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Thai for Beginners
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99 of 102 people found the following review helpful
on October 18, 2000
This book starts out at the beginning and goes through the language rather quickly building your vocabulary and getting simple phrases down. It's not really designed to just learn a few phrases that you might use on a short vacation. It's for people that are serious about learning Thai. I don't mean to say that it's a difficult book. It's not. The phrases you learn are short and simple but well thought out so you can learn to make other sentences by substituting words. There's no sense in learning at the beginning long and almost useless sentences that you don't know how to change under different circumstances.
I've spent so much money on Thai books and tapes and have been really discouraged. I started building web page that took the best parts of different books because I knew there was a better, more efficient way to learn Thai. But I found everything I wanted in this series of books. Also, there are several words like gaw and hai that are tricky to translate and it spends time explaining all their different uses.
The last part of the book has the alphabet and is taught the way Thai children learn, "Gaw gai, kaw kai, kaw kuart". I've been trying to learn it for so long but never found it on a tape. Speaking of the tape, or tapes - there are three - they do what is expected, read the vocabulary and phrases from the book. But they are great to have to drill the sounds and different tones into your head.
Lastly, the book uses good transliteration and has Thai script, which can be quite helpful to Thai people, and it clears up confusion if you're not sure exactly what sound they're making on the tape. This is besides the obvious reason, to learn how to read Thai. Oh, they focus on that too.
I don't know what else to say. It really is a must. The best.
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88 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2006
First off, I want to say that I would not recommend this book for casual students, or people who want to study a bit of Thai for a holiday. This book is people who are serious about learning the Thai language correctly. (For those going on holiday, I also strongly recommend the phrase book from Lonely Planet.)

Second off, I want to say a bit about a few 1 star ratings I see. One complains that the book does not come with the tapes or a CD. Another complains that the tapes don't come with a book. Well, yes, this is true. If you want both, you buy both. What in the world does this have to do with the quality of either, and how does it justify a one star rating? It may be a legitimate complaint that buying both is too expensive (I would disagree), but these kinds of complaints are like saying that DirectTV satellite TV is awful because it does not come with a TV to watch it on.

In my opinion as a fluent Thai speaker, who has looked at many systems to learn the language, this one is the best. Here is why:

1) It has you learning to read and write right from the beginning, and if you're serious about learning Thai I cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of this. It will aid your pronunciation and understanding to the language immensely, and in the grand scheme of learning the language, learning the writing system is actually a small part.

2) While you're getting up to speed on the writing system, it's transliteration system is there to help you, and is the best in existence. It has an extended roman alphabet to accurately and consistently represent the Thai alphabet. You need to take a bit of time to learn the system, but the payoff is you will be leaps and bounds ahead of students of other systems as far as pronunciaton goes.

3) It presents the major grammatical elements of Thai in a well pased, logical way.

4) The vocabulary building is also very good, introducing common stuctural words quickly. Vocabulary is introduced in a context so many realated words can be learned at once.

I recommend this series to anyone who has an interest in learning Thai.
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53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2000
My husband and I tried several Thai language courses, but found each one of them lacking in the "flow" of learning. This course offers instruction in speaking, grammar, and writing. Each lesson gives you the right amount of information to keep you challenged, but not overwhelmed. The word choices in the vocabulary and sentence exercises allow you to quickly expand your speaking ability. -- It is evident that the writer has extensive experience in teaching Thai to foreigners. -- For true beginners to Thai, the accompanying tapes are also useful. These can be ordered using the form in the back of the book.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2004
This is a really sweet series of books for learning Thai and is about 2 cuts above any other Thai self-study course I've seen in 3 years of living in Thailand. A bonus is that it is also one of the most affordable.
A previous reviewer stated that the book does not teach the pronunciation of Thai script. That is incorrect. The Thai script sections are broken out separately at the end of each chapter, with pronunciation keys and vocabularly taken from the speaking drills. Learning Thai script (as opposed to merely speaking Thai) is not a quick process, and this is an issue with the language itself, not the course. I give the book five stars (6 if I could) for systematically and coherently teaching spoken Thai, while additionally offering one of the best primers on basic written Thai as a bonus for those who want to spend the extra time.
Finally, about the tapes being only 2 1/2 hours-- there are about 1000 vocab words (listed at the front of each chapter) and phrases in the book, almost all of which are spot on useful. If you learn them by heart, which doesn't take more than an hour a day over about 5 weeks, you will be carrying on in Thai at a basic but quite functional level that you can dramatically build on once you get to Thailand. Imagine that, actually speaking Thai, not just throwing in a random phrase or word here and there on your next vacation. It's quite possible, with this book.
I didn't find the tapes too fast, for the most part, and I hated language tapes in college for that reason. Anyway, there's always the rewind button for those odd moments. It is true that you will need the book with you, at least initially, for the conversation drills, since the English isn't repeated on the tape. I'd say that's a minor quibble, at best, but worth noting for those who plan to listen in their car. The English translation for the vocab IS repeated at the start of each chapter, however. If you can follow that, the conversation that follows isn't a stretch.
I've read a lot of language texts, and the Becker series (Thai for Beginners; Thai for Intermediate Learners; Thai for Advanced Readers) is one of the best for any language. It would be nice if Amazon offered the audio CD version of the cassettes, something which is a little more convenient in this day and age and certainly available in Thailand.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2001
If you are a farang who is trying to learn Thai, I salute you! The 5 tones, 44 consenants and 30 or so vowel sounds in Thai make it an incredibly hard langauge to learn. I believe that this book is a good starting point, but it won't take you very far. The major problem with teaching Thai to non-native speakers is the alphabet. Thai simply has sounds that don't exist in western languages. Although I like this book very much, it tends to focus on learning the phonetic english equivalents first, rather than learning the Thai alphabet. The great thing about Thai is that it is phonetic. Once you know the alphabet, you can sound out words.
So, this book is a good place to start, but you will definetely need other materials to help you.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2003
If you are looking for a book to study Thai then you cannot go far wrong with this book. It has several advantages over competitiors. First, it is part of a series so that you can take your Thai to a higher level by using the same teacher. Also, the author has released a popular dictionary which uses the same transliteration system as this book. It has everything you could want.
It needs to be made clear that you need to buy BOTH the book and tape as they are sold separately. It might not be obvious to everyone. A friend of mine made a mistake on this. Anyway, the audio CD version has just been released and it is 100 times easier to use. A good book has just been made better.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2001
"Sawasdee, krup" = HELLO! For the past 13 years I have been looking at and studying Thai language learning materials. This is by far the best book / cassette tapes for a beginner and the second book / tape set in Khun Benjawan's series is also five star material. The content is something you will actually use when you visit the Land of Smiles = Thailand. It is written with an understandable phonetic transcription and strategies to help you understand the five different tones used in speaking "Pasa-Thai" = Thai Language. Soon you will be reading and writing as well as speaking this musical language. My only suggestion would be that the male speaker on the cassettes should speak more slowly and with more distinct articulation.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2001
I am very pleased with the content and quality of the tapes. I was shocked that the tapes did not come with a book. After careful re-reading of the authors description of the tapes, I see (although not exactly clearly) that the tapes come with out the book. You need the book to effectively use the tapes. Thus I wound up paying double of what I expected.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2005
This book used with the CD that IS NOT included is a very good way to start learning to read and write Thai. There are quality exercises as well as tests.

My major issue with this book as well as anything by Becker is the way they write the Thai Phonetic. I found it easier to learn how to read Thai than to try to decipher the way they write the vowels. No one would make sense of this system when they use ii as ee. Dan would be pronounced as Don according to their system. These are examples for the easy vowels, the complex ones are indecipherable.

The book is set up in 10 chapters. Each getting progressively harder. They introduce relevant vocabulary in each chapter.

I am a Peace Corps volunteer and have found this invaluable. If Peace Corps used this book as its teaching foundation I would have been much better served. I am moving on to the intermediate level and can read any word in the basic level.

PC Volunteers: If you want to get started early start with this one. Make sure you get the CD or tapes to accompany it. Practice all four skills; listening, speaking, reading, writing. It is not that hard once you get started and you will be ahead of everyone else. Start also by memorizing the different kinds of foods (that is a key to Thai culture).
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2006
I have spent about 2.5 years in Thailand since 2001, the longest being 8 months. I had tried other books and spent a brief time when I first arrived working with a teacher in Bangkok. It helped me learn basic survival phrases for taxis and food and meeting people but the true sound of the tones eluded me. I couldn't get the right tone to stick and reading it never worked. In between trips I picked up this book and the cassettes ( I later digitized them to my Mac, this was before the cd was available). If you want to learn a tonal language find something like this. It has a written component so if you get lost in grammar and learning to read helps as well. The key for me was repition. I would listen about 3 to 4 times a week for about an hour. When I returned to bangkok my friends were amazed at the improvement. Occasionally it got me into to trouble because what I spoke I spoke very clearly so people expected me to be bi-lingual. What you have to remember is that it takes time to learn a language, think ahead in terms of a year and what you can pick up.

I have worked through the beginner and intermediate books, I found the vocabulary very useful and there is much more of it at the intermediate level. I have been taking a go at Cantonese as well and I am liking the Pimsleur method. It is all verbal learning but they seem to break things down in a way that sticks. I may pick up the thai version just to compare.
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