How to Speak Thai
Grammar & Vocabulary
Learning Thai is a whole lot easier than most people would appreciate. There are two ways to learn the language and one is very fast and the other a lot slower.
The slower way is the best method if the learner aims to use the language for a very long time, but as most people are only going to use Thai for a few years it’s probably better to learn a level of functionality than a technical level which understands all the levels of tonality and vowel consonant relationships that create the syllables, and which serve as the bedrock of Thai language.
The best technique is to set yourself a goal of learning a number of words in terms of vocabulary. 500 words aren’t easy but it’s by no means a hard target to aim for when considering that a couple of new words can be learned every day for a year. The grammar is where it’s important to set aside a little time to learn the basic structure of language.
It’s the same in any language, so learn the words for I, You, He, She, It, We, They and then what kind of words go with them? I like, I don’t like, I want, I don’t want, I need, I am and I will be are the basics of any situational language learning. If you can get the basics of these words into your memory, the vocabulary will slot into place nicely.
There’s no way round this. If you’re not prepared to sound as ridiculous and awkward in terms of new sounds you’ve never made before then you’re never going to learn Thai.
We’ve seen people who put hours of study in each day and then fail to realize that they are speaking Thai like they stepped off a Parisian subway, a German tram or a London underground.
All that hard work to learn new words, new grammar constructions and even the technical aspects of tonality, only to see it wash down the tropical rain drain because of an inability to force the voice to sound strange and foreign.
At first it feels like the learner is speaking like a baby when trying to copy new sounds and the five tonal scales of Thai are like a new language in and of themselves, but unless the learner is prepared to sound as silly as possible there’s no way to learn Thai or indeed any foreign language.
There’s no way round this. You have to sound silly to make progress. Then one day it doesn’t sound as silly, as everyone who is Thai sounds this way and actually it makes more sense to push the vowels around in this manner.
Trying to say new Thai words in the manner of your native language won’t cut it. The French might just about get away with speaking English with a ridiculous French accent but to learn Thai you’re going to have to sound like a Thai and in the beginning that means making a bit of a fool of yourself (in your own language of course).
But in their language you’ll be making an effort.