My approach is almost the exact opposite of every language method or school I’ve come across (except maybe the ideas of Stephen Krashen ‘Comprehensible Input’, James Asher’s ‘Total Physical Response’ and a few others).
Namely, I think it’s important to focus on reading and understanding before speaking or writing; and I don’t think that speaking is actually a ‘linguistic’ skill – I think it’s a physical skill, like dancing or playing a musical instrument.
I don’t encourage overdoing it on the material either, like many podcasts or other online courses. I think it’s more important to really master a text (kind of like doing karate or practicing scales & riffs in jazz) and being able to understand it 100% when hearing it read aloud, plus practicing saying it out loud yourself until you can speak it fluently.
And I also believe that you should totally ignore writing until much, much later (but perhaps practice typing for now, which is reading after all).
So I would suggest that, for now, you buy Everyday Thai for Beginners (you can also get it from Kinokunya) and – after completing the Rapid Read Thai course – engage a private Thai tutor (or sign up to our Skype Thai Teacher service) to work through the Everyday course together with you. Tell her just to follow the text book and not to introduce her own material. Once you have purchased the book, you should also install Anki and download the Rapid Everyday Thai flashcard file to build up the 1,200-word vocabulary used in the course. Get an iPad or iPhone and purchase the Anki app so you can learn continuously.
Your teacher’s job should be simply to explain the language patterns and grammar points, and to work through conversational exercises around each lesson. There are 30 lessons. I suggest you work through each lesson first by yourself first and then spend an hour in conversation with your teacher. It’s designed to be a one year university course, but I think (with the Anki file) you can do it in 3 months (two lessons per week). This will give you a basic proficiency that will enable you to get by in everyday situations: small talk with friends, buy stuff, get around in the taxi, and make short phone calls.
Then you will be ready for the Rapid Fluency course, which is fifty online lessons, with accompanying Anki and audio files, that will get you fluent in a year (one lesson a week). It’s based on a Thai novel called Sydney Remember. It's written in a straight-forward language style, only occasionally formal, but mostly using colloquial everyday Thai and common slang. And it's a fun story about a Thai girl who goes to live with her cousin in Sydney, finds work, meets lots of different people and falls in love. It happens to us in reverse when we go to Thailand, but we can experience it from a Thai perspective!
So the answer to the question “Can you be fluent in a year?” is that it will actually take about 16 months in total: allow one month to learn to read, about three months to work through the Everyday course, and then a year to read and fully understand Sydney Remember, while using Anki to build up a solid vocabulary so that you can communicate fluently in most everyday situations.
Even though the Rapid approach is highly ‘accelerated’, I believe it’s more effective to ‘go slow’, i.e., not to spend too much time studying intensively and rushing through a mountain of material (the classic, school education approach).
Rather, by focusing your energy on a short lesson once a week that doesn’t require much time or effort on your part, and then consolidating it (mostly subconsciously) during the week, you master the essential aspects and gain a rough kind of fluency that you can use in real life – simply by following the 80/20 rule.
And it’s a lot more enjoyable than hours of intensive, arduous study…!