Learning Thai Vocabulary with Anki and LWT

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After being in Thailand for almost 11 years, I feel that I should be able to communicate with Thais using the Thai language. But I still think that I am stuck at a very basic level. I can read and write the beautiful Thai script, but I just don't know enough vocabulary to be able to actually read and understand a Thai newspaper or book. So now I am concentrating my efforts on learning as much vocabulary as I can.

I am using two main pieces of software to accomplish this goal: Anki and Learning with Texts (LWT). Anki is a general flashcard app, and card decks can be downloaded from the Internet for lots of different subjects such as various languages or scientific fields. Searching for Thai on the Anki website brings up lots of results, of which I have downloaded: 1000 Most Common Thai Words and Thai for Beginners Vocabulary. I have also created my own card deck, using words that I see that I want to learn. Many of these come from online chats I have had in Thai. Piyawat was kind enough to add me to his family's Line chat room, for example, and I just follow along and pick out words that I don't know.

The second software is one that I read about on the excellent A Woman Learning Thai blog, but never gave it a try until last week. It is really an amazing program, but I am not sure exactly how to describe it. Basically, it is open source, web-based software that you can host yourself. You upload texts to it (Thai texts, in my case) and then read through the texts and highlight any words that you don't know. It then keeps track of the terms that you save and you can test them in a flashcard mode later.

The coolest thing I have found about this program so far is that you can also save the expressions (phrases) that are inside the sentences. For example, in addition to single words, these might all be expressions that are saved in the database to be tested later:


  • my friend

  • lives in

  • my friend lives in

  • big house

  • my friend lives in the big house

  • over there

  • my friend lives in the big house over there


This speaks to the idea of the importance of collocations in language. It doesn't do much good if you know individual vocabulary words if you don't know how they are used with other words. In any case, the basic idea behind this software is very similar to what I have been thinking about building myself as an Intermediate Thai learner. And since it is open source, I can check out the internals and see if there are some interesting ideas and learn from it.

Both Anki and LWT offer statistics on how many words you have learned. I am a numbers guy, so I really like this feature. Unfortunately there is a lot of overlap between the vocabulary in my Anki Decks and what I am putting into LWT. But there are enough numbers that I should be able to see some progress as I go along.

Here are some examples of my current statistics. From LWT I have:


  • 210 terms and expressions "known"

  • 163 terms and expressions "learning"

  • 2,374 terms and expressions entered

That gives me a 9% known score for LWT. My stats in Anki are similar:

  • 315 Mature Cards

  • 180 Young+Learning Cards

  • 3,663 Unseen Cards

So perhaps a comparable score for Anki would be 8% Mature (known).

Maybe I will post my progress here every week or so. At least I hope there is progress. If I can recognize (read and write) the 3,000 most common Thai words, then surely I should be able to stumble my way through a simple Thai language story.

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This page contains a single entry by Stuart published on June 26, 2013 5:29 PM.

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