Learn Thai Language in Chiang Mai

Greetings in Thailand are complimented with a smile and bow

Foreigners can get by without speaking a word of Thai, but learning a few Thai words will greatly enhance your experience living in Thailand. We suggest anyone living in Thailand for over a month learn the very basic phrases (hello, thank you, sorry) and a bit more if you retire in Thailand. Thais do not mind if foreigners cannot speak Thai and will kindly smile at you, regardless of the language you speak (compared to other countries that may treat foreigners with ignorance or a cold shoulder if they cannot speak the language).

But you will learn a few words, you will get a deeper insight into Thai culture, the people, and the language that forms their perception of the world. Making the extra effort to talk with locals will deepen your understanding of Thailand and increase your appreciation of your retirement years immersed in a new culture.

We provide our clients with a beginner Thai language and culture class when they first move to Chiang Mai. Many people enjoy learning about their new country so much, they take up weekly Thai language classes with our lovely teacher, Kru Dtun.

A Language of Expression and Respect

Thai culture is a culture based around respect. This is reflected in the language and common, such as the polite particle "kah"/"krup" which is used at the end of a word, phrase, or sentence. Unlike Spanish or other languages that give a gender to a object or noun, this polite word is based on the gender of the speaker. It does not matter if you are speaking to a woman or a man - you will always use the same word.

Thai people are just as expressive as they are respectful when they speak. There are five tones that change the meaning of a word. Yes, five tones! The word "mai" can mean five different things depending on the tone - mid, low, high, rising (low to high), and falling (high to low). It is entertaining and impressive to hear locals chat using these tones with such expression!

Pick up a new skill and chat with the locals

Learning Thai is fun! The tones and phonetics are very different from English, which make it equally interesting as it is challenging! But do not fear - Thai people do not expect you to known Thai and are pleasantly surprised when you say phrases beyond the common known greetings. But being able to talk with locals enhances the overall experience of living in a foreign country. Thai people are kind, warm, and understanding. Learning about the language helps you understand more about the culture and the way Thai people see the world.

Beginners Guide to Thai | Translations and Pronunciation

Regardless of what you want to say, it is important you use the polite particles mentioned above when you speak with Thai people. You can usually get away with saying literally anything then add a "kah"/"krup" at the end.

The pronunciation of the polite word for males "krup" is somewhere in the middle of these words


kah  is the polite particle used if the speaker is a woman, often dragged out with a falling tone

krup  with a quick rolled "r" is the polite particle used if the speaker is a male

Add this at the end of a word or phrase with a smile to be extra polite and respectful.


Common greetings and sayings

Hello : sa-wa-dee

Thank you : khop-khun

How are you? sa-bai-dee-mai

I am fine : sa-bai-dee

No problem / no worries : mai-pen-rai

Relaxing : sabai sabai

I do not understand : mai-khao-jai  (literally translates as "not enter heart" - Thai language is so sweet!)

Can you speak English? poot-pa-sa-ang-krit-dai-mai 

How much? tao-aray


Example conversation: 

Hello sa-wa-dee-kah/krup

How are you? sabai-dee-mai-kah/krup?

I am good, thank you. sabai-dee-kah/krup.


It is also a somewhat lazy way to acknowledge or agree with someone. For example, after purchasing something from a shop you may say

Thank you! khop-khun-kah/krup

You're welcome. kah/krup


You can never use kah/krup incorrectly. As my friend Alissa says, "I have a good kah so I get by."