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How and why to learn Thai – my personal experience

My name is Kevin. I’m a US national who has been living in Thailand for the past 2 years.

I can tell you from personal experience that finding the right Thai language school is essential.

I spent a few days looking around at a number schools before finding one that was good for me. From the stories that my friends told me, I make the right choice!

Of course, you don’t need to be in Thailand or even enrolled in a class to learn the language, however both of these things make it easier. I’ll talk about the other methods I used to learn Thai later.

Learning Thai in Thailand

I’ll be honest: I first enrolled at a Thai language school not so much to study Thai, but because I learned it was one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to live in Thailand.

You see, you’ll need a visa if you want to stay in Thailand for longer than a few months, and the Education Visa is one of the easier ones to get.

However, as I took my lessons I discovered that learning Thai simply made my life in Thailand easier.

It’s not that Thai people don’t speak English, because they can. It’s just basic interactions –enjoying better prices at tourist attractions, being able to strike up conversations with drivers and street vendors, snowball into creating real relationships with Thai people. And that’s something that’s valuable to anybody.

FAQs About Learning Thai in Thailand

Is Thai an easy language?

Is Thai easy? Well, it depends what you consider “easy” and what your frame of reference is! I studied Thai after having learned Mandarin years earlier; I happen to think Thai is a lot easier.

This is both because of more relaxed rules in spoken Thai, as well as the Thai alphabet being less complicated and comprehensive than the rabbit hole of Chinese characters.

Keep in mind that many people think Chinese is one of the hardest languages to learn!

How long does it take to learn Thai language?

Your Thai language school (Bangkok or somewhere else) will probably have its own idea about this answer, but I’d say that if you live in Thailand and practice every day, you can become functionally fluent in 1-2 years. Notice I said “functionally”—you’re not going to be writing (or reading) novels, or giving interviews in the media. But you will be able to get by, more or less without English, which is the entire point.

Where can I learn Thai language?

I generally recommend people study Thai language in Thailand, if they can, but you can of course do it remotely. A bevy of applications exist, to say nothing of relatively old school solutions like the Rosetta Stone software. In terms of where in Thailand to study, it doesn’t matter. Though locals speak different dialects throughout the Kingdom, you’ll always be taught standard Thai.

Where is the best place to learn Thai?

For a specific answer to this question, I’d advise you to scroll down a few paragraphs, where I give some best Thai language school recommendations throughout Thailand. More generally, I would say the important thing is to choose a school close to where you live, and whose class schedule won’t completely dominate your life. The more natural your experience of learning Thai is, the more beneficial it will be!

I recently read an article that explain how the Thai script wasn’t technically an alphabet. I don’t remember how it’s officially characterized—and I don’t really care. Like English and most other languages, Thai has vowels and consonants, albeit with more quantity and complexity than any Western language. Once you get used to the strange shape and… redundancy of the Thai alphabet, it’s relatively easy in my opinion.

Language School in Thailand Recommendation

Whether you study Thai in Thailand or in a remote part of the country, I recommend Thai Solutions School in Phaya Thai area of Bangkok. It’s centrally located, and I had great experiences with my peers

Can You Learn Thai Online?

As is the case with basically every other language in the world, you can of course study Thai online. However, nothing replaces immersion, even an incredible teacher and a fast video link. My current Thai proficiency has at least as much to do with my daily conversation experiments when I lived in Bangkok as it does with what I learned in the classroom.

This is especially the case when it comes to reading and writing the Thai alphabet, which I actually do better than speaking of listening! Reading Thai writing every day allowed me almost to absorb the script through osmosis. On that note, I would like to re-iterate that becoming adept with the Thai alphabet is a huge part of learning Thai (whether you learn Thai Bangkok or online) in the most effective and meaningful way.

Other FAQ About Studying Thai in Thailand

How much does it cost to study Thai in Thailand?

Compared to language courses in other countries, it’s relatively cheap to study Thai in Thailand. When I studied between August 2022 to August 2023, I paid approximately 30,000 Baht (~$1,000) for my year-long course.

Note that if you study at a university or have private lessons (as opposed to group lessons at a Thai language school), your price may go up, in some instances substantially.

Is Thai hard to study?

Thai is not a difficult language in some ways. The grammar is very simple; once you get past the seeming difficult of the Thai alphabet, it’s pretty easy and intuitive. On the other hand, Thai is a tonal language, which is generally a pretty difficult concept for non-Asian learners to grasp.

Why are there no spaces in Thai?

Spaces do exist in Thailand, but not between words. Rather, Thai text places spaces between paragraphs or sentences. Native Thai speakers are able to discern where words begin and end without spaces, and for this reason it’s not necessary for written materials in Thai to put spaces between words.

The Bottom Line

Trust me me when I say that you should take great care when selecting a Thai language school. Whether because of the teachers themselves or other factors, such as the quality of the learning environment and its convenience to your home, all schools in Thailand are definitely not created equal. On the other hand, moving to Thailand is not a prerequisite to learning Thai (in Bangkok or elsewhere). You can study Thai remotely now, particularly is living in Bangkok is on your horizon in the medium- to long-term. Curious about visas for learning Thai? Click here to learn about other Thailand visas, including the business visa.