The seeds of Patong Language School were sown way back in 1983 when Ms Prapasri Pimsuwan began offering English lessons in a rented wooden hut on Soi Loma, adjacent to Patong Beach. At that time, Patong was just a quiet backwater with dirt roads, beach restaurants, a few bars and a couple of hotels. The end of the first week saw several Thai students enrolled to learn English, and the beginning of the second week attracted the first foreign tourist to enquire about Thai lessons. Within the first month a second teacher was needed.
The ‘school’ quickly outgrew its first location, and so more substantial premises were rented on the new Soi Patong Resort, off Bangla Road. Patong was expanding quickly by the mid-80s, so the school moved again to Soi Sunset, to larger but cheaper premises.
Having operated as an unlicensed ‘language centre’ for its first few years, the school applied for and was approved as ‘Patong Language School’ in 1990 by the Ministry of Education, making it the first private language school to register in Phuket province.
The new status as a licensed school coincided with a move to the first purchased premises in Soi Sansabai. Once again, after only a couple of years in the new building, it was rented out when the school moved to larger premises in the same street. The growth of Patong was relentless and the school had to grow to keep up with demand.
Still growing and needing even more room for expansion, PLS moved in 1992 to Bangla Square off Bangla Road. This prominent new location in the centre of town provided easy access for students, and a second, neighbouring building was taken within the first year. The owner’s sister, Ms Rattanaporn Pimsuwan, joined as School Manager in 1997 and still runs PLS today. The school enjoyed enormous popularity through the 90s, but by 2000 Bangla was becoming the crazy night entertainment zone we see today, making it difficult to operate a school in this location.
With Patong rents skyrocketing, the building in Soi Sansabai was sold and two buildings in Aroonsom Square were acquired, moving the school to a quieter location with ample parking. With the internet beginning to take off, computer and typing classes became very popular, and the early noughties saw the school offering on-site training for hotels, restaurants and other businesses. PLS provided English teachers to hotels as far away as Khao Lak and Krabi, with many famous brands amongst the clientele.
A TEFL teacher training course was introduced, and many graduates remained to work at PLS, some for many years.
The internet spawned agents around the world, and to the present day these companies send many students every year to learn English and Thai in Patong Beach.
More than a decade ago, PLS applied for and obtained approval to provide ‘Bildungsurlaub’ courses for German nationals, and continues to do this still.
Also around a decade ago, PLS obtained approval from Sweden’s CSN to offer government subsidised Thai courses. Many Swedish students come every year to learn Thai intensively for 3 to 12 months at a time.
The Thai Ministry of Education introduced internal quality auditing for private schools, and chose PLS as the test-bed for its first ever inspection. PLS passed with flying colours and has done so in every audit since.
In 2011, PLS relocated just a few metres along the street to new, purpose-built premises, with large, bright classrooms, and an elevator to all floors. This is the building you see the school in today: Phuket’s largest, most modern language school serving foreign and Thai students who want to learn English, Thai, Japanese and German.
PLS reopened after the forced closure due to the pandemic with online self-study Thai courses, an online bookshop and all-new study materials. Lockdown was spent developing and re-imagining all the books used to teach in the school. Drawing on its 40 years of experience in language teaching, the school completely revamped course structures and books, adding online audio and supplementary materials for the first time.
January 2022 saw the publication of the school’s first self-study book ‘Speak Thai Today’, which was quickly followed by ‘Read Thai Today’ and ‘The Ultimate Thai Visual Dictionary. ‘Speak Thai Today’ soon entered the AsiaBooks best-seller list and became the top selling Thai language study book on their shelves. Two new books will be available online and in the shops in February 2023. Today, all PLS books are available on Amazon and in AsiaBooks, B2S and Kinokuniya.
PLS is set well for the future, with the next generation of the Pimsuwan family already working in the school and bringing in new ideas that will ensure PLS stays ahead of the competition and remains the number one choice for language study in Phuket.