A nice on-the-go introduction method for beginners.
Pimsleur has been in the language-learning game for a long time. I remember learning Japanese by using their cassette tape language course. Thanks to the course I was able to navigate around Japan reasonably well on ten separate trips.
So you can imagine my pleasure when I received a copy or Pimsleur’s Thai course (CD Audio) to review for the blog. Arriving at my doorstep was a 16-CD audio package, and I couldn’t wait to dig in.
What was different this time was that I already have a fair bit of Thai under my belt. Unlike with the Japanese course, I can already read and write Thai well enough; though my speaking ability isn’t fantastic, I was very curious as to how this course would help me. Because of that I decided to look at the course from two perspectives — as both a beginner and low-intermediate student.
How did the course fair?
First, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the same exact narrator as the Japanese tapes. He has a very good voice that really does put the listener at ease yet does not put you to sleep.
There isn’t much in the way of set up, you just dive right in. All lessons are based around simple conversations that are broken down into smaller bits and dissected. The course gives the listener plenty of time to repeat words and phrases, so there is no need to feel rushed. Lessons are progressive and reinforce the previous lesson to make sure that you don’t forget what you just learned.
I’ve been through most of the CDs in the course to get a feel for what it has to offer. If you are a dilligent student and truly practice the material you will certainly have a good foundation of conversational Thai when you’re done. (Of course, you’re never really done, right?) Topics are centered around the typical everyday exchanges such as greetings, asking if you are hungry, trying to get directions, etc. For the beginning student this will be the most helpful aspect of the course. You will be able to immediately apply what you’re practicing once the plane lands in Bangkok.
For the intermediate student, however, it’s a little more tricky. Granted, this is not considered an intermediate course, so please take my comments with a grain of salt. There are really two things that stuck out for me as slight negatives. First, and this is certainly a minor concern, is in the beginning lessons where they are talking about eating and drinking. The typical question would be something like, “I would like to eat rice” – ผมอยากกินข้าว (pǒm yàak gin kâao). The problem is, in the lessons they were saying “I want to have rice” but using กิน to mean “have.” I get what they are trying to say, but “gin” doesn’t really mean “to have” at all; it means “to eat/drink.” The problem, I think, is trying to equate in Thai what we say in English. But, what we say in English — “I want to have rice” — simply isn’t correct grammar. We all say it, certainly, but it’s not right. We really should be saying “I want to eat rice.” And therein lies the problem.
For the sake of understanding I think it should have been left as “eat/drink” and just explained that in Thai they would say this instead of “to have.” But as I said, a low-intermediate student’s minor quip.
The second concern, and a bigger one, has to do with the pronunciation of certain words. As many of you familiar with Thai know, the word for “no” — ไม่ (mâi) is pronounced like the English word “my.” However, when saying it in a sentence, many Thai people will pronounce it like the word “May” (as in the month). The problem is that when the speaker gives the word as an example by itself it sounds like “my” but when pronounced in a sentence it sounds like “May.” This can be very confusing for the learner. I would have liked the course to give a brief explanation of what’s going on and to advise the listener to just go with the flow.
Yes, I’m a nitpicker.
All in all, those are really the only two issues I have. The course, in general, is great, and I would say definitely worth the money. There is a lot of material, and the presentation lends itself to a high retention rate when compared to the other courses I’ve checked out.
If you are a beginner, or if you just want to practice your spoken Thai and keep the language in your ears while away from Thailand, I recommend you check Pimsleur’s Thai CD course. For more information, you can visit the Pimsleur Approach website.