Before we look at some basic Thai words and phrases, here’s a little background to the language…
Thai is an analytic, tonal language and part of the Tai-Kadai language family. Because of its complex writing system and relational markers, Thai is a comparatively difficult language to learn. However, as it’s mutually intelligible with Lao once you’ve learned Thai you’ll be able to make yourself understood in both Thailand and Laos.
Many Thai words have origins in Sanskrit, Pali and Old Khmer.
The Thai writing system is based on a syllabic alphabet of 44 consonants, each of which contains an inherent vowel in both the medial and final positions. Text is written horizontally, from left to right.
In Thai, sentences typically end with a word which reflects the gender of the speaker – krab for males and ka for females.
Similarly, sentences beginning in ‘I’ or ‘my’ usually start with phom for males and chan for females.
Ten Essential Thai Phrases
Hello – Sa-was-dee
Goodbye – La-kron
Yes – Chai
No – Mai-Chai
Please – Ga-ru-nah (formal)
Thank you – Kob-khun
My name is… – Chan/phom-cheu
Nice to meet you – Yindee Tee Dai Ruejak krab/ka
How are you? – Sa-bai-dee-mai?
Do you speak English? – Kun-pood-pa-sa-ang-kgrit-dai-mai?
If you feel like you’ve got a handle on those terms you may want to start learning these other basic Thai words and phrases…
Me – Chan/phom
You – Kun
Him – Khao
Her – Lon
Good Morning – A-roon-sa-was
Good Night – Sa-yan-sa-was
Where is the toilet? – Hong naam yoo tee nai?
How much is this? – An-nee-tao-rai
I don’t understand – (Chan/Phom)-mai-khao-jai-ka/krab
Can you speak slowly? – Chuay-pood-chaa-chaa-noi-ka/krab
I need a doctor – Chan/phom-yak-pob-maw
I’m lost – Chan/phom-long-tang
Can you help me? – Chuay-chan/phom-noi-dai-mai-ka/krab
Turn Left – Leaw-Sai
Turn Right – Leaw-Kaw
Too Expensive – Phaeng Mark Pai
Delicious – Aroi
And then, of course, there are always Thai numbers to learn!
Learning Thai numbers is essential if you want to shop and barter in the nation, so be sure to study their written form as well as their phonetic pronunciation.
One – (หนึ่ง) Nueng
Two – (สอง) Song
Three – (สาม) Sam
Four – (สี่) See
Five – (ห้า) Har
Six – (หก) Hok
Seven – (เจ็ด) Chet
Eight – (แปด) Paet
Nine – (เก้า) Kao
Ten – (สิบ) Sib
If learning these basics has inspired you to really focus on becoming fluent in Thai you may find these tips helpful –
Use technological aids
Thai is a difficult language to learn, so take advantage of any extra aids you can use to improve your pronunciation or help you associate words with objects. Smartphone apps, like the ITS4 Thai language phrasebook with flashcards, can be really useful when it comes to having successful everyday interactions.
Speak as little English as you can
The more you have to rely on Thai in order to communicate the more rapidly you’ll learn the language. So try to avoid using English whenever you can and interact with native speakers as much as possible!
For more top tips check out our next essential expat phrases post, when we’ll be looking at Japanese.