Many people set out to learn a new language for several reasons, it could be to get a job promotion, to fulfill a school foreign language requirement or simply for fun. No doubt there are dozens of software, classes, books, videos and CDs targeting these groups of people. Western European and the major Asian languages seem to be the easiest to find instructional materials for, but what about the lesser known Asian languages? Well, I had that problem. Due to my major I had a foreign language requirement to meet and originally my plan was to test out of French but that didn’t go as planned. My last option was to focus on a language I was already fluent in. That probably should’ve been my first choice, but the problem was I wasn’t able to read the language. That’s how my journey started. I’ve tried all sorts of sites, videos and books, but the ones I’ve listed were the easiest and quickest way to learn to read Thai with success.
“Easy Thai” by Gordan H. Allison
“Easy Thai” was the first real Thai language book that I tried out. Other materials that I’ve tried were either e-books, which wasn’t convenient for me, or website tutorials. I decided to try out “Easy Thai” after reading several reviews on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble’s website. This book really is the easiest way to learn how to read and write in Thai. There are only 16 very short chapters with lesson exercises and five rapid lessons at the end of the book that revisits everything that’s covered in the book. Answers to all of the lessons are at the back of the book. I’ve found this book to very helpful. The chapters are so short that I was able to do one a day and redo the entire book three times in one month. Within a month I was able to read and write Thai. I had the advantage of already being fluent in the language though. So it might not be the best book for someone starting completely from scratch.
“Thai for Beginners” by Benjawan Poomsan Becker
“Thai for Beginners” is the best book for someone that is completely new to the Thai language. This book covers all four skills speaking, listening, reading and writing. There are ten short lesson chapters that are clear and easy to understand and follow. It also comes with English translations and an answer key. I find that “Thai for Beginners” is just as easy as “Easy Thai” but it’s more thorough and contains less typos.
“Thai for Intermediate Learners” by Benjawan Poomsan Becker
This book is a continuation to Becker’s “Thai for Beginners” and I find that it’s much easier to stick with a language book series, if the first worked well for you, then to stray to another author. “Thai for Intermediate Learners” is for those that are already fluent in Thai and know the basics of reading and writing Thai. This second book in Becker’s series builds on the first book but focuses on building Thai vocabulary and advancing your reading and writing skills. Like her first book the chapters are short and contain lessons. The book moves along quickly.
“Thai for Advanced Readers” by Benjawan Poomsan Becker
This is the last book in Becker’s Thai language series and it builds on the previous book. Assuming you followed her previous books you should be able to read, write and understand the Thai language, at least moderately. There are no lessons in this one, no translation or grammar explanations so you do need to know the language before moving on to this one. “Thai for Advanced Readers” focuses mainly on reading and adding to your vocabulary. This book also introduces the different Thai writing styles.
If you’re already fluent in the Thai language but would like to learn to read and write in Thai I would recommend starting out with “Easy Thai” or “Thai for Beginners” and going on from there. For those that are complete beginners I would recommend all four books, although just following Becker’s series is fine too. The reason why I would recommend adding “Easy Thai” to the three Becker books is because some people have found that her first book moved along too quickly. I can almost guarantee that anyone that picks up all four of these books and really studies it can become fluent in Thai in just a matter of months.