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Thailand forum

How to learn Thai to communicate with locals, even small talks

Posted by jatintheexplorer on 5/1/2021 at 09:13

Hi group, I have been to Thailand three times from 2019 to 2020, and in my last trip I really felt that its very hard to communicate in English, especially if you are a business traveller. So after searching some videos on YouTube, buying some books on "How to learn Thai", I am convinced that all these things are scams, as you can't learn Thai Language in 3 months from any App, videos or especially not from a book. Some of my friends have suggested me to use Dulingo, but even this app is not what I expected to be. So, if anyone can share some useful tips on how to learn Thai, like just give small small guidance like how to start, that would be amazing.

#1 jatintheexplorer has been a member since 5/1/2021. Posts: 4

Posted by amnicoll on 8/2/2021 at 11:34

I have tried but never succeeded myself I can not get my head round the tones. However I have learnt some of the very basics

how much and numbers
thank you
answers to the question where are you going
where is (even if I can not understand the answer)
Can you speak thai answer a little
some of the foods
bus station train station

With these you would be amazed at just how much these break the ice and I would start here because you will be learning things that you will be using every day. from little acorns........

#2 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 975

Posted by exacto on 10/2/2021 at 02:54

I agree with amnicoll about starting small with basic everyday phrases then building from there. Learning any foreign language is difficult, and to get to a conversational level takes years of effort and either living in the country or having constant contact with native speakers.

The up side about Thai is that the grammar is simple and straightforward. The writing system is actually straightforward too in that it is an alphabet.

The difficult side is that (as amnicoll says) Thai has tones, which tends to be difficult for native English speakers to master. 

Also, in English, we tend to emphasize getting the consonant right but can tolerate variations with vowels. In my experience, Thai is the opposite, where the vowel needs to be exactly correct for a native Thai speaker to understand, but the consonant can vary. It doesn't help that Thai has long and short vowels on top of the tones, which can completely chance the meaning of a word, or that Thai has several vowel sounds that we just don't have in English.

Thais are usually appreciative when you at least try to speak their language, very complimentary, and quite forgiving when I have butchered their language too.

Some of my best learning experiences have been chatting up bar staff or massage people or taxi drivers, where I have a bit of a chance to practice and try new words and phrases, then get feedback.

I don't know that any of that helps, but I hope it encourages. Speaking Thai with the locals can be a lot of fun and it will definitely open up a side of Thailand you wouldn't get to see otherwise. Cheers.

#3 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,811

Posted by amnicoll on 10/2/2021 at 10:25

To add

obviously things like numbers and hello are important but if you are going to go away from the tourist areas then understanding the question where are you going (sounds like Pai Nai or Bai Nai) )and to be able to give a basic range of answers (hotel/to eat/ beach/train station and so on) and then you will be on the receiving end of a lovely big smile and the question asking you if you speak thai and you answering no or a little (Nid Noi - sounds like) this is going to open all sorts of doors as you see the real side of the friendly Thais.

For Thais asking you where you are going when you are wandering around is more of a conversation starter and not nosiness or that they think you are lost

#4 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 975

Posted by Hardgrafter on 10/2/2021 at 14:40

I'm what I would consider intermediate level. I have a knack for languages. I have been living in Thailand for 2 1/2 years. I studied 6 hours per week at Thai language school for the best part of 1 year.

As previously mentioned, the challenge of the 5 tones more than make up for the lack of complex grammar. 

For a complete beginner by far the most efficient way to learn is face to face with a teacher. They can correct mistakes & get you on the track to learning. In my personal experience learning to read was also hugely beneficial but for a complete beginner is probably too intimidating.

#5 Hardgrafter has been a member since 14/11/2018. Posts: 1

Posted by amnicoll on 11/2/2021 at 10:23

I agree that that is the best way if you want to move on from the basic. Of course living in Thailand also helps as you can practice daily

I have always been amazed at just how easy some westerners can pick up languages like Thai but they are in the minority

may I just say how nice it is to see the forum alive still

#6 amnicoll has been a member since 10/1/2005. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 975

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