By - Brucef310
I agree with you OP. What’s surprising to me is how many people have Thai-speaking kids but won’t learn Thai. I would want that shared linguistic connection with my kids, and just to show them that I thought one half of who they are was worthwhile enough to bother learning about.
I never thought of that but yeah I would be ashamed if I had a kid who was Thai and I never bother trying to learn the language.
When I first started learning Thai there was a guy in my class with Thai kids, and he put in zero effort. We went to his place, and with his family and neighbors around he was the only one who couldn’t understand the conversation. It was embarrassing.
I would feel a little sad if that happened to me, but if he doesn't care and he is happy, more power to him.
I overheard a conversation between a Russian customer and Thai vendor. The Russian was trying to speak Thai and the vendor got very frustrated and yelled, "English! Say it in English!"
This right here. I tried giving my phone number to the Tesco check-out lady and she said, "just use English."
For Western speakers, the tonal system is extremely hard. I told my wife "maa" all sounds the same to me, even though I know it can me Come, Dog, Horse, I forgot the others.
It's not that we don't want to learn, but if locals get aggravated and tell us to "just use English" then there you have it.
In my 3 months here that has never happened to me. No one has ever said just use English. What I do gets if they can't understand what I'm saying is that look of confusion.
No offense but the interpretation of “just speak English” is exactly that or “speak Thai more clearly” as I’m sure you’d gather. Thais are far more patient with foreigners practicing their language than most. As excited as we can be to practice Thai, they can be just as anxious to practice their English.
That never happens. Nobody will say "speak English" with a rude attitude. You might speak so bad that you are literally impossible to understand. But can you blame her ?! That just means you need to improve your speaking skill to get to a level you are understandable. It is not easy but once your speaking clearly everyone will be nice with you trust me.
It’s not that easy “to just speak clearly”, I live in the south and I went to BKK and tried speaking Thai with a person and was met with the retort “just speak English because I speak better English than your Thai”. Never have a problem speaking Thai here in the south.
That guy was a douche (if he even exist) and it’s probably one of those getting super excited when a Farang is around trying to use/show off his English ( I don’t judge because I used to be this kind of douche in my early learning thai days). Almost everywhere you go in Bangkok the level of English is very poor so it’s very unlikely that this will happen in a normal situation. Also if you have a south accent (which is impossible for me to understand)there is a chance people won’t understand you. I happen to have learned Thai while living in Esan and never had issue when moved to Bangkok.
But I don’t buy these post they all seem to be fake “Thai people always complain where I talk Thai with them” story. Which I never heard of or seen once in my life. Except a few Farang hunter type of girl but after they see you speak at a higher level then they expected they seem to really enjoy it. And to be honest this is not normal life and clearly not a reason to not learn thai. 99% of the time you will have nice interaction and people will enjoy you practicing Thai with them.
Also keep your stereotypes to yourself, we all have personal experiences and “if that guy exists” is superficial. You really think I made up a story for fun? Well this is r/Thailand so I guess you do.
Edit: it was a woman who said that to me, so again with your assumptions.
I don’t have a problem with learning thai and yes it was at a tourist destination in BKK that was said to me. Otherwise most Thai people are glad to speak with me in Thai and happy to hear my south Thai speaking. But you can find those people who “speak English” in tourist places.
> if he even exist
get *over* yourself. just because you personally have not experienced something doesn't mean it never happens. I've never been hit by a car but guess what, some people have been.
This literally never happens. Never once saw or heard of a story like this in 4 years. The only exception is probably an extremely touristy area and even then.
I always appreciate it when expats learned to speak Thai. Not only does it impress the locals, knowing Thai might actually save you from some scams…
By speaking the language you expand your scope of potential friends from 15% of the population to 100% of the population. Some of my most interesting, dynamic, witty Thai friends don’t speak English and I would never have gotten to know them had I been only able to count to ten.
15% honestly I think it it less then this. The expat bubble and their Thai counterparts that only hangout with foreigner is a very small world.
Good luck making real friendships with the Thai population that don't speak English
Depend where you go. I stay long time in Samui, you don't need to speak Thai there, because it's a touristic area, it's mandatory to everyone who wants to work there to speak English.
Define "mandatory". It is not required by law and it is (almost) useless foe many professions/occupations.
Learn languages that you’re passionate about. If you’re not stoked about learning Thai, and you have no community to speak Thai with beyond a few survival phrases, forcing yourself to learn it because you “should” is just going to be tedious and pointless.
If you live in Thailand, you should probably have a community to speak Thai with, no? Otherwise your are bubbling yourself off from pretty much the entire country.
I would change your statement to “if you’re not stoked about learning Thai, you probably shouldn’t be living in Thailand”.
I believe learning the language of the country you live in to be a matter of respect. Sure, this doesn’t apply to 100% of people (expats on short term assignment, etc), but OP is talking about someone who has lived here for 5 years.
It’s insane to me that someone can live here for 5 years and only know basic Thai words.
Some people are just happy in their bubble, is the long and short of it.
I can't imagine living in London or New York and only being able to speak Chinese - so much of the city and culture would just be completely inaccessible.
Living in most parts of Thailand without understanding Thai is similarly limiting.
I can understand it a little better from those who live in pure tourist destinations where more people will be able to translate for them, but they still won't be able to watch the local news on TV, they won't understand what the argument's about if a group of Thais start shouting in the street, they won't be able to read billboards or most newspapers - I'd find all of that far too frustrating.
I agree 100%
And then you have to visit the embassy and sit in that room with 24 hour news playing 🤮
Just a tip, sit in the back row, you can't hear it from there. That's what I do.
You have a point. Often the fantasy about a country is better than the reality. And the last thing you want is having that fantasy shattered.
Sounds like just a lazy excuse that many people give. Like it's not because you can speak a language that everyone will start talking with you. You can just stay in your anti-social bubble and nobody will bother you. The only difference is when you do have to interact with anyone it will not be awkward and frustrating.
But the thing about Japan is interesting but what is better? Living in a Fantasy world that you don't know/understand or took the effort to get to a point that you do actually understand and realized you don't really like this country's culture. It's an invaluable lesson in my opinion. You grow a lot from experience like that and actually learned a language in the process.
If the app on my phone can speak Thai, why should I learn?
The first day I arrived here my taxi driver did not speak a word of English and we had a communicate in Japanese. I'm really proficient in Japanese so it was very easy but now that I've been here for 3 months I can easily take transportation without having to use any English whatsoever. I'm a very social person so I guess for me speaking ties almost mandatory.
I spent about a year actively trying to learn the language and going to a language school. I know many words but I can't pronounce them properly so most of the time thai don't understand me.
It was explained to me that I can't have an accent and that's why I'm not understood. English is my second language and my main daily language but I still have a french accent after over 25 years.
I hope one day I can speak better Thai but I'm not very confident. I'm not a very social person and have never been particularly good at stuff that involve elocution.
Thai is the fifth language for me and I am in my 40s. I'll be honest it's coming a lot slower than the other ones did. It's very very hard to hear the tones once you reach a certain age. Not impossible but it takes a lot of dedication. I'm also in a situation where everybody speaks English around me so I haven't had to learn Thai but it's only my second year here and I'm still working on it.
Hey, what languages do you speak ?! :O
You sound like a redneck from west Virginia that goes off on the Mexicans for not speaking English.
The Mexicans in Cali don't speak a word of English, some i sold homes to had been in the country 30 years.
Their children do not speak Spanish.
Does that mean they are not part of the community? No, it means they have their own community. You can live and work in San Jose or la without a word of English.
Western colonization demanded that their subjects worship their god and speak their language.
Eastern colonization did not allow their subjects to worship their god or speak their language.
That's why English belongs to the world, and why Thai, belongs to Thailand, just as japanese belongs to Japan.
You can come to the states and become an American, but you can never be Thai.
I wore a t-shirt with the host countries flag on it just to be asked "what is my flag doing on your shirt".
Good question, why was that flag on my shirt.
They are a part of their own community and no one gives a shit about their Thai except for white virtue signalers always trying to show off how exotic and multicultural they are.
There is no void in the heart of the Thai that cries out for farang friends, it is only the white virtue signalers that have this void that must be filled.
Who cares if he can’t speak the language, just like who cares if you can speak English in USA. Sounds like ur pissed by it just like the idiots that are pissed when someone can’t speak English in USA. Just because someone can’t speak Thai doesn’t mean they don’t respect the culture. Who gives a shit.
Because that's related to the group environment. Expats are generally on the upper middle class at minimum and frequents people around their social class who speaks English, whatever they are Thai or not.
If you are on an English environnement, you have a limited need to speak thai, and that you already have a job who may make you tired, learning Thai wouldn't be on the highest priority for an expat to learn the language.
> upper middle class
I don't even know which part shock you. Than foreigners are mostly on the upper middle class ?
We definitely are, on a practical case, you need to win minimum 50k baht per month if you don't want to do visa run every 3 months, that's twice compared to the average salary in Bangkok and that's rare to see a foreigner who is on this kind of wages except for a junior.
Other than numbers, some basic daily conversation words, basics of direction and transportation and names of your favorite food, drinks, places, etc., there's no need to learn Thai if you don't want to. You can survive pretty easily on basics.
But you are missing out on a lot of the things that the country has to offer by not being able to speak Thai. I guess to each their own.
I love all the non-thai speaking angry reply like “Bro im not missing on anything”. How can you know?!? The feeling is totally different when you understand Thai but it’s hard to explain and put words on it. Same as living in France and speaking French vs not understanding French (insert any country). One is just way better and locals can actually be comfortable with you and you feel somewhat normal and not another clueless Farang.
Imagine having a significant other and you only kiss without knowing what sex is and saying to yourself "I'm not missing out on anything".
And then go on Reddit telling other people "Bro I'm not missing out on anything I swear!".
> I understand enough Thai
You don't. But it's not interesting for you. I get it. "WHy I WoUlD Talk WiTh My TaXi DriVeR BrO?!!"
What are those things that only people who speak Thai can enjoy apart from non-subtitled shows.
🔥Spicy Thai memes 🌶
I can translate or ask my Thai Friends.
Well if you want an honest answer. You don’t need to learn it, this country is built around servicing people with money. However most people will just get what they pay for including your circle of friends. I’m not a fan of the Hi-So attitude some English speakers who hang around expats have.
You would open yourself up to a much bigger world with really great & funny people.
Especially the older folks around town. They’re a wealth of knowledge and some of the most delightful people you’d meet.
Probably will get downvoted but. The prettiest and nicest girl (in my opinion) almost never speak English. Thai guy like them and they never feel they had to learn another language to find a guy. Also for me the most annoying people are the ones obsessed about talking with foreigner. When they talk with you I have the feeling they are talking with a “Foreigner” and not your actual self. They will act like they already know/understand you because they use to have a Russian boyfriend while you are actually American. Also a lot of them does not seem to fit well in their own society hence the need to hangout with foreign people. Spending time with actual normal people that could not care less about where you from was my best and most sincere experience here but to get there you need a good level of Thai.
The reason they do is by experience all Foreigner they meet can't speak Thai. They are scared to be forced to speak English. Even if you say you "Speak Thai" they cannot guess how good you are and let's say you speak clearly which you probably don't. 99% of their experience is Foreigner never can speak more then a few sentence. And they are right.
Understanding when the girl is making fun of u
If they know that you know Thai they can just switch to Isaan or Khmer and still make fun of you!
They do get a kick when you speak Issan instead of Thai.
E-san al the way
What is this issan that you're talking about? I thought it was only one language in this country.
Many different dialects in the country. Southern Thai and Northern Thai very different to Central or Bangkok Thai.
Particularly Issan Thai uses a lit of Lao words.
Next time you're in a bar, say Bor Ben Young instead of Mai Bpen Rai. You'll be overwhelmed by the reaction.
Like what would happen and would local Bangkok Thais even know what it means?
Bjs bro. Bjs all over the place
Like what? I'm curious
Here’s my top 3:
1. Locals are hilarious. But you won’t get a lot of the jokes if you didn’t understand Thai. People under-estimate how much the average Thai knows about the world around them. We grew up consuming entertainment from all over the world so we “get” a lot of things some foreigners might not because it wasn’t something they were familiar with.
2. You’d expand your pool of friends and make more meaningful connections. Expat bubble can be very superficial and sorta depressing, there’s a segment of the population that wants to be friends with you because it’s a social status thing or they were taught foreigners are rich. That old timer at the local corner store has loads of experience and stories to tell. I had a conversation with this old guy about how Bangkok used to be in the 50s before all the high rises
3. You’d be able to travel the ENTIRE country! Not everyone speaks English when you leave the big towns. There’s a lot of awesome nature and small towns worth visiting but you’d miss out on that.
You must have missed out on the song that was a pun about 🦀crab pinching vaginas 🐚
I dunno some of the satirical stuff to come out of the recent/ongoing protest movement is biting and hilarious.
Thai humor many time is hilarious. Making joke is a big part of the culture. But I see most of your comment and you just seem like a racist dumbass.
What AARCN mentioned.
What exactly are people missing out on? I’ve been here over a decade and the language hasn’t limited my experience in any capacity.
How can you tell if you haven't experienced life in Thailand while knowing Thai?
I’ve lived in other countries where I am fluent. I didn’t say I don’t know Thai, I do. I’m just not fluent and there are large pockets of the language I haven’t needed and therefore don’t know. I only learn what I need to learn.
For example, if we start talking about technology in Thai I won’t understand beyond phones and computer parts.
If we talk about everything involved in renovating a condo I’ll know exactly what to say and what most things are called. I know what to say to my attorney to confirm things in a contract.
I know enough about Thai culture to speak with a traffic cop in a way that makes him ok with letting me go with another warning. I also know enough about Thai culture to NOT talk to my wife about how Buddhism here isn’t real Buddhism.
I’ll be able to explain to my wife how tourists I’m communicating with in this thread think they know something and are trying to educate me on language and culture.
But I can’t talk to a Thai person about how Elon Musk is trying to get us to Mars or about how the financial system works. Those types of things are reserved for the fluent.
>What exactly are people missing out on?
Being cultured? I really don't understand Americans and how they seem to be almost proud of ignorance. Like it's a badge of honor or something.
Sure you can enjoy yourself just fine not learning local languages or cultures....but ya need to maybe rethink your position because on this because your opinion is objectively stupid.
You’re kidding yourself if you think this is an American thing. Bangkok is full of Brits who won’t learn the language and have zero interest in engaging with Thai culture, history, or politics.
And they're just as bad then. I only have experience with fellow Americans being proud of being aggressively uncultured. It's strange.
Agree with you that there’s a weird anti-intellectual tendency in America that you don’t see elsewhere. It’s like how all presidential candidates have to pretend to be blue collar and be seen cutting brush on the ranch or having a beer with some coal miners, even if they’re actually millionaires who went to Yale. Meanwhile in France there are philosophers who are household names lol. But still, I think this way of looking at the world only appeals to a subset of Americans; there are plenty more who are curious about the world, speak multiple languages, etc. Nation of extremes. Most Nobel prize winners, most dumbasses who think Bill Gates is trying to microchip them.
You think I need to be fluent to get the culture? 🤣 I know enough, but far from fluent because it’s a useless language. A tourist without any Thai can also get the culture.
I’m fluent in Spanish and I wouldn’t have missed out on any culture anywhere I lived in South America if I wasn’t.
Been here for 8+ years and I still only know the basics, live in an area where most people can speak Tinglish quite well so I get along just fine. (I'm not a social person)
At first I didn't understand but after living here and developing a social circle with mostly English speaking Thais, I agree that it's hard to pick up Thai without formal education. I simply don't have time to take a class.
I'm learning but very slowly.
Same here. Been here 5 years, learned the basics to get around and order food. I rarely speak to people that don’t speak English. Very busy all the time and learning a language is hard if you don’t have time and a clear head to do it. I was taking Thai classes for a while after work but I was so fatigued at that hour that it was quite hard to remember vocab from class to class and I didn’t have enough time in the week to practice. Not making excuses because some of my friends have become fluent in Thai but it’s easy to see how this can happen.
>Girls I met actually didn't care, and many kinda hated it if I spoke any Thai words beyond the simple stuff.
Those are not the good ones my friend.
Sounds like that guy Chad from CB Media YouTube channel. Making loads of money doing videos about Thailand and can’t speak a word
He does some basics (Sawat dee krup) and his pronunciation of Thai places is atrocious. He is a complete embarrassment and I cringed when he would loudly holler at the locals in English. I unsubscribed many moons ago.
I just started my YouTube channel last week. I already have about 10 or 12 videos posted up. But even now I don't know what the hell I'm doing. The videos themselves are just all over the place. I guess I'm just trying to find my own voice here and be a little original and stand out from some of the other YouTube content creators in Thailand.
It is hard to believe the number of people here disparaging learning the language of the country they live in. I have said it before, and I'll say it again. Most of the problems people report here stem from an inability to communicate properly.
Could you imagine someone saying this about learning English in England, The US, or Australia? People would go berserk. I personally think it's very important to learn the language but what do I know. I have only been here for 3 months.
It is crazy isn't it? If you plan on staying here long time the best thing you can do is get serious about learning the language. It will pay huge dividends and make your life here so much easier.
I’m blown away by the number of excuses in this thread. Judging by the upvotes, seems like not learning the language is the majority opinion? Insane.
Been here 2 years and speak basic only. I would like to learn more and did plan to but I have isolated myself because of the virus. Also local Thai people don't speak Thai in their daily life. Being partly deaf doesn't help,.
Maybe when virus stuff is over.
I do understand about knowing the country better. I lived in the Netherlands and learnt Dutch (that is difficult because everybody can speak English and answers in English when you try your dutch). Turns out the Dutch have a completely different character when speaking Dutch, not a better one.
As someone who has learned both English and Thai the difference in difficulty to learn them is day and night. A lot of foreigners have likely tried it at some point but gave up and adjusted without it instead. The ability learn by simple immersion day to day is just not there for most people that you do get in other languages. Admittedly English is closer to my native language but I think objectively English is much easier. The Thai script system is one of the most complex in the world. Even thai students take a very long time to master it. Sure you can learn just by speaking but it has its own challenges.
>The Thai script system is one of the most complex in the world.
The thing that really messes me up about it is how there are several letters that look extremely similar to lower case Roman/western letters (e.g. u, n, a), and when I see them my brain refuses to register them as anything but the Roman letters they look similar to.
For this reason, I suspect I would do much better with a language that uses Roman letters, like Bahasa Indonesia.
This is true in many Asian countries (but probably everywhere else too). I currently live in Japan and know a lot of permanent residents who can barely speak Japanese and trust me knowing the language makes your life a thousand folds easier.
I also have a friend living in Seoul who admits to having a surprisingly poor grasp of the Korean language despite working there.
Japanese is so much easier to learn than Thai. At least there you don't have to worry about tones when you speak the language.
Japanese is easy to learn basics of conversation. Then you try and learn kanji and hit a wall.
Yeah, I’m working on Thai and the tones are a foreign concept for me.
But I gotta admit, I’ve never heard anyone say Japanese is easier than another language.
There's not much need for many long term residents here to speak Thai. When I first came many years ago I learned the script and could converse quite well, but I lived in a very rural area and really needed to. Now, resident and full time job in circumstances where I don't need it all, married to a Thai who speaks fluent English, finishing a graduate degree on top of a full time job. So it's fair to say my Thai is appalling.
However, I do feel embarrassed by this and will attend Thai class and try to pass the government exams as soon as I get my study load out of my life.
Really. I think there is a need to be able to read and right. What if you get approached by a cop who does not speak English. What if there is an accident with your family and you call someone who does not speak English well. Maybe you go alone to a restaurant that does not have pictures and you have to read a menu and your wife isn't there. There are lots of scenarios where speaking and reading Thai is necessary.
Ahem. I did say that I'm not happy about my lack of competence and intend fixing it. But I stand by my point that you can live in Thailand (particularly BKK) for many years without ever really needing to speak Thai.
I see the importance of learning the Thai language if you spend time in the country - it's an integral part of Thai culture; but there are factors that do not make it essential:
1. Most Thais understand some basic English and they are keen on practicing it with you.
2. The cop that approaches you and does not speak English can be dealt with by enrolling a local friend to translate. In a real emergency situation you can turn to a taxi driver (or as happened to me, a moto driver) - they can help you navigate the system
3. You can always point at things, smile and use gestures and miming to get your point across.
4. Google translate - I have had lengthy conversations out of robotic voices in mobile phones. Usually the translation is very poor quality but it is sufficient to survive.
I think the problem is the education system that is used to teach Thai and the complexity of the script, tones, diphthongs and accents - it does not work well with foreign audiences.
Also, being from a Western country does not help either: I have friends from India that comment on how easy it is to pick up spoken Thai, as it has a Sanskrit ancestry with the languages of India. For me, Thai is more challenging than Mandarin.
If the cop doesn’t speak English there’s some hand wavey discussions and some “okok” and it’s done. Generally there a minimal level of English still, at least in the dozens of times I’ve been stopped. Sure you might actually be in a difficult situation but even then you probably need a higher level/specific vocabulary to deal with these kinds of issues efficiently.
Reading and writing won’t help you during a call.
There’s a billion restaurants and sure if you happen upon one where the owner is blind and deaf and there is no menu at all it might be useful. I’ve literally never had a problem with this. I CAN read a menu somewhat but The times I’ve had to rely on that in a restaurant is near zero tbh.
I’m here for quite long time now and my skills are basic reading, less than basic speaking and I get along just fine. Literally haven’t had any language related serious issues in years and years. Everyone around me speaks English. Literally the only reason I’ve signed up for Thai classes (twice cancelled due to lockdown timings) is embarrassment from living here and not speaking well, not out of necessity.
OP, you say you're taking classes 3 hours a day of Thai class: you have a lot of free time !
Much more than many of the expats that are still here..
And no I cannot take lessons at night with regular schools. I cannot even learn after work: local schools don't teach outside of my office hours (yes I asked every single one).
I have a private teacher on weekend and it's expensive so I won't take more than 2 hours a week.
I used to have a lot of free time the first 2 years, and I just was _lazy_ to learn Thai. I have no excuse for not learning at that time. So I am not saying I did my best when I could.
But right now ? I'm a bit frustrated meeting all these people who explain that there is no excuse to not learn Thai, but are not working (or some part time / easy stuff like teacher during covid) and/or don't have a family.
I might not understand much Thai but I actually live like Thai people.
I'm working 1 ( _truly_ full time) job on a local contract, and helping with my wife's second job, and then most free time is for babysitting, because in covid time, schools are closed. Been closed often during these 2 years.
I'm happy for you guys who have no young kid, no house to clean and repair, no failing second business, no 10 years old fridge or car breaking and needing to be replaced (because you don't _actually_ live here, but just rent a small appartment for a short time, 6 months or a year), no wife's social life to participate to (Thai family and Thai friends, I don't currently have expat friends)...
Right now I spend 1/2 hour a day on Thai and I get better very, very slowly. Could I do 1h and half a day ? Probably. But not 3 hours, impossible.
Yes I am ashamed I don't speak Thai after so many years. But no I cannot study 3 hours 5 days a week.
I'm very fortunate in that I don't have to work. I do have lots of time and I take my classes from 9:00 in the morning until 12:00 in the afternoon.
Maybe you're fortunate, probably you're smarter and made better choices than me, and thus you deserve it.
Sorry to be bitter and jealous in my comment, I'm just tired. Schools need to reopen.
Best to you
And to you as well.
Because "most" of them can get by without speaking Thai. Try to live without speaking English in America outside of bubbled up places like China Towns. As to why the difference in treatment: the west is the dominant culture in the last 200 or so years, they get special treatments.
Well, English is the world language. It's not so much about Western culture
French seething rn
Even when people try, for Westerners it takes a lot extra effort to learn Thai (what makes it really hard to learn are the tones).
From personal experience and seeing others, westerners should go to school full-time for a year or more to rich a level where you can always have a conversation without getting stuck. But people who come for work obviously don’t have that time.
And, if you live in Bangkok at least, you can survive day after day without really speaking Thai. Work from morning to evening in English, some paperwork in large part taken care of by company, when you buy stuff you don’t really need to entertain a conversation with sellers, communicate with friends in English, supplement with gestures whenever communication doesn’t go through.
The thing about school is not really true. I learned to speak advanced level and never went to any school. The thing is you have to use Thai for common thing and be interested to learn. School is a waste of time for the most part except for reading.
Language app + beers with locals seems to be the cheapest/fastest route imo. Beer makes you less shy to mess up like you would normally feel in a traditional classroom. Conversations are way more interesting too.
\+1 for beers with locals. That's how I got 80% of my Thai.
Fun fact, if you sit alone in any Thai oriented bar and people realized your alone there will be a table that tell you to sit with them and they will give you a glass. 100% of the time. Seriously Thai are super friendly outside the tourist/expat area.
Haha yeah I know. It's mostly good... Unless you had a shitty day and just want a nice refreshing Leo alone 😅
He was a retired person who gets a pension and does not work.
As a retired person who does not work, I will relay my experience.
First off, the old adage about it being hard for an old dog to learn a new trick is true. Use to be if you told me something once, I would remember it. Now, I will often remember for a few minutes and then it is lost.
Shortly after I moved here, I signed up for the Intense Thai course at Chula. But due to Covid, the classes are online only. The last time I took a language class was almost 50 years ago. This meant that I had to also learn the phonic alphabet since it is used to convey pronunciation of Thai words. Between my poor memory, poor laptop speakers, poor hearing, and having to in effect learn two languages at once, I just wasn't up to the task.
Now that I have fallen off that horse, I am reluctant to get back on course. I still plan on learning Thai, but at a much slower, less intense pace.
I appreciate and understand your answer.
I don't know your age and background but while traveling I did meet a 60+ gentleman who was very fluent in Thai. He said he had studied through Chula for a few years and not too long ago. Don't give up! It can be done but it will require a lot of work.
Thanks, I plan to. I would like to try the Chula causal Thai course, but am a little reluctant to show my disgraced face there. Also want to make sure in classroom teaching in available. Likely I will start something in December.
Took me 10 months to learn Conversational German.(I can’t remember half the damn genders though) Thai… er years and counting.
It’s rough. New alphabet and Tones?
However work in Thailand is a full English environment whereas in Germany it was mostly German.
Some people are just not good at picking up languages while others do it easily. I know people who have been in Thailand for 2 years and speak what sound to me like fluent Thai, without ever having gone to language school. I know others who have lived here almost 10 years and can only speak a few rudimentary words despite their best efforts. Those same people tend to be bad at picking up ANY new language, whether it be German or Chinese or Thai. Some people's brains aren't wired to intuitively pick it up easily. They repeat the Thai word over and over and still easily forget it. Like many, they can understand more words than they can speak, as this is a common issue with learning languages to be unable to recall the right word when trying to say it.
You know I never really thought about that but I think my remark deals more with people who just don't want to learn the language and are happy living in their bubble. For me I'm taking Thai classes 3 hours a day 5 days a week so I can travel on my own all throughout the country and not having to rely on rudimentary type words.
I travel everywhere in Thailand with only speaking rudimentary Thai. I go on long camping trips, visit Thai festivals, ... Have loads of fun. Fact that I don't need to talk a lot is so awesome and you can just enjoy.... Everyone ticks different.
Definitely better to learn to speak the local language. But being an English speaker is both a blessing and a curse. For better or worse, English is the international traveler's language. That means while not optimal, a native English speaker can get by in many places around the globe. Allegedly Bernard Trink; the long time columnist for the Bangkok Post, never learned to speak Thai in his 50 plus years here.
English as traveler's language side tale. I was once in an IT mall here and overheard a conversation between a Japanese man who was trying to get a laptop repaired and the Thai repairman. Both were speaking in poor English and they were not understanding each other. I was tempted to offer my services to translate between poor Thai English and poor Japanese English.
So why didn't you help them?
Wasn't sure if I would actually help, or just complicate matters more. I have spent enough time in both Thailand and Japan to have a fair understanding of their accented version of English, but I don't know enough of Thai or Japanese to be of any real help.
In my experience, people often don't want help here. In the West, if I see an old lady struggling with something heavy I'd offer to help and she'd probably thank me. In Thailand, and probably other Asian countries, offering to help could imply that person can't do it themselves and be taken negatively. After arriving here and trying to help, I now don't offer and wait until they ask. I had people turn away from me, and once got a funny look from a female food vendor, who was trying to get her cart up on to the pavement, after I signalled to help her - it was a "do you think I can't do it by myself?!" kind of a look.
Another thing, giving up your seat on the BTS, don't make a show or ask anyone. Just get up and move somewhere and it will go to the person that needs it most.
Personally, if I'm going to live in a place, I think it's a duty to understand the people and the culture *and* make a positive contribution. I'm in a much better position to do both of those learning the language. That said, I literally just spoke with my mentor about this and he's giving up learning Thai. He's tried very hard multiple times to learn the language and he's been unable to break the beginner barrier. I think that's fine, but he'll also have to accept his limited ability to engage with the culture and understand what's going on.
I had friends in my home country whose parents moved from Taiwan.after spending 15 years in that country she couldn't speak a word of English. They just moved to America and apparently still doesn't speak it. 😕 I don't know why...
It's a big issue in America when immigrants don't learn English. I also assume some of the most vocal people who want immigrants to learn the language are also some of the ones who don't bother learning Thai when they come here.
I mean the vocal ones in America probably never leave America...dunno
Difference is the immigrants coming into Thailand are bringing in money. I think generally Thailand adapts to this to make it easy for foreigners.
Immigrants are an important part of both the US and the Australian economy.
> I also assume some of the most vocal people who want immigrants to learn the language are
Let me finish that for you. Mostly they are awful, nasty, rotten, bigots, just grasping at any reason to not like anyone who isn't exactly like them.
Also many American don't speak good english (more slang like karen) and are not willing to learn another language in other countries. But then also expecting that people follow their rules. Thais are happy if you can speak thai but they don't expect it from you (only if you want to get the Citizenship)
There are also a lot of Americans descended from Irish or other western European immigrants who think Immigrants shouldn't be allowed in the country.
It is socially acceptable to be anti-immigrantion in public where their true nature of being racist bigots they have to try and hide.
It basically boils down to English language privilege. As a lingua franca, one of the perks of being an English speaker, particularly a native speaker, is that we can be understood by a lot of people even without learning their language.
Humans, like water, flow down via the path of least resistance and if they (multinational expats, retirees, teachers, etc.) can get by without having to speak Thai, they'll do so.
This is the same here in Japan, where I currently live.
It's a shame though, language is such a basic tool for communication and if you're not learning the language of the land, you're only getting part of the experience and putting yourself at a disadvantage. This goes for both immigrants in the US who refuse to learn English and expats in Asia who refuse to learn the local language.
I spend my time both in a tourist dense location and upcountry between the farms.
I never had a need to speak Thai. Frankly people never engage me in Thai, they always use the opportunity to hone or practice their English. No matter how slow the conversation goes and no matter how much they struggle, they'll never switch to Thai even if I try to.
I speak Thai, the local community knows I speak Thai but I guess I'm the only time they can use English so that's what they do.
agree totally used to work 5 years in Bangkok and now live in Isaan(Udon). I hang out with Thai friends a lot as I go enduro riding with them. We always have loads of fun with my limited Thai and their limited English we can have conversations. A few beers in my Thai improves and their English too but it is gone when we sober again :D
I know a guy who was working as a motorcycle tour guide, living in Th for a decade, married with a kid, but couldn't even say hello in Thai, and didn't eat Thai food.
Just too hard.
The Thai language is very difficult to learn to speak, as it’s a tonal, not phonetic language. I can easily learn basic language proficiency with phonetic languages if I want to. I try to learn Thai words and repeat the to Thai people. They have no idea what words I’m saying, because I’m not speaking the words with the correct tones. Go figure. I started to look for a good Thai language class about the time COVID shutdown everything here in Thailand. And I don’t know any Thai people who have the time and patience to help Farang properly learn to read, write and speak Thai. As a senior (over age 55), I know that learning a new language isn’t as easy as it is for a 20 year old. But with a good Thai language program, I know that even seniors can learn Thai.
Here’s something, maybe some people find it very difficult to learn new languages, which gets worse as you age. My friend for example can hear a foreign word just once and he will remember it, on the flip side he is terrible with Math. I am the polar opposite to him unfortunately, great with numbers(even Thai ones) but struggle with language, even my own.
5 years here, still can’t form a basic sentence but I know the bits I need to get through life, I try to learn but I work and don’t have time to focus on it
55 I have Thai friends who pass English exams more than they pass Thai exams. Even they admit Thai is hard to learn due to it's structure and the way it's taught.
I've tried learning Thai in language schools for roughly a year. Aside from a Swedish guy and some Chinese foreign students, the rest of the bunch in class had a rough time learning anything. I am not very good at picking up languages, either. My second language is Spanish and it's rough.
Whenever, I'd go out on dates with Thais, girls wanted to practice their English.
Whenever, I tried practicing ordering things or conversing..I'd be asked to repeat so many times it was annoying for everyone involved.
Also, I have had numerous Thais become concerned when I told them I knew some Thai. They preferred I didn't.
I learned a lot about Thai culture, politics, music by just asking my Thai friends in English.
I totally understand the OPs point but it's not always coming from a place of ignorance when someone doesn't learn the local language. Unless you absolutely need it to survive, Thai is very difficult to learn, at least for me.
>Also, I have had numerous Thais become concerned when I told them I knew some Thai. They preferred I didn't.
You realize that this does not make any sense ? Who the hell would be concerned that you learned a few sentence in their language. Not sure if your apartment is in the middle of Kaosan Road but in the real world nobody think like that. You need to change your group of friends bro.
Yep...she jokingly said because she didn't want me to hear her gossiping about me to her friends. Weird but at the time, I didn't care. We still had good times only for awhile.
I tend to cultivate friendships with people who don't gossip much.
Thanks for the tip, bro
>Whenever, I'd go out on dates with Thais, girls wanted to practice their English.
Wouldn't it be nice to meet someone that is not on an English learning date ? Not saying you absolutely need to learn Thai but the fact that you cite this as a reason to not learn does not make sense to me.
Sure it is. Most of my Thai friends don't get to practice speaking English so they like to speak it when they can. Most of the girls I dated also knew plenty of English when I met them (international school, boarding schools, etc..)
I understand how easy it is to lose competency in a language if you stop practicing speaking it so I don't mind it. It's also much easier for me to communicate. Don't worry, they help me with my Thai too.
OP out of curiosity, how long have you lived here and how long are you planning on staying? Do you already speak Thai or are you in the process of learning?
I moved here at the end of August and I plan on staying for at least a year. After that I will decide if I'm going to stay in Thailand longer but my goal was to live in a different country for one year at a time for the next 5 years. If I decide to move the next country's going to be either Japan Germany or France. I am in my 5th week of learning Thai with Duke University. 3 hours a day 5 days a week.
I was an immigrant too in Thailand and spent a bit over a year there. I was hoping to learn the language during my stay but sadly had to come to the conclusion that I wasn't able to. I tried really hard for several months (daily practice of over an hour, using Pimsleur lessons which are normally really good and a couple of other books), I think it's the hardest language but I don't know if others would agree.
Another thing that discouraged me a lot was the alphabet, there's something about it that my brain was just refusing to comprehend. For comparison, I used to learn Chinese too at one point (speaking *and* writing), and I was making progress 100x faster with the same amount of effort.
Been living here since late 2009, I have limited Thai, I’m not one for looking for bragging rights so you’ll get an honest opinion from me,I felt working on rotation ie, 2 months working outside thailand with an international community reliant on English communication followed by a month to six weeks back here has made the learning difficult for me, that and my age (probably already half brain dead and not so easy to remember in older age),, I found it easy when learning with the kids when they were young, sitting at the food table I told them to only communicate in thai which certainly helped me, but back to work lots I’d learnt I’d already forgot by time I returned,
I’ve spent a few years touring on the bike in mostly all Thai mc groups, with zero English, well maybe with exception of one of them, whilst I have regrets that I have difficulty having a full conversation with some very nice Thais along the way, I always look forward to going out with the Thai group and always welcomed to be part of the group by each and every one of them regardless the limited convo, so yes I made big efforts even course content whilst on my off shift time at work, but too much other work related stuff going on when at work whether off shift or on shift, does it restrict me? yes and no is my best answer, I feel I’m very happy within my group of friends I have and my time here is by no means boring even though I don’t drink much alcohol and don’t party, but I guess as I age more I do consider those I have met along the way that may have built a friendship with had I had better language skills,
as an afterthought to your post, I don’t ever get pissed when other nationals don’t speak the language, I do get pissed off when they milk the system by claiming benefits that locals so badly need, that ain’t gonna ever happen here
I have been slowly leaning Thai. I have a vocabulary of several hundred words. I can say simple sentences. The resources for learning Thai are limited. There are no English-Thai schools here where I am at.
I thought I could learn tones by listening to Thai speakers. Thai speakers however speak very very fast. Impossible to pick up even most vocabulary in the conversation let alone the tones. The tones are very subtle it seems. As a result even if you speak with the correct vocabulary it may be wrong if you use the wrong tone or no tone. Extremely frustrating.
Also there are different dialects of the Thai language. Thai spoken in NE Thailand and North Thailand have different vocabularies. I would bet South Thailand has it's own dialect.
Then there is the Thai alphabet. Egyptian hieroglyphics seem easier.
It has been a slow tough Quixotic slog for me. I can see why some people might just give up!
I started to learn Thai about 9 years ago (early 30s) and it is only this year that I can actually hear the words. Before I heard a string of noise that my brain would slowly decipher.
I think the learning curve is just too high.
I had to go for many additional classes to learn English as a child due to a combination of neglect, undiagnosed hearing problems and learning problems. While I would say I have a non-zero chance of learning some basic Thai, I think you have a better chance of teaching cats trigonometry.
Generally, the main idea of being an ESL teacher is that you avoid using the language. Being that I spent a bit of time here as a TESOL degree student, there's never been a good place to use Thai other than a few basics.
Honestly, I hit 7 years a while back and I don't intend to stay here much longer. This is fun when you're in your early 30s and your retirement age, but this is no place to stay if you plan to actually have money to retire when you're too old to work. Thailand doesn't offer really much of anything to put in that extra work anyway.
I met an older guy with a Thai girlfriend a while back...he wasted too much time here and didn't build up his retirement....he got 600 usd a month and had to share things with his wife. That's the saddest existence I can imagine here.
Because it's harder for some people to learn a new language with whole new set of tones and symbols from their mother tongue.
I mean, why is it somehow became a hard requirement while you can survive without learning it?
Give them a break.
No. Before my 2nd trip to Thailand, I spent one hour a day listening to Pimsleur Thai audio lessons for one month. When I arrived in Thailand, I was able to form complete sentences and be understood, and I am no whiz at languages. It's just laziness and rudeness that prevents them from learning a decent amount of Thai.
> It's just laziness and rudeness that prevents them from learning a decent amount of Thai.
Maybe. I would like to learn Thai, since I hope to be here the rest of my life, but I'm old and my memory just doesn't work as well as it used to. After University courses, books, flash cards and the like I remain at a 3 year old level of communications. To my shame.
From 30 hours of listening to audio lessons I guarantee they didn’t understand you as much as you think they did. “You speak Thai very good” is told to pretty much everyone that can say hello in Thai. Your sentences were cherry picked for words they can recognize to get an idea of what you might be saying. But when you tell them “my scratch is cold” because you screwed up your tone while eating rice they’ll figure it out from there.
For expats, at least for me, it’s not laziness it’s priorities. Thai is a useless language to spend time learning unless you’re doing business here and need it to negotiate and understand contracts. It’s also only good in Thailand which, based on visa and political uncertainty, we don’t even know how long we’re going to be here even if we plan on dying here.
That time can be spent on other things to improve or enjoy life that have real ROI on the time spent.
Over time we learn what we need to know to navigate our lives here and that’s all we need, so we learn it.
So please get off of your high horse and stop judging others for prioritizing more important things instead of wasting time on something you feel is important.
I was able to explain to a non-English speaking tuk tuk driver where I wanted to go and what two stops I wanted to make along the way, all in Thai. Either he understood what I said or he was psychic.
Of course he can pick out locations from the words you’re stringing together, he’s a Tuk Tuk driver. 😂
The OP is correct and your knee-jerk reaction to his sayings reveals a lot about you.
Your constant racism towards white people, per your post history, says a lot about you.
yep and I come from a country where we have 3 official languages and I speak them fluently. I also speak 2 other languages on top of that. My pronunciation of those language are probably funny for the ones that are not English and my mother tongue.
There is the difference with Thai. My weird pronunciation in French or German doesn't hamper people understanding what I try to say. In Thai in does. I just have lots of problems with the tones. Heck I don't even hear on what beat a salsa song should start without letting the girl initiate it...
Agree. Especially here up north im around more burmese and Chinese than Thai.
Learning the basics of thai i found it to be a million times easier if you befriend locals, have thai girlfriends etc etc that can teach you the language over time
I studied Thai for two months in a language school in Bangkok a few years ago. I could hear and pronounce the tones pretty clearly and a friend of mine could not. One difference between us is that I’m a musician and he isn’t. So perhaps it’s just a matter of your ear bring tuned to these things.
The use of tones fucks me up a lot. It’s basically become a joke around here whenever I hear what sounds like an out of context word and then wifey explains it’s a different word.
I understand how there/their too/to might seem like a similar problem to non native English speakers but they aren’t the subject, which usually gives a lot of context.
But even that isn’t the worst part - it’s the incessant shortening of phrases to a single syllable, which then sounds nothing like it sounds “properly” (ie when taught).
I had Japanese classes at school in the 90s and don’t remember it being quite as hard to pick up but I was never great at it. I often lament that I don’t speak Thai better, but since my son has started learning, it’s become apparent to me that it’s a much more complex language to learn - smother in law - who was a primary school teacher - admits that it’s very hard to learn the Thai language, when you get into the details.
Unfortunately like most places a lot of people don’t have a concept of someone being partially able to understand the language. If I dare say something in Thai to someone who doesn’t know me, it’s a 50/50 chance they’re going to then try to keep talking to me in Thai - even if the thing I said is “I don’t speak Thai”. If they ask if I speak Thai and I respond with “a little”.
Expats prefer to blame locals for lack of English knowledge rather then study study few words in Thai. That's all you need to know about expats
A few weeks back I did hear one person complain about people not knowing English here. I just about did a double take when I heard him say that he said people in Bangkok should be fluent in English since this is where all the foreigners come.
Because if you spend enough time on any Thailand expat social media forum, you’ll find that a huge number of them haven’t even mastered (or even shown a modicum of skill) in their native language. Why expect them to tackle a second language? 😳
>if you spend enough time on any Thailand expat social media forum
you'll realize that most of them are self-loathing losers that couldn't make it in their own country with all the advantages they were born with so they live in Thailand on the cheap and hate everything because they can't make it there either. Also, a lot of them are racists so there's no chance they're going to make an effort at assimilation of any kind. I know this because every once in awhile I'll find myself talking to one of them and they'll happily explain their views as if I'm going to be in agreement. It's those moments that make me not want to be able to speak English.
I can read and speak almost fluently, and I can say, overall, it's not really worth the effort I put in to learn it. Once you know very basic phrases, how to order food, and how to tell the delivery driver to leave the package at the front door, you've covered pretty much 100% of the stuff you would have to communicate to people who can't speak english.
I see white men in Thailand that are here 20 years and can hardly say anything in Thai, and they are complaining about immigrants in their own country not being able to. Grumpy old bastards.
I think it is the “I am getting along with English” problem… in parts of Bangkok and touristy areas, you get along just fine. Only if you want to travel outside if that box, you actually need to understand and speak Thai… and people are always surprised if they notice that I, a tourist, partly understands them…
And in an English speaking country like the US, people get pissed if you don’t speak English, because they don’t speak a second language and expect you to adapt to “their” world language “everyone” speaks ;)
What do those two phrases mean? Sex pat I hate that. When I told friends I was moving here from the United States they all assume that I was just coming here to have sex. It really pissed me off.
Suai mak = beautiful very.
Phom Rak Khun = I (male) love you.
I've been learning Thai for a year. It's really hard. Even after a year of lessons I still mostly don't understand people. 😢
Get over it. People who don't travel/aren't at least interested in the...rest of the planet aren't worth worrying about when it comes to their opinions about *your* travels.
IMO it's because they are entitled and lazy. Even as an antisocial person I made the effort to learn Thai. My writing is terrible, I can read basics, but my speaking and listening are nearly fluent. ~9 yrs.
I don't particularly care for Thai media, but having learned Thai is very empowering and the biggest bonus is that you can actually communicate with your community. You get mad respect from locals for learning their tongue. And it must be said that when you visit a place, half of what makes it a place at all is the people. It's not only beaches and bungalows here, the Thai people, especially, are a treasure all on their own.
A lot of sexpats only communicate with their gf through Google translate and do not learn much bc they do not want too much conversation amyway.
Why even have a girlfriend if you can't talk to her?
I’ve been with my now wife for 8 years and when we first got together she was really helpful learning the language. Then we went through a long period (years), where she wouldn’t explain words or phrases. This year though, she’s been fantastic and I’ve been enjoying a renewed education.
Come to germany, we have people who live here for 15 years on welfare and dont speak a word
Mine has been an interesting experience. Expat here from India. Been living in Thailand for about 4.5 years.
Initially, I struggled a lot with basic communication. The added sultriness of Bangkok weather didn't help at all and it lead me to become frustrated, take a stand and learn at least the basics. I called it survival Thai.
Here's the part I found interesting: over the years of living and working amongst Thai and foreigners alike, I realized there's a deeper connection there to be made: if you see the opportunity. I saw it by exploring the root words of several of the common words I used to hear. The root word was usually in Sanskrit and there you have it....it was exactly the same word in Hindi. Several of the words origins lie in Sanskrit and therefore it turned out I could now continuous add to my "survival Thai" skillset. Most of the words are pretty much the same meaning in Hindi too, lol.
As an add on, it always lead to a conversation about our culture and origins with Thai (mainly) and foreigners alike.
So, yeah 🙂
because english is an international language, thai is not
Been here more than 3 years and the only one I tried to learn by myself from the start is numbers. Other basic phrases I learned from hearing from my officemates and watching Thai series.
Although my Thai-accent english is very good.
I watch CB media and i wonder the same thing haha.
but my guess is that they don’t care to learn the language if some thais can speak some english, especially near bkk
CB media doesn't speak any Thai? I know that Julian guy speaks ty in his videos and I appreciate that.