Learning Thai

Our family decided to move to Thailand last year, and we might stay here for a while. Surrounded by new culture, people, and language, I have decided to give it a try and learn Thai.

Learning a new language is a great way to expand your worldview, understand a new culture, and keep your brain working. In the end, after living in China for 25 years, I never regretted learning Mandarin. It made my life much better and more comfortable, compared to the “average laowai”.

Recently I finished reading “Ultralearning” by Scott Young1 and decided to use principles from this book and make an ultralearning project to learn Thai. Also, I will try to use some ideas and stuff that worked for me when I was learning Chinese and Portuguese.

Learning Map

My plan for learning Thai

  1. Pimsleur Thai for 30 days. I’m a big fan of the Pimsleur method and it didn’t disappoint me with the Thai course. The only con about Pimsleur Thai is that there is only one level (30 lessons) available. But anyway it’s a great way to dive in and feel a new language.

    Finished as part of my “30 days of Thai challenge.”
  2. Learn to read Thai. If I were to learn Mandarin again, I would probably focus on learning to speak first, and then how to write. With Thai language there is another problem – the absence of a widely used romanization system (like pinyin in Standard Chinese), thus every textbook, course, or sign on the street uses its own system. I figured out it would be easier to learn the script and reading rules first (just 70+ “letters”) and then forget about romanization.
    • There was no secret to learning thousands of Chinese characters: just sit and write hundreds of times each.

      ✅ I’m going to use the classical textbook “Thai for Beginners” by Benjawan Poomsan Becker (BPB), which also provides worksheets to practice Thai script.
    • ✅ Use Anki flashcards for spaced repetition. Consonants, vowels, pronunciation (audio), and various modern fonts. See below: Anki Deck

      2024-02-06 Update: I memorized all Thai consonants, vowels, and complex vowels, and can read virtually anything at slow speed and 70-80% accuracy. Now I can rely less on romanizations.
  3. Learn how to type in Thai. I’m creating a new Anki deck with phrases and dialogues from the BPB textbook. I’m using a Thai keyboard layout with a visual keyboard enabled to type down all phrases manually. It goes super slow but forces me to memorize the letters’ positions.
  4. Learn the 2000 most common Thai words and phrases. 10-20 words a day for six months.
    • Basic vocabulary and phrases
    • Use tools like ChatGPT and podcasts for practice.
  5. Practice whenever possible: school, supermarket, restaurants, stuff, podcasts (passive listening).
  6. Find an online course that uses mastery learning and is similar to Pimsleur’s approach to teaching Thai. I found that points (4) and (5) in my learning plan are hard to track and evaluate, so I will try to find a course to create a better environment and motivation for learning.

Anki Deck

Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard program that helps memorize information through active recall. It’s perfect for learning new languages, new ideas, or terms.

There are a lot of great shared decks available for Thai language, but for my second goal, I will be using one based on Poomsan Becker’s textbook.

The only problem I found after learning Thai script for a while, is that you will rarely see classical-style writing in real life. Outdoor and online advertisements, signs, captions, and banners, most of them use modern Thai typography. Most modern fonts resemble English letters but usually are “false friends” and have nothing to do with corresponding sounds.

So I’ve created my own Anki deck to solve this problem. Here is what is inside:

  • All Thai consonants, vowels, and complex vowels that are listed in ‘Thai for Beginners’.
  • Added modern Thai font variations for each card.
  • The transliteration of the Thai script is identical to that used in the textbook.
  • Includes native-speaker audio examples.

For more information, check the deck’s page. For any questions and suggestions, please email me at [email protected]

This post will be extended once I get to the next stages of my Learning Map.


1. Check my book notes on “Ultralearning” to have a rough idea about the book. It’s not a summary of the book; I’m just saving quotes and ideas for myself, for later reflection. Notes don’t replace the book.