One of the initial decisions that I am faced with when studying Thai is whether or not I want to dive right in and learn the script or should I just go ahead and learn everything in romanized form (that is, using the English alphabet) and worry about the characters later.
At first glance it seems quite a formidable task. There are 44 consonants to learn which produce 21 initial sounds. Then there are 21 vowels that can be combined to make 32 different sounds. It certainly sounds like a heck of a lot to learn. And when you get a look at them, a lot of them look quite similar. I am tempted to forget about the alphabet and just dive in using romanization.
Then again I have heard the argument that once you put in the initial effort to learn the alphabet, pronunciation becomes so much easier. Also, there is no universally accepted system for romanising the Thai language, and every text book you buy seems to have a different system. Also, I've heard that many Thais hardly recognize anything written in romanized Thai.
Another reason to learn the alphabet right up front is that when you are learning a new language, you want as many senses as possible to be stimulated. The more senses that you use, the better your retention will be. When you are writing down new vocabulary in the foreign alphabet, you may often find yourself recalling the visual mental image of the written word in your head at a later time. Many times I've recalled a word because the picture of it written in the script has come to mind.
So I've decided to jump in and take the plunge- actually I decided this a month ago and I am almost fininshed. I will report back here as soon as I am finished with my super hardcore alphabet memorizing method. stay tuned.