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The Secret to Learning Thai For Free (Intermediate Level)

A secret strategy for learning Thai for free at an intermediate or advanced level is to use Thai websites and social media accounts that help Thai people learn English. These resources are filled with conversational English that’s also translated into conversational Thai, as well as other translated English texts you’ll find useful in your daily life in Thailand.

This strategy of course is only for those Thai language students who already can read Thai. If you do struggle with reading or pronouncing certain Thai words, you can cut and paste the Thai sentences into Google Translate to hear them spoken. I also highly recommend using the Thai2English website for help with Thai translations, transliteration, and the breaking down of Thai sentences into separate words.

One problem with many free Thai language resources, and this goes for Learn Thai language apps too, is that they often include vocabulary and sentence structures that are too formal, and don’t reflect the way Thais speak to each other. This is especially true when the Thai language materials have been written or edited by a Thai university teacher, who often feels it’s more appropriate to be teaching a more formal version of Thai.

I’ve often found that the best free materials for learning Thai from “Learn English” websites are those written not by an academic but simply a Thai person passionate about learning English. One of the best free websites for learning intermediate and advanced Thai is the 20 English Sentences a Day blog. Using books, movie scripts, cartoons, and other materials as its source material, this website is filled with thousands of conversational English sentences that have been translated into the Thai language.

For example:

What are you doing over the weekend?

I want someone to talk to.

How did you handle it?

At the Thai blog, you’ll also find idioms, famous quotes, popular sayings, and special vocabulary with sample sentences. For example:

Idiom: He could “face up” to two years in prison.

Famous Quote: A room without books is like a body without a soul. – Cicero
ห้องที่ไม่มีหนังสือ ก็เหมือนกับร่างกายที่ไร้จิตวิญญาณ

Created by “Seed of Hope,” the 20 English Sentences a Day blog has compiled 4500 English sentences with Thai translations into a free PDF file, which you can Download Here.

While most of the Thai translations of the English are conversational and nicely done, be aware that sometimes the translated Thai sentence is a little uncommon due to the need to capture completely the meaning of the English sentence. That being said, I’m confident when saying that if you master all of these 4500 translated English sentences, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the Thai language!


How to Learn Thai with YouTube

Learning Thai for Free with YouTube & Netflix

Of course, you need more than reading and vocabulary development to master the Thai language. Getting listening practice in an efficient and understandable way is key. My free strategy to do that is with videos on YouTube and films on Netflix. What you want to do is download the free Language Reactor extension for the Chrome browser.

This extension will help you discover, understand, and learn from Thai videos and films. Once you set the extension up, it will add dual language subtitles, a popup dictionary, and “hot-key” video playback controls that’ll allow you quickly to pause, repeat a Thai line that’s been spoken, or instantly go back to a previous line.

Note that the videos or films must have subtitles. This often isn’t a problem when sourcing Thai films and series on Netflix. But many Thai videos on YouTube do not have subtitles set up (i.e. CC captions). But, no worries, the Language Reactor extension has a search feature which will make it easy for you to find lots of Thai videos with CC (closed captioning).

Some Thai YouTube channels that do have many videos with CC included are the Mahidol Channel, Ted Ed Thai, Thai PBS, and Karuna Buaksamri (which has many interesting short documentaries), and @Panyayuth (cartoon tales of strategic wisdom).

The Secret Free Way to Learn to Speak Thai

Another secret for learning Thai for free at an intermediate level is using the free SayHi app, which I’ve rated the best English to Thai translation app for helping tourists communicate with Thai speakers — especially when traveling to upcountry destinations like Sakon Nakhon. This absolutely free app has an easy to use interface for facilitating bilingual conversations with Thai speakers. It also is a great way to improve your Thai language skills.

The strategy I recommend is coming up with a short conversation in English that is applicable to your daily life in Thailand. Speak that short conversation into the app, and see the Thai translations that are given. Stop the conversation, click on the Thai translations to hear them spoken again, and practice speaking them yourself.

Once you think you’ve mastered the short conversation in Thai, start a new conversation in the SayHi app, where you speak the entire thing in Thai (instead of English), checking that the app recognizes correctly all of your spoken Thai. This strategy is also very good for Thais who are learning English.


The Best Translation App for Thailand Travel
The free SayHi app can facilitate conversations in Thailand and help you learn the Thai language.

Learn Thai for Free with Anki Flashcards

When learning intermediate and advanced Thai by yourself, you want to use as many different types of free materials as possible. However, when doing this, it is sometimes hard to get into an effective routine, which is really important when learning a foreign language, especially Thai. One way to add some very useful structure to your learning is to use free flashcards.

The Anki flashcard system is probably the most popular one for learning Thai, and it has many different free flashcard decks (including both written and audio content). The software system is available on both desktop and mobile, and is free to use, except on an iPhone. However, many people (including me) find that the Anki interface is awkward to use, even though it does get easier if you invest enough time into learning it.

If you have an iPhone, my secret is to use the free mobile app “SmartCards+” which has a nicer interface and allows you to import Anki Thai flashcard decks. You also can easily edit and add new cards to your imported Thai deck.

There are so many free Anki Thai decks to choose from, that many learners find it hard to choose which ones to use. My secret strategy is to not use any of the free decks that are just Thai vocabulary. You always want to be learning your vocabulary “in context” within a Thai phrase or sentence.

I have examined many of the different Learn Thai decks, and the ones that I use personally are:

LTL Thai Deck Level 1 (Short)

LTL Thai Deck Level 2 (Long)

Each of these free Thai decks have well over 1000 useful Thai phrases and sentences, along with audio. The first side of the card has the written Thai sentence with audio, and the flip side has the English translation. My secret strategy here is to go to the deck’s settings and turning on “Create Sibling Card Pairs.” This is going to create a second set of cards (mixed in with the other set) where the English sentence appears on the front card, and the Thai translation and audio on the flip side. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be using both of these flashcard setups.

For Thai listening practice, I use:

Thai Expressions – Low – Intermediate

Thai Expressions – High – Intermediate

These Anki Thai decks have an audio file of a spoken Thai sentence or phrase on the front card, and the written Thai sentence, along with English translation and phonetic pronunciation, on the flip side. The audio files are machine produced and not always perfect. But it is good practice to be able to identify when the machine pronunciation gets something wrong, and then replacing that audio file with your own spoken audio on the flashcard (which is very easy to do).

It is important to note that no Anki Learn Thai flashcard deck is perfect. All have different issues, mistakes, etc. But the free 4 decks I have suggested above are overall quite good. And identifying mistakes usually isn’t that difficult. One strategy I have used is that if I see something I think might be incorrect, I click to “edit” the card, copy the Thai sentence, and paste it into the Thai2English website, to check out the way it breaks down the sentence and phonetically transcribes it.

Now, what are the best Anki card settings to use for learning Thai with flashcards? It all depends on your current ability. But if you decide to use all 4 decks above, I would recommend not showing more than 200 flashcards a day in total. And not introducing more than 30 “new cards” a day.

This might seem like a lot, but keep in mind that as an intermediate or advanced Thai language learner, you are going to know quite a bit of the Thai content that appears on these flashcards. So, your daily learning with them is always going to be a mixture of reinforcing what you already know with additional new learning. Good luck!

David Alan