Chiang Mai is one of those cities that people come to thinking they’ll stay a short while, but then they end up finding a way to stay for the much longer-term. It’s a place that gives people so many reasons to want to stick around and as travelers decide to stay longer, learning to communicate in Thai makes sense. Learning Thai in Chiang Mai is a great way to spend your time! Your efforts will result in a more rewarding and connected experience while you’re in Thailand.
Chiang Mai is absolutely packed with Thai language schools. Not only is it a mecca for language teachers who want to teach English to Thai locals, it’s also an amazing place to come to learn Thai. Learning Thai in Chiang Mai is a challenging but rewarding experience and you’ll have a mind-boggling array of schools to choose from. It’s quite overwhelming so we’re here to help you sort through all of your options for learning Thai in Chiang Mai so you end up having the best experience possible and hopefully come away speaking Thai!
Getting an Education Visa to Learn Thai in Chiang Mai
If you’re planning on studying the Thai language in Thailand you’re entitled to apply for a study visa which will grant you a study visa for up to 12 months. You can apply for this visa either from your home country or you can apply if you’re already in Thailand.
Your first step is to apply to the language program of your choice and then pay their fee and then the Thai language school of your choice in Chiang Mai will apply to the Ministry of Education on your behalf for a letter of approval. Once you get this letter, depending on your nationality, you can either travel to a neighboring country to apply for your education visa, or you might have to return to your home country to have a Thai education visa issued there. Either way, you’ll have to go somewhere else as it’s not possible to apply for this visa from within Thailand.
But beware! If you’re not actually dedicated to learning Thai then you might have your visa revoked because it’s required that you take a test once every four months to prove that you’ve been making progress and taking your studies seriously. If you want to continue your studies beyond 12 months, you’ll have to apply to renew your visa.
Tips for Choosing the a Thai School in Chiang Mai
Because learning Thai in Chiang Mai is so popular, you’ll have lots of schools to choose from. You’ll want to weigh things like the quality and reputation of the school with other important things like the price and convenience of the school’s location.
List of Language Schools for Learning Thai in Chiang Mai
Below is a list of the major schools for learning Thai in Chiang Mai. If there’s anywhere we’ve missed, please let us know!
American University Alumni (AUA) Language Center
AUA has been around since 1985 and that makes it one of the oldest places to learn Thai in Chiang Mai. The school has a bit more of a focus on teaching English classes, but their Thai program is also good and you’ll find a nice selection of classes aimed at teaching Thai to foreign students.
Their methodology stems from the philosophy that “for the students to speak Thai well they must be able to understand and produce the tones of the language correctly and accurately”. To accomplish this difficult goal, they use a method called ‘focused practice’ that concentrates on introducing practical Thai grammar and vocabulary patterns and then engaging the students in dialogue. These dialogues are practised within each lesson to help give the students the confidence and tools they need to speak and practice when they’re outside of the classroom.
The AUA Language Center offers beginner and intermediate level courses that cost 5,300 THB ($160) per 60-hour course along with some special interest courses. Classes run daily for two hours each and you can choose from morning or afternoon. Class size is between five and 12 students per class and are taught by experienced, native Thai speakers. If you’d prefer private lessons at their center, they charge 340 THB ($10) per hour for one or two students, 380 THB ($11.50) per hour for three students, and 460 THB ($14) per hour for four students. Prices are slightly higher for off-campus instruction (town only).
Address: 24 Ratchadamnern Road, Sriphum
Phone: +66 53 214120 / +66 53 211377 / +66 53 211973
CMU Centre for Thai Studies
This language institute is located on the campus of Chiang Mai University though, the part that teaches Thai to foreigners, isn’t totally a part of the university itself. Teachers aren’t necessarily hired from the university but instead from outside sources who are professional and experienced. Students are encouraged to speak in Thai from early on and as much as possible. You’ll be learning on the campus of Chiang Mai University which is an interesting experience and you’ll be issued a certificate upon completion of whichever course you choose to do.
They only offer two choices for courses – a 45-hour, ‘Speak Thai in 15-days’ survival crash course in the language and a full 12-month course that is eligible for an education visa. Classes are three hours each and the 12-month course teaches you six hours (two classes) per week. They run from Monday to Friday either in the morning (9am to noon), afternoon (1pm to 4pm), or in the evening (6pm to 9pm). Class size is usually between 7 and 15 students. The 12-month program costs 35,000 THB ($1,060) (plus a non-refundable 3,000 THB registration fee) and offers 216 hours of instruction. The 45-hour survival course costs 9,000 THB ($273). There is no option at CMU for private lessons and the maximum age for students at CMU is 60.
Address: 239 Hauy Kaew Road, T. Suthep, A. Muang
Phone: +66 53 943 751
Lanna Language aims to teach their students both the language and the culture of Thailand. They’re eager to teach their students so they can get the most out of their experience here in Thailand and they encourage students to get involved in the community through activities like litter picking, tree planting, and events in the evenings.
They have a large selection of courses for beginner, intermediate, and advanced students and online lessons, and lessons geared towards children. The beginners course focuses on spoken Thai that’s useful for general day-to-day life. It runs four days a week, two hours a day, for three months and costs 12,000 THB ($364) for 100 hours of lessons. The intermediate course seeks to progress student’s written and verbal skills along with some instruction on Thai grammar. It’s a four month course for 16,000 THB ($485) for 120 hours of lessons. The advanced course is for students who can already converse in Thai to a good level but who want to polish their skills and further develop their vocabulary as they work towards fluency. This course is 19,000 THB ($577) for six months with 190 hours. They also offer a year-long course as private lessons for those unable to join a group for 33,000 THB ($1000) for a year with 200 hours of lessons.
Lanna Language will help you get a study visa as part of their service. They also offer innovative courses geared towards children either for 300 THB per hour for private instruction or for 1,500 THB ($45) per month for two group classes per week. You can also study online for 300 THB ($9) per hour for private lessons or 150 THB ($4.50) per hour for a group and schedules can be geared to your needs, depending on teacher availability.
Address: 276 7 San Phak Wan, Hang Dong District
Phone: 095 934 3878 / 064 343 5735
Manna Thai Language Centre
The Manna Thai Language Centre was founded in 2002 and they currently have three branches in Thailand serving over 250 students. Their focus is not just on teaching Thai to their students, but also in building a relationship with each student so that they also have an amazing experience during their stay in Chiang Mai. The needs of their students come first and they try very hard to help integrate them into the community.
They offer classes for beginners, intermediate, and advanced Thai language learners and run Thai courses in Chiang Mai, Pai, and Chiang Rai. They use what’s called the ‘Total Physical Response (TRP) method’ which is an innovative learning process that aims to teach in a more natural way. Courses are offered several times per week and cost 4,500 THB ($137) per 30-hour level. For their 30-hour courses you can take ‘Listening and Speaking’ levels 1 and 2, ‘Reading and Writing’ levels 1, 2, and 3. Or for 6,000 THB ($182) they offer a 40-hour ‘Complex Grammar’ course. If you plan on getting an education visa then you’ll want to take either the six month, 200-hour course for 15,000 THB ($455) or the one year, 400-hour course for 27,000 THB ($820). Private classes cost 300 THB ($9) per hour.
Address: 4th Floor, Pantip Plaza, Chang Klan Road
Phone: +66 86 659 5788
NES (New Zealand Education Services) School of Languages
The NES School of Languages has been operating since 1996 when they opened their first branch in Chiang Mai. They now have three branches of the school in Chiang Mai and many branches of the school all around Thailand teaching up to 12,000 students at any given time. Their focus is overwhelmingly towards teaching English (and other languages like Chinese) to Thai students, but they also have courses teaching Thai to foreign students.
Address: 31 Soi Champi, 17 Nimmanhaemin Road
Phone: +66 94 165 6294
Payap Intensive Language Courses
Payap is a school that gets great reviews, especially for those who are serious about learning Thai in Chiang Mai. The teachers are great and their methodology really makes sure that you’re able to learn the language within a short time span, if you’re committed. It’s a fairly intense process so if you’re just in it to get the one year education visa and aren’t serious about learning Thai, then this might not be your place. The campus is located a bit out of town which might not be ideal for some.
Address: Payap University
Phone: 053 851 478-86
Prolanguage was founded in 2000 in Bangkok and has since grown into one of the most popular places to learn Thai in Chiang Mai, possibly largely due to their convenient location in Nimmanhaemin. They seem to cater to students who are interested in getting education visas and who are possibly a little less serious about learning the language. This can lead to a less serious classroom atmosphere which might be a good or bad thing, depending on your motivations. They also offer visa-qualifying language instruction in other languages including Chinese, Japanese, English, and German. They also have schools in Bangkok, Pattaya, and Rayong.
Address: 6/4-5, Nimmanhaeminda Road, Suthep
Phone: +66 53 500 980 / +66 86 431 0377
SLS Language School
SLS Language School (formerly called Sub Panya) is a small school that offers really great prices, especially for the one-year course that qualifies for an education visa. It’s not the most central place but it could be a good choice for some people, depending where in the city they live.
Address: 147 Amphoe Muang Chiang Mai
Phone: +66 53 245 840
Thai as a Second Language (TSL)
TSL is a relatively new Thai language school that offers a curriculum for more serious students from beginners all the way up to advanced. Their curriculum is well established and their teachers are all highly educated with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and with a good amount of teaching experience behind them.
Group classes have between five and ten students and are offered three times per day each on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. They also have a class covering Thai culture that is held on Saturdays. They also offer private lessons for 250 THB ($7.50) per hour and if you’d prefer to learn online, this is also an option.
TSL is fully registered with immigration as an education provider who can help issue a legitimate study visa for students in group classes. A 90-day visa costs 15,000 THB ($455), a 180-day visa is 21,500 THB ($652), and you’ll pay 32,500 THB ($986) for a full year visa.
Address: 152/1, Pantip Plaza Chiang Mai, 4th Floor, Changklan Rd
Phone: 096 926 4016
WALEN is a large, nationwide network of language schools with two branches in Chiang Mai. The branch on Huaykaew Road is the one that caters to foreigners hoping to learn Thai in Chiang Mai. The advantage of having so many branches around the country is that, if you’re planning on moving around Thailand, you can pick up where you left off at your new location, provided they have a school. The teachers here are less experienced than in some other schools and the methodology uses the natural learning method with a lot of questions and answers.
WALEN has a wide variety of course options and your best bet is to check their website for all of the details. Private lessons here cost a lot more than at other Thai language schools in Chaing Mai.
Address: Huaykaew Road
Phone: +66 81 885 7589
We Learn Thai
We Learn Thai has been teaching students Thai in Chiang Mai since 1993. Their teachers all hold university-level teaching degrees so you can be sure that they’ll be giving instructions at a high level. They offer Thai courses but also English and Spanish.
Currently, beginner, intermediate, and advanced classes can be taken either in-person or online. For the one month course, classes are two hours each and run four days per week, making up a 30-hour module costing 3,850 THB ($117). The 30-hour, three month course costs 9,000 THB ($273), the 100-hour, six months course costs 25,000 THB ($758), and the one year, 200-hour course costs 48,000 THB ($1,457). They also offer a 45-hour, three week crash course for 4,900 THB ($149). Classes start when there’s a minimum of five students and the classes are capped at 10 people.
There are a range of options for private lessons both for individuals and small groups starting at 350 THB ($10.50) per hour for one person and they also have a selection of online learning options. We Learn Thai will help arrange an education visa.
Address: 4th Floor, Pantip Plaza, 152/1 Chang Klan Road
Phone: +66 61 347 3377
YMCA Language School
YMCA has over 40 years of experience teaching Thai in Chiang Mai and they also offer other languages like English, Japanese, Mandarin, and Korean. The YMCA Language School in Chiang Mai runs group courses teaching standard Thai, Thai script (both reading and writing), intensive Thai, an exam preparation course, and a class in Thai daily life and culture. Contact them by email or through Facebook for more information. They also offer 20 hours of private lessons in Thai for 8,800 THB ($267) for one student, 12,500 THB ($379) for two students, and 14,800 THB ($449) for three students.
Address: YMCA, north of Central Kad Suan Kaew
Phone: +66 53 221 819
Apps for Learning Thai
Unfortunately the popular language app, Duolingo, doesn’t have lessons in Thai (yet!) but, fear not, there are several other excellent options.
- Drops – Drops is a slick and addictive app that’s free to use for five minutes per day and great for people who want to work on their Thai in short, quick bursts using a fun interface.
- Learn Thai – This app is aimed more at travelers and short-term visitors to Thailand with a 200-word bank of vocabulary words and quick audio lessons.
- Ling – This is one of the best Duolingo alternatives and it gamifies language learning in the same way, making the process fun and even slightly addictive. It’s not the most comprehensive app, but it is one that has a good selection of content presented in a fun way and it’s a great introduction to the Thai language.
- Mondly – Mondly is a slick app that sends out short lessons in Thai on a daily basis focusing on general vocabulary and core grammar. It’s not so comprehensive but it’s a great way to brush up on your skills and to stay engaged with learning Thai.
- Nemo – Nemo is one of the best free apps for learning Thai. It uses flashcards, quizzes, and lessons to help you to build up your vocabulary.
- Pimsleur – Pimsleur was one of the original language-learning methods focusing on the past on audio files. They still focus on audio, but they’ve upgraded and their app delivers 30 minute audio lessons in a real-world context.
- Pocket Thai – This free app is geared more towards a traveler to Thailand and it also come with useful lessons on culture, etiquette, and traditions. You can use this app offline.
- Simply Learn – This app is less for serious Thai language learners and more for those who want a practical travel phrasebook in their pocket. It has many of the key things that will help you navigate around Thailand as a traveler, laid out in an intuitive way and with the ability to search for what you need at the time.
- ThaiPod101 – This is a very well-designed app packed with a huge library of audio and video files. It’s the most regularly updated and comprehensive app for learning Thai that you’ll find. The lessons are based around short podcasts (around a wide variety of topics) and some videos, so you’ll get a lot of listening practice.
- Vocly – Vocally is focused on more intermediate learners of Thai with the goal of helping you expand your vocabulary. There are over 100 different topics separated by specific situations with fun tests to help keep you on your toes.
- Write Me – This app is strictly focused on learning how to read and write the Thai script. Knowing how to read and write will open up a whole new world to you and this app will help you do that by teaching the Thai alphabet in a fun, simple way, incorporating games and quizzes.
Websites and Blogs for Learning Thai
- Glossika – This website has blogs, downloads, and guides for several languages including Thai. You will learn using the proven methods of sentence repetition and timed repetition but this is better for those who aren’t absolute beginners.
- Pickup Thai – This website was started by two Thai language teachers. It’s packed with free resources that bring together YouTube videos, podcasts, audio files, and much more to help teach the language in a fun and engaging way.
- Thai Language Hut – If you’d prefer to study online rather than learning Thai in Chiang Mai in person, this website is a great starting point. It’s specifically geared for teaching people Thai online and there are several course options ranging from teaching visitors, expats, or professionals. It goes from beginner all the way up to specialized language courses.
YouTube Resources for Learning Thai
- My Thai Language School – This might not be the most slick of YouTube channels, but the content on here is very good. You’ll find a very comprehensive selection of videos on a variety of topics.
- ThaiPod101 – ThaiPod101 also has an excellent and very popular YouTube channel to go along with their app. The channel has almost 300,000 subscribers and they offer regular videos on a variety of topics. Some videos are short and sweet and others are long and in-depth and they’re all quite fun to watch.
- Thai with Mod – This is a long-running YouTube channel with fun role-playing videos with Mod and a cast of other characters. Videos are usually around 10 minutes in length and cover lots of topics.
Podcast Resources for Learning Thai
- Learn2Thai – This podcast is updated regularly with short, snappy episodes based around certain topics like greetings, shopping, and eating out. It’s aimed mostly at travelers heading to Thailand, rather than to serious language learners.
- LTP: Learn Thai Podcast – This podcast will teach you 300 of the most common Thai words along with some sentence structure in short, 10-minute episodes.
- You Too Can Learn Thai – This is a podcast created by the Thai linguist Dr. Khru Nan where she releases an episode each week revolving around a specific topic… sometimes with guests. This isn’t for beginners but for those wishing to improve their listening skills, it’s perfect.
Books for Learning Thai
- Read Thai in 10 Days – This book was written by a Thai-American who presents the challenging topic of learning to read the Thai alphabet in a fun, innovative, and effective way.
- Thai for Beginners – Thai for Beginners is a textbook often used by Thai teachers themselves and it does what it says in the title, catering to those with zero Thai language experience. It has an audio CD and all lessons are focused around actual scenarios you’re likely to be in at one point or another.
- Thai Picture Dictionary – Words in this creative book are presented in categories of similar items along with illustrations. If you’re more of a visual learner then this is a great option for those looking to expand their vocabulary.
Learning Thai in Chiang Mai is a wonderful way to spend some of your time in the city. We hope our guide has given you enough information on Thai schools in Chiang Mai and other resources to help you learn this wonderful language. As always, things change fast so if we’re missed anything, please let us know!