When you live in a country for any length of time, I feel you are obligated both by good manners and cultural consideration to try and learn some of that country’s language. Even if you are just going to visit another country for more than two or three days, I still feel you are again obligated by good manners and cultural consideration to try and learn at least a few key phrases. “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, “Hello” and “Goodbye” are good phrases with which to start.
My experience traveling is that I’ve enjoyed the places I’ve visited much more and received much friendlier, warmer interactions with locals when I’ve made some attempt to speak their language. This was true in Italy, France and even Australia. It has also held true when I lived in Hong Kong as well as now that I’m in Thailand.
Learning Thai can be intimidating for foreigners (especially those from Western countries), both because of the non-Roman script as well as the tonal nature of the language. There are no shortage of tools to help people learn Thai. If you are in the country, you have many schools as well as private tutors available. These can be pretty effective resources, as I’ve shown.
Outside of Thailand, there are books, CDs, and several websites to use. These are less effective, as nearly everyone who has used them can testify. Over the past year, my friend Stuart has been designing a website that takes a very different and, in my opinion, much more effective approach to teaching Thai. The website, ITS4Thai.com, has been running for a few weeks now and is getting a lot of traffic from around the world.
Not to make this sound like an advertisement, but there are a few things that I think are really effective about the website:
Its highly interactive website uses a variety of games and activities to engage the learner. As a professional trainer, I know that different people learn in different ways. Some are visual learners, some are aural learners, some are tactile learners, etc. ITS4Thai incorporates all those learning styles into the lessons. Plus each lesson is just a “bite” of learning – only about ten vocabulary words and three or four sentence patterns. By the time you’ve done the various activities, you’ll find it easy to remember because it is an easy to digest portion.
The format provides a lot of flexibility and real-life applicability. You can conduct the lessons in whatever order makes the most sense for you. It is easy to track your progress and choose the direction you want to take. If you are going to be here on holiday, then choose the lessons that are most applicable to your interests. If you are going to be here on business, make the appropriate choices. If you’re going to live here… well, you get the idea. Unlike a lot of other learning resources, that are laid out in a linear A-Z fashion, ITS4Thai gives you much more flexibility.
Finally, ITS4Thai is inexpensive. All packages are less than US$20, so you can get a lot of learning without putting down a lot of money. I truly wish that this option had been available to me in the year and a half before I moved to Thailand. Had it been, I would have arrived much better prepared.
Tawn and I have both been helping out Stuart. Tawn has been providing PR, doing his first freelance job, and I’ve been helping with the editing of more than 100 additional lesson which will build upon the 60 that are currently on the site. Needless to say, Tawn and I are both closely involved and enthusiastic about the site.
The results of the PR efforts have started to pay off. After crafting a press release in both Thai and English, Tawn pitched a story to the education reporter for the English language newspaper Daily Express. This past Friday, Stuart, Tawn and the reporter met at Starbucks Ari, above. I tagged along and wound up being used as a model in one of the photo shoots. Thankfully, those pictures were not used in the story!
Yesterday morning the story ran on page 3, a half page above the fold. This was very good coverage and a success for Tawn’s freelancing efforts. It was also, of course, a success for Stuart and ITS4Thai. In addition to other press coverage and additional PR events, I’m hoping that many people will be drawn to this resource.
And as for you, dear reader, if you are considering a trip to Thailand, I hope you’ll take a look at ITS4Thai.com. Stuart is offering ten free lessons at the site, so you can visit it, learn a little Thai, and evaluate the effectiveness of the website for yourself without having to commit any money.