Thai Language Resources for Learning Thai

Resources for Learning Thai

Last Update: May 2015.

On this page you will find a list of books, CDs, DVDs, and software for learning the Thai language.

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Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary app for iOS/Android/WindowsTalking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary app for iOS/Android/Windows

I worked on this Thai-English, English-Thai Talking dictionary for iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch), Android smartphones/tablets, and Windows laptop/desktop PCs along with Paiboon Publishing, released December 2010. This software dictionary has over 150,000 bold entries: much more vocabulary than the 2009 paper dictionary. You can listen to a high-quality sound recording of a native Thai speaking any Thai word in the whole dictionary. As with the paper dictionaries, it has three sections so you can look up an English word, look up a Thai word using Thai script, or look up a Thai word by its sound using an English-like pronunciation guide system. Unlike the paper dictionaries, we support 12 different pronunciation guide systems, so you can use the system you are most familiar with. The software also comes with an extensive introduction to Thai, as well as a feature to show you any Thai word in a set of real-world Thai fonts found on signs, menus, and other documents. There is also a feature to split any Thai word into its component words, or split each syllable of a Thai word into its consonants and vowels to help teach you to read Thai Script.
Talking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook appTalking Thai-English-Thai Phrasebook app

Whether you are on a short trip to Thailand or living there, communicate with Thais instantly with this app for iOS (iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch; Android smartphones/tablets coming soon)! 12,000+ ready-to-use, customizable phrases in 250+ practical categories. Clear native sounds for every Thai word—even offline. Full-text search or dictate words in English or Thai. Haggle using the built-in translating units and currency converter. Favorites screen organizes phrases you use often in multiple folders. Comprehensive guide to Thai speaking and listening. Perfect even for beginners who cannot read Thai Script and have no time to study Thai (shows both Thai Script and 12 English-like pronunciation systems). The essential conversation guidebook and mini-dictionary that talks for you!
Survival Thai for English SpeakersSurvival Thai for English Speakers

Basic iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and Android (smartphones and tablets) survival phrases app from Paiboon Publishing with more than 1,500 phrases.
Thai for BeginnersThai for Beginners
Paiboon Publishing

Love it or hate it, this is definitely the most ubiquitous beginner book. Covers spoken and written Thai, including vocab, grammar, and even follow-the-dotted-line writing practice forms. All Thai words are in Thai script and the (famous or infamous) Paiboon transcription system. Some complain that the sample vocab and sentences in the book are not all that useful, but most still seem to think it's the best choice.
Thai for Beginners SoftwareThai for Beginners Software

Cool iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch) and Android (smartphones and tablets) app from Paiboon Publishing that lets you quizz and drill all sorts of beginning Thai grammar, spelling, and usage lessons from the Thai for Beginners book.
Thai for Intermediate LearnersThai for Intermediate Learners
Paiboon Publishing

Ok but seems hurriedly written. The beginner or advanced book are probably better bets.
Thai for Advanced ReadersThai for Advanced Readers
Paiboon Publishing

A great resource to help wean yourself away from transcription. It's a whole book of Thai-script essays, interviews, and documents with English and transcription help only for the tough words.
New Thai-English DictionaryNew Thai-English Dictionary
Paiboon Publishing

I worked on this major 2009 revision of Paiboon's well-known Thai-English, English-Thai dictionary. This edition adds more words, larger print, lots of corrections, classifiers for many nouns, full pronunciation for all Thai words including tones and syllable stress, and more usage information for different meanings of words. It still has three sections (look up English, Thai Script, or Thai Sound) but the Thai Sound section is now an index with with page numbers into the Thai Script section, to allow more space for new vocabulary and larger fonts. 982 pages.
Thai-English DictionaryThai-English Dictionary
Paiboon Publishing

This is the older version of Paiboon's Thai-English, English-Thai dictionary. I believe it was the most popular pocket-sized Thai-English dictionary for farang travelers and language learners, and one of the only ones that caters to farangs. Although the vocabulary is relatively small (9,000 English entries and 7,000 Thai entries), and there are some strange omissions, the dictionary has three sections (look up by English word, Thai script, or Thai transcription) so you can look up a Thai word that you've heard even if you don't know Thai script. This is the dictionary I started with when creating my software Thai-English Dictionary for PalmOS PDAs. 658 pages. This dictionary was supplanted by an improved version in Feb 2009.

Thailand FeverThailand Fever

You've met the perfect Thai woman. You're dizzy with joy as her exotic world swirls around you. You've heard so many horror stories, but your heart tells you that she's for real. You want to understand her mysterious ways, and you wish she could understand yours. Now, there's help. Thailand Fever is an astonishing, one-of-a-kind, Thai–English bilingual exposé of the cultural secrets that are the key to a smooth Thai–Western relationship.

Whether you met in a bar, in a university, or at work, and whether you met last night or decades ago, Thailand Fever covers your issues:

Trusting Each OtherSexIt's My Money!The ParentsThe Dowry PrivacyIndependenceSaving FaceLiving in “Paradise"

Thailand Fever is the must-have relationship guidebook which lets each of you finally express complex issues by just pointing across the page! Everything in the book is in both English and Thai, on facing pages.

Speak Like a Thai Volume 1Speak Like a Thai Volume 1
Contemporary Thai Expressions
Paiboon Publishing
Speak Like a Thai Volume 2Speak Like a Thai Volume 2
Thai Slang and Idioms
Paiboon Publishing

I flipped through this one and wow, Kun Benjawan doesn't at all hold back in giving you the complete list of Thai slang! I'm glad someone finally pushed past the normal, academic prudishness of language books to give us this trove of words and phrases you hear in the real world every day.
Speak Like a Thai Volume 3Speak Like a Thai Volume 3
Thai Proverbs and Sayings
Paiboon Publishing
Speak Like a Thai Volume 4Speak Like a Thai Volume 4
Heart Words
Paiboon Publishing
Speak Like a Thai Volume 5Speak Like a Thai Volume 5
Northeastern Dialect
Paiboon Publishing

I'm glad someone finally made this too! Isaan/Lao dialect may not be academically "hi-so," but a huge percentage of the population speaks it, particularly a segment that interacts with farangs.
Speak Like a Thai Volume 6Speak Like a Thai Volume 6
Real Life Conversations
Paiboon Publishing
Speak Like a Thai Volume 7Speak Like a Thai Volume 7
Thai Abbreviations and Formal Thai
Paiboon Publishing
Thai Hit Songs CD Vol. 1Thai Hit Songs CD Vol. 1
Paiboon Publishing

A new approach to Thai learning: songs! Paiboon commissioned an up and coming professional Thai band to record several fun songs relating to the Thai language. There's an alphabet song, a song to help you memorize the 20 "mai muan" words, a song of Thai slang, and others too.
Thai Hit Songs DVD Vol. 1Thai Hit Songs DVD Vol. 1
Paiboon Publishing

Nine music videos of the Thai Hit Songs tunes.

Thai for TravelersThai for Travelers
Paiboon Publishing

Paiboon's phrase book.
Improving Your Thai PronunciationImproving Your Thai Pronunciation
Paiboon Publishing

A CD and booklet that help you practice hearing and making some of the tricker sounds of Thai that are also found in our language section.
Thai Keyboard StickersThai Keyboard Stickers
Paiboon Publishing

Get these to avoid going insane when you try to type Thai.
Practical Thai Conversation - Vol 1Practical Thai Conversation - Vol 1
Paiboon Publishing

In this practice DVD they first speak slowly so you can understand, then they say the same thing at normal, supersonic speed so you can learn how it's really said! Cool idea.
Practical Thai Conversation - Vol 2Practical Thai Conversation - Vol 2
Paiboon Publishing
How to Buy Land and Build a House in ThailandHow to Buy Land and Build a House in Thailand
Paiboon Publishing

For those trying to "manage" their construction workers, includes amazing 3-D charts with Thai script and Thai transcriptions of the names of crucially important house parts, tools, materials, etc. Also includes vocab for land deeds, etc.
How to Establish a Successful Business in ThailandHow to Establish a Successful Business in Thailand
Paiboon Publishing

Mostly about business, but includes useful vocab for company formation.
Thai Law for ForeignersThai Law for Foreigners
Paiboon Publishing

Mostly about the law in Thailand (sadly, only the kind that occurs above the table :), but also includes vocab lists for government agencies, land title types, etc.
Retiring in ThailandRetiring in Thailand
Paiboon Publishing
Essential ThaiEssential Thai
James Higbie

A beginner Thai book by James Higbie that many people like because the vocabulary it uses while teaching you Thai sounds and grammar is immediately useful in everyday situations. It's almost like a phrasebook and intro language book combined. Writing is just touched upon quickly in an appendix; this is about understanding and speaking Thai.

The book uses yet another strange home-brewed pronunciation guide system, one where tones are indicated using actual lines that bend up or down like the tones themselves.

How to Get This Book

Sadly, Higbie's distribution (through (Bangkok) Post Books and then later Asia Books) is awful. I rarely see the books in Asia Books outlets, and Asia Books' website is a steaming pile of bugs where everytime I try to search for anything, I get error messages and I get directed to pages I didn't click on. No wonder Asia Books has gone bankrupt repeatedly since the 1997 crash.

I can rarely find this book on Amazon, and when I do it's used and super-expensive. The ISBN is 974-202-035-3.

Typically the book comes in a big plastic binder (either blue as shown here, or brown) containing the A4-sized book and (don't laugh) a cassette tape accompanying it. You can just discard the tape; the book is still as great as it was in 1997.

Usually I can find the binder on sale for around 1000B at:

  • DK Books in Bangkok or Chaing Mai
  • Suriwong Book Center in Chiang Mai

2011 Update: Catherine of Women Learning Thai reports that James Higbie and Orchid Press will release an updated version of Essential Thai "soon." Also, Essential Thai seems to be popping up in more and more English-language bookstores in Chiang Mai and around the country, including (reportedly) Asia Books outlets in some major airports and in Phuket. So check Orchid's website or your local bookstore.

If anyone knows other sources, please let me know.

Thai Reference GrammarThai Reference Grammar
James Higbie and Snea Thinsan

For a computer geek like me who likes to see everything analyzed and spelled out in great detail, this is the best book on Thai grammar I have ever seen—almost the only one I would even call a grammar book. It's one of the few books that tries to answer the question "How to I build Thai sentences?" rather than "How do I say this or that word in Thai?"

I find myself repeatedly exclaiming "finally I found it!" as I browse chapters with titles like "Questions" and "Tenses." If you're the type of person who likes to see the whole picture written down, even though the reality of human language is messy and complicated, get this book!

The book uses the same strange home-brewed pronunciation guide system found in Essential Thai above, but for an intermediate/advanced learner that's not a big obstacle as everything has Thai script too.

The book has so many examples of how to build sentences that it must have taken them a decade to write it! The one disadvantage of the book is that it is just that—a huge list of examples, divided only into coarse categories. Now we need someone to take the next step and further analyze this gold-mine of examples into a more heirarchical presentation where common properties are drawn together to make learning easier.

How to Get This Book

There's a catch: Higbie's distribution (through Orchid Press) is absolutely abysmal; Orchid is doing him a huge disfavor by not getting the book out there.

I can rarely find this book on Amazon, and when I do it's used and super-expensive. The ISBN is 974-8304-96-5.

Usually I can find the book on sale for around 900B at:

  • DK Books in Bangkok or Chaing Mai
  • Chulalongkorn University Bookstore in Bangkok
  • Suriwong Book Center in Chiang Mai

2011 Update: Orchid seems to be doing a slightly better job now because now I occasionally see the title at Asia Books outlets including in Chiang Mai and around the country, including some major airports and in Phuket.

If anyone knows other sources, please let me know.

Thai: An Essential GrammarThai: An Essential Grammar
David Smyth

Very much in the same spirit and organized similarly to Higbie's Thai Reference Grammar, this analytical work also has chapters entitled "questions" and "time," though at first glance it doesn't seem to be as detailed as Higbie or have as many example sentences.

It uses yet another pronunciation guide system that falls somewhere in between the Paiboon and IPA systems, and also has Thai script for everything.

This might be a good compromise for those who want more details than the Paiboon books but less detail than Higbie.

Easily available on Amazon.

A Reference Grammar of ThaiA Reference Grammar of Thai
Shoichi Iwasaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom

This one is crazy expensive (around USD $110.00) and contains a much more linguistics-oriented summary of Thai grammar, using lots of terminology found in advanced linguisics texts about English grammar. When flipping through some sections I found myself questioning whether Thai really has some of the micro-fine distinctions they were making, vs. whether they were projecting them from other languages, but they might be on to something. At any rate, this book has little value for someone who wants to learn the language to get to fluency rather than for linguistic analysis. Go for Higbie or Smyth or one of the other titles if you want something aimed at the traveler or practical language learner.

Easily available on Amazon.

Pimsleur Comprehensive Thai Program (30 lessons)Pimsleur Comprehensive Thai Program (30 lessons)

First and seemingly most popular of the big-three complete Thai learning programs, this package includes 16 hours of audio instruction with the famed "Pimsleur method." It gives you basic skills in spoken Thai but this "Level I" course doesn't cover writing. I haven't tried it, but Some people swear by it! It seems to cater well to people who don't want to work hard memorizing lists or flashcards.
Linguaphone Thai Language CourseLinguaphone Thai Language Course

Second of the big-three complete Thai language courses, this one includes 8 CDs and 3 books and, unlike the Pimsleur course, also covers reading and writing. Again it's pricey, but some people believe the instruction is better and more complete than any other source.
Rosetta Stone SoftwareRosetta Stone Software

Third of the big-three complete Thai language courses, this one is a software package which includes a microphone and apparently has features to listen to you and grade your speech—a fancier version of voice viewer from this website.

Other Thailand Books

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