The Best Bangkok Thai Language School; Duke Language School. My Experience.
As many of you guys know, Thailand has been my base since quitting the ‘real world’ and becoming a full-time blogger. I first moved to Thailand waaaay back in 2007, to teach English in Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand. 13 years later, Thailand is still my adopted home. Although, until COVID, it’s been more of a pitstop than a home. During my journey to every country in the world, I used Bangkok as a place of mental recovery. A place where I wasn’t living out of my backpack, where I’d use the time to work out how to travel to Iraq, travel to Socotra, Yemen or how to take my mum to Afghanistan! Anyway, I finally bought a condo in Bangkok, and loved being back in the city.
Each year I’d spend 1-4 months in Bangkok, normally in 30 days stints. So I never really got a chance to learn Thai in Bangkok properly. Sure, I can get by. I’d say I am lower intermediate, but I can’t read or write a drop (at least I couldn’t before this blog post!), and it was time to get my act together. I had been looking for the best Bangkok Thai language school for years, trying to find a place that the schedule worked, but it was tough. I studied Thai in Chiang Mai back in 2007, and I tried to learn Thai in Bangkok for 1 or 2 months about 4 years ago, but that was the entire life of my ‘learning Thai in Bangkok’ life. COVID may have destroyed our non-profit travel company (temporarily), stripped back the traffic of my travel blog, cancelled all my adventure trips, and smashed my SEO company revenue by 80%, but it has allowed me to focus on fitness and improving my Thai. Step forward Duke Language School.
What is the Best Bangkok Thai Language School? Duke Language School
Right, COVID. So it’s a nightmare, we all know that, but at least we can use the time productively, right? Initially, I focused on cycling 2000km the length of Thailand, and now have my eyes set on running from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, all 188km, to raise money for COVID-affected families here in Thailand (sponsor us here!), but just training the body isn’t enough, so I was determined to improve my Thai language skills. My last school was ‘ok’, but nothing special, so I researched and researched, emailed every Thai language school in Bangkok pretty much, looked at the various courses, fees, and reviews across multiple platforms, and one kept reappearing – Duke Language School. Ok, I’ll give it a go. That was almost 2 months ago, I completed my first month (LOVED IT!), now I’m on my second month, and today I just registered for my 3rd month. So how does it work?
Duke Language School Format
Studying Thai in Bangkok is best done properly And that takes a bit of commitment. None of this 90 minutes, once-a-week stuff. You won’t learn anything that way! And being the best Bangkok Thai language school, Duke is well aware of that fact. So with that knowledge, the basic timetable is:
- Monday to Friday. 5 day per week. 3 hours per day.
- You can then choose to study either in the morning at 9am-12 pm. Or from 1pm to 4 pm.
My first month at Duke, I studied the afternoon class. This month, I’ve been studying the morning class, and in my opinion, the morning is better. You feel fresher, and you’re done by midday. But of course, that’s up to the individual.
Study Thai in Bangkok, but Which Level Are You? Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced?
Duke has broken down the ‘Studying Thai Language’ process into 9 modules (you can see them here):
- Journey 1, Journey 2, Journey 3: Beginner and introduction to Thai. Survival skills, then basic grammar, then more speaking.
- Explore 1, Explore 2, Explore 3: Learning to read and write! This is where I joined, as my skills are a bit beyond beginner.
- Connect 1, Connect 2, Connect 3: Exploring more advanced topics like culture and politics, lots of speaking, and all spelling exclusively in Thai.
Each module lasts 4 weeks. 3 hours per day, 5 days per week. So each module = 60 hours classroom time, plus homework and practice outside of class.
When you go into the school, a teacher will give you an informal speaking and listening test to gauge your level. If you’re a beginner, you’ll know it, and start at Journey 1. Whereas, if you can speak a bit but you’ve never learned to read and write (like me!), you’ll be in Explore 1. If you’re quite advanced, Connect 1. And so on. I started on Explore 1, now on Explore 2, and doing Explore 3 next month. I’ve gone from seeing Thai as random squiggles on a page, to being able to read (albeit quite slowly!) in just 6 weeks, pretty amazing to be honest.
If you miss any classes or want some extra private lessons, you can book them through the school at 600THB ($19) per hour. Really reasonable! I went to Khao Lak and Koh Yao Noi with my partner last month, missed a couple of classes, so booked 3 hours private to catch up.
When Does the Next Module Start?
They constantly run throughout the year. Starting every 4 weeks. You can see the schedule here. Duke is now probably the most popular place to Study Thai in Bangkok, so they have lots of students every morning and afternoon. In my first module, there were 8 of us in the class, in my second module, there are 6 of us. And that’s during COVID! It often sells out, so book in advance if you want to secure a morning or afternoon slot, depending on your schedule.
How Much Does it Cost to Study Thai in Bangkok?
First of all, I urge you to ignore the dirt-cheap offers you see online. “Pay peanuts, and you get monkeys” (something my mum always told me!). Duke is really reasonably priced at 8,000THB (about $250USD) per month for 60 hours. That works out at $4 an hour (or 129THB per hour)! Great value for an almost full-time monthly course.
Where is Duke, the best Bangkok Thai Language School?
Duke Language School is 5-minute walking distance from BTS Nana in Bangkok city centre, it’s in the ‘Trendy Building’ (quite a famous building in Bangkok, lots of taxis drivers and motorbike drivers will know it), on Sukhumvit Soi 13. Near Terminal 21 shopping mall.
How to get an Education Visa in Thailand?
As many digital nomads, or ex-pats in Thailand who work for themselves know, it’s difficult to secure a visa to allow you to ‘live’ in Thailand for the medium/long-term. 30-day tourist visas are not a good solution! One way to ensure you’re allowed to stay in Thailand is to sign up for a reputable Thai school, and by committing to study Thai in Bangkok, the school can help you get an education visa legally. There are lots of cowboy schools who merely exist just to get people education visas. Duke is NOT a school like that.
Education visas are easy to organise through Duke, but only if you actually study there. If you sign up to an 8 or 14-month course with Duke, they will help you secure the visa. Also, with 14 months, you could go from Beginner to pretty fluent. That is pretty cool! Personally, I have a different visa here, but had I not had that, for sure this would be a great option for a visa to stay in Thailand, and improve my Thai too. About half of the people on my courses are using education visas this way.
My Thought’s On The Best Bangkok Thai Language School
I will be writing a series of blog posts, one per month, over the next 6-12 months, showing my progress at Duke Language School. I’m so impressed by their syllabus, their teachers, and the whole set-up. I’m also shocked by the speed people are progressing with their Thai here. It’s my 3rd experience studying Thai in Bangkok and it’s hands-down the best Thai school I’ve been too. Not only that, but I’m actually enjoying going every day. The atmosphere at the school is so warm. It’s professional of course, but friendly at the same time – a difficult balance to pull off, but Duke has managed it. Next month, I’ll do a little video speaking Thai and you can see how the progress has been. I’m nervous, but it’s going well, so watch this space!
I’m getting married next year in Thailand, and half the guests will be Thai, so my speech will have to be half in English and half in Thai, if Duke Language School can get me to pull that one off, then expect a lot of shout-outs to these guys in the future! So yeah, if you’re considering studying Thai in Bangkok, and you want to know the Best Bangkok Thai Language school, I can certainly recommend these guys. I’ll see you there!
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