5 Factors that Improve My Ability to Learn Thai


Week 19 of My Six Months Attempt to Become Fluent in Thai

I’ve been thinking about the times when I’ve felt most productive and effective at learning Thai during these last few months, and I’ve come up with these five factors:


When I get curious, it noticeably boosts my ability to learn – it sends my brain into a different level of functioning. I can hear some new Thai vocabulary just once, and if it triggers my curiosity, I’ll be able to memorize it instantly. There are other words that I’ve heard hundreds of times, but I still have to grab for the dictionary to jog my memory – these are words that just don’t grab my attention for some reason.

The thought ‘I wonder why it’s like that?’ means I’m going to learn something that will be automatically filed away in my long-term memory. I can just wait for this curiosity to arise naturally, but this would mean hours of wasted learning where I’m not actually absorbing much. Instead, I can trigger my curiosity by actively questioning and looking for patterns.


There has been lots of moments during this six month challenge when I’ve experience real joy. This is often due to something simple like understanding a sentence that I would have struggled with before. It can also happen when I’m in the zone, and it feels like I’m pronouncing the words effortlessly and hitting the right tones. These episodes of joy refill my motivation tank, and I don’t think it would be possible to keep studying without them.


I’ve used lots of different approaches to learning Thai over the last few months. I don’t regret it because I think mixing things up keeps me motivated. In the past, I’ve tried to make myself stick with a learning approach long after I’ve lost interest in it, but this has just led to frustration and giving up. I don’t feel loyalty to any one method for learning Thai, they are just tools that I pick up and use as I need them.

Maybe the trick to making progress in a language is not just being able to choose the right tools but knowing when to stop using them. I know how easy it is to stick with something long after it has stopped being effective because it feels comfortable. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid doing this time.


It is my desire to talk about my experiences at Thamkrabok detox temple that has given me the motivation to spend up five hours a day studying. I’ve been learning Thai since 2001, but I’ve never felt as passionate about it as I do now. I think one reason for why a lot of us struggle is we don’t have a clear idea about what it is we want to achieve – or the goal just doesn’t make us feel passionate enough.

If you are passionate about learning Thai, you could probably become fluent by just using the free resources on the internet. If you lacking in passion, you might not make much progress even if you buy all the most expensive courses and hire the best teachers. Passion is key to success.


A couple of years ago, I wrote a post for the ‘A Woman Learning Thai’ website called ‘How Mindfulness Can Help You Learn Thai’. Learning to live more in the present moment has positively impacted almost every aspect of my life – including my ability to learn Thai.

One of the reasons I struggle when speaking Thai is because of the mental chatter inside of my head. It means I’m engaging in two conversations at the same time – one of them in Thai, and one of them in English. The discursive thinking is often full of judgments like ‘he can’t understand you’ or ‘you’re making a fool of yourself’. Mindfulness is the ability to just be in the conversation without the inner commentary – it means I can speak Thai naturally and almost effortlessly.

Mindfulness also greatly boosts my ability to learn Thai. At the moment, I spend a couple of hours a day listening to the Glossika audio tracks while exercising. If I just focus on my audio and body movement, it means that I’m fully listening – I walk away from the session knowing that I’ve made progress. If I allow my thinking to run wild though, I might as well be listening to static for all the good it is doing me.

News The Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook Group now have their own e-magazine. It’s packed full of interesting stuff that may be of value for anyone learning Thai – there is also an interview with me. If you are not already a member of this group, it is free and easy to join.

Other posts in this series on learning Thai

Week 0- My Quest to Speak Fluent Thai in Six Months
Week 1 -Creating the Right Mental Conditions for Learning Thai
Week 2- Maybe Just Getting Out There and Speaking Thai is Not Enough
Week 3 – 5 Improvements in My Approach to Learning Thai
Week 4 – Generating Enough Passion to Learn Thai
Week 5 – Undoing the Damage from Speaking Thai Badly for Thirteen Years
Week 6 – Early Impressions of Glossika Thai Fluency Course
Week 7 – Introverts Can Learn Thai Too
Week 8 – Winning Strategy for Achieving Fluency in Thai
Week 9 – Thai Fluency in 10,000 Sentences
Week 10 – Problems with Staying Focused Prevent Me from Learning Thai
Week 11 – Importance of Cracking Thai Fundamentals
Week 12 – Painful Lessons while Ordering Pizza in Thai
Week 13- If I Can Become Fluent in Thai, So Can Anyone
Week 14 – How I Make Time to Study Thai
Week 15 – Redefining Fluency After Losing My Way While Learning Thai
Week 16 – My Learn Thai Fitness Challenge
Week 17 – Talking about Myself in Thai
Week 18 – No Need to Force Myself to Speak Thai

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2 thoughts on “5 Factors that Improve My Ability to Learn Thai

  1. “Maybe the trick to making progress in a language is not just being able to choose the right tools but knowing when to stop using them”

    Good tip. Also important (to me) is to find a new tool after I’ve stopped one that is no longer working.

    I’m hoping to hear more about mindfulness and learning languages. I figure that getting it right will give students the ability to have concentrated learning, instead of being half there.

    1. Hi Catherine, I’m sure mindfulness could be hugely beneficial when it comes to learning languages. It’s something I’ve been playing around with for a few years now, but I’d like to dig into much deeper.

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