If you’re moving to Bangkok, one of the best first steps you can take is to sign up for Thai language classes at a reputable school.
While many Thais speak good English (especially in Bangkok), an effort to learn Thai is always appreciated.
It is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in life as the locals know it.
We’ve compiled some resources for anybody looking to find a good language school in Bangkok.
You’ll also find information on the ED visa requirements, for those looking to study in Thailand, as well as a few useful online tools.
The Best Schools to Learn Thai in Bangkok
The standard of teaching in Bangkok varies dramatically from school to school.
Here are some schools we recommend:
AUA Language Center
UA is one of the oldest and most well-known language centers in SE Asia. Established by the American University Alumni Association, in conjunction with the US Information Service, it has served Thai language learners for well over 50 years.
AUA uses ALG (Automatic Language Growth) to teach Thai. This is unique in that there is no Q&A with the teacher. You are taught by two teachers acting out various topics with props. It is all in Thai, and very cheap, but may be a little too close to full immersion for those who need more intimate back-and-forth tuition.
Verdict: Very cheap. Worth trying, but not for everybody.
Address: House #40 Sukhumvit Soi 33, Klongton Nua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110
Phone: +66 (0)2 258 5617 or +66 (0)2 662 3090
Email: Visit the website for contact form.
Baan Aksorn instructors make Thai language learning fun, easy and accessible by concentrating on the goals and needs of each student. By focusing on private and small groups, Thai language learning can open up communication in the classroom and build trust and confidence to serve as a resource for students when outside the classroom.
Baan Aksorn offers a full mix of individual and group classes, but most students here are studying alone. The school is committed to getting the most out of its students and you’ll receive high-quality education with excellent guidance and course materials. Baan Aksorn is located in an quiet house just off Sukhumvit Soi 33.
Verdict: High quality lessons but expensive.
Address: 5/8 Sukhumvit Soi 31 Road, Klongtoey-Neua, Wattana, Bangkok 10110
Phone: (66) 02-260-6138
For more than 25 years we have been teaching foreign students from all walks of life the fundamentals of Thai Language. We have a team of over 20 experienced teachers making us one of Thailand’s leading Thai Lesson Teaching Centers. With a tried and true method of teaching, complimented with our in-house lesson books your success in learning Thai is assured.
Jentana is an expensive school, but you won’t find many better places to learn Thai if you are an individual who has to get up to speed with it fast. Intensive and highly customised tutoring to suit your needs, in a small school just off Sukhumvit Soi 31.
Verdict: Perfect for solo students looking to learn Thai fast.
Address: Thaniya buildling 11F (BTS Saladaeng station Exit 1)
Address: 45 Sriracha Nakon Soi 4 (3 minute walk from Robinson Sriracha)
Address: 595/15 sukhumvit soi 33/1(BTS Phromphong station Exit 5)
TLS currently operates language schools that offer Thai language lessons in both Japan and Thailand. We publish many books on Thai language and sell them throughout Japan and Thailand. Our school analyze the approach of teaching Thai language, and endeavor to enhance the teaching of the Thai language
TLS has branches springing up all over Bangkok and is one of the fastest growing Thai language schools. It used to be dominated by students of other Asian countries learning Thai, but is slowly gaining more Western students.
Verdict: Decent value but quality of teaching varies between schools.
Address: 18Fl. 03-04 Times Square Building, 246 Sukhumvit Rd., Khlongtoey, Bangkok 10110
A High Quality Friendly Atmosphere, established for over 10 years, with experience teachers committed to ideal of excellence in the teaching of the Thai Language.
Unity Thai is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Bangkok by Asok BTS station. This is an old and trusted school that many expats have used to learn Thai. They offer an intensive course which is ideal for committed students to make progress fast.
Verdict: Immersion from the outset; an excellent course for serious students.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Thai?
This depends on your dedication, and your ability to adapt to a tonal language.
Some people find they can hold a wide range of conversations in Thai in as little as 3 months.
For others, it can take between 9 months to a year to make similar progress.
Thai is a tonal language, which means you have to recognise the pitch of a word. This is not something we are used to in the West, but it is a fundamental cornerstone of mastering the language.
Thai has five tones.
To untrained ears, they can sound very familiar, but trust us — they have very different meanings!
Learn the tones before you start on anything else.
Good Resources for Learning Thai Online
We recommend these resources:
- Thai Pimsleur: Learn to Speak Thai — A great 30 lesson course that will get you up to speed with the basics.
- Thai Pod 101 — Over 680 audio and video lessons with cross-device support so you can learn on the go.
- Learn Thai Over Skype, One-to-One — Choose your teacher and learn Thai through lessons over Skype. Offers a free 30 minute consultation to test the waters.
Can I Get an Education Visa By Learning Thai?
If you go to a language school approved by the Ministry of Education.
For many years, the Education Visa (ED) was seen as a shortcut for staying in Thailand long-term. Students would enrol in Thai language lessons at schools which had gained reputations as ‘visa factories’. Very rarely, if ever, would they show up at class.
In return for an upfront payment to take the Thai language course, students would receive ED visas which allowed one year stay in the Kingdom — and could be extended indefinitely by taking more and more language classes.
Or not taking them, as it turned out.
The Thai government has cracked down on this form of visa abuse.
Most of the education visa factories have closed due to tighter restrictions and the fact that students are now obliged to actually turn up at classes if they wish to qualify for the visa.
Yes, it’s shocking that this wasn’t factored in to their business models!
You can still qualify for an ED visa.
But it comes with a few strings attached…
ED Visa Requirements for Studying Thai
The ED Visa is primarily for foreign students who wish to study in the Kingdom. Students must apply for the visa from outside of the country. If accepted, they are valid for 90 days and extendable for the duration of a 6 month course.
ED visa students must study a minimum of 15 hours per week (or 180 hours during the 90-day visa period).
Tuition hours must be used during the 90-day visa period. They are non-transferable & non-refundable. Unused hours expire at the end of each 90-day visa period.
Requirements of the ED visa:
- You must have a passport (valid for at least 18 months from date of arrival).
- You must fulfil all study & attendance requirements*.
- You must apply for the ED visa outside Thailand.
- You must meet all Royal Thai Government requirements.
- To apply, a student will need a Letter of Acceptance from the language center and a letter from the Thai Government.
*Your school is legally required to report your attendance to Immigration.
From start to finish, the process of obtaining an ED visa should take around 4-8 weeks.
While the process may seem a little convoluted, your language school will have plenty of experience in applying for ED visas.
As long as you actually intend to study the language and show up for lessons, you shouldn’t have a problem getting one.
The ED visa is a great option for those who want to stay in the Kingdom for a longer period whilst also learning Thai.
Got a recommendation of a good Thai language school in Bangkok?
Let us know about it in the comments!