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Best Books on Learning Thai for Beginners

Updated on May 16, 2012
Books I used to start learning Thai
Books I used to start learning Thai | Source

When I first decided to stay in Thailand for long term I knew learning to speak Thai was of paramount importance. Though I know of expats who have lived in Thailand for much longer than I have and could get by with just a handful of phrases. I really don't know how they do it, but kudos to them.

I started learning Thai by reading books about the same time I first moved into my condominium 5 years ago. Because I realized that if I was to stay in Thailand for the long haul I was going to have to do better speaking and reading Thai. 5 years later I'm still not a full native speaker. But I can hold a basic conversation with the locals, order food in a restaurant, ask for directions and assistance. Which are all the things you I've learned all by studying books on Thai language.

Personally learning Thai opened doors to a Thai society that I may not have access to had I not learned to speak at all. I am more accepted and welcomed by Thai coworkers and friends. I have also been getting invited out more often, because we can communicate between ourselves much easily.

Thai script - Perhaps the most difficult part of learning Thai
Thai script - Perhaps the most difficult part of learning Thai

Books are excellent resources for learning Thai on your own. I can understand not everyone can enjoy a classroom setting, especially if they are only able to visit a few months out of the year and love returning.

So I'm going to introduce 2 Thai language skill building books that are excellent for beginners. Both can be found in all book stores especially in Bangkok in stores such as Asia Books, B2S and Kinokunya found in most major departments stores in the city.

Both books also have companion CD lessons which are usually sold separately. But you may be able to find them sold together.

I highly recommend you to purchase the CDs if you do decide to get these books.

Thai is a tonal language, with 5 different tones. If you speak a Thai word with the wrong tone it can mean a completely different word and thus confusion sets in on the native speaker. The CDs are worth the extra cost.

Thai for Beginners, by Benjawan Poomsan Becker

The author B.P. Becker is very well known in the circle of Thai language books. This book, Thai for Beginners, is very straight forward and gives you the sense that you're learning from a classroom environment. Now some may like that and some may not. Either way, this book is adequate for learning the basics of counting, basic conversations and writing.

Writing, reading and most importantly learning the Thai alphabet is the key to learning Thai and will make it easier to learn the Thai language. This is a point that the author stresses and is sound advice.

Overall Thai for Beginners is very academic (which I know most will like) with a series of follow up books geared towards the intermediate learners as well as advanced.

Teach Yourself Thai, by David Smyth

This was my favorite book for starting to learn Thai, not that Thai for Beginners isn't good. It's just that I prefer the teaching style of the author, David Smyth. It goes straight to learning conversational Thai with learning to write Thai paced out through the book.

And there are plenty of information on how to speak Thai for daily activities such as introducing yourself, ordering food in a restaurant and even haggling while shopping in the markets of Bangkok.

Of course the author stresses the point that learning the Thai alphabet is the best way to move forward on learning to speak Thai properly.

Overall this book I feel is a good choice to start off learning the Thai language for leisure travelers to folks just starting off staying long term in Thailand


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