Learn Thai Language in Chiang Mai
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.
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
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."