Talking Thai

As I sat one night, waiting for my pizza, I was thinking that I have noticed in places, like Pattaya, that the Thai’s speak very good English- they have to because most of the tourists that come here are western- UK, USA, Russian etc., and it is in their interests to understand the tourists (at least for business purposes- to know a few English words to entice the customers in to restaurants or bars. And we all know that some races are very lazy when it comes to learning a language and will want to speak in their own language when they are on holiday). So as someone who is trying to master the Thai language (both spoken and written) I always try to speak Thai, so when I say “hello” and ask for a beer and an ashtray (Sawadee Ka, Leo kwuad yai, tikkia burree ka), they almost look surprised and I can see them thinking –“huh? the Farang speaks Thai”. I do think they appreciate it though, although once I say a few words they reply back to me in Thai and then, with a cheeky grin on my face, I have to say “Mai Kow Jai, pood pasa Thai nitnoi” (I don’t understand, I only speak a little Thai). It never fails to get a laugh.

However, it is a very difficult language to learn, there are five different tones and most westerners, including me, struggle with them. If you get the tone wrong you can find yourself asking for rice whiskey (lao khao) rather than rice-which is what happened to me on Koh Samet a few years ago (I didn’t drink it I might add). Also the word for rice is “khao” but it also means white in a different tone- so “khao khao”-white rice. Confused?  I am, yes! The Thai word “maa” means horse, dog, and come (here) all with different tones.You get the picture?

But when you live in a country, learning the language helps a lot, especially if you live in the provinces that are not on the tourist trail. You need to know the basics for when you want to go food shopping, or to the market, and it certainly helps when you get in a taxi and they don’t want to put the meter on. Or a persistent tuk-tuk man who wants to take you to the nearest jewellery store. A simple “mai ou” (I don’t want) usually works, even if it is just a bit of banter about how you can speak (a little) Thai.

Thai 2


About gillmorris
I am a single woman living in Thailand. I am interested in photography, culture, history, and travel amongst other things and I want to share my thoughts and experiences with you as I turn the pages of my life. I am passionate about all things Asian and I want to express this passion through my tales and photography from Thailand and other countries in the hope that you may be inspired to open your eyes to the world.

6 Responses to Talking Thai

  1. cornishkylie says:

    All very true – I’ve recently relocated from a city where hardly anyone speaks english to Phuket… I’m trying to keep on building up my Thai but it’s so easy to slip into speaking English when everyone can understand me!

    • seasiangirl says:

      Where were you before? Yes very difficult if they can understand you already, I do the same but am gonna keep on learning. I will be fluent one day 😉 it might take me a while though 😉

      • cornishkylie says:

        I was living in a village on the outskirts of Hat Yai in the Deep South. I was the only foreign female in my village! I quickly learned how to order food, get moot bike taxis and talk about where I come from/where I work/where I am going – these became my staple conversation go-to’s!

      • seasiangirl says:

        Did you like it there? I lived in Surin for 3 years and I was (apart from volunteers) the only foreign female that I knew about living here. I had a Thai friend here so he helped with a lot of things and then he left and I had to fend for myself and have conversations much like the ones you had. I got a lot of stares as well.. still do as I am based here for the time being but I am used to that now- I just wave and smile at them- I find it quite amusing. A person once said to me if you can live in a place (where not many foreigners go), like you and me have, then you can live anywhere! It’s quite true I think 😉

      • cornishkylie says:

        I was living with my boyfriend who is also a foreigner so it wasn’t too bad, just sometimes feels like you are famous! Now we’ve moved to Phuket things couldnt be more different and I’m trying hard to make it clear to the locals that I’m not a boozy tourist and that I actually live here!

      • seasiangirl says:

        Lol everyone assumes that unfortunately but if they see you go to work everyday and stuff they will realise that you are not a tourist, hopefully! 🙂

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