school for a while and studying solely with ThaiPod101 in breaks, journeys and on weekends.
When comparing my progress at school with the program, I found I learned faster with Thaipod.
I think the reason for this was because the program enabled me to study as and when I wanted, as opposed to the evening school classes In which I was often too tired to focus on what the teacher was saying.
You see, there's a point in the day when my brain just stops responding well and won't soak up the learning. Attending a class after a mentally challenging day at work can be tough.
That being said, I did go back to school because I enjoyed the social interaction of the classroom and meeting new people. I met a couple of great friends there whom I have stayed in touch with.
I'm not really a fan of learning out of textbooks. I prefer interactive methods over repeating things to myself in parrot-fashion.
To be fair we did do some games and interactive group-learning exercises in the class, but I struggled to do my homework.
When something is fun, you're more likely to do it.
And ThaiPod101 is exactly that; fun and interactive.
The program avoids the repetitive school-like learning process by providing you with a broad range of interactive materials and tools. New lessons are released every week, which keeps you motivated to get past your current level and learn new stuff.
At the basic level, you will learn single words, common phrases, and basic conversational interaction.
You will pick up a lot of words very quickly, and then as you take the lessons you will begin to see how those words fit together to create sentences.
Intermediate level steps things up with deeper conversations on topics that are more difficult and may involve describing objects or situations. You'll also learn to express opinions and understand those of others.
The program is mobile friendly and has an app, which you will be given access to when you sign up on the website.
This interactive, mobile-friendly learning is ideal for me because I have a Tablet and a Smartphone, which means I can learn on the go: on the BTS, on planes, in hotels, in bed on a Sunday morning…you get the picture.
How the Lessons/Levels Work
Lessons are grouped into five levels: Introduction, Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced.
Under these five levels, the lessons are further grouped into series, with more specific levels.
Under each series are different seasons, which are lessons grouped into sets of 25.
At the end of each lesson, you'll be given an oral quiz to improve your speaking ability and a chance to see how you are progressing.
Of course, you can go back and re-study any of the lessons and use the learning tools at any time you wish.
Even though my Thai has progressed a hell of a lot since I started with this program, I still use the lessons as refreshers.
One cool feature is that you can favorite lessons, so when you want to go back and retake those lessons you can just click on your favorites tab.
I often find myself listening to old phrases, just to rejig my memory on words I've neglected using. I don't have the best memory retention, so re-caps are essential for me.
This to me is the most useful thing about having a program like this, and the biggest advantage over a school: it's really handy to be able to go back over things you've learned at the touch of a button.
Thaipod101 Learning Resources- What's in the Box?
Depending on your level of membership, there is a broad range of learning materials available for use:
- Video and audio lessons with full transcript notes
- New: Responsive Flashcards that can be used on any device
- Word/grammar bank
- Interactive lesson quizzes
- English to Thai dictionary
- New: Printable Thai Alphabet worksheet (PDF) – great addition to learn the alphabet
- Pronunciation & accent review (interactive voice recorder)
- Professional assessment (Premium)
- Personalised self-study plan
- 1-on-1 instruction (Premium)
- Thaipod101 App for Android & iOS (free on all plans once you register through desktop/laptop)
- New: Free monthly gifts (PDFs downloads and lessons)
*Remember that a basic account is free, so you can take advantage of the basic resources immediately.
The first 100 or so Thai words you learn will become your grounding.
100 words sounds like a lot, but you'll be very surprised how quickly you pick up words once you start.
From there, you can use these words to piece together sentences and start small conversations.
It's a great feeling to talk to people in Thai, and really opens up a new Thailand that others who don't speak Thai don't get to experience.
This program has so many features, and that's what makes it the best program out there for learning Thai.
As a beginner, the thing that you will appreciate most about this program is the romanization of the Thai words.
This enables you to see what the words sound like in English and will help with your pronunciation.
However, I do recommend that you practice writing the Thai letters too, which can be done under the resources section where they have a Thai alphabet table.
New in 2020 is a printable PDF worksheet for you to start learning the alphabet.
My tip for fast learning is to have a learning journal where you write down the Thai consonants and vowels and practice them regularly. You'll be forming small words in no time.
You will never be short of learning: You can use the lessons, the flashcards, word lists, quizzes, the keyword list, they even have a fantastic Thai dictionary for you to look up words at any time and have them translated into Thai.
Once you have signed up for an account, you will be given access to the app, which you can use on your phone.
I don't really see the point of using the app on a tablet because the desktop version works very well on the iPad, for example.
I prefer learning on the desktop version via my computer or my iPad, but the app is useful when traveling or when waiting for an appointment somewhere.
I have the Premium edition, so you may not see all these settings on basic, but regardless there is lots to get started with:
Nice easy home screen helps you navigate to the tools you need.
For each audio lesson, you'll see these options. Notice that you even get PDF lesson notes that you can download.
Here you can dive straight into useful phrases.
On this page you listen to the audio and are given the Thai and English scripts.
Expansion digs down into the audio conversation you are listening to and gives an in-depth learning experience.
Line-by-line audio learning lets you swap between the Thai, the romanization and the English alphabet. Just keep clicking play to go back over and try again.
Thaipod101 Membership Levels
As mentioned previously, there's a free membership option that gives you access to some basic language and cultural learning lessons.
Outside of that there's Basic, Premium, and Premium+.
For the first year I had a Premium+ membership, which costs $47 a month. In GBP this works out at like £36 quid a month at the current exchange rate.
However, I paid for 24 months, so I got a 50% discount.
The Premium+ gives you a personalized curriculum, 1-0n-1 instruction, and professional tutor assessment.
I strongly advise that you pay for 6-months+ up front, because otherwise you pay full price and miss out on a big saving.
I've since downgraded to a Premium 2-year subscription, purely because my Thai is getting pretty good and I'm at a stage where I learn mostly through daily conversation with my wife and friends.
If you don't have the budget to go Premium+, then Premium is good enough.
If you are on a real shoe string budget but still want to crack on with learning Thai, then grab the basic membership at $8 a month (or $60 a year); it's still awesome value.
It's also worth noting that there's a money back guarantee with your purchase, and you can cancel your subscription at any time.
Whatever plan you choose, consider this: I was paying around $1,200 per year for my Thai school lessons. My Thaipod membership is less than a quarter of that!
And I can learn at my own pace using a variety of multimedia from my phone, iPad or computer.
Believe me, being a tight-fisted Englishman (hehe), I've done the math.
Even if I get a study visa for a language school in BKK for 24,000 Baht (per year), I still save over $600 learning from home with this program.
Of course, if you have the money, you can still go to school, but in my experience the confines of those school walls can hold you back.
My advice is learn on the go, and get out into the real world to speak with locals and learn from friends.
All the guys and gals in my class would say the same thing: “I'm intermediate level and Thais still don't understand me!”
Because many of the school curriculums are outdated. It's rote learning, with not enough emphasis on colloquial (everyday) Thai.
I'll never forget coming home and trying to ask my girlfriend (now wife) whether she'd seen a rainbow before. She almost wet herself laughing!
“Why don't they teach you something useful”, she said.
Don't get me wrong, I met some cool people at school and I loved my teacher (blush), but it's a fairly rigid way of learning Thai.
School is good for study-discipline and banging those words you keep forgetting into your head, but a program like Thaipod101 makes the learning process diverse, fun, flexible and personalized.
Oh, and it's cheaper!
Do both if you can, but if I had to do one I'd choose to learn in my own time, my way, at my own pace.
Either way, however you learn, get out there and start speaking Thai with Thai people – that's the fastest way to advance.
My Review, In Summary
ThaiPod101 makes learning Thai fun and easy to fit in around your lifestyle, meaning you don’t have to commit to classroom times or schedule one-on-one lessons with a teacher.
It ‘s very affordable, and the amount of existing and newly added content available keeps things interesting and progressive.
The creators think outside the box, giving you useful colloquial Thai not often found in school textbooks, and in that respect I think this program is streets ahead of any other learning resource on the market.
Thaipod101 has been a major contributor to achieving my current conversational Thai ability.
Whether you're an absolute beginner, or you've been learning ad-hoc from phrasebooks and/or your Thai partner, you'll enjoy making rapid progress with this program.
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