Learning to Read Thai in Bangkok

Did you know you can learn to read Thai in only 5 weeks ?!

And I know that for a lot of us, learning how to read and write Thai is the best way to start Study Thai. ไทย

For example, after I arrived in Thailand in 2016, I was on a student visa for 9 months after my second tourist visa. And I really went to the 2 weekly classes only for 2 months… 🙈

It was only twice a week but I was starting MojoSons Events at the same time and my focus was definitely more on the business than the Thai Language. 🙃

Fast forward to 2 years later. I still don’t speak Thai but I find myself in a co-working space in Bangkok, working every day next to a Thai Teacher. 📚

One night as she’s having a meetup on the rooftop with her former students, I hear her claiming you can learn to read Thai in 5 weeks… Sorry, what? Seriously? 🤨

It was about time I commit seriously to improve my Thai, so I took the bet and signed up. It’s only 5 weeks after all. And if that works… that’s gonna change everything. 😇

The best way to learn Thai is to start by reading

Learn to read Thai first actually make a lot of sense. 🤓

The language is way different from the two languages I speak, French and English. Of course, the Alphabet is from another world. But they also have sounds and tones that don’t exist in English (or in French). 🙁

Now when you translate it to our alphabet, you lose some of the information. 😈

That’s why you can know the words and how to spell it in English (Karaoke Style), but you’re not pronouncing it correctly. So in the end, Thai people don’t get what you say even if you’re trying your best. 😔

When you learn to read Thai you understand why they pronounce things a certain way and what sounds you’re really supposed to make. 🤗

Oh, and you can finally read the menu at the restaurant! 🌶

thai alphabet poster bangkok
doesn’t it look simple? 😂

Learning Thai will take time

That’s not the easiest language, especially for a western guy. Everything is so different and it’s overwhelming at first. But when you work seriously, things start to make sense after only a few lessons. 😇

Start with the characters.  44 consonants and 15 Vowels. Because the 26 from the other alphabet wasn’t enough I guess. 😂

So it looks like a lot. But in fact, it’s just like any alphabet. (Almost) Each character is a different sound. ♬

Of course, the Thai Language has a few sounds that I didn’t know. But they don’t have as many sounds as they have characters. 🤔

For example, they have 6 consonants for the sound “th”. So yes, 44 consonants is still a lot, but it’s not as bad as it seems at first. 🤗

Now The tones. That’s the other main difficulty, especially for me. The same word (when translated in English) will not have the same meaning depending on the tone you use.

But of course, it doesn’t spell the same in Thai. So once you know the Thai alphabet and how to read Thai, not only you got the right spelling, but you also know the right tone. 🎙

Soon you start to realize that a lot of translations on signs, names, and more are far from the word in Thai. It’s just a westernized version.

The culture. Thailand is a different world. That is why I like so much this country, it’s like no other I’ve seen.

So many influences from religion, history… Studying Thai helps you to understand more about the culture, the way of life, Thai mindset…

The Way Thais Speak English. 😂

Like you will find a lot of French that speak English like they speak French. It’s the same for Thais.

Once you understand the language, how it’s constructed, that some sounds or letters we have don’t exist in the Thai language… it’s mind-blowing. 🔥

Now their broken English make a lot of sense. They just translate everything word by word.

study thai class bangkok
it’s one of the few time you’re gonna see me focused

Can you learn to read Thai in 5 weeks?

The answer is yes!

Of course not everything. But you can read most of the common words and then practice by yourself.

In 5 weeks you will learn

  • the Alphabet ก
  • the different tones ♬
  • the Main rules 👮‍♂️
  • the different classes of consonants

But you will need to work on it (almost) every day for 5 weeks, and keep faith 😂.

And at the end of the 5 weeks, you realize it’s really impressive how much you can learn in such a short amount of time. And being able to turn this “vermicelli” into words is just priceless.

But I have to give Jan a shootout because it also comes down to the teacher you chose! 🔥

Study Thai with Kru Jan

Having the right Thai Teacher is so important. 👩‍🏫

Get someone that loves what they do, know how to teach, make it interesting, and also adapt to each student. 🤗

With Kru Jan, it was so easy. You only have a class of 6, so you can’t hide. You have to interact and practice. 📚

And everybody was fun. You start the 5 weeks program with strangers, you end up with friends. 😇

That makes the whole experience better and it actually makes you look forward to the next class.

But even though she’s a really good teacher, you’re gonna have to work hard. And do you homework. There are no shortcuts and only practice makes things perfect. 📖

As for each class, they are 2 hours, 3 times a week, for 5 weeks straight. And you have to work home too if you want to keep the pace. It’s intense but if you can commit to it seriously, it will really pay off.

Being able to read the signs and menus is priceless!

study thai kru jan class bangkok

How to learn to Read Thai?

Start by having a look at Jan’s website: studythai.org for some general information about the Thai language and know more about her work.

And send a message to Jan on her Facebook page if you want to take lessons.

She does both private and group sessions. And of course, the 5 weeks course to learn to read Thai like I did.

If you’re staying for a while in Thailand, it is worth the investment. Because being able to read and speak Thai will change your day to day life in ways you can’t imagine.

Ordering cabs or food, asking someone to do something for you, negotiate prices, or just have fun with Thais when you go out…

I can’t believe I’ve been putting it off for over 2 years! 🤗

mojomatt read thai test

How to learn to speak Thai ?

That’s the next step now! พูด

As a French who speaks English, Thai is tough. It’s like nothing I’ve heard before. And because you can always get around with English, I’ve been putting it off for too long. 🙈

But in reality, it’s not more difficult than other languages, it’s just different.

I know I could learn the basics in a few months only if I was living with Thais, working with Thais… but I mostly speak English all day and even if a lot of Thais don’t speak much English, they always speak enough so you can get what you want. 🤭

By learning to read Thai, it gave me the basics, not only I can read most of the signs, menus… but I can keep learning by myself. 📖

Now when I don’t get a word, I ask people to spell it. With the alphabet, not only I understand how to spell it, but also how to pronounce it correctly! 😘

I just have to keep practicing daily and hangout with Thais… And Party in Thai venues way more 🔥🎉

learn to read thai bangkok

What about you?

Did you learn to read Thai? What helped you the most? What do you recommend to beginners?

Let us know in the comments below.

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