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Why you can’t speak Thai

If you've used any program or detailed book to learn Thai maybe it's a podcast or downloadable program all except Rossetta Stone have the same problem. They try to teach you by theory. What I mean by this is that they try to explain to you too much in detail.

By detail I mean stuff that makes no difference to you actually learning Thai. I'll give you an example.

Tone Markers
Negative Sentences

I could go on and on but what's the point. All that stuff is pointless especially to the beginner. Besides for those of you like me who failed English and don't know what most of that stuff means in English, learning Thai using that method is going to be difficult and probably why you are having a hard time.

I still think Rossetta Stone is the best way to build vocabulary in Thai and if you live in Thailand you can buy it at Pantip plaza for 100 baht but you'll need to delete the viruses after you've installed it! I still can't find a good copy.

But if you use any other study materialม books and programs etc if you just take away all their theory and learn the words stringing them together is a lot easier than in English. People talk about Thai grammer but that's all BS. Learn a bunch of words and string them together and that's how you speak Thai. Sure you'll make mistakes but you'll rarely make the same mistake twice.

Guess what I'm saying is having a vocabulary of words is the most important thing. If you spend all your time practicing how to say sentences and the theory behind the tones and Thai grammer you are doing yourself a disservice. Get your vocabulary, about 1000 words down and you'll be able to talk to anyone.

If you don't yet know 1000 words then start today, learn 10 words a day and in 3 months you'll be speaking Thai. Ten words isn't really that much all you do is get a notebook and write 10 words on each page. Do so in the morning and go over it, go over it again at lunchtime and again after dinner. It'll take 40minutes out of your day. You won't remember every word so once a week go over those words again. Say the words out loud every time, if you have a Thai partner let him/her help you say it properly. If not doesn't matter as long as you remember the word is enough, when you start speaking Thai people will correct you. Get someone to test you to help you remember the words, they don't even have to speak Thai to test you.

I recommend you learn the following topics for the first 1000 words but only after you have learned the Thai Alphabet:

Time (only learn to read military 24 hour time it's faster and you still get by)
Animals (only the ones you eat or see regulary)
Days of the week (don't worry about learning the months just learn the word for the month you can always say the 7th month thai months are hard to remember)
Places (post office airport bank etc)
Body Parts (only learn how to say finger and not all the different fingers like pinky and thumb)
Actions (kick, throw, jump, run, walk, hit, suck, spit, swallow etc etc)
Getting Around (driving, car, motorbike, left, right, straight, back, go, stop etc)
Schools and schooling (university, school kid, uni kid etc)
Pubs and clubs (beer alchohol etc)
Clothing (things you wear and things girls wear)

My method of learning Thai is unlike anyone elses because I know for a fact that you don't need to know half of what other programs teach you at least in the beginning stages. For example other programs tell you to learn all the months as well as time. Instead of saying "at 4pm on February 4th" you could say it "at 1600 hours on the 4th of the 2nd month" sounds weired but has the same meaning right. The second way of saying it you can learn faster in Thai than the first way and still get your message across. The most important thing when learning Thai is getting up and running as fast as possible.

I don't know how many words I know but it's got to be at least 10,000 words. After the first 1000 words anything you learn from there will be based on what you like and see. Whenever you're out use your dictionary to look words up and remember them or write them in English in your notebook and come back home and find out what the Thai word is.

A note about the notebook, write the word in English, then in Thai then in Karaoke (your version of karaoke). Always write it in Thai first and make sure you can read the word. It's important to practice reading when your learning Thai. Using this method and dedicating the time you could learn 1000 words in 3 months and be able to chat to Thai girls on the internet.

One of these days I'm going to create a book on learning thai from the beginning but until then hope this post can help people out just as much.

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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

5 Responses to Why you can’t speak Thai

  1. ChiangMaiGuy February 16, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    good advice – I’m learning Thai and know all my numbers, days, colours etc. and like all students it’s the ‘putting it together’ and ‘understanding Thais’ that is the main challenge.

    At the moment Thais still sound like ‘noise’ when I listen to them talking. But your list is spot on and I’m currently memorizing months (karakada is my favourite) 🙂

    Your advice about avoid the BS and ‘technical’ stuff is the best advice I have heard about learning Thai – it doesn’t matter!!! children, when they first learn to speak, don’t ask about verbs or sentence structure they just SPEAK and repeat and learn what adults tell them.

    The other BIG problem I have is Thais wanting to speak English (because they want to learn too) when I want them to speak Thai.

  2. Joe February 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm #

    You should make a list of the 1000 most popular/high frequency words in Thai to help us out 😉

    • Chris February 22, 2012 at 6:18 am #

      I’m already working on it Joe 🙂

      • Anon February 22, 2012 at 6:37 am #

        1. you hansom man
        2. i love you more
        3. miss you already
        4.i never go with farang before
        5.i wait you
        6.i lose my mobile – you help me

        good start…

  3. Taven May 29, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Good suggestions Chris. I have been in BKK for about 18 months now attending school at Walen. I know quite a few words, but still struggle to make sentences (and of course I still butcher the tones). I actually read Thai better than I speak it. Knowing the alphabet helps a lot in learning how to pronounce the words. The letter “a” in English can sound like cat, car, lake, etc, but the Thai alphabet has different letters for each sound. I used your Thai alphabet book to make flashcards and I learned the Thai alphabet in 5 days.

    I like your idea of having a piece of paper and pen to write words down that you want to look up later. I think one area that a person needs to focus more on is different verbs and actions. Thanks for all the suggestions that you provide to us!!

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