How to Speak Thai the Rapid Way
Because of the extraordinary (and perhaps unbelievable) claims made about the Rapid Method, it is important to qualify these claims so that you understand exactly what you can (or can’t) achieve by following the courses.
By ‘reading Thai’, I mean being able to recognize Thai words and sound them out accurately with the correct tones. Understanding what you are reading comes later. And that’s what the beginner and fluency courses are all about.
The ‘fluency’ course is not the same as mastering Thai to a high level. My definition of fluency is being able to understand colloquial speech and communicate quickly, without thinking. You probably won’t do well in formal exams and you will probably make many mistakes, but you will be able to read and speak at natural speed and understand 90% of a conversation or a relatively straight-forward text written in plain language.
You will not be able to understand flowery or highly formal material as found in poetry, classic literature or academic texts. Your level of comprehension will be not be much higher than a young teenager.
I believe that speaking is a ‘muscle’ skill, not a ‘linguistic’ ability. This seems to be a very contentious issue, so I will elaborate:
The ‘linguistic’ ability to compose sentences in a meaningful way is something that happens intellectually, in your mind. But actually making the sounds is a series of complex muscle movements, very much like dancing. And learning to speak fluently is the ability to fire off these muscle sequences in a subconscious or automatic way.
In dancing, you can ‘know’ all the steps – but until you physically practice these steps over and over again until it becomes part of your body, you will not be able to do the dance. You need to get to the point (in dance or playing a musical instrument or a sport) where you no longer think consciously about the physical movements (or the ‘language’) and you are just focused on the goal (which, for speaking, will be expressing and understanding the ‘meaning’ in a conversation).
Speaking by Reading
This is why the ‘Rapid’ method is based on reading, and mastering the text: memorizing the vocabulary and understanding the meaning and how the sentences are put together.
This gives you what I call an ‘intellectual knowledge’ of the language, like ‘knowing’ the steps of a dance or the notes in a piece of music.
To speak fluently requires physical practice on your part. There is no short cut, I’m afraid. However, there is an efficient way of practising. There is no point in just talking a lot if you are going to mumble with a bad accent.
The best way to practice, whether it is speaking or dancing or sport or music, is to focus on a particular exercise and master it. With speaking, this is the ‘tongue twister’ exercise…
At first, nearly every sentence will be a tongue twister for you. Select a typical sentence pattern and say it slowly in a loud, exaggerated way… over and over again until you master it. And like any exercise program, little but often is better than long practice sessions every now and again. Do a few minutes every day. Take a sentence and practice it over a week until you can say it fast and accurately and without thinking.
ช่วยเปิดประตูให้หน่อยครับ (or ค่ะ) – “chuay peud pra-too hai noi crab/ca” (please could you open the door for me) *
Once you’ve mastered one sentence, then start to improvise. Vary the sentence, using different objects or subjects or tenses… until you can say any variation fluently – without thinking.
ช่วยปิดหน้าต่างให้หน่อยครับ – “chuay pid naa-taang hai noi crab” (please close the window)
ช่วยลดแอร์ให้หน่อยครับ – “chuay lod aeh hai noi crab” (please reduce the air conditioning)
Then do the same for other another typical sentence pattern.
Once you’ve completed the reading course, you can download speaking exercises of typical sentences taken from Everyday Thai for Beginners and Sydney Remember. If you work through these sentence patterns a little bit every day – as you work through the beginner and fluency courses – then you will be able to speak clearly and fluently in no time.
* “crab” rhymes with “club”, “ca” rhymes with “cup” – it’s almost impossible to know the correct way of pronouncing Thai if transliterated phonetically in this way…. which is why in the Rapid Method, we just don’t do it at all!