How (and why) to learn Thai as an ESL Teacher in Thailand
Becoming a teacher in Thailand is worth it just for the incredible people and scenery, but you’re missing out if you work in this beautiful Southeast Asian country if you don’t learn Thai. While Thai is a complex tongue, it’s easy to master with the right amount of effort. Here are some of the benefits of learning Thai and examples of free resources you can count on to get the job done.
Why Learn Thai?
While sightseeing might be a secondary goal, your primary purpose in Thailand is to teach the locals how to speak English. As such, you won’t find much need for the Thai language during lessons, but things change the moment that you leave the classroom. Whether you’re booking a hotel room, hailing a taxi, or buying produce at an open-air market, not knowing Thai will make it harder to get by in your day-to-day life in Thailand.
Immersing yourself in a new culture is inherently stressful, but many travelers make culture shock more jarring than it needs to be. It’s easy to isolate yourself as an island within a sea of strange people speaking strange words, but if you learn the local language, any place in the world can start to feel like home. When you learn Thai while you’re teaching in Thailand, you’ll open yourself up to a whole world of opportunities that you would have missed out on otherwise.
For instance, while most of the locals in Thailand’s popular tourist towns will already speak enough English to get by in rudimentary conversation, when you speak in their language, they’ll be much more likely to open up and share their true thoughts. Local residents can be gems of information on nearby sights and cultural destinations, but you can only truly tap into this goldmine if you learn Thai. As you get closer to the people around you while you teach in Thailand, you might even notice other social opportunities appearing; sweet talking is always easier when you shower the object of your affection with praise phrased in their own language, which means that learning Thai might even provide you with the potential for romance.
Free Resources to Learn Thai
Here are some examples of the resources that are available to you if you want to learn Thai while you teach:
Learn Thai with YouTube
Never underestimate the power of YouTube. For every language in the world, there are dozens of YouTubers clamoring to be the ones to teach it to you, and Thai is no exception. There’s no guarantee regarding the quality of these video tutorials, but there’s no harm in trying a few out. Using these YouTube guides can be very similar to learning a language directly from a flesh-and-blood teacher, but you have the added benefit of being able to stop and restart the lesson with the click of a button.
Start with these channels:
This incredible online platform for learning languages has become more and more popular in recent years, mainly because it’s entirely free of charge. Duolingo offers many of the same resources that are provided by expensive paid services, and it features an intuitive user interface that tracks your progress with achievements and rewards. Plus, Duolingo has received lots of critical acclaim for its rigorously science-based approach to learning languages.
Online Services & Tutors
There are plenty of independent services online that can help you learn Thai; with one quick Google search for “learn Thai for free,” you’ll be bombarded with dozens of websites claiming that they’ve got the right stuff to get the job done. Just keep in mind that not all of these services are equal, and some may even try to charge you even though they claim to be free.
A language exchange 1 on 1 or in a group setting is an easy (and usually free) way to learn Thai. Check out Facebook groups to find both people interested in exchanging lessons and businesses that host regular meetups. If you can find a reliable language partner, you’ll have an easy time learning the basics and getting introduced to local customs & traditions.
How to Learn Thai While You Teach
Balancing a teacher’s schedule with the demands of learning a new language can be hard. However, your best resource is within reach every day when you teach; your students will be happy to help you learn their language in the same way that you’re teaching them yours. Also, it helps to pick a particular time of day to do your language studying; if you’re an early riser, mornings might be a good time, but you may also want to squeeze in a YouTube video or two every day during your lunch break. Keep in mind that as you immerse yourself in the local community, you’ll be provided with plenty of opportunities to flex your Thai skills on a daily basis.
Learning Thai: The Bottom Line
Even though you’re going to Thailand to teach, it would be a shame if you didn’t also learn something while you’re there. If you take the time to learn Thai, you’ll be able to bring something home with you that’s much more valuable than any number of photographs or souvenirs; you’ll have bettered yourself in a fundamental way and added a richness to your travel experience that you’ll never forget.
Quincy Smith is the founder of ESL Authority, a site dedicated to providing up to date and first-hand information for anyone looking to teach abroad. He’s passionate about strong coffee, solo travel, and financial independence.