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Customer Review

53 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Could do better..., 16 Dec. 2005
This review is from: Teach Yourself Thai Book/CD Pack (Teach Yourself Language Complete Courses) (Audio CD)
I have a degree in oriental languages and am an avid collector of language study books (I've got at least 30 TY ones) and this is not the best of them - but it's not the worst either.
I'm aware that the author is the leading lecturer of Thai in the UK, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the best writer of a Teach Yourself book (He should perhaps have looked as his colleague Dana Healy's TY Vietnamese for an example of a better TY book). That's not to say there isn't good stuff in it - there's just not enough vocab and perhaps even grammar - and I don't see the point in having a short one-way dictionary in the back - all the new content should be given in each chapter so you don't have to go scouring around for it (but then you should get a separate dictionary anyway).
It's probably best to get the tape, but the actors on it are rubbish and speak with no emotion, so it's a bit of a drag.
One bug bear I have about the transliteration is that it's written for "southerners" (as in the home counties of England).
Now I don't pronounce the letter "u" like an "a" like southerners do, so when I first read out the words like "yung-ngai" or "nung" as a northerner it didn't make sense to the Thais - that's we have the IPA isn't it?!, but I do like the way he writes "gk" and "bp" for those inbetween consonants.
The main disappointment with this book is the lack of content. I've seen the Colloquial Thai one (which is worse than this one), and that has much more in it: but is not presented well; doesn't develop enough in the early chapters; and doesn't contain the script much.
This TY book does have plenty of script and it's in a nice font and conveniently written on one side of the romanised text, so you can cover one side and challenge yourself.
I actually first tried to learn Thai with a Lonely Planet and Rough Guide phrasebooks (which have better romanisation) out in the sticks with no dictionary, and I think this TY book could benefit with some of that phrasebook structure giving you a few real-world useful sentences and phrases to get started with.
I've taken this book with me to Thailand, and inflicted it upon my Siamese family, and it's OK, but frankly it's only a little more useful than the Rough Guide phrasebook - which is written by the same author! Hence the title "Could do better" - because he obviously can (My Siamese family also preferred the Rough Guide book, because they could use it a bit too!)!
In general, In terms of content TY books could do with being a bit more like phrasebooks and being in ring-bound format because the pages nearly always start to come out after a while, and you need a large pair of bulldog clips; and they could also do with having the nice paper quality of the 90's editions - the new yellow ones hide their horrid thin and rough yellowy paper behind pretty photos - a return to the nasty blue ones of the '80s. (I suppose they'll end up being 100% software things anyway eventually, but if they're going to make paper books they could at least improve the quality).
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jan 2008 18:36:22 GMT
So what book/cd set do you think is the best choice for someone who has never spoken Thai before, but wants to learn?

Posted on 2 Feb 2008 18:22:57 GMT
CatGod says:
I have the same question as the 'travelling teacher' : what would you recommend? I have an idea of Thai language, because I lived in Laos during 4 years and learned conversational language (to take tuk-tuk, handle in markets, speak basics at post office, telecom/water companies...). When I speak my few phrases of Lao in Thai, it sounds funny to them, because I am white and speak like an up-country girl.
Besides, i have no idea of grammar and I can't manage the alphabet and if I learn Thai, I prefer to have the actual alphabet, not the romanization one. Thanks in advance for your time to reply. Catherine

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Oct 2008 01:29:34 BDT
I think this book is OK... but it's definitely not enough.
I haven't seen those "Benjawan Poomsan Becker" ones; there's plenty of them; they might be alright.

This book is good for getting used to the writing as mentioned; but the tape's rubbish ...just become a big tipper at the local Siamese takeaway if you want some proper practice!

I get the most use out of the Rough Guide Phrasebook I mentioned; and "Making Out in Thai".
In my opinion (as an oriental language graduate), your best bet is to try and memorise a limited vocab of words (like the "Simple English vocab... 300-500 most common words) ...and set phrases you can trot out over and over again <- start learning to read those as crutches. Human brains are simply data processing systems and all work within narrow parameters... it's not how much you learn, but how much you actually use what you learn; and conversely, learning what you're actually going to use.
You have to think about the category of language user you are going to be, 'cos you're never going to learn it all.
If you are a travelling teacher, then you have to contemplate what your routines will be and construct language "drills" that apply: it's less efficient to learn to read and write words that you are less likely to read and write during the day, week, or month; however it's probably the best start to get confidence.
These books are not going to "teach you" the language; they're not going to give you a ready-reckoner of vocab (like a phrasebook); what they attempt to do is give generalised scenario drills for people who've got no choice.
If you're going to be in the country; forget the book... get phrasebooks and big dictionaries, and spend the weekend learning the real stuff you are guaranteed to use each week, starting off with your airport, bus, taxi, hotel, and food drills... because that's the order you're brain is going to experience the info.

I totally absorbed Teach Yourself Japanese and Chinese; but when it came to doing a degree in that, it was more of a hindrance than a help, having to unlearn stuff, and relearn it.
The romanised Thai is alright for takeaway menus, but it can scupper your thai alphabet learning if you're not careful.
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