Learning Thai: A Comprehensive Guide for Foreigners Interested in Studying Thai Language in Thailand

PRNewswire July 14, 2023

BANGKOK, July 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Thailand has a lot of charms to indulge in, but one of the appeals one cannot deny is the “Thai language” which, in any shape or form, is so melodious and pleasing to the ear.

“Lately, we are seeing more and more people from many countries around the world become interested in learning the Thai language. With this booming interest comes the advent of many things: the digital world, the end of language barriers, easier travel, the export of goods and drama series, and various soft power trends,” said Assistant Professor Dr. Kiat Thepchuaysuk, Director of the Center for Thai as a Foreign Language (CTFL), Chulalongkorn University.

Whether learners are studying for a career, doing business, learning to communicate with favorite stars, or even learning the language just for fun, most foreigners say the same thing: “The Thai language is hard.”

But for Dr. Kiat, a specialist in linguistics and teaching Thai language to foreigners, “Thai is easier to understand than you think, and can actually be a lot of fun if we know the basics, tricks, and tips.”

In this article, Dr. Kiat will give advice and easy-to-understand language tips for those who are thinking seriously about learning Thai. Native speakers will also learn fun facts about the language that will show that Thai is not as complicated as people think. It is actually a charming language that reflects the fun and creativity of the Thai people.

Mastering Thai Language Grammar: Key Rules and Concepts

Thai language of today is influenced by a combination of many languages such as Bali, Sanskrit, Khmer, Chinese, Javanese, Burmese, Malay, Persian, and some European languages such as Portuguese and English, etc. The vocabulary and grammar of Thai language, therefore, have certain traces of those languages as well. According to Dr. Kiat, a few grammatical points of Thai language that foreigners should know before starting their study to learn faster and understand the Thai language more easily are:

Arrangement of words in declarative sentences

Normally, when people learn different languages, they have to look at the basic sentence form of how the subject, verb, and object are arranged. Thai language uses the same structure as English or Chinese, i.e. subject > verb > object, for example, I eat rice. This is different from some languages which have the structure of subject > object > verb, such as Japanese or Korean, making it  I rice eat.”

Although two languages may share similar basic sentence structures, the grammar of both languages is not necessarily identical. This is only one way to easily understand a simple basic sentence in speech. Although Thai and Chinese speak in the same pattern of subject, verb, and object, Chinese language has a different structure of noun phrases from Thai language. Therefore, instead of saying “I eat two plates of rice,” a native Chinese speaker may misspeak and say “I eat two rice plates, for example.” 

Therefore, if the learners want to speak Thai like a native speaker using more complex sentences, they need to learn more grammar.

“Many Thai language grammatical features are quite easy to understand and straightforward compared to many other languages because we have no tense, no verb conjugation, no complicated grammar rules.  In Thai language, you just memorize the vocabulary and string the words together, and you’ll be able to communicate in Thai without difficulty,” Dr. Kiat explained.

Forming simple negative sentences and questions.

Now that the learners know how to write a simple sentence, if they want to use different forms of sentence, such as negative sentences, all they have to do is add the word no (mai)” to the front of the verb, or for a question, add the word mai (different tone)” to the end of the sentence.  It’s very simple.

Describing a noun – put the noun first, then the adjective

Describing nouns in Thai language is different from some other languages. In other words, in Thai, the native speakers usually say the main noun first and then the descriptive or complementary words. Let’s look at the words hot tea in English, Japanese, Chinese, or Korean. The word hot is said first, then the main noun tea.  Therefore, if a foreigner who speaks these languages come to learn the Thai language and does not understand this grammar, they can easily make mistakes in the word order.

In addition, there are many fascinating aspects of the Thai language that foreigners can learn about, including the writing system, grammar, pronunciation, sentences, consonants, vowels, and tones, which Thai people might not have thought about. Those interested can read the full article at https://www.chula.ac.th/en/highlight/123363/.

About Chulalongkorn University

Chulalongkorn University sets the standard as a university of innovations for society and is listed in the World’s Top 100 Universities for Academic Reputation, in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2021-2022.

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Miss Thanita Wangvanichapan at (+66) 2218 3280 or email thanita.w@chula.ac.th

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SOURCE Chulalongkorn University

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