Languages in Thailand

The main language spoken in Thailand is Thai and is the official language of the country. Thai is spoken by more than 65 million people and its roots can be traced to the south of China.

Along with the regional dialects, there are also several other ways of speaking the Thai language:

Spoken Thai or street Thai – an informal way of speaking without polite terms of address. Used between close relatives and friends.

Written Thai or elegant Thai – a formal way of speaking that uses polite terms. A simplified form is used in newspapers.

Rhetorical Thai – used mainly for public speeches.

Religious Thai – used when addressing monks or talking about Buddhism.

Royal Thai – used when addressing or talking about the royal family.

Although street Thai and elegant Thai are the most common ways of speaking, most Thai people can speak in many different ways. Religious and royal Thai are taught in schools as part of the national curriculum.

In Thailand, polite and charming talk can get you much further than by just being assertive. In general social conversations, there are many different ways of saying the same thing. Choose your words wisely and speak sensitively and you will find it makes a big difference when talking to Thai people.

Learning Thai

Most foreigners that can speak Thai cannot read or write it at all. Some people can also speak a little Thai, which they have learned on the street.

If you want to speak Thai in an office environment and gain people’s respect, you should familiarise yourself with the differences between regional dialects. For example many Thai girls who entertain foreigners tend to speak with a northern accent. If you learn this way of speaking and use it in your office environment, it won’t be very advantageous for you.