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Speaking the LanguageBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Thailand - Speaking the Language
Thai is analytic and tonal. Analytic languages create words of definite morphemes, while tonal language use tones to differentiate words. Apart from Thailand, other countries that speak Thai include Singapore and the Midway Islands. Malay, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian) are other languages spoken in Thailand.
There are many ways of speaking Thai. These include:
• Street or spoken Thai - a casual way of communicating without using courteous expressions. It is mostly used among friends and close family members.
• Elegant or written Thai - an official way of communication that employs courteous expressions. An easier form is applied in newspapers.
• Rhetorical Thai is used mostly during public speeches.
• Religious Thai is used when speaking to monks or talking about Buddhism.
• Royal Thai is applied when addressing, or discussing a topic related to, the royal family.
The most popular ways of speaking Thai are Street Thai and Elegant Thai. However, many Thai citizens are able to communicate in various ways. Royal and Religious Thai are part of the national syllabus and are taught in school.
Many expats who can speak Thai are not able to read or write it. However, if you want to speak the language at your place of work, you must be acquainted with the dissimilarities between local dialects.
The Thai alphabet and grammar
Standard Thai is a diverse language that consists of a syllabic alphabet with forty four key consonants and 5 dissimilar tones. The consonants are grouped into three categories, namely blue, green and red. They help establish the tone of a syllable.
A word in Thai can only end with the following eight possible sounds: ng, n, m, p, t, k, y, and w. This is why it is often difficult for Thai to pronounce words in other languages that end in different sounds.
Most Thai utterances can be applied as verbs, nouns, adjectives or adverbs but the meanings vary according to the tone. Every expression has its own tone that might be up-down, falling, high, low, rising or down-up. Therefore, if you alter the tone then you alter the entire meaning of the expression. For example, the word “mai” has several meanings i.e. burn, silk, or new. It is a popular tongue twister in the language. Here’s an example in a sentence, ไหมใหม่ไหม้มั้ย /mǎi mài mâi mái/ ("Does new silk burn?"). You will realize that the word is the same but the pronunciation differs. Most Westerners use sounds to emphasise parts of a word. However, this is not how speaking Thai works.
How to learn the Thai language
Understanding the Thai language is important because it enables you to understand the Thai culture better. The type of lifestyle you choose to enjoy in Thailand will determine the extent to which you will learn the language. However, some experts stay in the country for years without learning Thai because many Thai people, especially in big towns and in the tourist locations, speak English. You can survive by communicating only in English but if you move out of these areas you will have a problem with the language barrier. Apart from the pronunciation issue, Thai language is not difficult to learn as long as you understand the tonal patterns of the language.
Here are some of the things that make learning Thai easy:
• Thai grammar has very few permanent rules. • Conjugation of verbs like I am, you are etc. do not exist in the language. • You only have to add one word when expressing something in the present, past or future. • Articles like a, the, those, and so on do not exist.
Thai does not make use of spaces between words but instead uses them between phrases. This might be problematic for you until you have fully understood the concept and have become used to it. Learning Thai in school is the best option for understanding the language.
There are various online services that will assist you with understanding Thai. You will come across online directories like Thai-Dictionary or Thai-language and websites that offer translation services.
Multimedia products and books for learning Thai
Ensure that you are using updated books to learn Thai if you choose to learn the language from textbooks. This is because old books will only teach you the ancient Thai dialect, which may be outdated. In addition, you can choose to teach yourself the language using various language applications. Most language software offers lessons starting with the most basic level up to the most advanced. These programs also provide pronunciation training.
One of the best ways to learn Thai is by watching Thai television programs. To subscribe to Thai TV, you may be required to present your house registration papers (Tabian Baan) and a copy of your passport.
Radio in Thailand
For you to be fluent in the language, you have to learn to speak naturally and fast. Thailand has many radio stations that broadcast only in Thai. Listen to the stations and learn. Most local stations are also available on the internet.
This is a renowned language school in Thailand. The school offers various services for native English speakers seeking to learn the language and native Thai speakers looking to learn English. Language Express is located near BTS skytrain station Phloenchit. The school has friendly Thai teachers who teach people in small groups. It also includes free social activities, an ED visa service, and an international environment.
Phone: (02) 675-3914, (02) 675-3915 and (02) 675-3917.
American University Alumni (AUA) Language Center
AUA is the oldest language school in Thailand. The language center has branches all over the country. It offers language training in English, Japanese, and Thai and also provides internationally recognized teacher training. AUA branches provide extra educational opportunities.
Tel: (02) 657-6411-7
Thai Language Solutions
The school offers training of both Thai and English language. It is located near the sky train station in Bangkok. Any Enrolled student can apply for an Education Visa.
Tel: (+66) 02-612-9411
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