Feb 02 2012
“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”
– Rita Mae Brown
Learning Thai is the best way to understand Thailand — the very essence of Thai relationships is expressed in the way language is used. The influence of the central Thai dialect on regional languages, the pull of the countryside, the understanding of every relationship within the context of a village are all central to the Thai way of doing things. As a language, Thai has some interesting (read: maddening) structural challenges including a script wholly unrelated to roman characters, tones that change the meaning of words radically, and an array of special words used to count things, but as an entryway to a culture learning Thai is really satisfying.
Thais are thrilled when foreigners can speak even a small amount of Thai and if you can read and write the script everyone will act like you just invented electricity or the rice noodle. Some of that is flattery, some of it is fawning, but most of it is genuine appreciation that you took the time to learn some Thai — even among long-term expats speaking Thai is rare. And if you travel to some of the more out of the way places in Thailand, the language really will be practically useful.
The schools below are ones that Travelfish.org has experience with, but there are many others that are reviewed at Women Learning Thai, an excellent Thai language learning resource. Also check out @ajarnpasa on Twitter for fun short lessons aimed at improving intermediate Thai, but with cultural relevance that all learners of Thai can appreciate.
Most of these school have fixed-term lessons (three-four hours per day, five days a week for a month, for example), but all can arrange private lessons or customised classes which can be perfect for people who want to study for a week or so in Bangkok before exploring Thailand.
Unity Thai Language
Unity Thai’s month-long intensive courses are a great deal, costing around 6,500 baht for 15 hours a week for four weeks. Their teachers are professional and have good attitudes, as well as clear tone and grammar correction. They can arrange private lessons for short-time students.
18F Times Square Building
246 Sukhumvit Rd
T: (02) 653 1538
Jentana is more expensive than some other options, however their private classes catering to people who wish to study intensively for a short time come highly recommended.
5/8 Sukhumvit Soi 31, Sukhumvit Rd
T: (02) 260 6138
Pro Language is a professional school with two branches in Bangkok — classes represent good value.
Siam Square Location: Siam Kit Building 6F, Siam Square Soi 6, Rama I Rd
T: (02) 251 4631
Asoke Location: 10 – 01A 10F Times Square Building, 246 Sukhumvit Rd
T: (02) 250 0072
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