Preparing for Thailand

by Brian Steinbach

Update: see Brian’s follow-up post for his reflections on what he wished had and hadn’t brought

Welcome to the quintessential guide for the eminent traveler to Thailand. Well, maybe not so “quintessential” as, at the moment of writing this, I myself am just shy of thirty days from departing to Surat Thani. I have spent the last few months planning for the move, and hope that a lot of what I can tell you here will be useful for your travel plans. As an aside, if you do happen to enjoy this write up, please look forward to my follow up article, “Hindsight: Things I Should or Should Not have Told You to Do and Bring” or “Sorry, I Guess I Owe You a Pint” (I haven’t decided yet).

Getting Your Affairs in Order:

No one can really tell you everything that YOU need to manage before departing. But I can tell you a lot of what I’ve done in hopes that it can at least spark ideas for things you may need or want to take care of. The obvious ones are picking up your plane tickets and getting your travel documents in order. Though they are the more obvious ones (and probably the most expensive part of pre-departure planning), I recommend taking care of them as early as possible. I’ll bullet point them so I don’t kill your eyes with a wall of text:

Airline tickets:

First talk to Peter and find out when you’re starting, and how soon you can arrive prior to that. I would say most people would benefit from arriving at least a week before you start teaching/observing. Moving to a foreign country alone will be a bit overwhelming at first, so if you can avoid stepping right off the plane into your classroom, I would certainly recommend doing so. Again, check with Peter to see if you can sneak in a few days early so that you can get to know your new home a little bit. Once you have your date, you’re ready to grab your tickets. •

Passport and Visa:

Here in the states, getting a new passport can take up to six weeks if you don’t have one already. On top of that, the Visa process can take quite a bit longer. I recommend starting as soon as possible. There are various documents you’ll need (which I won’t bore you with now), but you should locate your nearest Thai Consulate. For me it was a six-hour drive to Chicago. Hopefully yours is closer, but if it is far away, you may need to make arrangements to stay a night wherever it is that you have to travel. There are four or five locations in the states that I know of, and I’m sure there’s one in London for any of you across the pond.

Your stuff:

Chances are, you currently have stuff. And unfortunately all of your stuff cannot accompany you on your journey. This may mean packing away everything in storage, but you may want to see if you have any friends or relatives willing to borrow/use/keep your stuff while you’re away (doing so also means they’ll probably help you move everything, which is nice). It will save you on storage fees and maybe even end up solving other hurdles on your to-do list. For example: I knew someone who was going to need a vehicle for a while, and as I’m not going to be using mine, I offered to let her use it. She gets a car for a year, I ensure that my car won’t idle in a garage somewhere, AND they’ve offered to make the payments. I felt pretty lucky falling into that deal, but I do recommend that you keep your eyes peeled for opportunities such as that.

Your “living” stuff:

Pets are bad at rationing their food, so I recommend finding a loving home for them while you’ re away.

Bills: Figure out how to pay them while overseas, cancel them, or wiggle out of them by the time you reach your departure date. I am currently planning on canceling my cell phone service, and I would recommend the same to you if you happen to be bringing a laptop with you. Skype is an excellent substitute for making long distance chats. It’s also completely free.

Credit/debit cards:

This is a biggie. Go to your bank or call your credit providers, and make sure your card is going to work for you in Thailand. It probably will. More importantly, make sure that you go to your bank/provider about a month before you leave and ensure that they know that YOU will be in Thailand using YOUR cards. Otherwise you can’t really get angry with them for denying/terminating your cards when someone purchases toilet paper in Surat Thani, when their records still show that you’re supposed to be at “Location A.” Don’t be a victim of toilet paper-credit card cancellation; visit your bank before leaving.


Maybe you’re more than ready for a change of scenery, but that doesn’t mean you won’t miss anything while you’re gone. Go hit your favorite food locales, hang out with friends/family, or go see a movie in the theater that isn’t dubbed. Whatever your fancies may be, you’ll probably want to bet on the possibility that they may not be as readily available as you’re currently accustomed to.

Acquiring/Whittling down your packing list:

To be honest, I’m nowhere near done with this myself. I do know certain things I’ll be bringing. There are other articles on the SE site that give recommendations on what to bring, so I’ll be brief.


It’s certainly not a necessity, but in terms of size vs. use, and if it’s in your budget, you won’t get more communication and entertainment value out of anything else for the limited packing space you took up to bring it. You may use it for Skype, music, movies, and all your other Internet needs. It’s a no brain-er for me.


Everything I’ve heard about reading material is that it is available, but your selection will be just that- whatever is available. I’m dedicating part of my luggage to a stack of books from my “to read” pile. If you’re an avid reader, then I suggest you bring at least a couple books (ones that may be worth re-reading if you can think of any).

French Press:

I like making coffee. What do you like?


They have clothing there, but my understanding is that bringing your own shoes is kind of a biggie. Shoes that fit you may be quite difficult to find, so bring what you need for casual, work, really casual, et cetera. You can always have stuff shipped to you from friends or family, but if you’re like me and have wide feet, then you probably just want to plan to avoid the hassle of hoping what you had shipped to you fits. •


Bring only what you know you’ll wear. Remember it’s hot in Thailand more often than not. So think about the material from which your clothes are made. That probably means you don’t want to bring your collection of swanky polyester. For work, I’m pretty sure polo style shirts are readily available near SE, so you shouldn’t need to pack many if you were planning on it. I did have a friend tell me that she had wished she had brought more long pants to wear while camping (bugs and stuff). She also recommended that I bring a quick dry towel for camping. I’m pretty sure Douglass Adams wouldn’t object.

In the Classroom:

I’ve never taught in a Thai classroom, but I imagine that like teaching in the states, the hardest part isn’t so much teaching the content, as much as it is getting yourself comfortable with being in front of 40-50 kids. On top of that, every classroom is made up of a completely different set of students, which means that regardless of whether or not it’s the same content, the atmosphere of each class will be greatly determined by the students that make it up. If you see an opportunity to get up and speak in front of any group of people, I recommend doing so just for the experience. It will help you. That said, knowing your lesson and its content well is one way of building confidence for being in front of fifty sets of eyes.

That’s about all I can think of for now without going into overly tedious details. But to reiterate, no one knows better than you what you need to take care of before you set off for Surat. I hope that this will be of use to anyone trying to plan for the move, or at least helped spark ideas of things you hadn’t thought of yet. I’m sure most of you have explored the Super English website quite a bit, if not in its entirety upon being hired. I would recommend revisiting it as you get closer to departing. There’s a lot of really useful information on the site, and it’s been a pretty big basis for a lot of my planning. Good luck in your endeavors and all your adventures to come.

My Favorite Class

by John Phelps

Momentum is the most important element to a good hour of learning at Super English. From the moment I walk into the classroom, I strive to keep the students focusing by sparking them with questions, entertaining them with educational games, and otherwise overloading their senses with a buckshot of English. If the kids are having fun, they will listen and learn. When I see that interest is diminishing, I usually have a good-hearted kid or myself do something ridiculous. Compared to my classes at Thidamaepra School, the Super kids are able to take in much more material in a shorter period of time. At Super, if I see that about half the kids have command of a target, I move on to something a little more difficult. If they are not challenged, they get bored and tune out.

Almost always, the most fun comes from spontaneous twists to the plan. But for me, a pretty solid plan still has to be there. What follows is a lesson that went well. However, as we all know, sometimes the best laid plans don’t …. hmm… hatch, I suppose. I have often had the same lesson plan go off like firecrackers with one class and fall flat with another. Sometimes I am trying to get the energy level of the students up, other times I just have to channel it in the right direction.

The primary conversation targets are: “Are you (verb)ing?” “Yes, I am./ No, I’m not.” That is the meat of the lesson, to which I will slowly build up. The kids have to primed and focus to grasp something new, so I build them up with some review targets. We start off by transforming two students at a time into a theatre company. I bring them behind the whiteboard and tell them what locations they will illustrate with their acting finesse. As they come out from behind the board, I announce the actors names with “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Tin and Bank!” The review target is “Where are they?” I wait for the class to get the answer, occasionally guiding the actors. After a few moments, a student responds with “They are in the police station!” After uncuffing one of the students, we move on to another set of actors and play a few more minutes.

I take a quick moment to get the students to fill out a worksheet. These are a necessary evil, as the parents see the worksheets as a measure of the students’ progress. I try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. I walk around the room and help with the worksheets. I give a bit of extra writing to the faster kids so that they finish around the same time as the slower ones.

Now I begin to move towards the target by asking “What can you do?” and writing the verbs on the board. This is an easy question for this level, and they easily come up with and act out ten to twelve verbs in a couple minutes. I grab one student and start spinning him in the middle of the room. While he is spinning, I write “What are you doing?” on the board. He is still spinning. I tack the “ing” onto the verb on the board. He is dizzy by now. I prompt him to say “I am spinning” by pointing to the words on the board. I demonstrate that “ing” on a verb means that the action is in progress by having kids do actions for a moment then stop. >> Then comes the “verb-a-thon.” I erase the verbs from the board and ask five volunteers to come forward. As I ask each one “What are you doing?” they must reply “I am (verb)ing” (no repeat answers). After a few minutes, students are eliminated until we have a champion. Now that the kids have bought into the lesson, I have them all focused as I write the target on the whiteboard. I hop around the room and demonstrate, impersonating a few of the students to make them laugh. Then it’s time for another game.

This one is like musical chairs meets Family Feud. I put a ball on a table at the front of the classroom and write ten verbs on the board. Five students walk around the table, acting out the verbs as I say “Are you jumping/eating/sleeping/moonwalking?” They chant “Yes, I am!” Unless, of course, I am pointing to “No, I’m not!” on the board. They are out if they act out a verb that I say while pointing at “No, I’m not!” When I say “Are you stealing?”, the first student to grab the ball on the table gets to pick a student to eliminate. Pretty soon, another champion is born.

By now, we have about fifteen minutes or less left in the hour, so I have them sit to have their tongues twisted. This evening is brought to them by the letter “G.” “Good guys get great gorilla girlfriends.” Students move from “Gud guys ged gleat go-le-la gill-flens” to an astoundingly crisp pronunciation of the benevolent letter “G.” I give them the phonics handout to complete and a few sentences to write. At last confident in the knowledge that they will all one day take primates to the malt shoppe, I send them home.

My Favorite Class

by Chris Ansell

A month into the first school term and most teachers will already know which are their favourite classes and which classes they can perfect their discipline techniques in. The class I have most fun with and who are thus my favourite is over at Noo Noy school. I get to see the kids every Tuesday for half an hour. The class is the top level 3 of Anuban (kindergarten) and is made up of about 25 tiny bodies that range anywhere between my knee and waist in height.

When I walked into their classroom for the first time four weeks ago I saw for the most a lot of nervous and very anxious little faces staring up at me. One little girl burst into tears after a few seconds before I’d had a chance to even say hello, which in turn set one of her friends off. Not a perfect start. The big scary man would have to show a softer side, more than just a smile, to win the trust of these kids. I suddenly noticed in the corner of the room sitting on a shelf a few cuddly toys and quickly made their acquaintances. Pooh Bear said “hello” and when asked how he was replied “I am HAPPY!”. Laughter is key in Anuban classes and this instigated the first of it. After talking to a few of Pooh’s friends I tried my luck with one of the more confident looking kids and got the first words. I was in. Ten minutes later the students had morphed into parrots and were repeating various colours that I was holding up at the top of their voices (which can be deafening!).

All anuban classes are half an hour long. I tend to split them up into three ten minute sections. In the first section I always teach greetings such as “Good Morning” and the follow up question “How are you?” For the Level 1 anuban’s, I try to get them to simply understand the concept of “happy” and “sad”. My favourite Level 3 class are extremely clever though and in addition to “hot”, “cold” and “sleepy”, some of the top kids such as Aomsin, Phon and Wave know “hungry”! In the last lesson I drew a big snake on the board and taught them “I am scared” by screaming every time we walked passed it.

The main topics for anuban classes, in addition to the basic greetings, are numbers, colours, food and body parts. It is easy to have a lot of fun with any of these. For the colours I have a bag of coloured rags. One game I like to play is to get the students to show me sleepy, and then to hide the coloured rags around the room. I will then get two students and ask them to find “Yellow!” for example. When the kid holding the rag comes scampering back to give it to me it can be really fun to act like I can’t see them because they are too short and have them desperately trying to get my attention.

I devised a fun game recently where I wrote about seven or eight target numbers on the board in various sizes and again would ask the students to show me sleepy. I then discreetly placed the board eraser in front of one of the students and ask them to “Open your eyes!” I would then say one of the target numbers and the student with the eraser would have five seconds to run and erase the number before I turned into a zombie and came to eat them. It was funny writing some of the number high up just out of reach so the student didn’t know whether to look at the number they were trying to erase or the big scary teacher zombie heading towards them!

This particular class is fun both because of a few individual students who are particular characters and the Thai teachers who are just as into the games and songs as the kids! One of the students who is about twice the size of the rest of his friends is known (and respected) as King Kong and every time I ask Guitar to do or say anything we all get our air guitars out which is funny.

It was a great feeling to gain the trust of these little children who must only be four or five years old. What matters most is that the kids leave the classroom with a big smile on their face and if they have picked up a bit more English then all the better. They seem to know their pinks from their purples now and certainly leave laughing so it’s fun all around. Good times.

Why I have decided to teach with Super English

by Amy McIntyre

I am fortunate to be able to say that I have managed to do a lot of traveling throughout my life thus far. I am always taking off on a new adventures and living & working in different countries but the older I get, the more I ask myself how long I can keep this up? After one long spell away I told myself that I should go back to the UK, focus on a career, money and buying a house however, now that I have been in the UK for a couple of years I can never seem to focus on any of those kind of things and I spend a lot of my time planning other trips and fantasizing about getting out of England. I have been searching for some thing that will allow me to be able to get set up in life, travel and help make a difference. Over the last five years the idea of TEFL has crossed my mind many times. TEFL will allow me to do all the things I believe I need to do without having to keep coming back to the UK. I have tried all kinds of jobs and one thing I know for certain is that I never want to work in an office again! I now don’t care about how much money I make, who wears what or any nasty office politics – it’s the simple life for me.

All the signs seem to be pointing in the right direction; it’s just taken me a while to actually read them. After I took the plunge and completed the TEFL course I started to apply for jobs immediately. The fear I once had has now turned into complete excitement and a certain belief that this is the path I should be on. I applied for many TEFL jobs and I waited eagerly for a response. I remember applying for the SE job late one night. I got a response the following morning and set up a SKYPE chat for that very afternoon. I instantly clicked with Peter and I felt as though I had known him forever. I didn’t feel nervous and it didn’t feel like an interview, we had a bit of banter and he got to the point. I was offered the role. I did hesitate at the beginning as all the other jobs I had applied for started to respond. I was offered another 7 roles in various countries, all offering good money, benefits, paid holidays and my flights. I was faced with a difficult decision, but having called them all I noticed that none of the others came close to giving me the warm feeling that I had with Peter.

This is my first teaching job and hopefully it will be my new career. I really want to learn as much as I possibly can and be as creative as I can. I didn’t get the impression that the other schools were particularly keen to assist me in this way. No one seemed interested in me or my lack of experience and I felt that there was little or no support. I really didn’t want to take some thing just because it was good money. I was looking for some thing that would allow me to be happy and comfortable in this my first teaching post. One of the first things Peter advised me to do on arrival is to take a few days to get settled. Thereafter I will be given three days training and the opportunity to watch others teach before I fly solo. I was honest with Peter; I explained that I was nervous, had no previous experience and that I had only recently passed my TEFL course. Peter reassured me by making me feel calm, confident and positive. I gave myself a day to think about it and the only thing on my mind was Super English. I had a warm feeling and just knew it was for me.

I know I have made the right decision. I get regular updates from Peter. I have been emailing a few of the other new Super English teachers and already I feel part of the family. I am thrilled to discover that we are all of a similar age with similar interests. I am so looking forward to being surrounded by like minded people and to learning new skills and techniques along the way. It is my intention to be creative in the classroom to help the children learn in a way that I know can be fun.

I want to use the opportunity to learn more about Buddhism, the Thai language and their culture, meet new people and most importantly making a difference to the children. Five weeks to go – nervous – oh yes. Excited – definitely!

Why I have decided to teach with SE

by Brittney Johnson

I have decided to teach with Super English for many reasons. First let me say that I have done thorough research on teaching English abroad. I taught English for 1 year in South Korea. It has always been important for me to find a quality school when job searching. Some people I know took the first job they were offered to teach English abroad. Not me. I wanted to know details about the school, curriculum, housing, salary, hours, co-teachers, the town I’d be living in, etc. So when I began job searching for my next teaching position abroad, I had some basic criteria that I was looking for. I was open to teaching anywhere in the world. But as soon as I talked with Peter, I realized some of the things I thought were important to me, were not as important as the unique, organic and supportive environment I felt I would experience with SE. I was looking for an authentic quality school, rather than just a high paying job. Normally, when getting offered a job that didn’t pay as much as other schools or countries, I would automatically disregard and not even consider it. However, as soon as I talked with Peter, I knew it was worth taking into consideration. He was very open and honest about teaching at SE. He patiently answered all of my questions, gave me time to consider, and instantly put me in contact with current and future teachers who answered all of my questions immediately and honestly. I felt an instant connection with him as a boss, the other teachers, the school, and the overall approach and mentality of SE. I could tell Peter had put his heart and soul into starting and maintaining SE. I researched the school’s website and was thoroughly impressed by the teacher’s testimonies and the transparency about the school. Peter is completely upfront and honest about the positives and negatives of working at SE in Surat Thani. In my experience in Korea, the private language schools are run as a business first, and a place of learning second. They care more about money and keeping the parents happy. I could tell that SE was the complete opposite of that. It is apparent that the kids and quality teaching come first. I really loved the overall vibe of the school and the amount of support, respect and encouragement all the teachers seemed to get. I love the fact that the teachers can try new things and be creative, even if it ends up not working. It seems to be a place where fun and creative learning thrive. There is no way I would have taken a job teaching English in Thailand if it were for a different school. But I felt like I really couldn’t miss out on this positive, challenging and exciting experience at SE. I really feel that SE is an exception to all other schools in Thailand (and the world for that matter). I can tell teamwork, support and quality teaching are priorities. I am thoroughly looking forward to teaching at SE, working with the other teachers, meeting my new students, challenging myself and experiencing the “real” Thailand.

Why I have decided to teach with SE

by Jessica Gallant

Philadelphia, PA, USA

I am currently in my fourth year of teaching high school history in Philadelphia. During the middle of last year I became incredibly restless. I loved teaching, but I felt like I needed an adventure. I had heard of people moving overseas to teach English, and after some research I knew it was something I wanted to do. It seems to be the perfect opportunity for me to remain in the teaching profession and simultaneously get away from my life’ s routine. When I started my journey over a year ago all I knew was that I wanted to give ESL a try. I could never have imagined how happy I would be with my decision to teach for Super English.

Choosing Super English was easy; it was the 14 months before that decision that were the most difficult. Like many prospective ESL teachers, I began by attending a certification course. Even deciding what school to attend for my ESL certification was hard for me. I researched for about two weeks before going to Transworld Schools in San Francisco. It was there that I first realized the serious nature of the ESL world. People had made it seem like all fun, games and travel, but I learned that isn’t true. Teaching English as a second language is a lot of hard work and it takes someone who is dedicated and passionate. As soon as I completed the course, the director of my school gave me a list of 300 schools internationally to contact. In addition, I registered for just about every ESL employment site on the Internet. I got emails daily and spent hours browsing jobs. The idea of finding a job overseas was totally overwhelming.

I knew early on that Thailand was a place I wanted to go. As I continued my job search, however, it began to seem like a lesser option. Places like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan had many jobs that had good perks and high pay. I had numerous offers that would have provided me with free airfare and high wages. My practical side had me convinced that one of these places would be better. I almost signed a contract and started the Visa process for an English school in Pusan, South Korea, but something about it didn’t feel right. I eventually realized that although teaching may be serious, I didn’t have to be so rigid about my choice of where to teach. I opened my mind again to the possibility of teaching in Thailand.

My reasons for choosing Thailand were numerous. To be honest, the first was the weather and the beaches! I thought to myself, if I am going to move half way around the world and away from everything I know and love, I do not want to deal with harsh winters or snow. Another reason I chose Thailand, and Surat Thani in particular, is because it seems to be more authentic. Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea have all been more heavily influenced by Western culture, while parts of Thailand tend to be less impacted by globalization, largely due to the fact they were never colonized by a Western power like the others. I also wanted a place where I can immerse myself in authentic Thai culture, and not have simply a tourist experience. You may have noticed that I had two conflicting desires; I wanted proximity to beaches without the atmosphere of a tourist town. Surat Thani is a perfect combination of both worlds; it is a true Thai town with ready access to Koh Samui and other popular beaches and islands.

I chose Super English for a few reasons, and as I mentioned it was a fairly easy decision. I was browsing through the available jobs on Dave’s ESL Café and I came across the ad for Super English. It included a link to the Super English website, and upon examination of the site and its stories and photos I became enamored. I could tell immediately that the place had personality. Then I saw the photos of the kids and the classrooms, the teachers, and the housing. Everything was very visually appealing and I started to imagine myself teaching the kids pictured in the classrooms, and living in one of the adorable houses. I was also enticed by the fact that an American owns the school. For me, it is comforting to know that in a foreign land there will be someone who understands where I’m coming from and who can offer me some guidance.

The interview, via Skype, is what sealed the deal for me. I was so nervous, but Peter immediately put me at ease. His line of questioning showed me that he was not only interested in my teaching credentials, but also in me as a person. It was the best interview that I have ever had. Peter is kind, funny, smart, and down to earth. About 30 minutes into it, I knew I wanted to work for him. The decision to uproot my life was not an easy one, so naturally I asked Peter a million questions, and he answered them all. Finally he asked me the one question I was waiting to hear—“Would you like a teaching position at Super English?” I was so happy—I said yes right away!

The following weeks made me completely confident in my decision. Peter made sure I felt like a part of the Super English family right away. He sent out an email to all of the other teachers announcing that I had been hired. Within hours I had emails from numerous members of the Super English community welcoming me to the team. Since then, I have been in constant contact with both Peter and the other new teachers. I have never felt so welcomed and supported at a new job. After months of being stressed out about finding a job and a country where I would feel comfortable, the search was over. I have found a home, and I am so excited about what my future holds. I can’t wait to get to Surat Thani and start my new life as a Super Teacher!

Expectations of Thailand

by Emily Nass

There are several questions you can be sure to hear within your first few weeks in Surat. I want to talk about one that continues to come up with every new experience.

Is Thailand what I expected it to be?

To be honest I have a hard time remembering what I thought life would be like here. I had a small bit of teaching experience and some traveling in Europe as my only means of comparison. I think because of this I had it in my head that I was in for a shock of a lifetime. My biggest surprise, when I began my contract, was how similar Surat is to the western world. Granted there are definite differences, yet surprisingly almost as many similarities. The worst thing I did before coming to Surat was reading travel books. The picture they painted for me of Surat was nothing close to what it has been. I am happy to say that Surat was not what I expected, but in such a good way. I had envisioned a town that would be hard to integrate into or find things to do. Surat is exactly the opposite. It is surprisingly easy to get a grasp on the city and what is in it.

What I was not expecting when I first arrived was the extremity of the heat and humidity. I knew it was going to be hot, just not to the point that I would have to send back clothes that just did not work. A quick word of advice… Avoid polyester like the plague when packing for Surat. Also, remember that you will stand out like a sore thumb. I am blonde and stand a good few inches above most Caucasians. My sharp contrast to everyone around me was what took me the longest to get used to. The worst times are the days, and everyone has them, when you don’t want to be bothered. For no particular reason, you want to be left alone and just relax in your own little world. Best of luck doing this when you are as noticeable as a black lab in the snow. This is something I did not think about before I came. I knew I was going to an Asian country and would look completely different from my students. What I didn’t take into consideration was my time outside of the school.

As for teaching, I love my students. I left home with what I considered to be a realistic idea of what my life would be like. I planned to teach, that was my main reason for going abroad. The travel aspect was a wonderful bonus, but I was going to be a teacher. The classrooms are different from the States, where I am from, but just as enjoyable. First off, in the States you can fail a student. This is not usually the case in Surat. Most of the schools you are not able to fail a student. I was also surprised at the small amount of prep and paper work we have to do. While there are still lesson plans and monthly reports to do, the contrast to teaching back home is amazing.

I love teaching and knew that I would enjoy working abroad. I had never been to Thailand and did not know too much about it when I applied for the job. Even so, it was a wonderful starting point for my teaching career and I am certainly glad that I did it. There are still times when I get home sick or can think of nothing but bratwurst and sauerkraut for days. This is something I remember realizing before I left. I knew I would occasionally miss things from home. What was a shock was when I went back home for a few weeks during the long “summer vacation”, and found myself missing an abundance of things from Thailand. When you live somewhere you will always miss someone or something. The great thing about my time here, is that even though at times I am home sick, I know I will find it immeasurably hard to leave. My time teaching and living in Surat has surprised and affirmed many ideas I had before coming over. Is Thailand what I expected it to be? No. Is that in any way a bad thing? Never in a million years.

Learning the local language

by Tristan Rentos

At Super English, we receive many questions from incoming teachers and potential applicants regarding Thai language. How much Thai do I have to learn to get by? What’s the best way to learn Thai? Is it difficult? Does Super English have Thai language teachers? I am not an expert in speaking Thai, but seeing as though I have been living in Surat for over a year now, I thought I’d have a go at trying to bring a simple explanation to this potentially complex problem.

How much Thai do I have to learn?

This is somewhat of a “how long is a piece of string” question, there is no simple answer. Let me put it this way: Surat Thani is not a tourist area, 99% of tourists here are just passing through on their way to Koh Samui. Therefore, with no tourists to look after there is no need for most of the locals, even the shopkeepers or restaurateurs, to learn English. Even at a global MNC (like 7/11 or Pizza Hut – we have both here) the staff will only speak Thai.

To avoid any awkward situations, such as getting ripped off or receiving the wrong meal, you will need to learn the following:

  1. Numbers (most important).
  2. General greetings and pleasantries (How are you, excuse me etc.).
  3. Ordering food and drinks.
  4. “Take me to _____” for Tuk Tuk drivers.
  5. How to bargain (not imperative, but a good skill to have in Thailand)

These are just the basics, however if you are prepared to learn above and beyond the aforementioned then your Thai experience will be richer. The locals will appreciate any effort you make to speak Thai, even if you make a right mess of it (they will also laugh at you, but they don’t mean anything bad by it).

What’s the best way to learn Thai?

To learn properly, you need to have a native speaker assist you. You cannot learn Thai solely from a book, the tones are too complex and you will mispronounce many words! The Thai staff at Super English will be happy to assist you, we also have many Thai friends who have been helping teachers for many years and will be prepared to give you a hand. It does help to have a good Thai book to build your vocabulary, I can recommend Thai for Beginners (orange cover) by Benjawan Poomsan Becker. It’s easy to follow and the transliterations actually come close to the Thai script when pronounced.

Regarding the method, I found that the best way to start conversing in Thai is to find a native speaker who will be patient enough to sit with you, teach you new words, fix your mistakes and have a conversation (this is where the aforementioned book comes in handy). This might sound a bit far fetched but Thai people are very sociable, they really like foreigners and are always up for a drink and a chat after work.

Is it difficult?

Yes and no. Thai language does not have many of the complexities that English has, such as tenses and articles. There are also less words to learn, and some words have more than one meaning depending on the context. Thai people also commonly omit pronouns if the context is made clear. The difficulty in learning Thai comes with the tones. There are 5 tones in all, which means that any word could potentially have 5 different meanings depending on how it’s pronounced. For example, maa could mean horse, dog or come depending on the tone. If you get the tone wrong, then you have changed the word and changed the context of the sentence; this is usually when confusion and misunderstanding comes in.

When you first hear a Thai person pronounce the 5 tones, they all sound similar and you can’t help but wonder how they manage to hit the right tones when they speak so quickly! I started off by practicing each word with the different tones and took it from there.

Does Super English have Thai Teachers?

Yes – our Thai staff will conduct lessons 3 times a week for any Super Teacher interested in learning the basics.

If you have any more questions, feel free to email me at