How to Learn Thai Quickly!

Royal Barge Suphannahongse, wat arun in sunset, conceptSawasdee krap! In this blog post, we’re going to be covering the fundamentals of the Thai language. Thai has a reputation as a difficult language to learn, and although it can be a challenge for native English speakers, learning Thai is certainly possible.

Whether you’ve visited Thailand and want to learn more about its culture or simply want to communicate with Thai friends around the world, learning Thai has a wide range of benefits.

Read on to learn how to learn Thai. You’ll also want to enroll in our Thai Language for Beginners course to move through the basics of spoken and written Thai faster, as well as mastering some basic Thai phrases to help you travel in Thailand.

Why should you learn Thai?

howtolearnthaiquicklyDo you want to learn Thai? Thailand is one of the world’s most fascinating countries, home to a rich culture and some of the most incredible beaches in Asia. It’s also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, making learning Thai a great investment.

Thai has a reputation as a very challenging language for English speakers to learn. In fact, the Foreign Service Institute categorizes Thai as a Category IV language – one of the most difficult for English speakers to master.

The perceived difficulty of Thai is mostly due to its lack of similarities with English and other Germanic or Romance languages. Once you can get over Thai’s different structure, it’s a surprisingly easy language to learn, even as an English speaker.

Love Thai culture? While you master the Thai language, why not learn the ancient art of Thai massage? Enroll in our course, Learn Thai Yoga Massage, to discover the incredible art of Thai massage for injury prevention and wellbeing.

Getting started with basic phrases

Are you travelling to Thailand? Although most Thais don’t speak English to a native level, the people you’ll interact with in major cities like Bangkok and Chiang Mai or popular tourist resorts like Phuket and Koh Samui will generally speak English.

However, you’ll gain a lot – and avoid many potential communications issues – with a few basic Thai phrases. Thai uses male and female word particles – in the phrases below, male particles are marked with an ‘M’ and female particles with a ‘F.’

Let’s start with introductions. Use the phrase below to say “Hello” in Thai:

Sawas Dee Krap (M) or Sawas Dee Ka (F)

People in Thailand are friendly and love to socialize. When you introduce yourself to someone or interact with someone in a shop, start by saying hello using Sawas Dee – pronounced sawat dee – and krap if you’re male, or ka if you’re female.

Krap and Ka are polite particles used to create a friendlier, more welcoming tone in conversation. Thais use them in conversation the same way English speakers would use terms like ‘may’ instead of ‘can’, or ‘please’ at the end of a request.

Want to introduce yourself? In Thai, introducing yourself is simple. Use the phrase below, replacing {name} with your name:

Phom chuu {name} (M) or di-Chan chuu {name} (F)

Asking someone else’s name is simple. In Thai, the word for you varies depending on the situation. However, most of the time it’s ‘khun.’ Ask someone for their name with the following phrase:

Khun chue arai?

Note that you can make this statement more polite by adding krap to the end of the sentence if you’re a male, and ka if you’re a female. Before we get further into how the Thai language works, let’s cover how to say ‘thank you’:

Khop khun krap (M) or Khop khun ka (F)

These simple phrases may not seem like much, but they’ll put you far ahead of most people traveling in Thailand. Being able to introduce yourself to people, say thanks, and say hello make a big difference to the quality of your vacation.

Struggling to memorize these Thai phrases? Our blog post on Learning Strategies is an excellent learning aid for memorizing the phrases that you’ll find most useful in Thailand.

Learning Thai beyond the basics

Thai is a complicated language, with its own alphabet, five different conversational tones, and thousands of words used in conversation. It’s also a regional language – people in northeast Thailand speak a different dialect from people in Bangkok.

Because of this, mastering Thai can be tough, especially if you don’t live in Thailand and have access to native speakers to practice with. However, it is possible and with the right attitude, you can attain reasonable fluency in written and spoken Thai.

Learning the Thai alphabet

shutterstock_152927591The Thai alphabet is made up of 44 different consonant letters, 15 vowels that can be used to make 28 different vowel sounds, and four different tone markers. Sound complex? It is, but not quite as complicated as you might think.

Learning the Thai alphabet isn’t impossible, and it’s actually surprisingly easy once you learn the letters used to make up common words in Thai, the sounds that they produce, and how they’re used in common written words.

The best way to learn the Thai alphabet is by purchasing a Thai alphabet poster for use at home, or by installing a Thai alphabet iOS or Android app. Download Thai for iOS here or Learn Thai Alphabet for Google Android.

One of the hardest aspects of learning Thai is remembering the characters that make up the Thai alphabet. Since so many characters look similar, it’s easy to get confused and mistake one for another, often with disastrous results.

Learn great strategies for memorizing the Thai alphabet with our Teach Yourself a Foreign Language course. This in-depth course breaks down the concepts behind learning a new alphabet to make mastering Thai characters simple.

Learning Thai vocabulary

There are thousands of words in the Thai language, many of which sound similar to one another. This can make mastering Thai vocabulary challenging, especially when the difference between one word and another is your tone of voice.

Mastering Thai vocabulary requires two things: practice and usage. Practice going over the most frequently used words in Thai by using flashcards, stories, and other material to imprint the most important words in your brain.

Like other languages, some words are used in Thai far more often than others. It’s best to start by mastering the 100 most frequently used words, then moving onto the 500 most frequently used words, and so on.

Struggling with vocabulary? Enroll in our course, How to Learn and Memorize the Vocabulary of Any Language, to learn simple tactics and strategies for memorizing Thai vocabulary with a quick, simple system.

Learning Thai pronunciation

Bangkok City At Night TimeMore than any other language, Thai is all about pronunciation. With five different tones, words that are spelled the same can mean very different things based on the way you pronounce them.

Tones are something even Thais struggle with, and many young Thai children will spend hour after hour in class mastering the tones of their own language. Since it’s tough to master pronunciation at home, the best way is to chat with Thai speakers.

Whether you like to network with Thai speakers online, travel to Thailand and chat with friends in person, or use online language exchange services, the easiest way to master Thai pronunciation is through practice, repetition, and socializing.

Our course, Thai Language for Beginners, covers the pronunciation of common Thai phrases. Enroll today to start learning the different tones that make a big difference to your proficiency of spoken Thai.

Ready to learn Thai?

Thai is undoubtedly a challenging language for English speakers to master, but the rewards are great and it’s certainly possible. Master the Thai alphabet, understand the different tones, practice your vocabulary, and start speaking Thai today!