Just because I chose Learn Thai Podcast over ThaiPod101 doesn’t mean ThaiPod101 is useless. It actually has a lot of pretty great features. If I could afford them both, I probably would subscribe to both. To its credit, the more time I spend puttering around on ThaiPod101’s site, the more I like it. Here are some of the features you may want to keep in mind as you make your choice.
The Home Page
If you click the completed box after each lesson, then the next lesson in the level you’re on is right there for you on the home page. No need for navigation!
The buttons on the left are the same as those on the drop-down menus on the top, but you don’t have to drop down, so that saves you half a second or so.
Podcast Page Features
This is the page you go to when you want to listen to or download your lesson.
On the left are the lessons in that series. If you wish, you can check off the ones you’ve completed (that’s why you see green checks in the corners on my screen). Below the audio player is a transcript of the dialogue for that episode. What’s nice is that the default is Thai script. You can choose transliteration and/or English as well. If you have a premiuim membership, there are audio buttons next to each line so you can practice listening to and repeating after the speakers (just don’t try to copy Fozzie Yoda‘s voice!).
If you click the bar on the bottom right, you’ll get a list of words introduced in the dialogue. You can add all or some of the words to any of your flashcard decks from here (more on flashcards later).
Above the audio player is a link to a pdf file of the dialogue transcriptions, vocabulary words, and grammar notes focused on in the podcast. The explanations are clear and thorough. What I like about this is that you can download it to your Kindle/Kindle App, download the audio to itunes, and then have everything you need to study away from internet access.
If you click on the number 3, you’re taken to a review section with one five-question true/false definition quiz and one writing quiz where the word is given in English and you have to write it in Thai. As quizzes go, it isn’t very impressive, but at least there’s some typing practice.
The audio player has three options: The podcast itself (which I’ll describe in the next section), a brief review of vocabulary, and a recording of just the audio. It’s worth noting that right next to the play button is a “1x” button. Click that and you’ll be given options to slow down or speed up the playback. I haven’t needed it, but I think it’s cool it exists.
Each podcast is about 10-15 minutes long. The first section starts with a 45-second theme song, then about 20 seconds of host introductions. The hosts then introduce the topic and context of the dialogue (taking care to note the speakers’ relationships to one another since that greatly affects the formality of speaking) and play the dialogue through once at regular speed. That takes 30 seconds to a minute. Then they play the dialogue again, slowed down considerably. Finally, they play the dialogue a third time at regular speed with the English translation inserted after each line.
The second section is some painful banter that attempts to get some cultural information across. The information isn’t bad, but the banter is so affected it actually stresses me out.
The third section is a review of the new vocabulary and some exampes of how to use those words in different situations. This section is pretty good.
The fourth section is a grammar review that is very well done. The examples and expanations are clear, useful, and memorable. For me, that section is the highlight of the podcast.
Finally, there is a fairly long fifth section that either tells you to become a Premium member or talks about a great feature that only Premium or Premium Plus members can get. Right now I’m not paying for my access, so that’s fine, but it doesn’t look like those go away once the trial is over. Personally, I hate being advertised to on something I’ve paid for, but at least they put those advertisements at the end so they are easily avoided.
I mentioned the grammar section of each podcast is great, but the downside is it’s kind of hard to figure out what grammar concepts will be covered. Luckily, the Grammar Bank has a search engine that lets you type in a concept and it will tell you which lesson(s) cover that concept.
Just make sure you use te search bar on the top of the screen (where I wrote “comparatives”); the other search bar is useless.
I have to say, the spaced-repetition flashcards are pretty cool. One deck is made for you (the 2000 most common words), and you can add and delete from that deck as well as create your own. Here’s a screenshot from a deck I created:
The front of the card could have a word in Thai as pictured here or a word in English or just an audio of someone saying the Thai word which forces you to practice the word from different angles. A word isn’t considered “mastered” until you get it correct all three ways.
When you flip the card over, the audio plays and you choose how well you knew the answer. What you select determines how long it will be before you see that card again.
There aren’t very many at this point, but they did start a series on reading and writing that looks promising. It’s currently incomplete.
It looks like Thaipod101 offers discounts regularly throughout the year. They had a great one I missed right before Christmas (55% off), and currently have two smaller discounts available. They do have a lot of pressure techniques along with those offers, but I’m glad there are offers at all since I think the program is a bit overpriced.
That’s your basic overview of ThaiPod101. You can, of course, get your own 7-day free trial to check it out yourself.
Next up: a detailed review of Learn Thai Podcast.