A lot of tourists/Ex-pats have been in Thailand for a long time and don’t make an effort to learn Thai. While you can get by with just knowing English in big cities like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, it is less than Ideal. You are missing out on meaningful conversations, stronger friendships, appreciating the culture more, being able to read signs, order different types of foods, ask questions, and much more.
Here I will give you 10 reasons to Learn Thai.
Understand the way Thai People think and talk
When you learn Thai it will help you understand Thai mentality a lot more. Everyone probably already knows ไม่เป็นไร “mai bpen rai” which Thai people use all the time – meaning “it’s okay” or “not a problem”. But really, it’s also an attitude and mentality Thai people have of not wanting to inconvenience someone else. So even if something is NOT okay or is a problem they still use Mai bpen rai. A good article about Mai Bpen Rai is this one.
There are countless more examples of words in Thai you will learn that will make you think “ahhhh okay, now it makes more sense”.
For example, many Thai words are composed of a word + the word for mind or heart (ใจ jai). I.E นอกใจ nôk jai which literally translates to “outside heart” but means to cheat on someone or to be unfaithful.
Another example is ใส่ใจ sài jai which literally translates to “put your heart” but means to “pay attention”.
One more example is Thai people calling older people uncle ลุง lung (if male) and aunt ป้า bpâa (if female).
When I first started learning Thai, I thought it was weird that every older person was an uncle or an aunt then I understood those words aren’t just for your ACTUAL aunt or uncle.
More opportunities/ freedom/ independence while in Thailand
Think about the amount of freedom knowing Thai gets you.
When you want to travel inside of Thailand you will be able to easily understand signs and ask people for directions. When you get to your destination you can easily find a guesthouse and communicate what you need.
For example, I took a trip to the district of Khanom. It is famous for its pink dolphins and many tourists go on the pink dolphin tour. However, if you know Thai you will be able to go to the pier where all the fishermen are and ask one of them to take you. If you go with 1 or 2 friends, it’s the same price as going on the official tour boats but its better because you are on an authentic Thai long-tail boat with just your friends and the fisherman. You will also be able to ask the fishermen to take you to other parts that the boat tours do not go to.
When you go to restaurants you can order new food and ask about the ingredients, how its made, and for recommendations. Thai cuisine is so diverse and full of different vegetables and sauces but many foreigners stick to the common dishes because that’s the only thing they know how to order. They stick to Pad Thai or Tom Yung because they aren’t sure what the other dishes are or contain. Knowing Thai will open up all the delicious food Thailand has to offer.
Another great reason to learn Thai is to be able to watch Thai shows, movies, listen to Thai songs, etc.
Thailand has a bunch of great scary movies and comedy movies.
Some movies I personally enjoy are Ladda Land (Scary), atm er rak error (Comedy movie), Teacher’s Diary (Romance).
I really recommend watching Thai movies in order to get into learning Thai. I watch the show o-negative on Netflix with Thai subtitles in order to improve my Thai. I’ve also seen many Thai movies. It makes learning interesting and fun.
Thai music is also great and learning from lyrics is another great way to learn.
Help integrate into society better
If you learn Thai you will be able to better integrate into the community you are in. When you go outside you will be able to talk to your neighbors and talk to the vendors at the market. It makes living in Thai a lot more enjoyable.
You will be able to join clubs, take classes, go to events, etc.
For example, I took swimming lessons and ping pong lessons at the local sports complex. The instructors all taught in Thai. I had a great time being able to talk to the instructors and other students in Thai.
Thailand is very popular for its markets. For example, the famous JJ Chatuchak weekend market in Thailand.
A lot of the items here might already have prices but you can always ask the person working the stall for a lower price.
Also, a lot of the items already have the price in Thai Numbers. Knowing how to read these Thai numbers will help you know what’s the price they are asking actual Thai people for.
Many Thai people do not speak English very well. So if you want to get into a relationship with a Thai person, it really helps to know the language. You will be able to speak with her friends and family and it shows you are putting in the effort to learn the language.
When I first started my relationship with my Girlfriend, a big plus for me was I was able to speak Thai. We visited her friends in the countryside and they do not speak any English. They were happily surprised when I was able to speak with them and it made for an awesome trip.
Even better than that, I actually met my girlfriend because I was learning Thai. She was my Thai teacher for 1 year before we started dating 🙂
Similar to the previous point, knowing Thai will help you make friends. When I first started out learning Thai, I made a few friends through Skype. They were learning English and I was learning Thai. We did language exchange a few times a month and became really good friends this way.
Then when I went to Thailand, we hung out and I made more friends through them. If I wasn’t learning Thai I would have missed out on some awesome friendships that I now have.
Another example is the reason I started learning Thai in the first place. My first ever trip to Thailand, I went with my Thai friend. We visited his family. No one in his family spoke any English. We ate food together and hung out and I communicated through my friend BUT it would have been 1000% better to be able to speak directly and share stories. So I decided I would learn Thai from that point onward.
Less Likely to be scammed
Although Thailand is a safe country, like everywhere else in the world, there will be some people that try and take advantage of you.
For example, some taxi drivers or tuk-tuk drivers.
Taxi drivers in Thailand should always use a meter. With a meter, you will pay exactly the amount you should. However, some taxi drivers don’t turn it on and instead tell the customer a set price to take them to the destination. The price will always be higher than what you would pay had you used the meter. Tourists who don’t know any better will accept.
Tuk-Tuk Drivers don’t use meters. However, if you know Thai the tuk-tuk driver is less likely to give you a very high price as they will notice you have experience in Thailand since you speak the language.
One particular example that happened to me comes to mind. I was on my way to the airport and got a taxi off the street. The taxi gave me a set price to go to the airport. Immediately, I said in Thai, chai meter krap ใช้มิเตอร์ครับ (use the meter). The driver quickly turned on the meter and wanted to know how I knew Thai and started chatting with me.
Knowing Thai quickly changed the situation from the driver attempting to make extra money from me to becoming interested in how I knew Thai.
It’s not as hard as you think
Learning Thai might be very intimidating at first. You have to learn an entirely new script, you have to learn new sounds and learn about tones.
However, once you memorize the script and the sounds they make – reading Thai is pretty straightforward.
Thai does not have many exceptions like in other languages where the same letter might make many different sounds. You just have to take time to memorize the rules.
Once you get past the initial hurdle, you will see it is not that difficult.
Thai uses the same word order S-V-O (subject – verb – object) format as English. In English you say “ I eat food” in Thai it is also the same order ผมกินอาหาร (“pom(I) gin(eat) ahan(food)”).
There are no conjugations or tenses in Thai. You will always say กิน gin (to eat) no matter what. In English, “eat” can change to “ate” (I ate food), it can change to “eats” (he eats food) but in Thai it is always gin.
I hope I have convinced you to learn Thai! If you plan on living in Thailand or love taking vacations in Thailand it is really useful to know Thai.