It’s often claimed that Thai is a difficult language to learn, and there are plenty of people who use this as an excuse to not even try. After more than a decade living here, and organising Phuket boat tours on this beautiful island, we like to claim we can speak Thai. Perhaps not very well, but we can get by. It’s fun to be able to speak to the local people and they always appreciate the effort.
We believe that learning some basic words of the local language is all part of the adventure when travelling. As a holidaymaker, it’s a good idea to learn some easy words and phrases. ‘Hello’, ‘How are you?’, and ‘Thank you’ are sure to be met with a big smile as Thai people love it that you’re trying to chat with them.
Attempting to speak someone else’s language is a way of showing respect, and that you’re interested enough to make the effort. We can guarantee that in Thailand any attempt will be met with delight.
The Thai language is very different from the English language. It took us a while before we started to pick out common words and phrases. The most difficult part is that it has 5 tones, if you don’t know the tone it’s easy to pronounce the word wrong and be misunderstood. Even after 20 years living here we still have a problem getting them right.
We find it useful to write new vocabulary down, then try and use it as often as possible as a way of remembering it. There are plenty of textbooks for beginners if you’re keen. Or a fun way to learn is to try to order food and drinks in Thai, and find yourself some local friends to practice on.
It’s worth knowing too that in Thailand, we don’t generally say please at the end of a sentence. Instead men end the sentence with the word krap, and women with the word ka. This makes the sentence or question polite and respectful.
Here are some easy words and phrases to get you started.
Hello – Sawadee khrup/ka
How are you? – Sa bai dee mai khrup/ka
Thank you – khop khun khrup/ka
You’ll hear, ‘Mai pen rai’ a lot in Phuket. It means a lot of things including, ‘Never mind’, ‘Don’t worry’, It’s no problem’, and, ‘It’s fine, everything will be alright’.