Based on our 20+ years of experimenting with Thai language books, learning software, and videos, we believe Ling to be the best Learn Thai app. If you have read reviews of the Ling language app, you already know that it is filled with engaging quiz-based material for learning Thai, as well as other languages. While that material is very helpful, the main reason we rate Ling as the best mobile app for learning Thai is that it will help you speak Thai so that you are understood.
Many people say that Thai is hard to learn because of the tones. Actually, Thai is easy to learn because the grammar is far simpler than English, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, etc., and the tones aren’t as important as you have been led to believe. There is an old story about a teacher of the Thai language at the University of Hawaii. Though a foreigner, this man was known for being exceptionally fluent in Thai, speaking exactly like a native speaker. During an interview, he was asked how he mastered the tones. He laughed and replied that he never learned the tones. He just spoke fast!
The problem with many foreigners who try to speak Thai is that they get so hung up with the tones that they slow down their speech and overemphasize the tones in attempt to do it perfectly. As a result, they often end up looking a little weird, contorting their mouths in unusual ways. What you want to do when learning Thai is concentrate on getting the Thai consonant and vowel sounds right (not the tones), and most importantly, make sure you speak the words of a sentence in the right order.
Because Thai is a monosyllabic language, if you mix up any of the word order, you’ll almost never be understood. However, if you get the word order right and the tones wrong, you’ll very often be understood, especially if you are speaking quickly like a Thai native speaker does.
Ling’s Learn Thai app is filled with exercises that include a native Thai speaker who is slowly and clearly pronouncing the Thai vocabulary, sentences, and conversations you’re learning. This will help you model the correct sounds of Thai words. But as we mentioned, don’t concentrate too much on the tones. Just let the tones come naturally as you progress in your Thai learning.
Now, for the best part of Ling, and why we rate it as the best Learn Thai app. Toward the end of each learning unit, there is a Speaking exercise. You will listen again to the Thai vocabulary or sentence (slowing the audio down if needed) and then speak it into your phone. The app will then rate (0-100%) how closely you have spoken Thai in comparison to a native speaker.
We found the rating system to actually be pretty accurate! If you try to speak Thai slower than natural and too closely mirror the correct tones (which, as we said, is the wrong thing to do), the more likely you are to get a less than perfect score. But if you speak quickly (like a Thai does) and don’t worry too much about the tones (except the final syllable), the more likely you’ll hit that 100% score.
The Ling Thai app also has a chatbot that will help you speak the Thai language, and in the context of situations you’ll find yourself in when traveling through Thailand. As you can see in the above illustration, the Thai chatbot will provide you with a question in Thai that you must respond too. The reply is provided for you, which you must the repeat into the microphone of your smart phone. The chatbot situations are the same as the Thai topics you learn with the app.
A secondary reason for why we rate Ling as the best Learn Thai app is that it helps you to read Thai. If you want to go beyond “Thai for Tourism,” you really need to know how read Thai to speak Thai well. You’ll never get far by simply relying on English phonetic transcriptions of the Thai language. At best they’ll get close to a correct Thai pronunciation, and at worst they’ll lead you wildly astray.
With the Ling for Thai mobile app, you’ll learn the Thai alphabet, as well as get reading tips. When we first learned Thai, we bought the alphabet books that Thai children use. Then copied the letters over and over again like a young student. With the Ling app, you can do something similar but on your mobile phone. You learn Thai letters by hearing the name of each letter and tracing them with your finger. We suggest doing this tracing activity at least 20 times for a single letter before testing yourself. Then go back the following day and do it again 20 times for that Thai letter. It doesn’t take long. And by doing so, you can quickly and easily master the most common Thai letters seen on signs, menus, etc.
As we mentioned at the start, the Ling Learn Thai language app is filled with interactive quizzes for learning Thai vocabulary, basic sentences, phrases, and conversations. The material is well organized into 5 levels: Basic, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, Advanced, and Expert. Each level is separated into 10 units that have vocabulary sections (with sentence and conversation contexts), followed by speaking and writing sections, and an exam. So, there are 50 units in all.
We recommend spending no more than 45 minutes with the app at one sitting, no more than 3 times a day. For the person who is really committed to learning Thai intensively, they might progress through the entire content in 3 months. While for the average learner, it could very well take an entire year, considering the number of times you should go back and redo your Thai lessons.
The Ling app is priced at $8.99 a month, or $79.99 for a full year, or $149.99 for a lifetime license. Note that with this subscription price, you get access to not only Ling’s learn Thai language modules, but all of the more than 60 languages that the mobile app teaches. If you live and work in Thailand or are traveling around Southeast Asia, the Ling app can also help you learn neighboring languages such as Burmese, Khmer, Chinese, Lao, Vietnamese, and Malaysian. Thus the lifetime license is quite a bargain for some people, such as digital nomads.
Lastly, if you want to become fluent in Thai, it is important to keep in mind that no single Learn Thai app is going to get you to an advanced level where you can sit down and fully understand a Thai movie, television show, or newscast, or will prepare you for deep conversations in a business or academic setting.
To attain an advanced level of Thai, you need to use as many different kinds learning materials as possible. For example, Learn Thai Podcast has an excellent video based program for learning the Thai language (including some free videos on YouTube); Khru Nan has a great free podcast called You Too Can Learn Thai, and here at MySakonNakhon.com we have dozens of free Learn Thai Language and Culture Lessons, including free books such as our book of Thai slang.
You’ll also want to check out the free SayHi app, which we rate as the best English to Thai Translation app for helping tourists to speak Thai during their stay in Thailand.
If you would like to supplement the premium Ling language app with a free Thai learning app, the FunEasyLearn app is by far the best, and most comprehensive, free mobile app for learning the Thai language, and it is available for both iPhone and Android phones. This free learn Thai app used to be split into two separate apps: a Thai FEL 6000 Words app and a Thai FEL 5,000 Phrases app. These apps covered different topics and included different types of learning exercises and quizzes.
While these 2 separate Free Learn Thai apps seem to be still available, they have now been combined into the one FunEasyLearn app, which covers the 6,000 words and 5,000 phrases found in the other two mobile apps + 1000s more. They also include all of the different exercises and quizzes, such as: Translate Phrases, Listen & Choose, Match Phrases, Find the Mistake, Fill in the Blank, Listen & Write, Find the Image, Write the Word, and more.
These exercises will help you read, write, and understand spoken Thai, in settings that cover 350 topics and subtopics. For example, if you want to learn Thai for health matters, you click on the main Health topic, which then gets broken down into subtopics such as: Health Problems, Symptoms, Treatment, Pharmacy, and more. Needless to say, you can really take a deep dive into learning Thai vocabulary and phrases for almost every topic of daily life.
While there is a premium version of this app (1,200 baht a year) that allows you immediate access to all of the material, you don’t actually need to buy a subscription to eventually get full access. They have a “flower points” system that will progressively unlock more words and phrases, if you continue working with the free version of their Learn Thai app. You also do not need to be connected to the internet to use the app. You can play with their Learn Thai app offline. While some of the material, of course, overlaps with the Ling language app, that is a useful review. The FunEasyLearn app combined with the Ling app is an unbeatable combo for those who want to become proficient in Thai with fun, engaging, interactive quizzes.
Lastly, do note that the Ling Thai app does provide a free introduction to the app, where you can test the exercises for learning Thai. So, if you aren’t sure about purchasing the app, you can give it a limited test ride.