5 Reasons You Should Learn Thai
12 million people visit Thailand on holiday every year and most will have a great holiday within the tourist areas. If you want to have a bit more of an authentic experience and a holiday that you will remember for years to come then it’s a really good idea to learn to speak some Thai.
Here are my top 5 reasons on why I think you should learn some Thai before you go
Thai locals will be amazed and impressed
One of the things I kept hearing from Thai people is that “no one ever learns Thai”. It’s not entirely true but there is a huge ex-pat community in Thailand that can’t speak a word. They don’t have to as there are more than enough English speakers for them to get by quite happily. People going on holiday rarely do. Even an attempt at very basic Thai will bring a huge smile and make you lots of new friends.
You are less likely to get scammed or harassed
Thailand is a wonderful country and the people are fantastic too. There are a few scams that are thought of as perfectly acceptable though… simple things like inflated prices in markets and tuk-tuks or as I have repeatedly heard, taxi drivers who refuse to use the meter.
If you can speak even a small level of Thai then most will assume that you live or travel there often and are less likely to try and get a few extra bucks out of you.
Even simple things like saying “Lot dai mai?” – Can you give me a discount can get you a decent reduction at the market or “Roa dern pai” – We are just walking to discourage the insistent tuk-tuk driver.
You can go “off map” and have a much richer and fuller experience
No matter where I go, I love to throw away the map for a day or two and go walking off down side streets and into less travelled part of town. I’m not saying you should walk down a dark alley at night (I’m not completely insane) but moving away from the tourist areas will get you cheaper authentic meals and let you see the “real” Thailand.
It does mean you are far more likely to meet people who can’t speak English (or not well)
Being able to ask for directions, order food and ask for the bill are definitely a good idea if you want to do this.
Holiday Thai is relatively easy to learn
Most people are put off by Thai because it’s a tonal language. Having 5 tones may seem really difficult but if you learn complete sentences and just mimic the person you are learning from then it’s easier than you think.
At a beginner level, Thais are also very forgiving and will still understand what you mean even if you get the tones wrong.
What balances it back out to the easy side (in my opinion) is that Thai structure is much the same as English but much much simpler. There are no complex grammar rules. If you were to directly translate then it would be more like “Tarzan English”.
As a quick example, prung-nii pom pai supermarket means I will go to the supermarket tomorrow. A direct translation would be Tomorrow I go supermarket
Thai is a phonetic language
This one is linked to the point above. Whether you learn to read Thai (it’s easier than you think, you can learn to read the Thai alphabet in a couple of weeks – but that’s another article) or the “karaoke Thai” version written in our alphabet, words are said exactly as they are spelled – much less complicated than English.
If you are visiting Thailand then I would definitely recommend that you give it a go. It will make your holiday much better and much more memorable. Not sure where to start? There are loads of resources online but I would recommend getting a teacher.
I use iTalki to find teachers cheap online and take lessons via Skype. You can check it out here. If you sign up using that link, you get a free $10 credit after taking your first lesson (I do too so you help fund my language learning obsession)
No matter what you decide to do, if you are off to Thailand, you will have an awesome trip. Have fun, I may just see you there!