Learn Thai – Time To Practice What You Have Learned
In my opinion the best way to strengthen and learn the Thai Language is to actually use it in your day to day life. I have touched on other posts about going to Thai language school, taking online Thai courses, reading, watching Thai television and so forth, which can all help you learn the language. However, actually speaking to Thai people is where you will really see your gains.
I am not saying that the other methods are not useful. Going to school, taking an online course are great examples of grasping this language. However, you will eventually need to go into the real world and put all your studying and theory to practice. There is no better way to see if your skills are any good by actually talking to a Thai Person that has little English experience. Classrooms are great but everything is structured and the Thai teacher can be forgiving with your tones.
Overcome Your Fear It Will Benefit You Greatly
This was my biggest battle as I can be shy when it comes to things I am not confident with. Speaking to Thai people in their language and getting it wrong can be embarrassing but the more you do it the better you become. Not only do you get to see if the Thai Person understands you. You also get to see how your listening skills are as the Thai person talks back to you. You can read and study all you want but the step of speaking on the fly is key to really getting used to the language.
Response From The Typical Thai Person
A couple of things I have noticed when talking to Thai people in their language that might help you out. First, if you talk in the Thai language many Thai people instantly think you are fluent and start talking to you even faster with lots of questions. Second, if the Thai person does not understand you they usually responds with the equivalent of “Huh?” They often do not try to figure out what you are trying to say, they just basically say “What?” Not every Thai falls into this category but for the most part that is what you can expect.
Thirdly, be aware that when a Thai person does not understand you besides the response of “what?” you might also get “yes”. I see this a lot with the tourists and expats in Thailand. The tourist will be speaking in English or attempting Thai to a local. The local has no idea what they are saying so they just say “yes”. This often ends up being a problem because the foreigner thinks they Thai understood them by saying yes to their question but in reality nothing was understood.
Finally, if you are taking an online course or learning in a classroom environment you might actually be learning formal Thai. You might get some extra smiles or chuckles when you speak the language in real life situations as day to day Thai is usually informal. Most Thai people will understand formal Thai but might think it is kind of amusing you are using it in non formal scenarios. Another great reason to start speaking to Thai people so you can start to understand casual conversation more.
Helpful Key Phrases You Should Learn In Thai
To help you out when speaking I would suggest really studying the following phrases and know them perfectly.
1. I am sorry, I do not understand .
2. What is this called in the Thai Language?
3. I can speak Thai only a little but I am trying to learn
4. Can you say that again slowly?
5. I am sorry, I might have spoken incorrectly. I am learning the Thai Language.
6. How do you say *English Words Here* in the Thai Language
Step 5 is good if you happen to offend a Thai Person. As we know the Thai language is tonal and a word can have up to 5 different meanings based on the tone. If you mess up your tones or just say the wrong thing you might actually offend someone. By responding to them that you are learning the language and might have spoken incorrectly might ease tensions.
One thing I have noticed from foreigners (not all) is they expect all the Thai people to know English which is not the case. The areas with more tourists and expats many of the Thai people will have a little English but for the most part it is quite limited.
Step 6 is only useful if the Thai person is well versed in English. I have also noticed that many foreigners will just repeat phrases in English to a Thai person but speak the phrase louder and louder each attempt. As if the volume of the English phrase will somehow make the Thai person understand. Surely if you add gestures or point to things. Then the Thai person might understand eventually but just screaming in English usually doesn’t help.
Take It Easy And Start Slowly
Start off slowly and pick a few phrases and try to use them throughout the day. Phrases such as “How are you today?” “Are you from here?” “What time is it?” “How much does that cost?” are all started phrases to get you going. No one expects you to discuss the political instability throughout the world on your first time out.
Each day think of new things to say. As you practice your brain starts to make new phrases. My girlfriend is often surprised when I say a new phrase in the Thai language and asks “where did you learn that?” and I respond it just came to me. Are my phrases always 100% correct? Certainly not but I am trying.
Speaking in the Thai language can be nerve racking but the more you do it the better you will get at it. New phrases and vocab will form and your confidence will increase each day. Sure there will be frustrating times where you think you will never get the hang of this language but keep trying as it will be worth it in the end.
The Thai people for the most part are very friendly social people. They are often delighted that you are trying to learn their language. Many will be happy to talk to you and actually get enjoyment from seeing a foreign person attempting to learn Thai. It is rare I have found a Thai person that is annoyed by my attempts to try to speak the language.