The Thai language opens doors to a much deeper travel and living experience in Thailand, and over 20 million native speakers to communicate with. It’s a fascinating language with five tones, 44 consonants and 36 vowels. But don’t worry! It’s much easier to learn than you might think – there’s no articles, conjugations, genders or even tenses!
But actually choosing which language program to go for can be like walking through a minefield. With so many options out there all trying to grab your attention you can find yourself getting lost in all the noise. One of the more popular options (and one that’s stood the test of time) is ThaiPod101, one of many language programs by Innovative Language. It’s affordable, comprehensive and contains dozens of features that give you almost everything you need to master the Thai language once and for all.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at ThaiPod101 – what we liked and didn’t like, how the program is structured, it’s main features, and whether it’s worth handing over your money.
ThaiPod101 Review: Summary
In a Nutshell: ThaiPod101 offers total digital immersion without any restrictive scheduling or additional work. The lessons are based on either podcasts or videos with energetic hosts. Thorough PDF lesson notes can be printed out or downloaded into a digital library for on-the-go study. The software is comprehensive and can take you from absolute beginner right through to advanced. ThaiPod101 is a great alternative to the traditional classroom method, because users can take their learning into their own hands, customize their own syllabus, and study wherever and whenever they have the time. To get the full value of ThaiPod101, a subscription plan is highly recommended.
Overall Score: 4.2
What is ThaiPod101?
ThaiPod101 calls itself the “the fastest, easiest and most fun way” to learn Thai. While the podcasts and audio lessons are geared more towards beginners, there is plenty of content that will help both intermediate and advanced learners improve their Thai language skills. Thousands of audio and video lessons are enhanced with a built-in flashcard system, downloadable notes, and even a smartphone and tablet app that provides access to studying options no matter where you are or how much time you have.
You can sign up for free, which gives you access to the following features:
However, if you are truly serious about studying Thai, then we reccomend investing a little more money into ThaiPod101 to unlock hundreds of additional features. The Basic subscription is ideal for those on a shoestring budget, however those who really want to accelerate their studies would enjoy Premium or Premium+ subscriptions.
For example, the Basic subscription ($8 per month or $60 for a year) gives you access to free printer-friendly lesson notes for each audio lesson and one-click lesson downloads. Meanwhile, Premium ($25 per month or $180 per year) unlocks lesson specific tools like voice recording, flashcards, quizzes, downloads, and a dictionary. Premium+ ($47 per month/$316 per year) has all the features of Premium but also includes 1-on-1 instruction.
The Pros: What We Liked About ThaiPod101
Pro #1: Lots of Content
Some of the other language programs by Innovative Language are a bit sparse in terms of content, especially at the higher levels. However, with ThaiPod101 we were really pleased to see that there’s really a LOT of content, and a huge library of lesson pathways to choose from. Whatever your needs, you’ll find a pathway that’s right for you, whether you want to focus on a specific skill like reading or writing, or a particular topic like ‘Thai for Emergencies’, ‘Asking for Directions’, or you just want to brush up on your Thai alphabet.
Pro #2: Great For Novice and Intermediate Learners
Quality resources for Thai at a beginner level are hard to come by, even as Thailand becomes an ever more popular place for expats and travelers. The bulk of the audio and video lessons in ThaiPod101 are designed to give people from all walks of life an excellent foundation from which to build their language studies. Getting the chance to listen to native Thai speakers at a slowed rate, with line-by-line audio clips really helps to train your ears to distinguish those tricky tones and to nail the pronunciation and intonation. We feel the lessons are graded perfectly for those without any prior experience of the language.
Pro #3: Hundreds of Features
Even if you are just using the free function, you get access to quality content that cannot be easily matched with other apps and programs. Once you get a membership however, you unlock a whole new treasure trove of items, including in-depth and varied podcasts, a dictionary, grammar charts, downloadable notes, flashcards, lesson transcripts, playbacks, one-on-one tutoring, community interaction, and so much more.
Pro #4: Relevant and Interesting Topics
Nothing is worse than droll and boring lessons. Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about that with ThaiPod101. The Thai conversations featured in the audio and video lessons focus on daily scenarios that you are likely to run into when living in Thailand. This ensures that the vocabulary stays relevant and useful, keeping you interested and motivated to learn more.
Pro #5: Cultural Insights
We believe that learning a language really is the key to unlocking a new culture, and so we wouldn’t expect anything less from a language program than to include lots of cultural insights. Thankfully, ThaiPod101 exceeded our expectations on this front, with a bunch of interesting cultural information weaved directly throughout every lesson. You can even filter the lessons by ‘culture’, and you’ll find a dedicated section to Thai culture in the lesson notes. You’ll discover fascinating topics on Thai food, historical figures, traditional clothing, history, artists and musicians. The culture classes are really the best part of ThaiPod101, in our opinion.
The Cons: What We Didn't Like About ThaiPod101
Con #1: Lack of Speaking Practice
There are not many downsides to ThaiPod101, but the one that sticks out the most would be the overall lack of speaking practice within every single membership level (excluding Premium+). ThaiPod101 will improve your vocabulary and listening skills, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a way to practice speaking. You’ll eventually need to find someone to practice with so you don’t lose your Thai skills. We recommend sites such as italki to supplement your language studies.
Con #2: Small Community
In a similar vein to the lack of speaking practice is the relatively small community of Thai language learners in the program. If you are searching for someone to practice speaking with, you may have to venture beyond the ThaiPod101 community. Besides, some of the community functions are limited in Free and Basic subscriptions.
Con #3: Easy to Get Side-Tracked
Whilst there are recommended curated pathways for each level, the sheer amount of extra lesson pathways to choose from can get a bit overwhelming at times, not knowing which lesson to choose next. This is where the overall concept and methodology of ThaiPod101 might not be best for learners who prefer a more structured ‘by the book’ approach that walks you through each lesson in turn.
It definitely takes some discipline and self awareness to choose the lessons that you need to work on most, which makes ThaiPod101 best suited to independent learners. If this is something that worries you, then we’d recommend the Premium+ membership where you’ll receive a fully personalised study plan with one-on-one instruction and guidance from a professional language tutor.
What Are The Lessons Like?
Depending on the membership that you choose, the lesson plans will be different. Lessons are divided into five levels: Absolute Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, and Advanced. The lessons are then divided up into sub-sections beneath these levels. For example, if you are looking at the dashboard for beginner content, you might see “Beginner Season 1,” which contains 25 lessons, audio and video lessons, must-know beginner-friendly slang words, review notes, beginner-level listening comprehension, and more. The app is set up very much the same, but the functionality differs depending on your membership.
At the end of every lesson you complete, you are presented with an oral quiz that aims to improve upon your speaking and listening abilities. This helps you understand what your weaknesses are and gauge how well you are progressing through the content.
The podcasts are set up to teach you how to work through everyday scenarios. Animations are bright and cute, and the dialogue is written out for you to follow. If you have a subscription, you can access transcripts pertaining to the lesson, play back the content to take notes, or you can move onto flashcards to study grammar points and words on your own time.
You also get vocab lists, like the Thai Core 100 Word List, which has foundational content, sample sentences, and audio files attached for you to listen to and then repeat. As you level up, the word lists get longer. Some of them are up to 2000 words long. Using these lists alone, you can pick up thousands of unique phrases.
Who Is ThaiPod101 For?
ThaiPod101 is an ideal program for people who:
Who Is ThaiPod101 NOT For?
Even the best programs have some disadvantages and negatives that make it less useful for some people. ThaiPod101 is not for the following people:
ThaiPod101 vs. Competitors
Since Thai is not as popular as Japanese, Spanish or Chinese, you won’t find that many programs available. The ones that are out there are not as fleshed out as ThaiPod101. Here are some competitors and alternatives:
Pimsleur Software vs. ThaiPod101
Pimsleur is one of the few CD-ROM-based courses like Rosetta Stone that offers Thai. Each CD has 30+ lessons that takes you through beginner to intermediate then from intermediate to advanced. However, the cost of Pimsleur and other similar programs is on the high end. You also don’t get any printer-friendly content and have to make due without a smartphone or tablet app to make the content more portable.
Italki vs. ThaiPod101
Unlike ThaiPod101, Italki is excellent for connecting you with real people to help you learn a new language. You meet up for lessons over Skype whenever you can. Sometimes you can find language exchange partners for free tutoring, or you can pay a professional for one-on-one lessons. The downside is that you are focusing solely on conversation and may not get the same quality as you would through audio, video, and downloadable lessons.
Walen Thai vs. ThaiPod101
Walen Thai is a free app that can be downloaded onto your Apple or Android phone. It is not as immersive as ThaiPod101, but it does help you with learning the essentials of the language through visual recognition tasks, audio, and video. You can also choose which characters of the Thai alphabet you want to learn.
SpeakThai vs. ThaiPod101
The Tourism Authority of Thailand took language learning into their own hands to develop the SpeakThai app. Rather than being language learning software, SpeakThai functions more like a portable translator that has over 2,500 words and phrases. You can use the translation option or study by listening to well-known phrases. The app is great for travelers who want to learn a few essential phrases for their trip.
You could also opt for a student visa then enroll into a language school in Thailand, but a lot of students find that they are unable to have conversations with the locals. Most language schools, regardless of the language they are teaching, focus on outdated rote memorization. You are lucky if you get to interact with native speakers. That’s why ThaiPod101 is such an excellent option, because you learn from Thai teachers anywhere in the world.
Is ThaiPod101 Worth The Money?
In our opinion: Yes, ThaiPod101 is worth every penny. With the largest Thai lesson library in the world, boasting over 275 hours of real content by experienced teachers, you can be sure that you’ll be getting your money’s worth with ThaiPod101. The platform allows you to study completely on your own time, to select only the topics that are really interest to you, and to start speaking Thai with confidence from the get go.
You can choose between either a free trial or sign up for a paid membership. With the minimum cost of $8 a month, you can certainly start breaking into the Thai language and picking up useful phrases straight away. Even the most motivated of students who choose more expensive packages, like Premium, for $180 a year, are getting excellent value with all the bonus features.
Compared that to the cost of other competitors, like Pimsleur language learning software, which contains less than 40 lessons. If you decide to go to a language school, you might end up paying thousands of dollars a year. A ThaiPod101 subscription costs a fraction of that for two years.
And best of all? If you don’t enjoy ThaiPod101 or are not meeting your learning expectations, there is a full 60-day money back guarantee with every purchase. You can also cancel your subscription any time you want.
If it sounds like I’m really selling it, it’s because I really do like the programs put out by this company. I’ve been using their Japanese program, JapanesePod 101, for years, and have been super happy with the results!
Our Exclusive 30% Off ThaiPod101 Coupon Code
We’ve approached the creators of ThaiPod101 and managed to get our hands on an exclusive 30% off coupon code.
If you use our link to sign up, you get 30% off the regular prices that we mentioned above (excluding the Premium+ tier with 1-on-1 lessons).
Here’s the link:
I don’t know how long this code will be available, but I think at this price the program is a no-brainer to recommend.
The Secret Lifetime Membership Option (Not too many people know about this!)
Some people don’t like monthly payments, and I don’t blame them. Usually when I have a choice between a one time payment and smaller monthly payments, I choose the one-time deal.
This deal isn’t really advertised, but you can get lifetime access to ThaiPod101 for $599.
There are other lifetime deals where you can get the entire course catalogue of 34 languages (this deal is a little expensive, but if you’re a big language learner if might be worth it!).
You can get the lifetime membership to ThaiPod101 here.
ThaiPod101 Review Conclusion
All in all, ThaiPod101 is an Excellent Resource That’s Worth Every Cent (With Only A Few Downsides)
Because Thai is not a popular language, resources for learning the language are few and far between. Fortunately, with resources like ThaiPod101, you don’t need hundreds of apps and programs to get fluent. We’d like to see a bigger community to practice with on ThaiPod101 with features to allow students to connect with one another more easily. That being said, in our opinion this is the best app to learn Thai on the market right now. ThaiPod101 is a solid language learning program that provides hundreds of lessons ranging from absolute beginner through advanced. You can learn pronunciation, grammar, and enhance your vocabulary rapidly—especially if you invest a little money into a subscription plan.
Overall, we think ThaiPod101 is an great investment that can accelerate your understanding of Thai and fast-track your path towards fluency.
Michael has lived in Japan on and off for almost 10 years. He loves studying Japanese, and is currently working on going from N2 to N1 on the JLPT.