Thailand is an extremely popular tourist destination as well as a haven for expats from all over the world. The low cost of living, exotic culture, delicious cuisine and beautiful scenery attracts millions of people every year.
If you plan on stepping off the tourist track in Thailand then you will most certainly run into a language barrier with the locals. The question I often get from guys interested in relocating in Thailand is, do I need to learn Thai language? Here’s my opinion…
Yes. You Need To Learn Thai Language.
Of course you don’t have to… You can just stay around Sukhumvit road and speak pigeon English with the bar girls and waitresses. You can find a Thai girlfriend who speaks English and she can help you with shopping, finding apartments and traveling outside the farang friendly areas. A better option is putting in the effort and learning the language yourself.
People may tell you learning Thai language is IMPOSSIBLE! Don’t even try it! It’s a waste of time learning some obscure south east Asian language!
I totally disagree. It’s NOT that hard and it’s NOT a waste of time learning the language of the country you are living in! Don’t listen to these lazy bastards. If a Thai can learn English, we can learn Thai.
In America, we accept people from all walks of life. But if someone comes to America with zero interest in working and learning the language then they will have a hard time… They wont make many friends and they certainly wont get much respect. They will simply exist in their tiny bubble with other people from their own country. Which is what most expats in Thailand do.
Knowing Thai Language is a Huge Advantage
Now first of let me say I am not fluent in Thai. Not even close! But I did study for brief period of time and it’s amazing how much I learned. I didn’t find it difficult. In fact, I had a lot of fun learning the alphabet and drawing all those scribbly letters. It’s a beautiful language in my opinion.
I know the Thai alphabet. I can read… But I don’t know most of the words I’m reading… I can have basic conversations. With this very limited knowledge, staying in Thailand is a totally different experience now.
When I walk into a restaurant and order food, everyone stops and stares at me. People smile and nod with approval. Thai people sitting close to me ask, excuse me where you from? You working here now? What do you do?
It’s like flipping the switch and instantly going from scumbag farang to a respected member of the expat community. Learning Thai shows the locals that you are interested in Thailand enough to study their language. It shows respect. It also shows you’ve been there for a while and know your way around.
This means cheaper prices for goods and services. Also, less scams and bullshit. A taxi driver is way less likely to scam you if you can speak to him in Thai. They often look scared when you speak Thai because they no longer have that language mask to hide behind. And trust me… They talk shit about us farang right in front of our faces…
Some guys don’t give a single fuck about Thai culture or Thai language. They are only there for the cheap pussy and they seem to hate every other aspect of life. Hey that’s fine… It’s your life. But if you spend any more then one month per year in Thailand then you really should learn the basics.
I promise your quality of life will go up dramatically. Getting things done is way easier and you get treated with much more respect then the average monger or back packer on a one week holiday.
Thailand attracts a lot of low life losers from all over the world and I understand why the locals become a bit jaded when it comes to us foreigners. We are walking ATM machines. Here today, gone tomorrow. Learning the language changes the way the locals treat you.
The Best Way To Learn Thai Language
There are a shit load of Thai language courses available online. There are also some very excellent youtube channels with free videos. These are great to learn some basic sentences and listen to the different tones. However, I think the best way to learn is to start with the alphabet.
The books I read were Thai For Beginners and Thai For Intermediate Learners. There is also an Advanced Book which I never got to but maybe someday I will pick it up again. Click those links to view the books on Amazon.
The reason these books are great is because they are simple, affordable and straight to the point. They start you off learning the alphabet right away and once you have that basic understanding of the letters and word structures then pronouncing words is much easier.
It’s also important you buy the Audio CDs that go with the books. Unfortunately, they are not included as a package. View the CDs here. Listening is the hardest part for me so the audio CDs are very important.
You can read and learn all you want but when you hear a group of Thais screaming at each other full speed it’s hard to pick up every word. You can also watch Thai TV for practice but this usually makes me want to vomit after a few minutes.
I would study Thai language for one hour each morning. Just read through a chapter, do the exercise in the book, then do the test at the end. I did this daily for about two months and I was impressed by how much I learned.
If you live in Thailand then you can have your Thai girlfriend help you. She can check your work and correct you on pronunciation. If you live in Thailand, have a Thai girlfriend and you study these books, you can learn Thai VERY fast. Just put in an hour or two each day.
You can also take a language class in Thailand. This has an additional advantage because you can get an education visa and stay for one year. No more bullshit visa runs to worry about!
I may do this at some point… But I hate school and the thought of being stuck in Thailand for a full year makes me cringe. It’s a great place… But I’m usually climbing the walls wanting to escape after a few months.
Getting anything important done in Thailand is always a huge hassle and it makes me crazy. SOLLY SOLLY MISTAHHH can not! Not have! Uhhh!!! Which really means – I don’t want to, and, I’m too lazy to check. When I hear these words I want to dive off the roof of my condo.
I still haven’t decided where I want to live. Right now I enjoy Vietnam and I’m looking into different language classes here. Regardless, wherever I put down roots for a few years I will study the local language and try my hardest to become fluent. It’s the right thing to do and it’s absolutely worth the time and effort.
If you plan on staying in Thailand, take the time to read through those books. They are inexpensive and well written. Let me know if that changes your quality of life in the Land of Smiles. Chok dii krub!