Here is a rundown of Learn Thai Podcast‘s features so you can decide if it will be helpful to you.
There are three ways to get to the lessons you want. The first is to click on any of these large, colorful buttons that list the different levels and types of lessons available:
The second is to click the small links at the bottom of the page here:
And the third is the dropdown menu at the top of the page. Since the dropdown menu is always accessible from any page on the site, this is the method I usually use.
A good number of lessons are arranged in cycles, especially in the intermediate area. The first set of cycles, however, is in the section for absolute beginners called “300 Most Common Thai Words.” It’s an excellent starting place because after each vocabulary lesson you’re given the syntax tools you need to put those words into sentences. Interrogative (several kinds), declarative, and imperative simple sentence structures are taught.
Usually, though, lesson cycles come in groups of four in this order: vocabulary, conversation, grammar, and grammar review. I find this format very helpful because after you are introduced to a set of vocabulary, you then have those words reinforced in the three following lessons as you’re learning a variety of ways to use them. The fact that the conversations are authentic mean that you won’t be mistaken for a robot in Thailand and your listening skills will be improved because you won’t be dependent on studio-quality, perfectly enunciated Thai. When Jo repeats the phrases in the dialogue or monologue, of course, she has perfect, teacher-quality clarity, but the dialogue itself by the speakers on the street is also repeated several times. You get the best of both worlds, and it is truly helpful.
As you can see, Learn Thai Podcast, like ThaiPod101, also allows you to check off the lessons you’ve completed. They go one step further by giving you three options: a red X, a yellow -, and a green checkmark. This is helpful if you want to repeat certain lessons. A red X might mean you did the lesson, but you need more review, for example.
Outside of two Basic Cycles (8 lessons total), there are no cycles currently for the beginning lessons. Instead, there are just over 300 vocabulary lessons and just over 100 grammar lessons. I did some digging around to find out why, and based on old reviews of the course and an e-mail I received, it seems that there either used to be Beginner Cycles or there were at least conversation lessons. They received feedback, however, that the conversations were too advanced for beginners and took those lessons off the course about a year ago. That’s too bad because I think the only way to stop being a beginner is to grapple with language that is currently too difficult. Luckily for us, those 55 conversation lessons weren’t totally expunged. You can get there by clicking te “Old LTP Premium Course Area” link on the login page.
If you click that link, you may be asked to login again, and your login may not work. Here’s why: the old course had case-sensitive usernames and the new course does not. That means that my current login that starts with a capital M is actually saved without that capital marker, so when I log into the old course area, I have to type my username with a lowercase m. Now you have access to 55 more conversation lessons on top of the already plentiful (more than 800!) lessons available.
When you decide to play a podcast, you can choose full-screen, but I chose to keep it small so you can see the options.
This screenshot comes from a conversation lesson where a man talks about raising birds. I love that. No textbook on earth is going to prepare you for the kind of random conversations you might find yourself involved in, but Learn Thai Podcast jumps all over the place. It’s my absolute favorite thing about the program.
Back to the point, though, if you have consistent access to the internet, you can just use their player to watch the video. If not, you can download audio or video for use away from the internet. There is a pdf transcript the lesson in Thai, English, romanization, and a literal word-by-word English translation. As you can see on the screen, you get all that in the video as well. If you cover or ignore the romanization, it makes for excellent reading practice.
Vocabulary lessons are pretty basic; they introduce about ten words within a certain category (such as “adjectives to describe people”) or that will be used in the connected conversation lesson. They aren’t very exciting, but they’re short, clear, and are the main reason I can understand anything in the Lakorns I watch.
Conversation lessons begin with a brief introduction about the context of the conversation we’re about to see, then cuts to a video of that conversation. Then the conversation is played again, but slowed down, then it’s played line by line at normal speed with each line followed by a screen of the written text, then the text is broken down and explained by our hosts, and then the dialogue is played again. If you’re like me and you’ve been in rooms where everyone is speaking Thai but you and you wished you could record things for later study, then you probably have some idea how awesome this is. It’s real speech in manageable chunks explained in detail. Basically, it’s language-learner heaven.
The grammar lessons build on the conversation lessons and vocabulary lessons. If, for example, someone in the conversation lesson said, “I’ve been working since I was 14,” then you’ll be sure to have lessons on how to construct sentences with “since” that reinforce vocabulary.
The grammar review lesson rehashes the above with yet more combinations. The result is you can go out and speak pretty comfortably and naturally with your new syntax and vocabulary tools — no stodgy phrasebook conversations for you!
The one downside to the lesson organization is that many lessons are just numbered with no description of what will be taught. The titles for the lessons are included in their course guide (more on that below), but it’s a bit inconvenient. In digging around, though, I found lists of descriptive titles by clicking on the links on this page. This page is, by the way, how I found out about the missing 55 conversation lessons.
You may have noticed the “open in vocabulary trainer” button above. That takes you to a flashcard area with words and/or phrases from each lesson. You can choose what will be on each side of the card (I chose to have Thai script and sound on the front and English on the back). The downside is that each deck only exists for one lesson, so if you want to mix things up you have to use their rating system. Rate each word or phrase from 1-5 stars and then you can open up the trainer by star rating. Then you can study all the words that give you difficulty (1 star, probably) in a session and also do a quick refresher of your mastered words. I have to say, the flashcard feature is the only thing I like better at ThaiPod101. This one’s a bit clunky and has frozen up on me a few times. What it is good for, though, is when you can’t remember how to pronounce a word. Just jump on the Vocabulary Trainer and it’s right there for you.
Because there are so many lessons available, Learn Thai Podcast created a one-year plan to fluency that you can download even if you aren’t a member here. It looks like a decent guide, though, like most language-learning programs, it underestimates how much study/practice time is needed to master the material. I can’t imagine spending just two and a half hours a week studying. Even the measly five hours I’ve been managing during the school year makes me feel like I’m making very slow progress — which I am compared to when I was learning Spanish and could put in two to four hours a day. Basically, with language-learning, you benefit based on how much dedication you put in. No program — not even a great one like Learn Thai Podcast — can make up for inconsistent study or refusal to practice what is learned in all four areas of communication — reading, writing, listening, and speaking. As I tell my students all the time, you can only be good at what you practice. So choose Learn Thai Podcast, ThaiPod101, Pimsleur, Thai for Beginners, Everyday Thai for Beginners, Essential Thai Grammar, Thai Reference Grammar, private lessons, or be a resource glutton like me and choose them all, but no matter what you choose, it’s all a waste of time and money if you don’t use it.
That said, it’s time for my morning study session.