Should I Learn to Read Thai?
When I started to study Thai I was faced with either learning a transliteration of Thai or learning the actual written language. I found the transliteration systems to be non-standardized and confusing. Every book and every dictionary used a different method. Since I did not find the transliteration system to be natural I felt that to use my time learning a system with no value but to study from a specific book was a big waste of my precious time. At the time I started most schools did not have a curriculum that included the Thai script for beginner students. My solution to this problem was to purchase Benjawan Becker's book Thai for Beginners. This book includes exactly how to draw the alphabet and really simplifies the whole thing. Once I overcame the initial shock I found it much easier to read the alphabet than I had expected.
Many students believe that learning to read is too difficult because at first sight it is just a maze of shapes and squiggles that continuously run from word to word. Another false belief that I think most students have is that they will never learn to read well enough for it to have any value to them. While it may be true that most foreigners will never learn to read and write fluently I believe that the ability to read signs and menus can have a quick and positive impact on learners but more importantly people who can read usually pronounce the words in Thai more accurately and are not confused from going to one transliteration system to another.