I recently spoke to one of my new students that has spent the last year learning Thai on his own, without any help from a teacher, following a well known course that uses a variety of books and DVDs. When he first sent me an email, I was very excited to get to meet him, I thought to myself,
”wow, he must be a genius if he was able to learn Thai by himself after a year of reading books and listening to DVDs”.
I thought to myself, it will be very challenge to teach a student with so much experience, however when we finally met, It only took me less than 10 minutes to figure out that I would have to start from scratch, teaching him the basics just as I would with an absolute beginner.
The problem with learning Thai from a book, or a collection of DVDs, or even i-phone/-pad applications is that you don’t have anyone to help correct your pronunciation. When you learn new words from a book, you are likely to make pronunciation mistakes in the beginning, and without anyone to correct you, it is likely that you will repeat your mistakes over and over again.
We have all heard the expression “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, “ไม้อ่อนดัดง่ายไม้แก่ดัดยาก” *** this is also true when learning languages. It is actually far more difficult to teach a student that has learned to speak incorrectly than it is to teach a beginner.
This student found himself arriving in Thailand after a year of learning Thai at home from books and DVDs, and when he attempted to speak to the locals, nobody could understand him. While he had an extensive vocabulary and he knew what he wanted to say, his poor pronunciation was impossible to understand.
Thai is a tonal language, and if you make just a slight mistake with the tones it can completely change the meaning of what you are trying to say, and nobody will understand what you are talking about.
The only way to learn to speak Thai properly is to practice your pronunciation with native Thai speakers. It is easy to find people to practice with if you are living in Thailand, however if you are trying to learn Thai in your home country, you can seek help from Thai people at Thai restaurants or Thai temples. Most Thai people will be eager to help foreigners that show an interest in learning about Thai language and culture, especially Thai monks.
If you are living in the USA, you can use thebuddhagarden.com for a reference
Learning Thai online is not only possible, it is also very effective and not nearly as difficult as you might think. My method of teaching students 1 on 1, using Skype, is a great way to learn to pronounce the tones correctly. After only a few months of lessons, my students find themselves having conversations, with the ability to not only speak and understand, but also read and write.
If you are interested in learning Thai online, feel free to contact me for more details:
***ไม้อ่อนดัดง่ายไม้แก่ดัดยาก máai ón dàt ngâai máai gàe dàt yâak means
- Transliteration: Mai on dat gnai mai gae dat yak.
- Literal: Young trees are easier to cut than aged trees.
- Meaning: You cannot teach an old dog new tricks.