For most expats, getting to grips with the Thai language can be tricky. One of the main problems is that there are very few similarities between English and Thai and even the way that sentences are formed in Thai can be very different to the way they are structured in English.
Although there are numerous books that teach Thai on the market, learning Thai from a book can be both difficult and confusing, especially because they are often written by people who have a loose grip on the English language and contain formal Thai rather than conversational Thai or slang. Here are a few suggestions for other ways you can learn basic Thai.
Get a Thai partner
It is often said that the best way to learn Thai is to date a Thai person. However, you will need to make sure that your new partner speaks a fair amount of English, as otherwise you will find yourself communicating with them mainly through a dictionary. Having a close friend who speaks English well and has a lot of patience is also a good way to practice Thai and pick up new vocabulary.
Couchsurfing language exchange
The Couchsurfing website features a special page for Bangkok that comes complete with a language exchange section. Here you can arrange to meet with people who wish to learn various different languages and can schedule regular meetings in coffee shops or other venues. It is possible to join the Couchsurfing site for free and you will soon discover that there are plenty of people using the site that want to learn languages such as English and Spanish in exchange for half an hour or so of conversation in Thai.
Drinking on the street
Drinking with a group of Thai people is a great way to practice your Thai and you are sure to pick up plenty of colourful local expressions that you probably wouldn’t find in a phrase book or dictionary. Most people find that their inhibitions are lowered when they drink alcohol so that they find they are more confident speaking Thai, although if you drink too much you might not remember your newly learnt vocabulary the next day!
Watching Thai movies
Many Thai movies that are shown at large cinemas in Bangkok feature English subtitles, which makes it easy to pick up new vocabulary. One of the great things about watching Thai movies is that you become familiar with the natural flow of Thai conversations. You can also purchase popular Thai movies such as Pai in Love and Tom Yam Goong with English subtitles so that you can watch them repeatedly and learn new Thai phrases while relaxing at home.
Take a language course
If all else fails, paying for a Thai language course is a sure fire way to learn Thai. There are plenty of language schools in Bangkok that teach Thai to students either individually or in small groups. Joining a group with one or two friends who also want to learn Thai is a good idea, as you can spend time practicing your new vocabulary in between classes.