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  1. #1
    Member สมาชิก thai71's Avatar
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    Default Do you need to learn Thai for tourist Thailand?

    Hi
    In the last 3 years or so i've improved my Thai 10 fold, still probably only a Thai childs level, but I have a good understanding of Reading and writing, I've leant the Alphabet and i no and understand the Tone rules(mostly). I have a good ever increasing vocabulary.

    But saying all that i think for about the first 4 years of coming to Thailand and i still believe to this day you could servive on basicly three words.

    Hello สวัสดีครับ or sa wadee krap
    No, no want ไม่เอา my ow krap
    Thankyou ขอบคุณรับ kop kun krap

    It is actally harder in English (wrong tones and spelling here) to get write than it is in Thai script!
    whats your thoughts on this?
    cheers thai71

  2. #2
    Premium Member KhunIanB-UK's Avatar
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    You forgot the all important Mai Khow Jai and Kor tod when bumping into slow walkers in the market place ;-)

    Must admit though, do end up tying up Mai Ow and Khop Khun Krap together a lot when I'm there.

  3. #3
    Serial Poster ผู้โพสต์ต่อเนื่อง colin244's Avatar
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    Add "som nam nar" which is a useful phrase.

    colin 244

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    Premium Member KhunIanB-UK's Avatar
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    Reading the title of the thread I think the answer is a definite no and I would imagine the experience of the majority of first time tourists would be heightened by the "mystique" of it too. Anyone going more than once though would definitely benefit by picking up some especially when travelling off the beaten track.

  5. #5
    Serial Poster ผู้โพสต์ต่อเนื่อง colin244's Avatar
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    Agree Ian as most tourists never go where members of this forum do and as has been said many times "do not see the real Thailand"

    colin 244

  6. #6
    Forum Antiquity ของโบราณ bifftastic's Avatar
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    I really think it depends where in Thailand you go. Also on how much you want to understand about what's going on around you.

    Some people will say, and they have a point to a degree, that the more you understand of what Thai people are saying, the less you will like it!

    If you go to Bangkok, or Phuket/Samui/Pattaya etc. then yes, you don't really need to speak or understand Thai to 'get by'. Again, it depends what you mean by 'get by'. You will certainly be able to interact with people, get food, beer, hotel rooms, entertainment etc.

    You will also be able to meet Thai people who can speak English well enough for you to make friends with.

    When you travel further afield you will find that the level of English, spoken and understood, disappears quite rapidly.

    There simply isn't the need for it.

    For example, if you go to a tour agent in say, Phuket, you will be able to ask about boat trips to Phi Phi, book a room for the night, get the tickets, arrange the mini-van to come and pick you up from your hotel, and off you go. The same will apply when you get to Phi Phi, you will be understood.

    If you try a similar thing in the tour shops in my town, Chiang Saen (there's a healthy Thai tourist trade there for trips to Laos, trekking in the mountains etc.), you will induce panic amongst the staff who will make frantic phone calls to someone who they think speaks English, but doesn't really, and probably not get what you want. They will smile and say "sorry, can not, not have today" which is the extent of their English.

    Personally, I enjoy the challenge of learning Thai. My wife is Thai and, unsurprisingly, so are her family!

    She has taught herself English, but her family don't have more than one or two words, and even then, they don't really know what they mean! So, although my efforts so far are way way short of any kind of fluency, I can at least speak to my wife's family and our neighbours, and ask them how they are, what their day has been like etc. and we can have faltering conversations and a lot of laughs!

    I can now have a chat with taxi drivers (which may not always be a good thing!), ask them where they come from and about their families etc. explain myself and tell people where I come from, where my house in Thailand is, the fact that I'm married and yes, their sister/auntie/friend is very attractive, but one wife is more than enough for me thank you very much! Smiles all round

    The other thing as well, is that the Thai you will learn, is not the only Thai language that exists in Thailand, it will more often than not, be the second language of whoever you are speaking with! So, if you have taken the trouble to learn central Thai, you will have something in common with them, which they will, for the most part, appreciate.

    So yes, I agree, you can survive quite well, in some parts of Thailand with little or no Thai language skills, but if you want to have a deeper relationship with the country and it's people, I think it's a skill that you will never regret acquiring.

    Learning the Thai script is definitely the way to go, it all starts to unfold magically in front of you, and as you point out, writing Thai words with Roman letters, doesn't convey the meaning accurately, there's no tones, the vowel lengths are wrong, there are sounds in Thai that don't exist in English and vice versa.

    It can be especially useful when you see the signs that give the double prices! They use Thai numbers to hide from you just how much cheaper it is for Thai people!

    Someone has said 'the more you learn, the less you understand' and to some extent that applies with learning Thai, but I prefer to see it as 'the more you learn, the more you realise just how little you understood in the first place'

    As for useful phrases, my favourite so far, is 'farang roo maak mai dee' ฝรั่งรู้มากไม่ดี

    Excellent topic Thai71, thanks!



    --- Update ---

    Seeing as we're doing phrases, another useful one is 'grapow r(l)ong hai!' กระเป๋า ร้องไห้ '(my) pocket/wallet (is) crying!'
    ไม่ลองไม่รู้

  7. #7
    Admin maokaang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colin244 View Post
    Add "som nam nar" which is a useful phrase.
    Just in case anyone takes your "useful" comment seriously, and I think I've said this before; สมน้ำหน้า (som nam naa) is a very obtuse and crude term which should NEVER be used casually with strangers. It WILL easily cause offence and, far from being a "useful" phrase, is one you should definitely avoid using.

    Perhaps OK among very close friends, or in a tacky bar, but NOT in the real world.

    Regards
    Paul พอล
    กำขี้ดีกว่ากำตด

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    Admin maokaang's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thai71 View Post
    No, no want ไม่เอา my ow krap
    Thankyou ขอบคุณรับ kop kun krap
    Not a criticism but, in case anyone wants to copy and paste the above phrases for their own use, there are two small mistakes in the Thai script there, one on each line:

    "my ow krap" = ไม่เอาครับ
    "kop kun krap" = ขอบคุณครับ


    Regards
    Paul พอล
    กำขี้ดีกว่ากำตด

  9. #9
    R.I.P. ddwjg's Avatar
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    Maokaang is quite correct. Knowledge of clever little phrases is not always 'clever'.

    The title of this thread is about tourist Thailand. The answer to that question is an emphatic NO.

    Whether you are holidaying in Germany, France, Spain, Indonesia, Egypt, wherever, you might buy a phrase book before you go, and that is it.

    I have seen many instances of Thai people in tourist areas who, when they realise a tourist( or someone they think is a tourist) can understand a little Thai, have stopped conversing freely with one another. Not because they are talking about the foreigner, but because they want to keep their conversation, which may be about their own family problems, to themselves, and it is no business of a stranger.

    As such, trying to impress, by speaking the language, in Thailand can change the whole atmosphere of an environment.

    It is easy for many of us to pick up many Thai words, and small phrases from our partners, or Thai contacts, but if you are talking of tourists, and tourist areas, there is absolutely no need for knowledge of Thai language.IMO.

    Dave.

  10. #10
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    I'm not sure what you're asking. Your post seems to be more of a wandering pat on your own back for learning some Thai than a real question! (I notice that Thais give us less of these than they used to as farangs knowing some Thai become more common.)

    If you wanted to know what you could survive on, in any country it would be the numbers, 'How much?', 'The bill, please' and directions. Not much need for 'Thank you' here - I rarely hear Thais say it, certainly not as much as farangs do. Please isn't used much either.

    Yes, it's not worth learning those English transliterations. You could say it's not really worth learning Thai though, as a world language it's not really used and Thais aren't going to take over the world anytime soon. Chinese and Japanese would be more useful.

    --- Update ---

    Quote Originally Posted by KhunIanB-UK View Post
    You forgot the all important Mai Khow Jai and Kor tod when bumping into slow walkers in the market place ;-)
    How about 'Are you having a heart attack? Would you like me to call an ambulance?' when you see the look of absolute shock on the faces of these slow walkers as someone brushed their arms trying to get past or bumped into them as they stopped suddenly without warning or backed out without looking into you? The look of shock they give that someone else is there in the world gets me every time...

    --- Update ---

    Quote Originally Posted by thai71 View Post
    It is actally harder in English (wrong tones and spelling here) to get write than it is in Thai script!
    whats your thoughts on this?
    cheers thai71
    Of course it's harder (and a nearly worthless skill) learning lots of different English transliteration systems. But you knew that already, having learned the alphabet!

    My other thoughts are that, given the chance to go back, I might have started to learn Chinese or Vietnamese 16 years ago or something else instead of Thai. It might have been more rewarding. Vietnamese women, in particular, are very attractive.
    Last edited by livingwithathaigirl; 21st Feb 2012 at 08:03.

  11. #11
    Forum Regular สมาชิกประจำ
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    I studied writing the language and gave up. So many similar sounds to a western ear and too many tones that it ends up just frustrating you. I can read a little, the problem is I don't have the first idea what they mean even if I write it down.

    I have studied books a fair bit but there's no substitute for getting out there and giving it a go. Again I find I can understand a fair amount but speaking can be frustrating - when you say the right words in the right order but unless its said in the EXACT correct stress Thais just cannot comprehend what you're trying to say and end up looking at your GF as if to say "What's he on about"?

    If you do wanta really good book to start from I'd highly recommend - Thai for beginners - Benjawan Poomsan Becker.
    Her second book takes you onto learning reading and writing and is very well written.
    Good luck.

  12. #12
    Premium Member toddmeister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barnet View Post
    If you do wanta really good book to start from I'd highly recommend - Thai for beginners - Benjawan Poomsan Becker.
    Her second book takes you onto learning reading and writing and is very well written.
    Good luck.
    I also have this and agree its the best that I've tried so far. I bought the box (book & audio) version. It is good for teaching you writing, alphabet and explains things like construction of sentences etc a lot better than anything else I've used. I also bought the intermediate CD which adds hundreds more words.

    I'm surprised how much I've picked up just by being around the wife without really trying to learn. I'm sure being forced to watch Thai TV every night has helped too . I wouldn't be able to hold a conversation in Thai but I can understand the gist of what she's saying whenever she calls home or we go to a Thai restaurant. My problem is my wife mainly speaks isaan so any thai I learn hardly ever gets used anyway

    "Do you need to learn Thai for tourist Thailand?" - probably not; but just learning a little and giving the "impression" that you know what you are talking about might prevent you from being an obvious scam target in the tourist area's.

    Steve

  13. #13
    Premium Member KhunIanB-UK's Avatar
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    ""Do you need to learn Thai for tourist Thailand?" - probably not; but just learning a little and giving the "impression" that you know what you are talking about might prevent you from being an obvious scam target in the tourist area's."

    One of the shops along the Sukhumvit Road went from £90 for a jacket down to £10 due to my basic Thai :-) The £90 was an obvious mark up, but some were paying it.

  14. #14
    Forum Antiquity ของโบราณ bifftastic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ddwjg View Post
    I have seen many instances of Thai people in tourist areas who, when they realise a tourist( or someone they think is a tourist) can understand a little Thai, have stopped conversing freely with one another. Not because they are talking about the foreigner, but because they want to keep their conversation, which may be about their own family problems, to themselves, and it is no business of a stranger.

    As such, trying to impress, by speaking the language, in Thailand can change the whole atmosphere of an environment.
    If you happen across some people who are discussing something that should be private, where ever you are in the world, and they don't want you to hear it, then they should keep it to themselves.

    I don't think that's a reason not to learn a language!
    ไม่ลองไม่รู้

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    Old Hand มือเก่า prikphet's Avatar
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    There are thousands of useless apps for iPhones/iPads out there, I wondered if there was a
    Thai Alphabet/Pronunciation one which is any good?
    For those with Smartphones, the blurred part to the right of the screen is called a ''LIFE' !

  16. #16
    Premium Member KhunIanB-UK's Avatar
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    Another Polyglot

  17. #17
    Forum Antiquity ความเก่า dan&ploy's Avatar
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    Hi Pricky, Have a look here.

    There is other stuff on the site too.

  18. #18
    Forum Regular สมาชิกประจำ
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    If there's ever an incentive to NOT learn the language it's being able to eventually understand what they are saying on Thai TV!!!

  19. #19
    Member สมาชิก thai71's Avatar
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    Hi folks
    obviously there are huge differences in abilitys with people on this forum, even with many farang living in Thailand, being around thais does not mean automaticly you will become fluent in Thai.

    Ive chatted to so many of my friends who have Thai partners and they say they have tried so many times to learn more, but it just ends up a night mare and ends up in frustration!

    TONE Deaf is the main one i hear, I must admit still many words myself i cant tell the differnce in the Tone sound unless its written down!!!

    Im not gonna go into phrases that are right or wrong as thats up to ones selfs to gauge the environment and people around you for what you find suitable,

    but for me the only stuff i would like to unlearn is a few rude words or phrases i know! ADVICE dont bother they only get you in trouble.

    As the bit about learning Chinese or Vienamise????? How many people really earn a living learning a new language?

    Surely it must be for the love of it or just a hobby?, Saying that i do have a friend who learnt and teaches spanish! so she earns money. The percentages must be very low though.

  20. #20
    R.I.P. ddwjg's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=bifftastic;163130]
    If you happen across some people who are discussing something that should be private, where ever you are in the world, and they don't want you to hear it, then they should keep it to themselves.
    Precisely what I meant Biff. Many would presume that the Thais clam up because they were talking about you, and they don't want you to hear it.

    I don't think that's a reason not to learn a language!
    Not my intended meaning at all. What I meant was, speaking a little Thai, just to try and impress, does not always have positive results. I was not talking about learning a language. Maybe the thread direction has changed but I'm still discussing what is on the thread title.

    Yours, misunderstood Dave.

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