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Thai Phrases for Travelers

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  • Thai Phrases for Travelers

    Useful Thai Phrases for an amazing trip in Thailand

    Whether you’re travelling to Thailand for business or leisure, it’s always great to know a little bit of the local language. Learning basic Thai phrases means showing effort and respect to the local culture. It will help ease interactions between you and the locals, making your trip a lot easier and enjoyable. Since Thai is a tonal language, it can be challenging to learn. You’re likely going to make mistakes at first, but don’t let that discourage you. Even if you pronounce something wrong, most locals will still appreciate your effort and may even help you pronounce it the right way.

    The Basics

    Khap and ka
    Before continuing with the greetings and other essential phrases, we should first cover some of the basic rules. To make your sentence or question more polite and respectful, it’s important to end your sentences with the word khap/ka when you are conversing with someone in Thai. It’s based on the gender of the person speaking, not who you are talking to. So if you are a male, you should finish your sentence with the word khap or krap. If you are a female, be sure to complete your sentence with the word ka. There’s no direct translation of khap/ka in English.

    Khun is a polite way to address a person. You add the word before a person’s name. While it is similar to using Mr. or Ms. in English, there’s no direct correlation to English.

    Greetings and essential phrases in Thai
    Out of all useful phrases, greeting someone and saying thank you are the most essential Thai phrases you need to know. Mastering these Thai phrases will help connect you a bit more with the people you meet in the country.

    Hello – Sa-Wat-Dee
    Sawatdee is one word you’ll probably use a lot in Thailand. It’s a way to say hi or hello in Thai, so try to use it to greet anyone who crosses your path. Don’t forget to add khap or ka at the end to make a full, polite greeting. You might butcher the word at first, but don’t worry; most Thais will kindly help you with the correct pronunciation.

    Thank you – Khap Khun
    If you want to thank someone or be polite, use khap khun krap/ka. If you want to be more polite, try to learn how to perform ‘wai,’ which is a Thai greeting that can also be used as a way to say thank you.

    Sorry | Excuse me – Kor Toht
    You can use kor toht krap/ka as a way to apologise or to ask people for your attention. You can also use it to dismiss yourself from a setting or express condolences.

    No Problem – Mai Pen Rai
    You’ll most likely hear this phrase a lot during your time in Thailand. Mai pen rai is a way to respond to someone’s apology or gratitude. Using mai pen rai tells the other person that they’re not bothering you.

    Yes | No – Chai | Ma or Da | Mai Dai
    The words yes and no are used differently in different contexts. If someone asks you whether something is right or wrong, use chai (yes) or mai chai (no) to answer the question. However, if someone asks you about your ability to do something, respond with daa (yes – can) or mai dai (no – can’t).

    I don’t understand – Mai Kao Jai
    When you don’t understand something, just say “mai kao jai.” Upon hearing this phrase, the other person may try to find different ways to explain whatever they’re trying to tell you.

    Goodbye – La Gorn
    When you part ways with someone, use “la gorn khap/ka” to say goodbye to them. Sometimes, a simple wai might be enough if you’re not confident enough to pronounce the phrase.

    Eating and Ordering in Restaurants | Bars

    I’m Hungry – Hiu
    If you want to tell someone that you’re hungry in Thai, just say “hiu” (pronounced hee-yoo).

    How much is this dish? – Jarn-Nee Rah-Car Tao-Rai?
    Some restaurants and street food stalls may not include the price in their menu. If that’s the case, you can say “jarn-nee rah-car tao-rai?” If the phrase is too long and too hard to pronounce, you can use the shorter version: “tao-rai krap/ka?” (how much?).

    NotSpicy | Mai Pet
    This is definitely the most important phrase to remember if you can’t stand spicy foods. Thai food tends to have lots of chilli and other spices, so if you don’t want to set your mouth and stomach on fire, be sure to learn how to say “mai pet.” Some restaurants and street food stalls may still put a small number of chilli in your dish even after saying mai pet. Therefore, if you don’t want any chilli in your food, you can say “mai sai prik,” which means “don’t put chilli in my food at all.”

    I want it to be very spicy – Ao Phed-Phed
    Love spicy food? Say “ao phed-phed” to make sure that your dish is made extra spicy.

    No Sugar – Mai Sai Nam Tam
    Sugar is used in many Thai dishes and drinks, from coffee to noodle soup. If you want to cut some calories or you don’t like sweet drinks, simply say “mai sai nam tam.”

    Takeaway – Ao Glub Baan
    Want to order something to take home? Say “ao glub baan.” Since ao glub baan literally means “go home,” you can also use the phrase to tell someone that you’re going home.

    Delicious – Aroi
    If the food is delicious, don’t forget to express some appreciation by saying “aroi!”

    Asking for Directions

    Turn left/turn right/go straight – leo sai/leo kwaa/dtrong bpai

    Don’t let anyone rip you off by knowing how to give some basic directions in Thai can. Some taxi drivers may deliberately take wrong turns to make the ride longer, so they get more money from you. Therefore, use Google Map and show them that you know the directions to reach your destination. Being able to direct a driver will save you so much time and money. Use “leo sai” to ask the driver to turn left, “leo kwaa” to turn right, and “dtrong bpai” to go straight.

    Can you drive faster? I’m late – Kap Reo Reo Dai Mai, Chan Sai Laew
    When you’re late but the driver is slow, use this phrase to ask them to drive faster.

    Slow down – Hai Chah Long
    Feeling unsafe because the driver is speeding? Say “hai chah long” if you want to ask them to drive slower.

    Shopping at the Market

    How much is this item? – An Nee Tao Rai?
    Some sellers use the infamous “farang price” for foreigners, which is way more expensive than what a Thai would pay for. Asking the price of an item in Thai can truly reduce your chances of paying double the original price.

    Can you give me a discount? – Lot Noi Dai Mai?
    When shopping in a traditional market, be sure to negotiate for a discount. In most cases, the seller will give you lower prices!

    Do you have it in different colours? – Mee See Eun Mai?
    Find something you like, but want it in another colour? Ask the seller if they have the item in different colours by saying, “mee see eun mai?” These are just a few common Thai phrases that we find helpful. Keep practising before you fly to Thailand, and you’re all set for a fantastic journey. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know how to respond in Thai, just flash your best smile!

  • #2
    Common mistakes to avoid while learning Thai

    Oh, the joys of learning a new language! Thai is a fascinating language, filled with unique sounds, tones, and expressions that promise to make your learning experience an exciting adventure. But, like any language, Thai comes with its fair share of challenges and common Thai language mistakes that might catch you off guard. No worries, though! Along with our friends at ALA Language School, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common mistakes you should steer clear of when learning Thai.

    Pronunciation pitfalls
    Thai is a tonal language, meaning the tone used can change the meaning of a word entirely. With five tones and oodles of vowel sounds, it’s essential to get these just right to avoid misunderstandings. Practice makes perfect, so don’t shy away from those pronunciation drills!

    Overusing literal translation
    Now, we all know that English and Thai have significant structural differences, which means resorting to literal translations is a no-no. Given that the tone or pitch of a word can alter its meaning, and that each writing system possesses its own distinct characters and symbols, translating words or phrases directly from Thai to English, or vice versa, can result in translation inaccuracies and misunderstandings. This is because the nuances and idioms inherent to the Thai language might be lost in the process of literal translation. To truly get to grips with Thai, you’ll need to understand its cultural context and idiomatic expressions – this will help you use the language effectively and accurately.

    Forgetting word order
    Thai may share the subject-verb-object (SVO) word order with English, but it’s a tad more flexible and uses particles to show the function of each word in a sentence. Plus, adjectives and adverbs come after nouns, which is different from English. Misusing word order in Thai can lead to confusion or ambiguity in meaning, and it can cause sentences to sound clumsy or unnatural. This is due to the specific rules and conventions of Thai sentence structure, which, if not followed, may make it challenging for listeners or readers to grasp the intended meaning. So, be mindful of word order to avoid any confusion, ambiguity, or awkwardness.

    Skipping polite language
    Thai culture puts a premium on politeness, so it’s essential to learn the right words and phrases to show respect. Whether you’re speaking to your elders, people in positions of authority, or anyone you want to show respect to, using polite language is the key to mastering Thai professionally.

    Not learning the different pronouns
    Thai has a veritable smorgasbord of pronouns based on gender, age, and social status. Make sure you know which ones to use in different situations, and you’ll be well on your way to Thai language success.

    Using incorrect particles
    The Thai language loves its particles, which are used to indicate grammatical functions, sentence structures, and levels of formality. Using the wrong one can lead to awkward phrasing or a change in meaning, so it’s best to familiarise yourself with these little linguistic gems.

    Too nervous to practice with native speakers
    Speaking with native speakers is a fantastic way to improve your Thai language skills, but some learners may be too shy to give it a go. Push past those fears, and get chatting with locals – the rewards will be well worth it!

    Reluctant to learn reading and writing
    Thai may have a unique script, but don’t let that intimidate you. Learning to read and write in Thai will help you communicate more effectively, avoid misunderstandings, and open up a world of professional and cultural opportunities.

    Not learning common idioms and expressions
    The Thai language is rich with idioms and expressions that might be puzzling when translated literally. If you’re unfamiliar with these phrases, you might misinterpret the intended meaning of a sentence or conversation, which could affect your confidence and fluency. Practising common idioms and expressions while learning Thai can significantly enhance your ability to communicate effectively, comprehend Thai media, and navigate Thai culture with ease. By steering clear of these common Thai language mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to boosting your Thai proficiency and communicating with native speakers like a pro! And guess what? The fantastic teachers at ALA Language School are here to help you every step of the way. Not only will they guide you in speaking, reading, and writing accurately, but they’ll also work wonders in enhancing your Thai language skills and deepening your understanding of both the language and the rich culture that accompanies it.