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bangkok Phil's Thai course


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I don’t want to make this look like a direct plug for the institute I am in charge of (but I’m afraid it is), I just felt that what I intend to offer might be of use to many of the forum members and rest assured I would take very good care of you.

I enlisted the help of an American gentleman who has spent his life in languages (he speaks Chinese and Japanese fluently and is now studying Thai). Together we have designed two Thai courses ‘survival Thai ’ and ‘survival Thai plus’ They are both 30-hour courses (3 hours a day for 10 days) and will start at the end of June.

We are not interested in stuffy lessons, taught by stuffy teachers in antiquated classrooms. We want the students to enjoy – that is my primary goal. In addition, there is no reading or writing. Yes, I do know that to learn all the skills together is the best way to learn a language, but this is SURVIVAL THAI.

I want students to be able to go out onto the streets of Bangkok and order in a restaurant, take a taxi, barter in a market, make friends, and check in to a hotel up-country.

For those who have a vocab of about 500 words – I devised Survival Thai 2 – the chance to take things a step further.

During the course there will be role-plays, a cooking demo, a fruit seller will come into the classroom to practice Thai with you, students from Bangkok University will come to meet you, and there will even be a field trip to a place of historic interest – and lots more. This course will be like no other I promise.

The most difficult job is the training of the Thai teachers which I am solely responsible for. I want teachers who are lively and energetic and young. I don’t want Chulalongkorn teachers who can teach us the king’s grammar – this is Survival Thai !!!

I don’t want teachers who can tell us about Thai culture – we can learn that for ourselves. I want to know how to say ‘mango’ in Thai but I don’t give a toss when they are in season (that’s not important)

Thai teachers generally talk too much !!!! I want the student – teacher ratio of speaking to be 80-20. This is the most difficult thing to impress on the teachers because they lack experience using communicative approaches.

I would like to keep the groups small – about 4-5 people. It would be nice to have some groups made up of Nana board members. As I said earlier – you’ll be very well looked after. I’ll make sure of it.

If anyone is interested – email me at jaylorn@hotmail.com

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  • 2 weeks later...

I intend to make the move Sept 02, and hopefully will have enough cash to allow me 4 months of travelling the country before I need to secure gainful employment.

During that time I intend to enroll on a decent Thai course probably in Chaing Mai as I have heard that Chaing Mai Thai is the best in terms of grammar etc.

However will need a crash course when I arrive.

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The courses are beginning to look better than I dared hope - and a lot has to do with the excellent right-hand man I have working with me - an American guy called James Neal. (not only does he speak fluent Chinese and Japanese, but has studied the needs of language students from many angles)

He's already writing a book on 'studying the Thai language' which is far better than anything I've seen out there.

The courses will all be launched on week beginning July 2nd and run continuously.

We aim to have total beginners reaching a 250-300 word vocabulary within 5 days. And you can communicate a lot with 250 words.

[ June 01, 2001: Message edited by: Bangkok Phil ]

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Good luck on your venture. I will try and mentally "bookmark" this for my next trip (of course I have many good intentions when in Thailand :-)

I would imagine it is a big help to have someone on board who has learnt several languages AND also understands how people learn so that you tailor things down to what is needed, rather than teach as much as possible.

I like the "bare bones aproach" with about 250/300 words - it reminds me of something I read, that most people only use something like 1,000 words in "normal" conversations and that you only needed to learn a lot less (maybe 500 words or less?) to speak another language enough to be able to learn as you go along (ie to be in a position to be able to learn the vocabulary YOU actually need)

Of course I have no idea what 1,000 words one needs to learn, or indeed whether this actually true..........

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Hi Dave,

It's really all about the number of new words that someone can absorb (and retain) in one hour - and the figure is about 10-12 for the average learner.

As an experiment I studied some Japanese yesterday for about 45 minutes. After that time I had just about learned the numbers 1-10. This morning, half of them are forgotten. Review is also so important, and yet another area that Thai teachers often neglect (and farang teachers too).

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Courses on offer

Survival Thai 1

Survival Thai 2

Speaking Thai 1

Speaking Thai 2

Speaking Thai 3

Writing Thai

Intermediate Thai 1

Intermediate Thai 2

Intermediate Thai 3

Private study (one to one, or groups of 2 or 3)

Group Sizes

Minimum of 4 people Maximum of 8.

Course Duration

Every course is 20 lessons

Each lesson is 50 minutes

You choose your study time – mornings, afternoons, or evenings.

We will do our very best to accommodate you.


Each course is 3,500 baht per student (175/hr). Discounts for those who continue to take more courses.

A word about the courses

Survival Thai is all about just that – survival.

Survival Thai 1 is for people who have virtually no background at all but want to be able to communicate 250-300 words in a week. Survival Thai 2 is for those who have a very basic understanding and want to build up their ability to engage in short dialogues.

The way these two courses have been designed is totally different from any other.

Traditional courses start with introductions and then move to the family members and then to talking about your job. In survival Thai, one minute you’re buying fruit in a market and the next minute you’re buying a ticket at the train station.

For those of you who prefer a slower, more traditional approach there is the speaking Thai and intermediate courses which concentrate a little more on the grammar and syntax. For these courses we will use the Becker textbooks ‘ Thai for beginners’ and ‘Thai for intermediate learners’. I think these books are the best of what’s available at the moment – however, the teachers will still use totally communicative methods and ‘dip’ into the book as and when they see fit.

The Teachers

Every Thai teacher that I interview has to give me a 20-minute demonstration lesson (usually to prove that they only know how to lecture). If I like the teacher’s energy and personality, they are invited to take a 2-day training course with James Neal and myself. During the training course, they have a lesson in Spanish (to show how slowly people learn a language), demonstrations on how to teach communicatively, how to avoid common teacher mistakes (overusing the whiteboard/ talking too much/translating everything/avoiding ‘dead time’ in a lesson/meta-speaking, etc). Then under my watchful eye, they are given lesson plans to teach to the rest of the group. If I am satisfied with their ability/personality and energy – they get a job.

We pay well – so we don’t take anybody.

The Environment

All lessons are at our institute on soi 56, 5 mins from Onnud skytrain station. We’ve got beautiful classrooms with arctic air conditioning (that doesn’t matter because I want students moving around doing role-plays). We also have internet access, and a coffee shop restaurant with Thai and international dishes. There is also a small supermarket downstairs. And there’s plenty of car parking space !!

Courses will all start week beginning 2nd July – and run continuously.

We’ve already had significant interest from the Japanese ex-pats and quite a few Americans and Europeans but we will insist on a maximum of 8 people in a group.

If you need more info contact me at jaylorn@hotmail.com or info@aiethailand.com

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Originally posted by Bangkok Phil:

As an experiment I studied some Japanese yesterday for about 45 minutes. After that time I had just about learned the numbers 1-10. This morning, half of them are forgotten.

I speak pretty good Japanese. And a smattering of Chinese (was married to a mainlander for a while).

Japanese is HARD, primarily due to its relatively limited number of sounds. It's difficult to parse the phoneme stream and pick out words and phrases that you know because they tend to be surrounded by many similar-sounding words and phrases.

You know those numbers you learned? Half of them have alternate forms for "counting" that are actually more commonly encountered than the cardinal forms. And when combining with qualifiers ("counting words" -- similar to Thai), those counting forms can alter form. And there are irregular forms as well.

Compared to this, Thai (and Chinese too, by the way) are very simple. Few forms of any given word type, with generally regular rules. No verb tenses (well, no conjugation, but Thai does have the notion of tense, unlike Chinese), no inflections, no particles.

And Thai has a true alphabet with a limited number of symbols that combine in predictable ways so if one wants to continue on studying, it is possible to learn to read Thai reasonably well in fairly short order.

All of this makes Thai an excellent Asian language for a westerner to dig into. I'm sure your course will be successful and effective.

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