We spent nearly a week in Thailand’s northeastern region of Isaan and that experience was a wakeup call to our dwindling Thai communication skills. It was enough to motivate us to dig around in our old list of Thai language YouTube channels and brush up on our listening and speaking skills. As we like to say, it’s time to get back into poot pasah Thai-ing gaeng mahk again.
Thai is still hard!
Reading, writing, speaking, and listening – is it possible to excel in all four skills at the same rate?
We’re generally confident in reading and writing Thai at a solid lower elementary school level. That’s because we find it easy to practice those skills by ourselves and on our own pace and get good results. Plus, we can check for correctness against notes or answer keys without involving another person.
But understanding a spoken conversation is an entirely different beast.
If we were living far enough outside Chiang Mai’s city limits and had Thai friends who only spoke Thai, we bet (and mind you, we aren’t betting people) we’d be speaking fluently by now. And we definitely think we’d be fluent if one of us was a Thai person. (Seriously, for all you people dating or married to a Thai person, do you know just how lucky you are?!)
But alas, we’re both Americans living in the heart of Chiang Mai’s Old City, a place where we don’t need to know a lick of Thai to survive.
We guess that’s good news for a lot of English-speaking travelers and expats. Although we also love that aspect about Chiang Mai (it makes it really easy to interact with people that way), it simultaneously makes it really difficult to learn Thai.
When we do speak Thai, we get a lot of smiles from the market tellers or songtaew drivers who find our attempts intriguing and cute. That, of course, is encouraging.
But fast forward a few short minutes to when we’re haphazardly miming and making godawful faces in our attempt to get our meaning across. Or giving that deer-in-headlights look because we have no idea what the Thai person said, even after he or she repeats themselves. So before we know it, the conversation switches to English. *Le sigh*
Now that we’ve rekindled our interested in stepping up our conversation game, we’d like to share with you which Thai Language YouTube channels we personally find useful (in no particular order) if you’re looking to learn a bit of Thai, too.
Learn Thai with Mod
Learn Thai with Mod was one of the first Thai Language YouTube channels we remember stumbling upon. We liked her right from the beginning. Mod has a fun way of incorporating vocabulary, grammar, and Thai culture into her role-playing videos with the help of a few co-stars (mainly her family members and her colleague, Pear). She also includes the Thai script and Romanized Thai so it helps to clarify the pronunciation. She has about 70 videos averaging 6-8 minutes in length.
Kruu Wee Teach Thai
We like Kruu Wee (not Chloe, which is what we had thought she was saying at first, doh) for many of the same reasons we like Mod. She provides good explanations for rules and spells out (using Thai script) what she’s spoken in the video. But because she works alone, Kruu Wee’s videos focus on vocabulary, expressions, and sentence structure rather than role-playing scenarios.
We particularly like that she breaks down words that have multiple meanings. For example, ‘just’ is used for ‘just (a moment ago)’ – perng เพิ่ง and ‘just (only)’ – kair แค่. We also particularly like her intermediate material, which includes listening to somewhat lengthy story blurbs and trying to understand them. Her Thai language YouTube channel has over 120 videos averaging 4-5 minutes in length.
This roll completely reversed: Ajarn Adam is an American who teaches English to Thai students. Now that we’re trying to transition into a solid intermediate level (as opposed to an advanced beginner where we have been stuck in for a long time), it’s good to hear Ajarn Adam’s instructions and everyday banter in Thai. If you can get past his comical, overly exaggerated pronunciation of ‘Hollywood’ English, you can learn a lot. In fact, we wish there was an equivalent Thai teacher that highlighted the pronunciation nuances like he does. We want to perfect those finicky non-English consonants and vowels and sound more ‘Thai’.
We also find it interesting to watch as he addresses the common problem areas that Thais have when pronouncing certain English consonants and vowels. This channel is a good resource if you want to be an English teacher. Ajarn Adam has over 700 videos that average 4-5 minutes. We particularly like his ‘Everyday English’ and ‘Breakdown: What’s Happening?’ series.
Learn Thai with ThaiPod101.com
ThaiPod101.com‘s YouTube channel is not personal as the other three channels because there’s no YouTube personality. Although the videos are short (averaging just 2-3 minutes), the majority of the audio is in Thai. We like that Learn Thai with ThaiPod101.com has over 60 videos dedicated strictly to ‘Thai Listening Practice’ and it’s the only channel in this list that offers a ‘Learn Thai with Pictures’ method similar to that of Rosetta Stone. Oh, but don’t be deceived by the ‘absolute beginner’ title – it’s definitely for more advanced learners!
It’s crazy just how our listening skills vary from day-to-day. It seems that we’re nearly clueless about most Thai conversations whereas other conversations we can hold up quite well. Those calls for moments like this:
What are your favorite Thai language YouTube channels?
Are there any other phenomenal Thai Language YouTube videos we’ve missed? Is there a YouTuber who targets beginner and intermediate level learners and focuses on listening drills? We’d love to add them to our list!
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