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Things to Consider When Choosing a Thai Language Course Or School
So, you’ve decided you’d like to learn Thai. Congratulations! Thailand is an extremely popular tourist destination and the Thai people are warm, friendly and fun. Learning to speak and understand Thai will heighten your experiences of this delightful country, and provide you with a much deeper understanding of the Thai culture.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to learn Thai, be it for love, investment, holiday, business or retirement, there are numerous options available – some more effective than others. Which is the best? Should you buy a book, a DVD, an on-line course? Should you enrol at a Thai language school? What should you look for in a course? How do you choose the right Thai language course for you?
This article aims to help you separate the good from the bad, and ultimately save you time and money spent on research and wasted course fees.
Many of us struggle to learn a second language. Why is this? When you consider the extremely high success rate of children under the age of six when learning their native language, you have to wonder why we find it so difficult as adults. Dr. James J. Asher was so intrigued that he embarked upon an in-depth study of the learning processes of children, particularly when learning their native language. His findings, along with other scientists, including Blaine Ray, Prof. Stephen Krashen and Dr. Paul Pimsleur, led to a breakthrough in brain research, especially in the arena of learning a second language.
When considering which Thai language course or school is right for you, it is important to review the proposed course content, and establish whether the latest findings in educational science have been taken into account. If they have, then you stand a much higher chance of becoming fluent in Thai.
So, based on the latest findings in educational science, what are the key components of a good Thai language course?
1. A good Thai language will teach you in a way that engages all of your senses.
Traditional language courses usually involve the tutor providing you with books to study and lists of vocabulary to memorize. Can you imagine how successful we would be as children if we were taught to speak our native language in this way? As children, we learn to speak our native language by doing, touching, smelling, tasting, experiencing, looking and listening. Your brain is able to learn from all of your senses. By involving all of your bodily senses in the learning process, you gain a deeper understanding of every word, and multiply your learning speed and retention. PLUS, the experience is far more fun than if you were only reading from a book.
2. A good Thai language course will teach you in a way that encourages you to think Thai.
Many traditional Thai language courses will teach you to translate from your native language; however, it is far more effective to learn to think directly in Thai. If you learn to think Thai, you move from having the thought to speaking Thai, in one-step. If however you have the thought in your own language and then translate to Thai applying the grammar rules and vocabulary that you know, it takes a lot longer, and it inhibits a flowing conversation. In order to think in Thai, you need to be taught in a particular way. By associating a word with a feeling or experience, rather than what it means when translated to your own language, you will gain a much deeper knowledge and memory of the word. Effective courses will therefore deliver commands in Thai, and will involve acting, imitation and doing, using ONLY the Thai language.
3. A good Thai language course will provide you with repetition in a varied format.
Repetition is the best way to learn anything, and this is particularly the case with languages. Traditionally repetition has been applied by providing vocabulary lists to be read and repeated until all of the words have been memorized, at least until the next day. One of the problems with this method is that the situation in which you use the word does not change. Your brain cannot get any help from remembering where you were or what you did when you were learning.
A good Thai language course will introduce you to Thai words through numerous experiences and media. Let’s take the word “door”. To learn the word door your tutor could tell you to; “close the door”, “open the door”, “knock on the door” etc. “Door” could be repeated several times in many different situations during a number of lessons.
In addition to this repetitive use of the word “door” during classes, if you also hear “door” in videos loaded onto your computer, and meet the word in computer games, sound files and in wordlists, you will have a very varied experience of the word “door”. Due to the variation in your learning, you will not be bored by repeating the same word tens of times. On the contrary, your memory traces will grow deeper and broader until your Thai words become a part of you.
4. Your learning rate will improve if your brain has sufficient energy.
When you study, your brain uses a lot of energy. Actually, even though it makes up just 2% of your body weight, your brain can consume as much as 20 – 30% of your total energy intake if you are studying. Glucose is the fuel that your brain needs to be able to think, and your body generates glucose from what you eat and drink. If your levels of glucose run low you will think more slowly, which means that if you study Thai, you will learn the language more slowly. A good Thai language course or school will understand that your energy levels have a direct impact on your ability to learn, and will allow for or provide frequent snacks to refuel you.
Any course that adopts all of the above principles will be effective. The ultimate Thai language course however, would be an intensive program in Thailand, which also adopts all of the principles discussed. By attending an intensive course that lasts for one, two or three months, you will become immersed in the Thai language and culture, and your progress will be guided and encouraged on a daily basis. It does involve taking a chunk of time out of your normal life however, so be sure to check that the course is based upon the principles discussed in this article.
If you are unable to take the time to attend an intensive Thai language course, your second best option would be to attend regular classes at a Thai language school, in Thailand. Obviously, your progress would be slower, as your learning would be spread over a longer period, but if you are taught by a native speaker who adopts all of the principles discussed in this article – the course will still be effective.
Finally, if you can’t afford the time or money for regular courses, or you can’t make it to Thailand, your best option would be to buy an on-line course or DVD – so long as the principles discussed in this article have been applied in the structure of the course. It is trickier to deliver a course on-line or in DVD format, which engages all of the senses in the learning process, but it is possible.
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