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^Thanks for your thoughts, but that's not at all what I'm talking about.

I'm not trying to "find an answer to tones". I can carry the tone across words with completely different vowels and durations quite easily with utter succcess, e.g., รถ and ช้าง - and yes, this is because about seven years ago I learned to "memorise...the tone rules, and then apply the rules to create the right sound". :jap:

I'm talking about vowel length (duration), which does not (according to standard theory) vary across different words with the same vowel spellings, but in my experience this is not so.

Edited by SoftWater
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No probs :rolleyes: , I welcome your input, and what you said above helps to clarify the question.

But my question is still: have others noticed this or is it peculiar to my experience? Maybe I'm overanalysing.

Let me give a practical example anyone can listen for themselves. I was listening to Ghetings Ch 31 this morning. If you listen and read along, you (well, I...) can here clear vowel differences between the vowel sound of -า in strings like ถ้าท่าน (and you'll note the tone is the same here :) ) and ผมก็อยากจะนั่งลงกราบท่าน. In both cases, and throughout the text, the word ท่าน is not only pronounced with a short vowel sound, but to my ear at least the vowel sounds more like -ั than -า. Particularly, you can hear a real difference in the vowel duration between กราบ and ท่าน (I'd say the same goes with the word ต่าง ๆ which seems to me to be pronounced short in the text and in speech generally, but there's not as many examples of it in this text as there is ท่าน.)

This kind of thing not only makes listening comprehension difficult for me, it makes my speech sound kind of weird :annoyed: when I try to pronounce new words that I haven't heard but know the spelling of. Do I go long or short with the vowel? Sometimes it's impossible to tell till you hear a native say it.

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I find myself in agreement with what I believe SW to be saying. The rules regarding tones and vowel length are nice, but do not necessarily reflect how words are actually spoken. Often, it is indeed "impossible to tell until you hear a native say it."

At the risk of putting my pieces of paper in jeopardy of being revoked, I am seeing a significant increase in my comprehensibility by paying attention to stress. (I know this is linguistic madness--talking about stress in respect to a tonal language.) For multi-syllable words, stress (or something like stress) seems to matter greatly.

Disclaimer: I do suffer from known poor reception and production of low and high tones. (Falling and rising tones are okay.)

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I think that we tend to suffer from the delusion that spelling drives pronunciation. In many languages, I suspect that when the spoken language was first codified into its written form, the first academic to become in charge of the formal recording process tried to make their spoken language as phonetic as possible using the symbolics they selected for expression. However, over time, the spoken language tended to migrate whereas the written language, as embodied by its spelling, tended to remain fixed. Some language authorities have, over time, been able to convince their "powers that be" that spelling should be reformed to conform with the phonetic spoken actuality. For English and Thai, the attempt to conform spelling with phonetics has been a failure. Over time, therefore, English, for example, has become more like Chinese where there is no relationship between spelling and phonetics; furthermore, different dialects of English allowed spelling differences to creep into their dialects. Thai spelling, on the other hand, is much closer to its phonetic cognate than is English, perhaps reflecting the fact that spelling was codified later in history, that is, the divergence began later.

I believe, like some of you who commented already, that we should not be overly concerned about these differences between spelling and oral expression. Just learn each separately; learn the tone and vowel length paradigms as guides, rather than rules; and have a great time here.

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"Do I go long or short with the vowel?"

Easy answer (for me): Read short vowels as short and long vowels as long, unless you know of an exception, such as น้ำ. It works for me.

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I find myself in agreement with what I believe SW to be saying. The rules regarding tones and vowel length are nice, but do not necessarily reflect how words are actually spoken. Often, it is indeed "impossible to tell until you hear a native say it."

At the risk of putting my pieces of paper in jeopardy of being revoked, I am seeing a significant increase in my comprehensibility by paying attention to stress. (I know this is linguistic madness--talking about stress in respect to a tonal language.) For multi-syllable words, stress (or something like stress) seems to matter greatly.

Disclaimer: I do suffer from known poor reception and production of low and high tones. (Falling and rising tones are okay.)

Agree with you about stress. Thai has plenty of intonation in the ordinary English language sense (i.e., 'stress') which has nothing to do with what is normally called 'The Thai tones'. The two are different, but the former is largely overlooked or ignored in discussions of pronunciation

Edited by SoftWater
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  • 4 weeks later...

Agree with you about stress. Thai has plenty of intonation in the ordinary English language sense (i.e., 'stress') which has nothing to do with what is normally called 'The Thai tones'. The two are different, but the former is largely overlooked or ignored in discussions of pronunciation

You guys and gurls as the case may be, might be onto something here :) ;

Just as an aside, I will throw this in. As I am oft to do (being bored nearly shitless here) I sit outside and drink with my thai friends. (FWIW: they drink "Blend 285" and I drink SangSom :o. )

Be that as it may, and realizing there is much less 'bang-4-the-baht' the longer we drink. :blink: .. They said my 'toning' of thai words wasn't too bad, but that I 'stressed' or accented the wrong part of a word which had more than one syllable. I can reproduce middle, rising and falling tones of single syllable words pretty accurate (an accuracy level which goes down in proportion to the amount of spirits I imbibe ;) ).

I actually had to come (stagger slightly :ermm: ) home and look up the word they used (sadly I've lost the scrap of paper they wrote it on :( ), to know they meant the 'stress' of the syllable I was saying rather than the tone.

I have found that MANY words which are spoken in colloquial thai (ภาษาพูด) one way, seem to be toned and/or stressed differently in written thai (ภาษาเขียน).

You all may be on to something here with the 'stress' factor in thai words, especially multi-syllabic ones :) .

However it will take a few more small bottles of SangSom for me to ascertain it's validity with my ‘spoken thai conundrum’. B) .

Still food for thought. ..

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm looking for a Thai language course in the Rayong area. AUA has been recommended. Does anyone have experience of learning Thai at this school? Are there other schools in the area which you would recommend? Khob khun khrub.

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Im looking for a good school in Bangkok that teach beginners.

In the beginning of this thread Piammitr school is highly recommended . Is it still up to date , I tried to mail them but no reply.

60 hours for 6700 baht looks like a good deal?

http://www.piammitrschool.com/

I am not a beginner and have only visited/intervied at Piammitr - but I was impressed. You may find that Schools that do the least "flashy" advertising tend to be the best - they rely on recommendations. Also - Tod Daniels wrote a lengthy, informative survey on Schools he visited/interviewed.

On a School you have previously considered - on a different thread - there has been much, lengthy discussion - May I direct you to page 18 of this current thread - for more information.

Edited by Parvis
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Im looking for a good school in Bangkok that teach beginners.

In the beginning of this thread Piammitr school is highly recommended . Is it still up to date , I tried to mail them but no reply.

60 hours for 6700 baht looks like a good deal?

http://www.piammitrschool.com/

I'm surprised they have not replied to your email. I see the manager at the front desk always taking care of this kind of stuff. Perhaps the email is wrong? You can also check their facebook page out .

This is the school I have been attending for the last 7 months and I highly recommend it. It is conveniently located close to Nana BTS station. The building is very new with air conditioned rooms and clean bathrooms.

Also the price is actually 5500 which afaik is the cheapest in Bangkok. The 6700 you saw is for the 3 month competency preparation test.

If you have any questions or need a guid you can PM me.

I suggest you come in and check the place for yourself. You can even set in for 1 week to see if you like it, before you actually pay.

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Im looking for a good school in Bangkok that teach beginners.

In the beginning of this thread Piammitr school is highly recommended . Is it still up to date , I tried to mail them but no reply.

60 hours for 6700 baht looks like a good deal?

http://www.piammitrschool.com/

I'm surprised they have not replied to your email. I see the manager at the front desk always taking care of this kind of stuff. Perhaps the email is wrong? You can also check their facebook page out .

This is the school I have been attending for the last 7 months and I highly recommend it. It is conveniently located close to Nana BTS station. The building is very new with air conditioned rooms and clean bathrooms.

Also the price is actually 5500 which afaik is the cheapest in Bangkok. The 6700 you saw is for the 3 month competency preparation test.

If you have any questions or need a guid you can PM me.

I suggest you come in and check the place for yourself. You can even set in for 1 week to see if you like it, before you actually pay.

Thanks for the recommendations , I will check out the place myself .

I'm trying to decide between this school and TLS (Thai Language Solutions)

http://www.thaisolutions1502.com/

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As always I urge anyone contemplating attending a thai language school to go visit as many as you can, and attend as many free lessons as you can BEFORE you pay your tuition money. What I may think is the cat's meow as far as a school and/or its methodology, you might try it and think it totally bites. What works for me may or may not work for you giving different people learn differently. Please do your due diligence BEFORE paying for a school, don't bitch, piss & moan afterwards because you didn't.

I think this is sound advice and confused why I never even thought to do just that. Had my mind set on a particular school as they are spread over Thailand and seemed "established". But as pricing is similar for the 1 year ED visa, I think it would make sense to at least test the waters with 5-6 other schools and study their method before dropping the money. Thanks.

Edited by schmutzie
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  • 3 weeks later...

Well having spent a month so far at a school that teaches the Union's system.

I can say that depending on your circumstances and your enthusiasm, you may or may not get on with the system or the school

I found it quite difficult to get with the speed in some sections, suffice to say i have to repeat the 1st module, (which seems VERY common) i take my hat off to anyone that has succeeded the Union system, as its extremely intensive and the amount of vocab you have to learn in 3 hours is simply amazing

One thing that i did find very frustrating was the in-ability to actually get things explained to level where you can finally work it out, many times i have had to take the book home, and with a combination of sources finally work it out, which sadly is too late as you only get to use it in school for that day before moving on, trying to actually speak Thai when you level is poor really does suck, beyond saying you name and where you live

The school really expects you to keep practicing, which is fine in hind sight, but if have a job that is not quite so easy in practice, (i am self employed and work via the net, so have little practice time with Thai speakers apart from the local markets and when i don't work but forget getting a Thai GF just for speaking Thai, i think it would be cheaper to stay at the school) :lol:

Has anyone tried talking to Thai friends just after they have finished work,??

The last thing they want to do is talk to some guy with broken Thai and correct my mistakes, i think the school must of got the illusion i am some farang that sits all day in beer bars so have plenty of time to practice

So for anyone that is thinking of taking the Union system in any school, be warned if you don't have at least 3 hours in the daytime and attend everyday. and at least 2 hours on the night time to study

DON'T waste your time and money, in my class we started with 12, by the end there was 6, and when you look around at the higher levels, most only have maybe 3 or 4 students some have 1 or 2 students, the system and the way it teaches Thai is hard going and requires a ton of effort,

Not withstanding the fact that you get a little time to actually try and work it out in class, let alone try and practice

I do have a question for anyone that has succeeded in the Union system,

Did you find the course as intense as i did, or did it come naturally??? and how did your overcome any issues???

As i now i have a load of vocab now, so it was not a waste, just that when i eventually worked it all out after class i was always playing catch up, hopefully the second time around it will be easier

I think the Union system is far suited to those that have pretty much no work in Thailand, all i saw was students form Korea and Japan, none of them worked, so they had far more time that i had

I put in 5 hours a day everyday i never missed a day, and still felt i struggled, i guess we all learn at different paces

The one major draw back is that when i actually heard the teacher speak in Thai is was easy, when i actually understood what was being said, ie i remember the phases and actually understood them as i broke down the phases before had and worked them out

Being in a class environment really does suck when the majority are Japan and Korea, as the accents are so difficult to understand, which makes it even harder as you struggle to work it out in Thai let alone Japan or Korean Thai

It makes a BIG difference in both time and hearing, as well as trying to actually understand when you have 6/8 students trying to talk broken Thai, i actually felt i improved more when i worked out the sentences myself and then speaking with the teacher one-one

Suffice to say i am now thinking of one-one over the weekends and seeing if my Thai improves that way or not

The Union system is a good system, and if you have the time and put in the effort, its a great system but i don't think its for everyone, i think it suited for those that have no commitments, and maybe have more than 4-6 hours a day to practice, as you really need to live and breath this stuff

Anyhow i hope this helps anyone thinking of trying the system, and to let you know what you are in for, make no mistake this isn't easy, it needs a ton of effort to succeed every day/week fellow students failed to turn up, you could see them struggling and the next day they were gone

I am the only one that decided i should re-sit, however, i can say all by 2 others, the rest did stuck,and i made the effort to remember much of the vocab, and tones, yet i spent more time telling my fellow students what words meant, yet they all felt they should move on to module 2

The 2 students that i felt did the best, both were house wives as their spouses worked here in Thailand

I think there is a big deal with actually understanding what was being taught then having some school module number under your belt thinking you are good enough to speak just because you are in some level in the class

I personally don't give a crap about module numbers i only care about being understood and speaking Thai and for the Thais to understand me

If anyone has any tips on the Union system i would love to hear of your experiences and how you overcome any issues, as at some stage i have to work out if the style is not suited to me, as i felt it was a waste when i was talking with those that i cant understand as i felt i really improved when i spoke with the Thai teacher

Especially my hearing of the tones, as some of the tones with fellow students were dreadful and even as they were being corrected some of the students clearly never took that on board

Edited by Nouf
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Today's (Friday 8 October 2010) Weekend Journal section of The Wall Street Journal Asia has a front-page piece, "How handwriting trains the brain: forming letters fosters learning, memory, ideas." Using MRIs, researchers said writing practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid development of motor skills. The article says, "Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise...to keep minds sharp as they age." I post this because I'm struck at the a-la-carte approach some people (and schools) seem to take to language learning: dismissing reading/writing, for example, or focusing solely on listening. It really seems to fly in the face of common sense and the human experience of learning. I read about one-third of the pages of this forum, starting with the most recent and working backward, until I was overwhelmed and had to stop. For me, the most compelling referral was from a Korean gentleman who recommended his Jumbo tutor/instructor. Anyone else recommend individual teachers, as opposed to entire schools?

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@Nouf

Your post suggests its own answer: stick with the Union system but do it one-on-one with the teacher. I did a couple of the higher levels one-on-one, 3 hours a week (2 x 1.5 hour sessions) and found the fact that you have the tutor's entire attention for the whole time probably meant 1.5 hours alone was worth about 9 hours of being in a group.

I agree there is a lot of work in the system. I did each module over 10 week (@ 3hrs /week), and that spread out the homework and extra learning nicely. Just listening and speaking with the teacher individually for 1.5hours a class at your own pace and level will make a massive improvement in your confidence and ability in a very short time.

Good luck

:)

Edited by SoftWater
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In my re-con of the various and sundry private thai language schools scattered around Bangkok, I've toured more than one school which uses the original Union School’s Methodology. In fact, most schools which use this method only change the cover of the text book to denote it's their school. I've got three or four module one text books from various schools which use this methodology, and they are word for word, page by page exactly the same. Unless I'm greatly mistaken; this is an OLD method originally designed to teach missionaries who were comin' here to the glorious "Land 'O Thais" to convert the thais to christianity.

Most if not all the Union based schools are owned by original group of Union teachers; who were at the time of its inception young, but are now not so young. This group of original core teachers all broke off to open their own schools.

I have seen that most also run the same promotion/program, either 60 hours for 6,000baht, or 80 hours for 7,000baht. They go thru a module in like 20 days. This means they are very FAST paced classes. Little if any time is spent on review of the previous days vocab, and it is up to the student to retain, and remember the material covered in a previous lesson.

The text books are only in english and karaoke thai, (phonemic transcription; representing thai words/sounds using the english alphabet, a mixture of backward written english vowels, along with some squirrelly superscript characters to denote toning). As the sentences and vocab are not written in thai (until Module Three I believe); practice outside the classroom with any 'run-of-the-mill' thai is difficult at best. Most thais I've come across (and I've come across a fair few) can't read karaoke thai unless they’re already familiar with teaching this method. The teachers in the classes ONLY write in karaoke thai on the white boards too, so until you go thru a few modules you're not even exposed to anything written in actual thai.

When I first washed up upon these shores, I took one of those crash courses at an unnamed Union based school. The class was filled with foreign missionaries, Korean and Japanese housewives whose husbands worked here. It was far too fast, taught far too few high value thai words. It spent way too little time on review or proper sentence constructs in the thai language, making any vocab you did learn worthless as far as using them in another sentence other than the one we were taught

It is my humble opinion that these 'crash courses' actually provide very little measurable 'bang-4-the-baht'. in terms of either retention of vocab or anything more than a very rudimentary grasp of thai sentence constructs. After Module One, a student is unlikely to come out of there being able to do more than parrot out more than the tourist phrases found in the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.

I think it is much more advisable to under take the module(s) like the poster known as ‘SoftWater’ mentioned in the previous post. Spread it out over a longer time period in a one-on-one teaching scenario. Allow ample time to review previous vocab and give yourself plenty of time to practice this vocab outside the classroom as an adjunct to your lessons.

I stand by my original assertion that before ANYONE who is contemplating attending a private thai language school hands over a single satang, to sit a free lesson or three to see if their methodology ‘clicks’ with your way of learning. What I think sucks, you may think is the cat’s meow, and vice versa.

WARNING: Please remember these are my opinions ONLY. Despite my somewhat critical observations, they are neither for nor against any particular school or any particular school’s methodology. You mileage may and in all likelihood probably will differ from mine.

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I don't know about the crash course, but the full version of the courses in the schools that follow the union program is good.

At my school the all books were also available in Thai (without karaoke). I refused to use the karaoke version of book 1 to 3. Book 4 to 7 were in Thai anyway.

For me there's only one objective way to measure the quality of a school and that's looking at how well the students of that school do in the level tests of Thai government. Most language school that focus on providing visa services and that offer courses of only 180 or 200 hours per year don't even dare to send their students to the test. The majority of the students that is successful in the official language test studied at a school with a union based program or at Chula.

After a course of about 9 months at 60 hours per month - that's 540 hours in total - most students can get a level 3 (primary school, 6th grade) score or better on the official test. The course is a full time activity because you are 3 to 4 hours per day in the school and you spend about the same time for homework and reversing.

You don't need to be "very" talented to follow the course until the end and pass the test. About 20% of the students gives up because they don't want to do the effort. Another 20% of the students wants to work but seems to be stuck at book 2, 3 or 4 and will eventually give up.

If would like to know which other, non-union based schools, send their students to the official test. Anyone knows?

Edited by kriswillems
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I see I must print an addendum to my earlier post. (Actually I thought to myself when I first posted, if anyone was gonna comment on this, it would be the poster known as "kriswillems"). In reality, I do know several people who attended every level of a Union based thai language school, as well as took the prep-course for the government proficiency test. They can read, write, converse, (one guy I know is even wicked fast typing SMS's in thai thru his antiquated mobile phone, no small feat in and of itself!!).. FWIW the three guys I know all passed the proficiency test several years ago when it was still being given (not to be confused with the test currently given which only grades you against who ever happens to sit the test when you do).

What I was referring to are their “crash programs”. The schools I've re-conned really hard sold those, mostly due to price point or hours in class. I dunno about their 'full on' courses as they never talked about them to me.

Apologies must go out to "kriswillems" and anyone else who took a Union based method to learn thai. If it work(s), work(ed) for you, great!! It is good to hear you wouldn't accept the karaoke engrish books and made them provide them in thai.

When I attended ONLY the teacher’s book was in thai, and she wouldn't let me copy it. I even went so far as to meet with and talk to the owner of the school to voice my displeasure. FIVE years on, when I entered that school, I was treated worse than a soi dog. (I happened to do just that last year to ask about their conversational thai course). I guess it's not just elephants who never forget, it can be thais too. (Then again I am all to easy to identify. I even go so far as to say; you may not remember me, BUT believe me when I say; you'll never forget me ;) )..

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Hi Tod,

There's no reason to apologize. Everything you said is correct. You were talking about the crash course. I don't think any school or teacher can teach somebody Thai in 3 weeks.

There are a few disadvantages to the union program:

- It's old fashioned (but has proven to work)

- All schools use the same books

- Books 1 to 3 use karaoke/phonetic language.

I think karaoke/phonetic language is a good thing for somebody that quickly wants to know some Thai. But it's a very bad thing for somebody that wants to go on to the advanced or intermediate level because he will have to learn to forget the karaoke he has studied. Learning to forget is harder than learning to remember.

It's probably smart to learn to read before you enter any school. Reading Thai (on a beginners level) is not that hard.

The union program has one huge advantage compared to the other school I've studied:

- The union program is very well structured and focussed on sentence constructions and fixed expressions rather than vocabulary. I believe this is the way to go. It's not useful to know 5000 words if you don't know how to build sentences. The real vocabulary building only starts in book 6,7 and the extra books (social problems, newspapers, traditions and religion, business Thai, ....).

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  • 4 weeks later...

Being in a class environment really does suck when the majority are Japan and Korea, as the accents are so difficult to understand, which makes it even harder as you struggle to work it out in Thai let alone Japan or Korean Thai

It makes a BIG difference in both time and hearing, as well as trying to actually understand when you have 6/8 students trying to talk broken Thai, i actually felt i improved more when i worked out the sentences myself and then speaking with the teacher one-one

That's odd... In the few classes I took, it was always the white folks that seemed to butcher the language the most. Sounds like your best option is private tutoring.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi everyone,

I'm going to be in Bangkok between Dec 24 and Jan 4 which is obviously only about 10 days inc Christmas and New Years.

Can anyone advise a school or personal tutor that may be able to assist me during this period? I'm a beginner but I do know Gor Gai through to Hor Nok Hoog.

Thankyou!

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Hi everyone,

I'm going to be in Bangkok between Dec 24 and Jan 4 which is obviously only about 10 days inc Christmas and New Years.

Can anyone advise a school or personal tutor that may be able to assist me during this period? I'm a beginner but I do know Gor Gai through to Hor Nok Hoog.

Thankyou!

I suggest you should buy "Thai for Beginners" by Benjawan Poomsan Becker - or her next book - if you are more advanced and then study with private tutor

Kru Mod - you'll be amazed how fast you will progress. I suggest e-mail "Kru Mod" she will tell you specifics. I feel her fees are reasonable and she is very capable and professional.

Edited by Mario2008
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I suggest you should buy "Thai for Beginners" by Benjawan Poomsan Becker - or her next book - if you are more advanced and then study with private tutor

Kru Mod - you'll be amazed how fast you will progress. I suggest e-mail "Kru Mod" she will tell you specifics. I feel her fees are reasonable and she is very capable and professional.

Thands Parvis, I've made contact with Kru Mod. Prices are good, everything seems good. Just booked my flights too :)

Edited by Mario2008
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I just came across a limited time offer to get 12 Thai lessons at Walen for 490 Baht which they say represent an 80% discount off the regular rate. This offer applies to all Walen branches in Bangkok, Pattaya and Chiang Mai. Seems to me like a good chance to test their teaching system and judge it by myself. I saw the ad on Facebook. The website selling this offer is gotogezr dot com and the promotion will be available this week only.

For Thais they offer English classes on the same terms. Gonna send my wife there ))

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