Study Thai in Chiang Mai

Looking for Thai lessons in Chiangmai

Study Thai in Chiang Mai – Practice with Locals for Free

negotiating in thai
Practice with locals for free!

If you don’t have the time or money to register for a Thai course, one of the best things you can do if you want to study Thai in Chiang Mai is to find some locals to practice with. This is not a difficult task, as Thai people are often excited to see any foreigner making an attempt to speak their language.

It is best when you are starting out however, to limit your conversations to locals who have experience dealing with foreigners. If you live in Chiang Mai, this means you should not start with a random hill tribe villager while on a trek through Mae Rim. Firstly, they speak a different dialect or often a different language all together, and secondly, they have less experience figuring out what you mean.

What do I mean by this? Think about it… someone who deals with foreigners every day is used to hearing bad pronunciation and poor tone use. If they are in the tourist industry, there is a good chance their success in business relies on their ability to both speak English, and understand broken Thai.

So, if you want a free Thai course shouldn’t you just head to a tour agency and strike up a conversation with the first Thai person you meet there? No, you shouldn’t, and that brings me to my second point. Stay away from tour guides and big name stores and restaurants. These places pride themselves on their English speaking staff and they will answer anything you say in Thai with a nearly perfect response in English. Nothing makes you feel worse than trying to speak someones language and having them reject your abilities by answering you in your own.

So, you’ve got to find some middle ground. Don’t worry, there are plenty of friendly Thai’s who can help you study thai in Chiang Mai. You need to find someone who has a lot of experience dealing with foreigners, but not a lot of English ability. Who are these people?

friendly Thai teacher
A great first conversation awaits!

Your first chance is with the person who is likely to take you anywhere, assuming you’ve not rented a motorbike. That’s right, your friendly tuk-tuk driver is a great place to start. Most of these guys speak only basic English and will be excited to hear you speaking Thai to them. Even if they try to rip you off fare wise, they are a friendly bunch and easy to talk to. Negotiating the price in Thai is a good place to start, and you will have much more success getting a fair price if you speak their language.

practicing at the night market
practicing Thai at the night market

Your next stop is the Night Bazaar Ask your tuk-tuk driver to take you to the night bazaar (try night market if they can’t understand you) on Chang Klan Road. If you’ve never been, you are in for a treat. You can literally buy almost anything on this street, so it should be easy for you to find someone who will talk to you about something you are interested in. This is one of the more entertaining ways for you to study Thai in Chiang Mai.

Be aware however, that many of the people who work at the night market are not actually Thai. Most come from hill tribes, burma or central Asia. Almost all of them will probably speak better Thai than you however, and this is a good place to start, with other people who speak Thai as a second language. You are likely to have similar vocabularies and tone issues, which will make it easier for both of you to understand each other.

Spend a few nights down there honing your skills and speaking with some different vendors. Wonder into some of the smaller restaurants or strike up a conversation with some of the owners of the many noodle stands and mini-bakeries.

Once you feel comfortable there, you can take it to the next level by going to one of the Thai markets. The best one for a beginner is probably Sunday walking street, on Ratchadamnun Road downtown after 5 pm. There are a lot of Thai’s selling handicrafts and various wares and opportunities for conversations with real Thai people abound.

Study Thai in Chiang Mai – Taking it to the next level…

If you have mastered the local markets and feel ready to move on to something more challenging, it’s time for you to find a language exchange partner. This can be the easiest way to learn Thai, or the easiest way to get sucked into teaching someone else English for free if you aren’t careful.

Language Exchange
Free Language Exchange Partners!

There are lots of ways to find a language exchange partner. You could post an ad for free on the Thai Visa classifieds website, or in any of the local English newspapers. The best way however, is to head over to Chiang Mai or Payap University and put up some fliers on the student bulletin boards there. If you mention that you are a Native English speaker looking for language exchange, and post your email address, you inbox will be full in a week.

This is where it gets tricky. Language exchange is a two way street, but if their English is better than your Thai, there is a good chance it will end up being a one way “English exchange” with you as the free teacher. The only way around this is to set up a rotating schedule where you ONLY focus on a certain language on a certain day. For example, Thai on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and English on Tuesday’s Thursdays and Saturdays. It’s okay if you speak English during the Thai sessions, but make sure the focus is on YOU learning Thai, not them speaking English.

This is an easy way to learn Thai without paying a single baht! It’s cheaper than a Thai course and if you want to study Thai in Chaing Mai, it’s a great place to start!

If you would like to get a start with me, please contact;

Kruu Sommorn (Simon) Kumfoopen

Phone & Line: 083-4805254

The private classes are paid upfront in 20 hour blocks costing 300 Baht per hour.This works out at 6,000 Baht.

Extra charge of 100 Baht applied for each travel for outside lessons.



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