Of the five foreign languages taught in China's Yunnan Normal University, Thai is the most popular choice with about 90 Chinese students choosing it as their major for the year.
The language is also selected as a minor subject by around 150 to 200 students, said Duan Zhao Yang, a Thai-language lecturer at the University's International Cooperative Education Centre.
"Thai language has been the most popular among the Chinese students since foreign languages were introduced to students," said Duan, one of 12 teachers in the Thai programme.
Myanmar is the second most popular. The other languages are Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian.
The students start learning Thai with the writing of the 44 characters in the Thai alphabet - like young Thais in elementary level here.
Some students chose to study Thai because they want to learn more about Thailand, as well as work in Thai businesses.
"When the students study to a certain level, we will teach them to sing Thai songs, because that is the way for them to remember the pronunciation and meaning of Thai words," she said.
She said the students' favourite songs included Thongchai McIntyre or 'Bird' and Shasha, as well as popular 'luk thung' or country songs.
The university offers the students an opportunity to learn the language for two years and then study in Thailand for two years before graduation.
The Thai universities included Burapa in Chon Buri province, Chiang Mai University and Khon Kaen, she said.
Duan, a Yunnan native, said she earned a bachelor's degree in Thai language from Yunnan Normal University before continuing her studies and earning a Master's from Burapa University in Chon Buri.
She said she decided to study Thai when Thailand's economy was booming. "I believed that because of the good economy, I had an opportunity to either work in Thailand or join a Thai company in Yunnan," she said. She then furthered her studies in Thailand.
Duan said some of her students earned a PhD from Chulalongkorn in Bangkok while some others were working with Thai firms in Bangkok.
Yunnan Normal University has 24 faculties and about 30,000 students. It educates both Chinese and foreign students in Schools of Economics and Management, of Tourism and Geography, plus International Studies and Yunnan Chinese Language.
It has the biggest library in the southwest region with over 3.2 million books in a new-generation digitised service system.
It cooperates with over 160 overseas universities and research institutes in more than 80 countries, including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand and Taiwan.