Thai is the official language of Thailand and is recognized as a minority language in Cambodia. Thai is part of the Tai-Kadai language family and is spoken by over 20 million people. Thai is a tonal language, with five tones, meaning that the pitch used for any given word determines its meaning. The Thai alphabet has 44 consonants and 15 vowel symbols and the Thai script is written left to right without spaces between words.
Learning the beautiful Thai language is the perfect way to get the most out of your trip to Thailand, to fully experience the warmth of the Thai people and incredible culture of Thailand. Boasting big and exciting cities, pristine and remote beaches, delectable cuisine, striking landscape and fascinating history, it’s no wonder why Thailand is a beloved destination for students, tourists, and expats, alike.
Free Resources to Learn Thai
Free Learning/Studying Apps
Tinycards – iTunes – Google Play – Tinycards is a free flashcards app, from the creators of Duolingo, which uses spaced repetition and nicely designed “decks” to help you learn anything, including foreign languages. Tinycards uses gamification, like Duolingo, which makes it fun and easy to use.
Memrise – iTunes – Google Play – Memrise is a really fast, fun and free language learning app/website that is sure to get you hooked. There is a visual flashcard component which also incorporates audio from a community of native speakers. Memrise uses spaced repetition and is really effective at drilling vocabulary and phrases into your memory.
Read and Write Thai by the Office of the Royal Society – iTunes – Google Play – This app combines the functionality of a dictionary and pronunciation guide. Users can search directly for words and save those searches for future reference.
Learn Thai by 50 Languages – iTunes – Google Play – This app is great for beginners (A1-A2) to increase practical vocabulary which is useful for managing everyday situations (at a store, restaurant, bank, doctor, etc). With the free version, you will have access to 30 complete lessons.
HelloTalk – iTunes – Google Play – HelloTalk is a global language learning social network that connects you with native speakers of other languages so that you can practice your speaking and listening skills with native speakers via text/audio messages and free audio and video calls. The free version allows you to choose one native language and one target language.
Internet Polyglot – iTunes – Google Play – This free app uses lessons, games, and pictures to teach foreign languages to beginners. Although Internet Polyglot is far from a standalone language learning tool, it is a useful supplement to help you to learn and retain vocabulary.
Simply Learn Thai – iTunes – Google Play – This app will teach you over 300 common Thai words and phrases using images and high-quality audio recordings by a native speaker from Thailand. Spaced repetition is used for better vocabulary retention. You can track your progress, take quizzes, and save words and phrases to a favorites list. The free version covers phrases and vocabulary for the following topics which are essential when visiting Thailand: Numbers, Time and Date, Basic Conversation, Greetings, Getting Directions, Eating at Restaurants, Sightseeing, Shopping, Emergency, and Accommodations.
Beginner Thai – Google Play – This app is based on the “learn a word a day” concept and uses a simple and direct approach to teaching Thai to beginners.
Start From Zero Thai – Google Play – This app will boost your vocabulary skills by helping you learn thousands of the most commonly used Thai words and phrases. It also offers quiz and flashcard functionality to test your progress.
Learn 10,000 Thai Words and Phrases – iTunes – Google Play – Although this app won’t help you learn grammar, it will teach you a ton of vocabulary. The Thai language lessons include 10,000 key words and phrases for all levels: Beginner A1 (500 words), Elementary A2 (501-1250), Lower Intermediate B1 (1251-2250), Upper Intermediate B2 (2251-3500) and Advanced C1 (3501-5000).
6000 Words – Learn Thai for Free – iTunes – Google Play – This app will teach you more than 6000 Thai words with images, phonetic transcriptions and pronunciations recorded by native speakers. The vocabulary words are organized into 15 themes with 140 subtopics.
Learn Thai with WordPower – iTunes – Google Play – WordPower is another app that relies heavily on the “freemium” model, but the free version will teach you 100 of the most common Thai words and phrases.
In 24 Hours Learn to Speak Thai – iTunes – Google Play – Whether you are preparing for an upcoming trip to Thailand or you are a student learning the language, this app will help you learn the basics and set you off in the right direction.
Free Thai Dictionary/Translation Apps
Thai English Dictionary & Translator – iTunes – Google Play – This free app works offline and provides detailed definitions, example sentences and pronunciation guidance for Thai & English words, as well as flashcards for learning.
Google Translate – iTunes – Google Play – Google Translate offers online text translation between 103 languages by typing, offline translation for 59 languages, camera translation for 38 languages, image translation for 37 languages, conversation translation in 32 languages, and translation of handwritten characters in 93 languages. The app also has a phrasebook which allows you to save translated words and phrases for future reference in all languages.
iTranslate – iTunes – Google Play – iTranslate is a leading free translator and dictionary app that provides translations for text in over 100 languages. Other functionality includes transliteration, sharing, favorites, history, and audio in both male and female voices. Voice to voice translations and the use of offline mode is not available with the free version.
Klays-Development Thai-English Translator – Google Play – This free app translates words and complete sentences instantly. It features a favorites list, history, voice input and a user-friendly interface.
The Apps Castle Thai English Translator – Google Play – This Thai English translation and dictionary app can be used offline and has built-in audio.
Thai Royal Institute Dictionary – iTunes – Google Play – This digital version of the official Thai dictionary contains 43,000 words. The app allows users to search directly for words and saves those searches, as well as offering a typical alphabetic listing of words.
Learn Thai with ThaiPod101.com – This is a fun and helpful set of videos to add to your regular Thai language learning regimen.
Travel Linguist Thai 101 Video Lessons – This series of 20 short videos covers basic introductory vocabulary.
Easy Thai – These YouTube videos are the work of a non-profit project which uses lighthearted street interviews as a method to teach languages. Each video has a topic and the host asks questions to native Thai speakers on the street based on the theme. Each video contains subtitles in both Thai and English. In addition to street interviews, this channel offers lessons for beginners.
LangMedia – LangMedia provides language learning resources, including videos, audio, study guides, etc. LangMedia is run by the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages and their mission is to share examples of linguistic and cultural diversity with language learners. In the “Language by Country” section of the LangMedia website they provide videos which focus on practical aspects of everyday life (For Ex: Basic Communication, Shopping, Transportation, Culture and Social Life). The conversations often include colloquial language and all videos are accompanied by translations and transcripts. The “CultureTalk Thailand” section of the LangMedia website features video interviews with people of different ages and backgrounds. The interviews are primarily conducted by students, and translations and transcripts are provided.
Thai Alphabet, Diacritics, and Numbers – iTunes – This video podcast by the Emory College Language Center does not currently have audio but essentially provides flashcards to help language learners to recognize the Thai alphabet. They intend to add audio recordings by a native speaker soon.
Learn Thai the Bon’s Way – YouTube – Bon is a Television actress and personality who offers a nice selection of beginner Thai language lessons. She speaks English at a native level and her lessons are short with clear explanations.
Learn Thai with Ying and Paula – YouTube – Ying and Paula own a Thai language school in Thailand and they offer 44 free language video lessons on YouTube.
Thai Letters and Pronunciation Guide – YouTube – Here you will find a handful of playlists with Thai lessons including this Guide to Pronunciation and Letters, which focuses on pronunciation and tones.
Tongue Thai’d – YouTube – Andrew Biggs is an Austrailian expat, author and television personality living in Thailand. Andrew also runs a language school and is sharing his knowledge of the Thai language with others via this fun video series.
LTP Learning Videos – YouTube – “Learning Thai Podcast” is a paid language learning system, but they have a number of helpful playlists on Youtube, like Thai for Travel, Thai Lessons, and Speaking Thai.
Thai Bites by Stuart Jay Raj – YouTube – Stuart Jay Raj is a polyglot, businessman, TV host, interpreter and language course creator with an impressive talent for languages. Thai Bites is a series of 31 Thai lessons full of useful tips that he offers for free on YouTube.
Learn Thai from a White Guy – YouTube – Brett (aka, the White Guy) is an American who successfully taught himself Thai using a system he developed. Thai language learners can benefit from his skills and insight by tuning in to his YouTube channel.
Learn Thai with ThaiPod101.com – iTunes – This is a fun and informative podcast to add to your regular Thai language learning regimen. Every lesson is free for a period of time; each new audio and video lesson (3-5 lessons are published per week) is free to access for 3 weeks before being locked into their library, which can be accessed only with paid membership.
Audio Lessons for Maanii Books by SEAsite – The Center of South Eastern Languages and Cultures at Northern Illinois University created this set of lessons and corresponding resources centered around the popular Maanii Readers (classic Thai primers published by the Thai Ministry of Education for elementary school students). All audio files can be downloaded directly, as well.
- Maanii Book 1 – iTunes – Lessons 1-22. Find the vocabulary book and Maanii Book 1 in PDF form, the English version Of Maanii Book 1, a Glossary, Flashcards, and Tests too.
- Maanii Book 2 – iTunes – Lessons 23 – 40. Find the English version of Maanii Book 2, Tests and a Glossary.
Thai Basic Reader Audio Lessons – These audio lessons are based on the textbook by Thomas W. Gething and Pongsuwan T. Bilmes which was used at the Foreign Service Institute (US Department of State).
SurvivalPhrases – iTunes – These fun and innovative audio lessons teach basic Thai and are accompanied by PDF guides.
Learn Thai by Complete Language Lessons – Spotify – 12 free Thai lessons on Spotify.
Colloquial Thai: The Complete Course for Beginners – This collection of audio files, each a few minutes in length, provides concise and clear Thai language instruction for beginners. These free audio lessons were made to accompany the Colloquial Thai: The Complete Course for Beginners textbook, which is aimed at teaching Thai to beginners in a practical way to prepare them to effectively communicate with confidence in everyday situations.
Thai For Travellers – Spotify – This short series, created by Professor Benjawan Poomsan Becker, is perfect for travelers who need to learn basic Thai phrases and words to prepare for a trip to Thailand.
Speak Like a Thai Lessons on Spotify – This extensive Thai learning series by Professor Benjawan Poomsan Becker offers a wonderful and thorough introduction to the Thai language.
- Speak Like a Thai Volume 1 – Spotify – Contemporary Thai Expressions
- Speak Like a Thai Volume 2 – Spotify – Thai Slang and Idioms
- Speak Like a Thai Volume 3 – Spotify – Thai Proverbs and Sayings
- Speak Like a Thai Volume 4 – Spotify – Heart Words
- Speak Like a Thai Volume 5 – Spotify – North Eastern Dialect
- Speak Like a Thai Volume 6 – Spotify – Real Life Conversations
- Speak Like a Thai Volume 7 – Spotify – Thai Abbreviations and Formal Thai
Thai For Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced Levels on Spotify – This series of Thai lessons is brought to you by Professor Benjawan Poomsan Becker.
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Basic Thai Course – The Foreign Service Institute (U.S. Department of State) originally created this and many other language learning courses to train government employees and members of the foreign service in preparation for a post abroad. This course was designed to train participants to speak Thai naturally with native speakers while exuding confidence and using an accurate accent. It focuses heavily on pronunciation and preparing students for real-life conversations. 40 lessons are encompassed over the two volumes and include textbooks in PDF format and audio lessons as MP3s.
- FSI Thai Basic Course Volume 1 – This course is accompanied by an e-textbook with 425 pages and 39 audio files with a running time of 13 hours and 10 minutes.
- FSI Thai Basic Course Volume 2 – This course is accompanied by an e-textbook with 420 pages and 25 audio files with a running time of 9 hours and 15 minutes.
Defense Language Institute (DLI) Thai Language SOLT Course – This Thai course is for absolute beginners and is a part of the language learning program developed by the U.S. Department of Defense as a means of training employees for foreign assignments. As a result, a portion of the material focuses on military-related content, however, on the whole, there is a lot of value for all.
- DLI SOLT Thai Language Student Textbook – Includes 10 modules and 59 e-textbooks in PDF format with a total of 2507 pages.
- DLI SOLT Thai Language Student Listening Comprehension Workbook – Includes 16 e-textbooks in PDF format with a total of 415 pages and 117 audio files in MP3 format with a combined running time of 17 minutes.
- DLI SOLT Thai Language Homework Audio Supplement – Includes 69 audio files in MP3 format with a combined running time of 37 minutes.
Peace Corps Thai Language Lessons – These lessons are divided into 13 units focusing on useful vocabulary, expressions, and phrases that will facilitate everyday experiences and interactions. The lessons were developed by the United States Peace Corps to train their volunteers prior to sending them around the world on their missions. This 24-page course book is in PDF format and is accompanied by 13 audio files in MP3 format with a combined running time of 39 minutes.
Spoken Thai Course by SEAsite – The Spoken Thai course consists of 30 units including words and phrases with audio, flashcards, word studies, pronunciation tips, and tests. The course material is based on the Spoken Thai book by Mary R. Haas and Heng R. Subhanka which SEAsite (the Center for South East Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University) received permission to use for this purpose.
Thai Self-Study Translation Course by SEAsite – This course provides very useful online translation tools (Interlinear Translator Aid, a Concordance program, a Word Frequency program, and an Online Thai Dictionary), guides, and Thai-English translation examples. The material was originally created for courses at Northern Illinois University and now students can use these resources for free online.
BBC Languages: Thai – The BBC Thai Language website is a treasure trove of wonderful resources and information. You will find Key Thai Phrases with Audio and a Guide to the Thai Alphabet. All BBC language learning pages were “archived” a few years back due to cost-cutting measures, which means they are no longer adding new information or updating the pages. However, you should have no problem accessing the existing information.
Learn101 – This website features free beginner lessons to guide you through learning Thai, step by step, starting with the Alphabet, moving on to grammar, vocabulary, and phrases, and finally offering simple quizzes to test your progress. These lessons are a basic introduction to the language and have images, text, and audio.
CoolJugator – CoolJugator is a verb conjugator website that makes conjugation easy and straightforward.
Ilanguages – This site is designed to teach Thai with free vocabulary, phrases, grammar and, flashcards while focusing on highly used words and phrases necessary for everyday living.
Omniglot – This site specializes in providing information about languages and their alphabets and writing systems.
Digital Dialects – This website makes learning vocabulary fun with interactive games.
Hello World – Hello World has created hundreds of free language learning games and activities that cater to the way children learn best. The goal is to teach languages using cognitive immersion and to keep the process fun in order to increase learning potential. Approximately 1,300 vocabulary words are introduced over 70 different categories.
Goethe Verlag – This website offers 100 Thai lessons for beginners, each with words, phrases and corresponding audio files.
Loecsen – Loecson offers a free mini-course consisting of fun lessons that provide a basic introduction to Thai with the help of text, audio, simple illustrations, and quizzes to test your progress. You will learn high-frequency vocabulary words and commonly used phrases relating to 17 themes which are relevant to everyday life.
Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center Thai Tutorial – This Language Survival Kit Module for Thai contains basic vocabulary with audio. Both the audio files and the PDF text can be downloaded.
I Love Languages Thai Lessons – This site provides 17 beginner Thai lessons designed to help you improve your speaking, reading, and writing skills. Supplementary resources include vocabulary, grammar tips, and phrases.
LangHub – YouTube – This site has several sets of Thai language lessons with text, audio and video files. LangHub offers beginner, intermediate, advanced, travel, expat and business Thai lessons for free.
LingvoSoft Thai Phrasebook – This site offers a basic phrasebook format with text and audio to help you learn essential Thai vocabulary.
SEAsite – These free interactive Thai learning resources were created by Northern Illinois University and the project was funded by The U.S. Department of Education and The U.S. Department of Defense. The website has an incredible selection of free resources like Quick Thai Lessons, Spoken Thai Lessons, Thai Conversation Lessons, an Alphabet Tutorial, Children’s Books, a Thai Tones Tutorial, Two Self Assessment Modules with Practice Exercises and Tests, Video Resources, a Picture Dictionary with Audio, Reading Practice Lessons, Beginner Thai Review Exercises, and so much more.
Women Learn Thai – This blog offers a ton of information about all things Thai, from language to culture. It is considered to be the most comprehensive website dedicated to the journey of learning Thai. Catherine, the writer, and curator of the site, has put together a handy list of “cheat sheets” that students of Thai will find helpful.
Thai E-Learning from Sriwittayapaknam School – This site offers Thai lessons, practice exercises, tests, and lots of Thai language alphabet and pronunciation guidance with audio.
Genki Thai – This site offers a ton of fun games to learn and practice your Thai language skills.
Karn.TV Thai Resources – This website offers Thai lessons, tests, printables aimed at children.
Thai Recordings – This project was created by a fellow Thai language student for intermediate and advanced Thai language learners. You will find over 120 five-minute long unscripted recordings that provide a good example of naturally spoken Thai language.
Thai Reader Project by The University of Wisconsin at Madison – These Thai reading lessons will help students get to an advanced level of Thai. The lessons center around authentic Thai readings that students might find In Thailand (menus, newspaper articles, etc).
Reading Thai Course – This course consists of 33 lessons aimed at beginner Thai students and includes games for practicing skills.
Self Study Thai – This website is truly a labor of love. The author, a Thai language student, provides reviews of 84 VOA (Voice of America) articles, with Thai audio, transcripts, English translations and even flashcards. Students need to have the ability to read Thai script in order to use the learning materials.
Gloss Thai Langauge Lessons – The Global Language Online Support System (GLOSS) is a part of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC). Lessons focus on either listening or reading, cover a wide variety of topics (culture, environment, society, economy, etc), and are carefully organized by difficulty level.
Lang-8 – This free network is a nice tool to support your language learning. Native speakers are available to make corrections to your text and provide feedback. In return, you provide help to others.
HiNative – iTunes – Google Play – HiNative is an app brought to you by the creators of Lang-8 that allows you to ask questions to native speakers from around the world using your smartphone. HiNative was created to be used alongside Lang-8 and is different from Lang-8 in that it focuses on a Q&A type of learning while Lang-8 is a journal writing experience.
RhinoSpike – RhinoSpike is an interesting website that connects language learners from all over the world allowing them to exchange audio files to help improve pronunciation skills. It allows you to submit text that you would like to hear read aloud by a native speaker, and in turn, you receive the audio file. In exchange, and to speed up the process you can, in turn, provide audio files in your native language for other learners.
MyLanguageExchange.com – This online language learning community connects you with other learners so that you can practice speaking in your second language with a native speaker and vice-versa.
Italki – A community of over 2 million language learners that facilitates free language practice with native speakers. You simply exchange time teaching your native language for time learning a foreign language, making it mutually beneficial and free.
Google News – Read the world news in Thai with Google News.
BBC – The British Broadcasting Company provides news in Thai.
SBS Radio Thai Program – iTunes – SBS is an Australian broadcasting company that targets non-native English speakers and creates programming in many languages. This podcast allows you to listen to interviews, features and community stories from the SBS Radio Thai program, including Australian and world news.
VOA News – Voice of America is an American broadcasting company that creates radio and television news in Thai.
Thai Rath Newspaper – This is the web version of the most popular daily newspaper in Thailand, based in Bangkok.
Khao Sod Newspaper – This is the web version of the second popular daily newspaper in Thailand, based in Bangkok.
Kom Chad Luek – This is the online version of the third most popular Thai daily newspaper.
Daily News – This is the web version of the fourth most popular newspaper in Thailand.
Manager Newspaper – This is the online version of the daily Thai newspaper.
Forvo – This crowd-sourced site is a great tool to help with pronunciation as it allows you to listen to words and phrases spoken by native speakers.
Bab.La – This “language portal” boasts 44 dictionaries for 28 languages, as well as a wealth of other language learning resources, such as helpful articles, games and quizzes, verb conjugations and phrase books.
LearnWithOliver – In addition to a dictionary, this site offers games and flashcards to support your Thai Language learning.
Tatoeba – Tatoeba is a large, crowdsourced database of sentences and translations. This free resource allows you to search for a word and get results showing that word in sentences with translations.
Talkify – This free, multilingual website is a very interesting and valuable resource that allows you to listen to text in foreign languages. Simply insert a URL into the search field on Talkify and it will automatically detect the language and read the text of that website aloud in a natural sounding voice.
Cambridge Online Dictionary – Here you can access the online version of the popular Cambridge Dictionary.
Peace Corps Central and E-Saan Thai Dictionary – The Peace Corps dictionary for Central and E-Saan varieties of Thai applies to the northeastern area of Thailand and includes high frequency and very useful vocabulary words.
Peace Corps Central Southern Thai Dictionary – The Peace Corps dictionary for Central and E-Saan varieties of Thai applies to the southern area of Thailand and includes high frequency and very useful vocabulary words.
Peace Corps Northern-Central Thai Dictionary – The Peace Corps dictionary for Northern-Central Thai applies to the northern area of Thailand and includes high frequency and very useful vocabulary words.
North Illinois University Interactive Thai Dictionary – This dictionary is a free language resource brought to you by SEAsite (The Center of South Eastern Languages and Cultures). There is also a static version of the dictionary here.
SEAlang Thai Dictionary – This online dictionary was created as a result of a project between the United States Office of Education and the University of California, Berkeley, and is primarily based on the Thai Dictionary by renowned linguist and University professor, Mary R. Haas.
Thai Language Interactive Dictionary – This free online dictionary provides English definitions for nearly 70,000 Thai words and phrases accompanied by nearly 16,000 audio clips. The site also offers a wide array of resources, including lessons and a forum.
Thai 2 English Dictionary – This online dictionary transliterates Thai using the Roman alphabet so that beginners can read even if they don’t know how to read the Thai script, and tone marks are added to each syllable to show how they are pronounced.
Thai National Corpus – This is the official Thai language database.
Foreign Service Institute (FSI) Thai Reference Grammar Course – This free Thai reference grammar by The Foreign Service Institute (U.S. Department of State) was originally created to train government employees and members of the foreign service in preparation for a post abroad. This e-textbook is in PDF format with 259 pages.
The Fundamentals of the Thai Language – This reference book by Stuart Campbell and Chuan Shaweevongs, known as “Fun Thai,” is a classic trusted by Thai teachers and students alike.
The Thai System of Writing – This classic book by linguist Mary R. Haas is very thorough and technical in its explanation of the Thai language and is appropriate for intermediate-level learners.
Thai Reader – This is an interactive, electronic version of the book by Mary R. Hass with audio and exercises included, created by SEAsite at Northern Illinois Unversity. For maximum efficiency, SEASite devised Language Learning Strategies that provide detailed guidance to students on how to get the most out of Thai reading.
Learn Thai with Manee – These 12 books were originally produced by the Thai Ministry of Education to teach the Thai language to children in Thailand. They are aimed at children from 1st through 6th grade, and there are two volumes for each grade, making 12 in total. SEAsite (The Center of South Eastern Languages and Cultures at Northern Illinois University) created great lessons and resources centered around Maanii Book 1 and Maanii Book 2.
Thai Language for Foreigners – This textbook was created by the Commission on Higher Education (CHE) in cooperation with Chiang Mai University.
An Elementary Handbook of the Siamese Language – This book by Basil Osborn Cartwright was written in 1906.
Students Manual of the Siamese Language – This book by Basil Osborn Cartwright was written in 1915.
Cactus Language – This UK based language study abroad organization offers free online language level testing.
17 Minute Languages – At only three minutes in length, this Thai language level test is very brief but will determine your CEFR level (A1 – C2).
Language Life Test – Answer 28 questions to assess your Thai language proficiency.
What Are Your Favorite Free Thai Language Learning Resources?
We have done a lot of research to bring you the best, free resources that the internet has to offer and we want to make sure our list is always comprehensive. Please share your favorites in the comments below.