A Woman Learning Thai...and some men too ;)

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Tag: Thai language tips (page 1 of 3)

Successful Thai Language Learner: Karsten Aichholz

Karsten Aichholz

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Karsten Aichholz
Nationality: German
Age range: 35
Sex: Male
Location: Bangkok
Profession: Aspiring writer. Actual entrepreneur.
Website: I run a website that provides people with free guides on living, working or starting a business in Thailand: Thailand Starter Kit

What is your Thai level?

Advanced.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?

Professional Thai. I can read and understand the fee structure of a an SET-traded fund, but for the life of it have no idea why the lady with the pancake makeup and the helmet haircut is angry at that other lady on some soap opera.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

My former business partner is a language prodigy. Unless I studied the language extensively I would come across as having learning-disability when sitting next to him in a meeting. I also didn’t want to be the guy who after 10 years in a country still doesn’t speak the language. Initially it was that and some curiosity.

Later on it was mostly for social reasons and some limited business benefits.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I have been living in Bangkok since 2006.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

2006+

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

Back in 2006, the first year I arrived in Thailand, fiddled around with books and websites without making much progress beyond ‘turn right’, ‘vegetarian, please’ and ‘that’s not vegetarian’. I got serious when I first took an intensive Thai class at Chulalongkorn University in 2007. I wrote a review about that experience here: Thai Language School Review – Intensive Thai at Chulalongkorn University. I’ve been studying on and off ever since.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

Not as much as I’d like to have. Doing full-time intensive classes forced me to do it for a few weeks each and it helped a lot. In other years it was more of a ‘time permitting’ approach where I’d take up regular classes when my work schedule permitted.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

I did some self-study (okay, to maintain current level), an intensive Thai class (very good to overcome roadblocks), and took private lessons (great if you can find a topic that interests you and combine it with dedicated self-study). 

Did one method stand out over all others?

One very labor intensive but effective way of self-study was to put entire sentences from Thai Grammar Books on Anki flash cards. It definitely helped with getting a more intuitive understanding of grammar. I would gladly pay good money for ready-made, sentence-based flash cards that can be purchased by topic. Finding topics that excite me (e.g. finance) was one of the biggest factors in making me more dedicated to self-study.

This said, the biggest improvements came from externally imposed schedules that force you to commit time and thought to learning the language.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

The first word I read in Thai was the transcription on the McDonald’s sign. That was a week after arriving. I picked up enough to ‘make out’ words reasonably quickly, but didn’t learn how to properly read and write until I took an intensive Thai class that taught me about a year after I arrived.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

It didn’t come naturally beyond some newbie gains, but I feel more at ease with written Thai than colloquial Thai.

How do you learn languages?

With dread and reluctance. I wish I was kidding. My work-around is to find a setup that forces me to study or provides a tangible reward in the near future (e.g. signing up for a class, learning the lyrics of a song, reviewing essential information for my business…).

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I have a hard time doing something for which I don’t see rewards in the near future. Though once I believe there’ll be a benefit, I can put up with a lot in order to reach it.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That reading is hard and grammar is easy.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I’m a native German speaker and picked up English on the internet. French I struggled with in school long enough to allow me some rudimentary communication while crossing a French-speaking country.

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

That would be pure horror to me. Nowadays when I try to speak French, Thai comes out. I can’t imagine how confusing it would be to learn two languages at once.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Find a very specific benefit you’ll want that requires speaking Thai. It’ll give you a lot of direction, motivation and you’ll have an easier time showing self-discipline. In my humble opinion, motivation alone won’t work: Stop Asking How to Get Motivated.

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Share Button

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ben Crowder

Ben Crowder

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Ben Crowder
Nationality: American
Age range: 30–40
Sex: Male
Location: Utah, USA
Profession: Web developer/designer
Website: Ben Crowder

What is your Thai level?

Advanced.

Do you speak more street Thai, Isaan Thai, or professional Thai?

Professional Thai with a smattering of Isaan, and I’d bet that the street Thai I know is now dated and obsolete.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

I was a Mormon missionary in Thailand for two years.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I lived in Thailand from 2002 to 2004.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

2002+, though I haven’t done a great job at continuing my study since returning home in 2004, other than occasional chats with Thai friends on Facebook.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

I learned it right away, with twelve weeks of intensive Thai training for missionaries followed by moving to Thailand, with the expectation that I would speak Thai daily during my time there.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

Yes, an hour a day. And I talked with Thai people all day, every day, which helped a lot, naturally.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

Speaking with Thais every day was the most regular and important method. When words I didn’t know came up in conversation (a frequent occurrence), I wrote them down and studied them later. And I bought dictionaries and grammars and tried to work my way through those, too. Also, I spent six months in the mission office and there learned how to type Thai, which helped a lot as well.

Did one method stand out over all others?

Speaking Thai all the time, without a doubt.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

During the initial twelve weeks I used the Mary Haas romanization scheme, only starting with the script near the end of that time. Once I arrived in Thailand, though, learning to read and write Thai script was one of my top priorities. In retrospect, it probably would have been better to start with the script sooner than I did.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I don’t think so, but it’s been a while and my memory isn’t spectacular. I do remember it taking a little while to get the hang of which script features were significant (the loops seemed so significant at first, but then weren’t), and getting used to reading without spaces between words was tricky. And handwriting can still be hard to decipher, though that’s true of handwriting in most languages.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

My first day in country, I was sitting in an apartment with my missionary companion, teaching a Thai couple about Jesus Christ and eternal families. Most of what the Thais said was unintelligible to me, but there was a point during the discussion where I actually understood what they said. It was amazing! (I didn’t understand the rest of the conversation after that, but within a month or two I was usually able to keep up with the gist of each conversation.)

How do you learn languages (learning styles)?

My language learning experience with Thai has been the outlier; most of the languages I’ve learned (Latin, Greek, Coptic, Middle Egyptian) have been dead, studied in a university setting, with a focus on reading. With all of the languages I’ve studied, there has been a fair amount of rote memorization of vocabulary and forms, though in retrospect I think I do better with inductive methods. Speaking/reading the actual language as soon as possible helps me the most.

I occasionally dip into Duolingo (for a number of different languages — I really need to stick with just one) and for the most part I like the style they use there.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths: I seem to learn languages fairly easily. I can never remember what I did the week before, but grammar and vocab stick in my head for some reason. (I pick up programming languages easily as well, which may or may not be related.)

Weaknesses: my accent, definitely. And my lack of resolve in sticking with a Thai study regimen after I finished my mission back in 2004.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That Thai is spoken in Taiwan. No, but really, probably that it’s insurmountably difficult. It’s not.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I studied Latin, Greek, Middle Egyptian, Coptic, and Welsh at BYU, though Latin is the only one I can still read at all. I can read/write a fair amount of Spanish, some French, and a little German. And I once (very slowly) read the first paragraph of Crime & Punishment in Russian, dictionary in hand, figuring out the grammar as I went along. (Okay, that doesn’t really count. But it was fun!)

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No, just Thai.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Hang in there, and try to speak/read/write as much Thai as you can.

Ben Crowder | Ben Crowder

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Share Button

Successful Thai Language Learner: Weston Hawkins

Weston Hawkins

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Weston Hawkins
Nationality: American
Age range: 20-30
Sex: Male
Location: Utah, USA
Profession: Operations Manager (Pearls By Laurel) and Interpreter/Translator (Global Translation Team and Asian Translation)
Youtube Channel: Vespa Hockey

What is your Thai level?

Advanced/Fluent: I’d lean toward saying I’m fluent, but I’m hesitant to be too confident since there’s still so much for me to learn. I did score a Superior rating on the ACTFL OPI.

Do you speak more street Thai, Isaan Thai, or professional Thai?

My initial language training was focused on very professional, proper Thai. That’s still the Thai that I speak most frequently. I can understand and (awkwardly) use most street Thai, and I can make my way around basic Isaan Thai, but my true fluency is in professional Thai.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

My initial reasons for learning Thai were the same as a few others who have been interviewed for this blog: I was a volunteer missionary that was called to teach in Thailand for two years. However, my reason for continuing to learn Thai after that service ended is (I hope) the same as every person who has been interviewed for this blog: I came to love Thailand and the Thai people. And the Thai language too! It’s a beautiful language. I know it sounds cliché to say that, but Thailand is magical and I fell for its spell.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I lived in Thailand in 2005 and 2006 and then again in 2010. I’ve traveled back there every year or two since then. I’d love to live in Thailand again if the opportunity presented itself.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

Since 2005. Previous to that, I couldn’t even point out Thailand on a map. When I first got to Thailand I was living in Kalasin. I think that was a huge help to me because there are a lot fewer English speakers up there than in Bangkok so I was forced to practice and improve my broken Thai.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

Learning Thai was pretty much sink-or-swim for me. I spent 12 weeks learning the language at a training center for missionaries before I flew to Thailand and was expected to use it on a daily basis. I left the training center feeling confident that I was an “advanced” beginner but quickly learned that I could only understand some Thai spoken by other Westerners and not a word of Thai from native speakers. It wasn’t until 3-4 months of daily (attempted) speaking and listening with native speakers that I started to feel I had a grasp of the basics.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

My schedule as a missionary afforded me an hour of language study every morning. I mostly used that time to learn new vocabulary and practice my reading. I felt I was most effective at learning the language when I was speaking with or listening to native speakers.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

The method I was taught for learning Thai and that was very successful for me was Speak Your Language (SYL). It emphasized speaking with native speakers as much and as often as possible. This gave me the opportunity to make many, many mistakes, and mistakes almost always turn into learning experiences.

Did one method stand out over all others?

I don’t think I really tried any methods other than SYL. Generally, real-world application was a more effective learning method for me that studying from a book.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

During my 12 weeks of language training, I used a Romanized version of Thai to learn the language. I wouldn’t recommend that for new learners if you can help it. Once I arrived in Thailand, I made the transition to learning the Thai script. This card [pdf download] was a lifesaver when it came to learning the alphabet and tone markers. Once you have the “code” memorized, reading becomes a fun game of putting it all together. That’s not to say that there aren’t any exceptions to the rule with Thai, but there are far fewer than with English.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

It was difficult, but it was also fun in a way because written Thai makes so much sense once you start to get the hang of it. The most difficult part of learning to write Thai is trying to make your handwriting legible. I have a hard enough time with that in English.

What was your first ah-hah! moment?

The first moment I can recall was when I was talking with some native friends in Kalasin after having lived there for 3-4 months. I realized I was both understanding and contributing to the conversation! It was a huge boost of confidence to keep learning so that those conversations could become longer and more in-depth.

How do you learn languages (learning styles)?

I learn languages through practicing speaking. And when practicing, I mostly focus on imitating the correct pronunciation (and in the case of Thai, tones). To me, it’s not worth speaking a language if I can’t speak it as naturally (or as close to possible) as a native speaker. That usually puts me behind my peers in terms of gaining fluency or building my vocabulary, but I’ve seen too many fellow students blow past me in terms of fluency only to be stuck with a crippled accent that can’t be unlearned.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My biggest strength when it comes to learning Thai is my willingness to ask questions when I don’t know the word or how to say something. My biggest weakness is that I get too complacent and comfortable in my language abilities. I need to be more disciplined in my efforts to study and improve if I expect to come close to approaching a mastery of the language.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

I’d say the biggest misconception is that Westerners or speakers of non-tonal languages can’t learn how to speak with tones correctly. If you can speak English with inflection that imbues meaning then you can speak Thai with the right tones. Truth be told, it’s not actually Thai if the tones aren’t correct. It’s the same with Thai students of English who speak every word as if it’s a loanword. That’s not actually English.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I took a year of online Latin my sophomore year in high school. My fluency in Latin is nonexistent. I was an exchange student in Norway during my junior year in high school and learned fluent Norwegian. I forgot most of it when I began learning Thai, but the foundation is still there if I ever want to pick it back up again. My college degree is in Middle East Studies/Arabic, and I spent 4 months living in Jordan on a study abroad, but I never gained even close to the same level of fluency with Arabic as I did with Thai. The grammar is so much more complex, and that’s a weak spot for me. I’ve been using the DuoLingo app to try to learn Spanish, but I’m still just a beginner. Oh, and I’m determined to learn proper Lao.

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No, my full attention was given to learning Thai at the beginning. My brain actually cleared out the Norwegian I’d learned a few years previous to make room for the Thai.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Immerse yourself. If you don’t live in Thailand, move there (if possible). If you do live in Thailand, limit your time speaking English as much as possible. In fact, limit your time being around any Westerners to as little as possible. When you’re with Thais, speak Thai, even if their English is far better than your Thai (frequently the case).

ครับ/ค่ะ
Weston Hawkins | Youtube Channel: Vespa Hockey

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Share Button

Successful Thai Language Learner: Brett Whiteside

Brett Whiteside

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Brett Whiteside
Nationality: American
Sex: Male
Location: All over the place (Uluru when I started writing this and Queenstown, NZ when I finished it.)
Profession: Self Employed
Website: Learn Thai from a White Guy

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?

As with any language, the manner in which you speak to a person depends on the situation and who you are talking to. I don’t completely identify with a particular dialect, but I’d guess a spectrum of central with Northern tendencies. I can pretend to know what I’m doing in other dialects and similar languages because I know about the sound changes, but I have never spent a significant amount of time in any of the regions other than Chiang Mai so my knowledge is limited.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

I found myself in Thailand quite randomly and figured if I was going to hang out there for a minute, I’d like to be able to talk to other humans on occasion.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I arrived in Thailand in early 2003 and lived in Chiang Mai for about 13 years. It’s still a base for me now, but I’m a lot more nomadic these days and don’t usually stay anywhere very long.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

I started with a Living Language CD, which was awful and a Lonely Planet phrasebook which I bought the same day I got on the plane in March, 2003. I think I managed to learn the numbers, how much and a few greetings before I landed. Naturally, I said them all very wrong.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

When I started learning Thai, I didn’t know what I was doing. However, I found that double-fisting Chang beers and talking to girls at the night bazaar every night went a long way for making progress in the language and seemed like a great idea at the time. So, in the beginning, it was all restaurants and bars. I’m vegan so a lot of the early days my language learning focussed on figuring out how to stop people from putting fishy things into my food and then later, convincing them it could still taste good without them.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

I didn’t really know how to study at that point in my life. I just went out and tried to talk to people every day. I carried around a notepad and I’d review that when riding in song taews and lifts or when I was eating. I believe that played a huge part in me actually making progress. I probably went through a notepad every two or three months and before I’d start on a new one, I’d skim through and find I’d usually retained about half of what I wrote in there.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

I never really tried any actual systems. I just kept trying to talk to people and gradually sounded less and less ridiculous over a long period of time. I briefly tried the “learn from your girlfriend©” method and found that it wasn’t very effective. I did a very brief stint at AUA in Chiang Mai. The “advanced” course was under way when I got there so I paid full price to sit in on the class for maybe a week and a half. It was pretty ridiculous so I swore off schools after that. Towards the end of the first year, a friend and I scouted out some of the schools in town hoping that we could find one willing to teach us “advanced Thai,” but that never panned out. I used Benjawan’s Advanced Thai book a bit in the early days since that’s all there was at the time. I liked the short newspaper articles.

Did one method stand out over all others?

I attribute my modest success in being able to speak a bit of Thai to the magical notepads and me actively using them over a long period of time. One other thing that made a huge difference was that during the first year, I didn’t really hang out with any foreigners. I would just roam around solo, get lost and find myself in pretty crazy (and sometimes scary) situations and I just kept on learning a bit at a time. I’d be among a group of Thai people and I’d try really hard to keep up until I was exhausted then zone out. It felt very much like exercise except for the sitting and drink whiskey part.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

I tried right away, but I was just using the LP phrase book at that time and it wasn’t great for learning the alphabet. I definitely didn’t understand the vowel shapes and I ignored all the crazy letters for a while. As soon as I knew a few letters, I was constantly trying to figure out what all the signs around me were saying. I would just skip over anything I didn’t recognize. And, yes, the sign fonts were a pain in the ass at first, but you get used to it.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

At first, definitely, but that was really because I wasn’t sure how to go about learning it. It was all crazy squiggles and I had no idea about the tone rules or how the vowels worked. My phrase book didn’t mention any of that stuff and I didn’t yet understand how crippling romanization was. I know now that it isn’t that hard and the problem was that the average native speaker has no idea how to explain what’s happening and how it all comes together. This is how I ended up developing the system that I use for my online courses.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

The day I had finally internalized all the tone rules and could produce them at will. I actually remember the day when I realized I had it all down. Suddenly, I no longer mixed up similar sounding vowels, I could write down new words I heard phonetically even if I wasn’t sure how they were spelled. I could now start self-correcting all the words I had been saying wrong up until that point. I was pretty horrified to discover how badly I was butchering everything those first 9 months or so, but once you accept that you are pronouncing everything wrong, you can begin to fix it. It all fell into place pretty quickly.

How do you learn languages?

I spend a fair bit of time on the sound system in the beginning and then I jump in to learning full phrases immediately after and then just start talking to people. I usually skip a lot of basic vocabulary that people tend to study so it’s not uncommon for me to be having pretty limited conversations with people before I know how to say all the numbers or basic words like “sister.”

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I’ve gotten quite good at using mnemonics and other memory techniques that allow you to quickly retain things. Years of teaching Thai has given me the magical ability to quickly teach even the most thick-headed, frustrated “I’m not good at languages and I’m tone deaf” farang to actually learn the sounds and be able to speak Thai. This requires much patience, and beer.

I’m really bad at sticking to study routines and I have problems focusing on things for any length of time, but I find that very short bursts of study a few times a day can work fairly well. I’d also say my memory isn’t that great and I either need to be exposed to things many times or actively use mnemonics for them to stick.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That you can just “speak Thai” without learning to read the script.
Basic literacy is such a huge part of learning any language, but it’s particularly important with Thai. It’s extremely difficult to master all the different vowel sounds without some hook to help you separate all the new sounds.

You don’t have to read War and Peace in Russian if you don’t care about literature, but there’s no excuse for not being able to read the sign for the bathroom or know how to properly pronounce the name of the city you live in correctly. It’s not Pat-tai-ya people.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I’m conversational or better in four languages aside from English and I have some limited ability with a bunch more. Thai was the first language that I made real progress with.

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

Yes, I spent a few years taking classes in Japanese, Chinese and Korean. I went a bit language-crazy in the mid-2000s. It’s also worth noting that for all those years of lessons, Thai which I definitely did not learn in a school is the one I became most comfortable with. This really made me rethink the entire process.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Learn the script and master the tone rules. It doesn’t take that long and it’ll save you from heaps of frustration later.

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Share Button

Successful Thai Language Learner: Mirko Martin

Mirko Martin

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Mirko Martin
Nationality: German
Age range: 30-40
Sex: Male
Location: Bangkok
Profession: Artist, Photographer
Website: mirkomartin.com

What is your Thai level?

I’d say probably intermediate to advanced.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?

Something in-between, I suppose. No Isaan, though.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

In my first year here, I was not focused on the language at all. Obviously, one can get by without speaking Thai and the initial hurdle is very high. But I became more and more embarrassed when, even after more than a year, I was limited to just a few basic words. I’d understand the culture only superficially. And I wanted to transcend the role of the typical Farang, who, apart from his girlfriend(s), only hangs out in Western circles and has somewhat of a joking-only relationship to Thais. Luckily, I have two Austrian friends here, who are fluent in Thai and who encouraged me to study the language, too. As I found it too hard to do it all by myself from the outset, I started going to school.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I currently live here and have been here for over two years.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

For almost a year.

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

Ever since I started going to school, I stuck with it. What helped was that I had to pay the tuition fee for a year in advance. I wanted to get best results for my money.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

The schedule was determined by school hours and homework. Even though homework and self-study exceeded school hours, the school provided the necessary frame.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

To be honest, I don’t know much about different learning methods. At school, there seems to be a lot of emphasis on vocabulary, which is good, but there obviously can’t always be ample speaking time for every student, so I also focused on pronunciation at home. Other than that, usual things I guess – watching TV, reading texts from various sources, and of course speaking to Thais, which also includes questioning them about language related issues.

Did one method stand out over all others?

As pronunciation seems to be the most difficult thing for most Thai learners in terms of speaking, I focused on this a lot. At first, it felt kind of affected to push and pull the tones up and down, plus I needed (and still need) extra energy to constantly do it, to sort of have a second layer of awareness in the back of my mind while speaking. That’s probably why foreigners tend to speak the tones rather flat. So I do a lot of reading out loud at home. The tones started to feel more natural soon and now they are even kind of a fun aspect for me, too, even though I still get them wrong many times.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

I had playfully started reading and writing a bit before I started going to school, so actually before speaking – mostly, because I was intrigued by the meticulousness of the alphabetic characters and the spelling rules.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

No. It took me a while to be able to understand the tone rules, but after that, it became a lot easier. Obviously, Thai has some difficult words with irregular spelling, but overall, I don’t find basic reading and writing difficult. When it comes to academic writing and building complex grammatical structures, however, I find that very difficult.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

When I was about to take the official Thai language test for foreigners, I became sick with a fever. Instead of preparing, I wasn’t able to do anything but sleep in the two weeks or so leading up to the test. It was my first serious break from studying Thai since I had started out eight months before. What a bad timing, I thought. But to my surprise, during the test and since, I was suddenly able to speak out much more freely than before, not always having to deliberately construct the sentences word for word anymore. While I’m still far from being fluent and much depends on the topic of a conversation and my daily form, becoming aware of the fluidity threshold was surprising and exciting.

How do you learn languages?

I’m not an expert. Thai is the first language that I started learning after being out of the school system, so I’m learning it in a much more condensed and speedy way than English, for example.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

When working on something I am fascinated by, I can be quite obsessive. I’m a visual learner and have to see the words written out to be able to remember them, which is strength and weakness at the same time, I guess. What I enjoy most is speaking and reading, so I tend to neglect developing the other skills a bit. Especially listening to long, uninterrupted texts still gives me headaches.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

Maybe that reading actual Thai instead of relying on a transliteration system is overly difficult?

Can you make your way around any other languages?

I’m fluent in English and speak a bit of French. Mixing English and Thai is not a problem, but with French and Thai I get confused, so I try to stay away from French now. No disrespect meant though.

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No. I imagine that very difficult.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Be patient. It seems hard at first but will get easier after crossing some basic hurdles. Obviously, spending time with Thais is key, so to me, it only really makes sense to study Thai if one lives here. Try to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. Don’t get discouraged if your pronunciation creates amusement at first. Have the mindset of on ongoing student; try not to let your ego get in the way. Use the Thais’ readiness to express compliments, appreciation and advice as fuel to stay motivated.

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

Share Button

Interview: Ben Bradshaw is Getting by in Thai

Interview: Ben Bradshaw

Ben Bradshaw is getting by in Thai…

Name: Ben Bradshaw
Nationality: American
Age range: 25-30
Sex: Male
Location: Bangkok
Profession: Entrepreneur
Web: CikguBen.com

What is your Thai level?

Intermediate.

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

About 80%. I can follow most conversations and fill in the final 20% with just guesses based on context and experience.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, professional Thai, or a mix?

I speak mainly street Thai mixed with some professional Thai that is used in English instruction.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

I have a brother that is an amazing Thai speaker. I see Thailand as a land of opportunity for foreigners willing to learn about the culture and master the language.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

May 2014.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

About 30 minutes per day reading a Thai grammar and language book. Then I speak and use Thai and learn new phrases at least 5-6 other times throughout every day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

No. I just pick up my Thai book when I have the time.

What Thai language learning methods are you using?

I rely on English speaking friends to explain phrases and concepts, a pocket dictionary, google translate, and a Thai grammar book.

Does one method stand out over all others?

Yes. The most effective method for me is to speak and make mistakes. Then I will be corrected and I will then be able to remember how to say it correctly the next time. Half the battle is just remembering the new words and phrases when you want to say them.

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes. I can read at a very basic level but I can recognize all letters but when reading a block of Thai text then I struggle.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I think it’s difficult how there are no spaces between words. Also, so many of the characters look so similar to the others that I often confuse one for the other. I think through time and more practice this will be less and less true.

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

I started speaking the first day I was taught. I was never scared to try to speak Thai.

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

I could be understood within about the first week. I have experience in other Asian languages so putting together basic thoughts and phrases for simple communication came easy to me when I had established a basic vocab and a sense for the tones.

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I am always scared that if I say something incorrectly, with either the wrong vowel or wrong tone that it is going to have some reference to male or female parts. It’s like this always in language learning so I’ve learned to just laugh at the times when I might get close to saying something incorrectly and hopefully the person listening knows that I am a student in the language.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That speaking is hard. I think, in fact, that Thai is quite simple to speak. I think the script makes people feel like the language is going to be so difficult but when you really get down to it, thoughts are simple, grammar is basic, and the tones are doable.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

When I realized that the tones are relative to each other. Just because you have a lower voice doesn’t mean you need to go to great lengths to make your voice sound higher or more “Thai”. You simply need to change your tone in relation to your other tones. It was difficult at first to so many consecutive words with different or similar tones but once I realized it as just in direct relation to your previously said tone, then it started to become much easier.

How do you learn languages?

I learn a few phrases, build a vocab, start speaking to people, carry a pocket dictionary, carry a small notebook, and always ask questions like “how do you say ‘to go’ in Thai?” It really helps to have a person explain things in your native language at the beginning.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strength is being willing to talk to anyone. My weakness is not wanting to talk to people sometimes out of sheer laziness.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Yes. I am fluent in Malay and Indonesian. I can “get by” in Mandarin.

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Yes. Thai being a tonal language, often times start to come first to my mind when I am speaking Chinese. I’ll try to think of the Chinese word but the Thai word will come first. My Thai has actually overtaken my Chinese skills now.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

At least 4 different foreign languages. 1. Malay. 2. Indonesian. 3. Thai. 4. Mandarin Chinese.

Are you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No. Although I am always trying to improve my Malay and Chinese, I am not actively studying these languages at the same time as learning Thai.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

Yes. I am currently living in Bangkok.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

Yes. I have a degree in mechanical engineering and have experience programming in a few different languages like C, MatLab, JavaScript, and Arduino.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument?

Yes. I love listening to music and almost always want it to be playing in the background of whatever I am doing. I grew up learning to play the violin and was quite advanced as just an elementary school student. I moved then into the trumpet and later into piano. Nowadays I don’t actively play any instrument but sometimes do get a feeling like I should get back into playing and making music.

What learning advice would you give to other students of the Thai language?

Get out there and speak. Be confused. Be frustrated. Make mistakes. Write things down. Don’t worry if you forget something you learned 3 minutes ago. Look it up again. Use what you’ve learned and it will finally be cemented into your mind. Oh and of course, try to mimic Thai people, not your Thai-speaking, native English speaking friends.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

I plan to continue on the same course that I am on now, that is, read a little of my grammar book, ask questions to my friends, and then try to practice and speak with Thai people as I go about my daily life.

Ben Bradshaw,
CikguBen.com

Getting by in Thai…

If you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember: the whole idea for this series is interview those who are either new to studying Thai or renewing their interest in learning Thai. It’s all good!

Share Button

Interview: Jeff is Getting By in Thai

Thai Style

Jeff is getting by in Thai…

Name: Jeff

Nationality: USA

Age range: 30

Sex: Male

Location: Bangkok

What is your Thai level?

Hard to say. It depends on the subject matter being discussed, but for regular day-to-day dealings, I would put myself squarely in “intermediate.”

What percentage of conversational Thai do you understand?

I’d say I can at least get the gist of at least 70% of what’s being said.

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, professional Thai, or a mix?

I speak polite Thai with some working knowledge of slang and Isan.

What were your reasons for learning the Thai language?

It’s annoying to live in a country and not know the language.

When did you become a student of the Thai language?

About one month before I moved to Thailand.

How much time do you currently spend learning Thai?

Everyday is a lesson – but specifically studying Thai – maybe about 2 hours per day.

Do you stick to a regular study schedule?

Not at all. I think this is one reason I’m not taking part in the successful Thai learners series.

What Thai language learning methods are you using (resources needed)?

I am reading and studying vocabulary from a couple books written in Thai.

Does one method stand out over all others?

I only know the self-study and immersion method. Having someone constantly correct me is rather discouraging. I prefer to learn from my mistakes (i.e. notice Thais saying the word differently than I am and working to mimic them).

Have you started reading and writing Thai yet?

Yes, of course. I got into reading and writing almost as soon as I landed.

If so, do you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

I wouldn’t say difficult – just time consuming (it took me about 3 months of 3-5 hours per day to get comfortable with reading and writing in Thai).

How long did it take you to pluck up the courage to actually try using your Thai skills?

I’ve been using Thai from the first day. It’s a matter of politeness and convenience.

How soon was it before you could make yourself understood in Thai (even just a little bit)?

I think everyone could understand สวัสดีครับ right away ☺

What are your most embarrassing moments when speaking Thai?

I don’t get embarrassed from making mistakes. I like a good laugh.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

That tonal languages are some sort of insurmountable obstacle.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

Going out with Thai friends and realizing at the end that I was fully engaged in the conversation we were having that lasted well over three hours.

How do you learn languages?

I like to study grammar and get a basis of vocabulary down while doing grammar drills. Then it’s just about using what I know and adding more vocab.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

My strengths are that I am quite good at learning grammar and I’m able to think in whatever language I’m learning. My weakness would be my own laziness. I really should be at a very advanced level for how long I’ve lived here.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Yes. I am fluent in German and also speak French as well as some Spanish and Norwegian.

Has learning Thai affected your knowledge of the other languages you speak?

Sometimes when I’m speaking German, a Thai word will creep up to my lips.

How many foreign languages have you attempted to use?

With natives in their own countries, I have used German, Hungarian, Thai, Lao, and Tagalog.

Are you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

Yes, I’m concentrating on Tagalog and also working on getting at least a rudimentary knowledge of Lao and Burmese and mixing a bit of Norwegian in there.

Do you currently live in Thailand, or have you ever lived in Thailand? If so, how long for?

I have been in Thailand for about 5 ½ years.

Are you a computer programmer, or do you have programming experience?

Nope.

Do you have a passion for music and or you play an instrument

I love music and used to play violin.

What learning advice would you give to other students of the Thai language?

There is a direct correlation between effort and result.

What is your Thai language study plan for the next six months? The next year?

Keep on trucking.

Getting by in Thai…

Thank you Jeff, Terry, Dan, Tod, Snap, Talen and Greg. And for others out there – if you’d like be involved in the Getting by in Thai series, contact me. And please remember the clincher: the idea for the series is interview those getting by as well as regenerate an interest in learning Thai.

Share Button

UPDATED: Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

UPDATED: Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

UPDATED: A top 100 Thai vocabulary list…

In the post, Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List, I put together a Thai words list and asked for suggestions. New words came in via email, Facebook, and in the comments of the post.

While that list was percolating, I created a list from a different direction: A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases.

Today I’m going back to the original list from the first post. Taking everyone’s thoughts and suggestions into account, I then started trimming the list. But even though I tried, I couldn’t get below 117 must know Thai words! Frustrated, I went to Jo from Learn Thai Podcast for help. Jo helped me to decide which 17 to leave out. Thanks Jo!

UPDATE: LTP now has a FREE basic Thai course (the first two lessons are live, more to come): Beginners Course – Top 300 Thai Words.

A (final?) top 100 Thai vocabulary list…

Below are the Thai words that made it into the final 100 top list, Buzan-style.

Unlike the list created from useful phrases, I’m still not sure how communicating with just these 100 words works in real life, but I’m working on it. Promise.

If I can’t get someone to share their experience via interview I might just try it on for size myself. But not in Thai. I have a trip to Italy coming up and as there’s a product already available for Italian, I could take a break from Thai to learn Italian with this method, and then get back to you.

Berlitz: A revolutionary way to learn a language, “Shortcut to Italian” offers instant time-saving techniques to help you learn basic Italian words and build simple sentences. You only need to learn 100 Italian words in order to speak over 500 of the most useful phrases. In just 100 words, you can: meet people, communicate effectively, navigate your way, book restaurants and hotels, read a menu, enjoy shopping and much more!

Anyway… on to that list!

already (tense marker): แล้ว /láew/
also, likewise, then, so, in addition: ก็ /gôr/
– often used when trying to think what to say
as well, also, too: ด้วย /dûay/
ask for, ask, request for: ขอ /kŏr/
bad (not good): ไม่ดี /mâi-dee/
be at, live at, stay: อยู่ /yòo/
be, to be something: เป็น /bpen/
beautiful, attractive, pretty: สวย /sŭay/
before, first, former: ก่อน /gòn/
big: ใหญ่ /yài/
but, only: แต่ /dtàe/
can, be able to, get, have done, have chance to: ได้ /dâai/
come, arrive (shows direction to the speaker): มา /maa/
delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/
do, make: ทำ /tam/
excuse me, I’m sorry: ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/
expensive: แพง /paeng/
far: ไกล /glai/
fast: เร็ว /reo/
friend: เพื่อน /pêuan/
from, depart, leave, go away from: จาก /jàak/
full (food): อิ่ม /ìm/
go, leave, depart (shows direction away from the speaker): ไป /bpai/
good, nice [v]: ดี /dee/
have (possessive), there is: มี /mee/
have to, must: ต้อง /dtông/
he, she, him, her, they, them: เขา /kăo/
hello, goodbye, good morning, good afternoon, good evening: สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/
help, aid, assist [v]: ช่วย /chûay/
here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
how: ยังไง /yang-ngai/
how much, how many: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/
how much, how many: กี่ /gèe/
hungry: หิวข้าว /hĭw kâao/
I, me, my [f]: ฉัน /chăn/
I, me, my [m]: ผม /pŏm/
in front of, front, top, next, following, upcoming: หน้า /nâa/
in, of: ใน /nai/
intensifier: ไม่….เลย = not….at all (see dictionary for more): เลย /loie/
know (someone, something, someplace): รู้จัก /róo-jàk/
know (something): ทราบ /sâap/
left: ซ้าย /sáai/
like: ชอบ /chôp/
little bit: นิดหน่อย /nít-nòi/
name: ชื่อ /chêu/
near: ใกล้ /glâi/
nevermind, no problem, that’s ok: ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/
new, recent, the latest, again, once more: ใหม่ /mài/
no, that’s not right: ไม่ใช่ /mâi-châi/
no, no: ไม่ /mâi /
now, right now, at this moment: ตอนนี้ /dton-née/
one more time: อีกที /èek-tee/
P: Polite particle [f]: ค่ะ /kâ/
P: Polite particle [m]: ครับ /kráp/
P: Question particle: ไหม /măi/
P: Question particle [f]: คะ /ká/
P: Question, confirmative: เหรอ or หรือ /rĕr or rĕu/
P: Softens request or command, a bit: หน่อย /nòi/
person, people, classifier for people: คน /kon/
play: เล่น /lên/
really: จริงๆ /jing-jing/
receive, get, accept: รับ /ráp/
right: ขวา /kwăa/
slowly, slower: ช้าช้า /cháa-cháa/
small, little: เล็ก /lék/
speak: พูด /pôot/
straight: ตรงไป /dtrong-bpai/
tell, say, describe: บอก /bòk/
thank you: ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/
that: นั้น /nán/
there: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
there (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/
think, calculate: คิด /kít/
thirsty: หิวน้ำ /hĭw náam/
this, these: นี้ /née/
time, when: เวลา /way-laa/
tired: เหนื่อย /nèuay/
to, at, that, which, who, the place, area: ที่ /têe/
today: วันนี้ /wan-née/
tomorrow: พรุ่งนี้ /prûng-née/
turn: เลี้ยว /líeow/
understand: เข้าใจ /kâo-jai/
very much, a lot, very: มาก /mâak/
want to: อยาก /yàak/
want, take, bring: เอา /ao/
watch, look, see, appear, seem: ดู /doo/
we, us, our: เรา /rao/
well, fine: สบายดี /sà-baai-dee/
what: อะไร /a-rai/
when, whenever: เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/
where (shortened version of ที่ไหน), whichever one: ไหน /năi/
where is, which place: ที่ไหน /têe-năi/
who, someone, anyone: ใคร /krai/
why: ทำไม /tam-mai/
will, shall: จะ /jà/
with, together with: กับ /gàp/
write: เขียน /kĭan/
yes: ใช่, ครับ, ค่ะ /châi, kráp, kâ/
yesterday: เมื่อวานนี้ /mêua-waan-née/
you, your: คุณ /kun/

Words taken out of the list…

Below are the 17 Thai words Jo from LTP advised to take out of the 117 list I mulled over so intently.

To decide on 17 words to delete, Jo targeted words not as useful for forming basic Thai sentences. You can read Jo’s explanation underneath each one.

Btw: Jo wanted me to mention that it was really difficult to choose which ones to delete. I SO agree! I fell in love with those words and more; it was painful to lose even one.

back side or adj: ข้างหลัง /kâang lăng/
Jo: Not used that often.
because, because of, beautiful (voice): เพราะ /prór/
Jo: Only for compound sentences, too complicated.
Cannot: ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
Jo: You already have “can” and “not”.
Day: วัน /wan/
Jo: You already have “today” and “day” is commonly used with numbers but you don’t have numbers.
don’t have, there isn’t: ไม่มี /mâi-mee/
Jo: You already have “have” and “not”.
Front: ข้างหน้า /kâang-nâa/
Jo: You already have “หน้า”.
get, receive: ได้รับ /dâai-ráp/
Jo: Not used that often.
give, offer, let: ให้ /hâi/
Jo: It can be used in many different ways. So, it won’t help people who don’t know how to use it properly.
happy, well, fine: สบาย /sà-baai/
Jo: You already have “สบายดี” (well, fine”).
heart, mind, spirit: ใจ /jai/
Jo: The word “jai” alone is not used so often. It is normally used as a prefix or suffix.
it, potato, greasy, the fat, to be fun (slang): มัน /man/
Jo: No used that often. The word “it” as a pronoun can be omitted.
maybe: อาจจะ /àat-jà/
Jo: It’s too complicated for a basic sentence.
of, item: ของ /kŏng/
Jo: Not used that often.
Out: ออก /òk/
Jo: Not used that often.
prefix: put before verb to show action is happening: กำลัง /gam-lang/
Jo: It is related to tenses and too complicated.
say, tell, blame, criticise: ว่า /wâa/
Jo: You already have “tell / say”.
together, jointly, one another, each other: กัน /gan/
Jo: It can be omitted in a basic sentence.

The Top 100 word posts in this impromptu series…

Here are the posts in this series so far. I fear that there will be yet another top 100 Thai words list in my future, so don’t say you haven’t been warned ;-)

Learning Languages: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List
A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases

Oh. And there will absolutely be a Loci Method post (the original reason for this insane venture into finding the top 100 Thai words one must know).

Note: The transliteration comes from T2E as is. There are mistakes in the transliteration but I don’t have the time or inclination to correct each and every one so unless you learn to read Thai you’ll have to use the transliteration as a ballpark crutch to pronunciation (reading actual Thai script is the only real answer… honest).

Share Button

A Top 100 Thai Word List Created from Phrases

Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

Compiling a top 100 Thai vocabulary list from phrases…

Searching for a top 100 Thai vocabulary list to use with the Loci Method has totally gobbled my interest! Since starting this adventure I’ve found many ways to compile such a list and I’m now on version three. Or four.

In the comments of Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List, the consensus was to create a dedicated top Thai phrases post and then create a top 100 Thai vocabulary list from there. It’s a good idea (and apologies for taking this long). Not wanting to show up to the party nakid, I searched for Thai phrases, shortened the phrases to suit beginners, counted the Thai words used, and then added even more words and phrases.

During the selection I kept in mind the ability to use either iPhone/smart phone apps with pictures and/or hard-copy picture phrase books, and a calculator (either on your phone or dangling from a keychain). The phrasebooks were reviewed last year here: Picture Phrase Books: For When They Can’t Speak Thai. Not reviewed yet (but in my hot little hands) are 3 iPhone apps: ICOON on iPhone and iPod Touch, ShowMe, and Show it!

I also chose words that when combined would make new words, increasing the working word list but not in the original 100 count. And where one basic word would do, I avoided adding another. I’m still not sure I made the best decision with เอา /ao/ and รับ /ráp/!

I also attempted to do without internationally understood words like Thai (ไทย /tai/) for Thai language or Thailand, taxi (แท็กซี่ /táek-sêe/), and OK (โอเค /oh-kay/). But most are included in the phrases.

Oh. And I dropped out (some) words covered by internationally understood hand signals (mimicking a phone call is a good for instance).

Vocabulary list: Top 100 Thai words from phrases…

So here you go, a clean 100 word list from the most basic of ever Thai phrases. The difference between this list and Tony Buzan’s well-known hundred most common words is striking.

And truthfully, staring at my Top Thai Word List created under Buzan’s restraints left me wondering just how sentences are to be cobbled together for actual communication. But I’ll leave that subject for another post. Promise.

already (tense marker): แล้ว /láew/
be [v]: เป็น /bpen/
be at, live at, stay: อยู่ /yòo/
beautiful, attractive, pretty: สวย /sŭay/
big: ใหญ่ /yài/
can: ได้ /dâai/
cannot: ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
come, arrive (shows direction to the speaker): มา /maa/
delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/
do, make: ทำ /tam/
doctor: หมอ /mŏr/
don’t!: อย่า! /yàa/
excuse me, I’m sorry: ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/
expensive: แพง /paeng/
far: ไกล /glai/
fast: เร็ว /reo/
full (food): อิ่ม /ìm/
get, receive, accept: รับ /ráp/
go, leave, depart (shows direction away from the speaker): ไป /bpai/
good: ดี /dee/
have: มี /mee/
he, she, him, her, they, them: เขา /kăo/
hello, goodbye, see you later: สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/
help, aid, assist [v]: ช่วย /chûay/
here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
hot (spicy): เผ็ด /pèt/
hot (temperature): ร้อน /rón/
hotel: โรงแรม /rohng-raem/
how: ยังไง /yang-ngai/
how much, how many: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/
how much, how many: กี่ /gèe/
hungry: หิวข้าว /hĭw kâao/
I, me, my [f]: ฉัน /chăn/
I, me, my [m]: ผม /pŏm/
injured: บาดเจ็บ /bàat jèp/
know (someone, something, someplace): รู้จัก /róo-jàk/
know (something): ทราบ /sâap/ รู้ /róo/
left: ซ้าย /sáai/
like: ชอบ /chôp/
little bit: นิดหน่อย /nít-nòi/
look, see, appear, seem, watch: ดู /doo/
lost: หลงทาง /lŏng taang/
market: ตลาด /dtà-làat/
name: ชื่อ /chêu/
near: ใกล้ /glâi/
no problem, that’s ok, nevermind: ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/
no, not: ไม่ /mâi/
now, right now, at this moment: ตอนนี้ /dton-née/
stop, park: จอด /jòt/
one more time: อีกที /èek-tee/
person, people, classifier for people: คน /kon/
police: ตำรวจ /dtam-rùat/
P: Polite particle [f]: ค่ะ /kâ/
P: Polite particle [m]: ครับ /kráp/
P: Question particle: ไหม /măi/
P: Question particle [f]: คะ /ká/
P: Question, confirmative [m/f]: เหรอ or หรือ /rĕr or rĕu/
P: Question, “what about …?”: ล่ะ /lâ/
P: Softener, makes it more persuasive: นะ /ná/
P: Softens request or command, a bit: หน่อย /nòi/
P: Used in requests, congratulations or condolences ด้วย (ค่ะ/นะคะ) /dûay/ (ka/ná-ka)
really: จริงๆ /jing-jing/
restaurant: ร้านอาหาร /ráan aa-hăan/
right: ขวา /kwăa/
slowly, slower: ช้าช้า /cháa-cháa/
speak: พูด /pôot/
stop!: หยุด! /yùt/
straight: ตรงไป /dtrong-bpai/
sure [v]: แน่ใจ /nâe-jai/
Thai currency: บาท /bàat/
thank you: ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/
that: นั่น /nán/
there: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
there (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/
think, calculate: คิด /kít/
thirsty: หิวน้ำ /hĭw-náam/
this, these: นี่ /nêe/
tired: เหนื่อย /nèuay/
to, at, that, which, who, the place, area: ที่ /têe/
today: วันนี้ /wan-née/
toilet: ห้องน้ำ /hông-náam/
tomorrow: พรุ่งนี้ /prûng-née/
turn: เลี้ยว /líeow/
understand: เข้าใจ /kâo-jai/
u-turn: กลับรถ /glàp-rót/
very much, a lot, very: มาก /mâak/
want, take, bring: เอา /ao/ (รับ /ráp/)
want to: อยาก /yàak/
we, us, our: เรา /rao/
well, fine: สบายดี /sà-baai-dee/
what: อะไร /a-rai/
when, whenever: เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/
where (shortened version of ที่ไหน), whichever one: ไหน /năi/
where is: ที่ไหน /têe năi/
who, someone, anyone: ใคร /krai/
why: ทำไม /tam-mai/
write: เขียน /kĭan/
yes: key-word response, ใช่, ครับ, ค่ะ /châi, kráp, kâ/
yesterday: เมื่อวานนี้ /mêua-waan-née/
you: คุณ /kun/

100 words doesn’t handle a lot. From that list you can: ask questions, give answers, make the briefest of polite talk, give instructions to a taxi driver, and buy stuff (with mostly pointing and using a calculator).

And while this list doesn’t give you the backbone of sentence structure (as the Buzan-type lists promise) I’m thinking you won’t be left with as many holes either. But what do I know. I’m still waiting to be enlightened! And I will. Be.

The chosen top Thai phrases…

Due to the nature of the project – zero knowledge of Thai – the phrases are as brief as I could make them. Spoken Thai is mostly inferred anyway so a great deal can easily be left out. Two of the most common words to be left out are ผม/ฉัน /pŏm/chăn/ (I) so go easy on me, ok? The polite particles can be thinned out or beefed up too – up to you.

NOTE: This list is just a getting-out-of-the-phrase-gate list. In no way do I consider it final. I didn’t have time to create phrases from everything so I would seriously welcome your help filling it out.

Hello/goodbye/see you later.
สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/

How are you?
สบายดีหรือ /sà-baai dee rĕu/

(I’m) fine, thank you.
สบายดี ขอบคุณ ค่ะ/ครับ /sà-baai-dee kòp-kun/

I’m fine, and you?
สบายดี แล้วคุณล่ะ /sà-baai-dee láew kun lâ/

What about you?
แล้วคุณล่ะ /láew kun lâ/

What is your name?
คุณชื่ออะไร /kun chêu a-rai/

My name is ______.
ผม/ฉัน ชื่อ ______ /pŏm/chăn chêu/
Or just plain ‘ole…
ชื่อ _______ /chêu _______ /

Thank you.
ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/

Thank you very much.
ขอบคุณมาก /kòp-kun mâak/

You’re welcome.
ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/

What do you want?
รับอะไร คะ/ครับ /ráp a-rai/ [ká/kráp]

Do you want ___?
เอา ___ ไหม /ao ___ măi/

Yes please.
ค่ะ/ครับ ขอบคุณ ค่ะ/ครับ /kâ/kráp kòp-kun kâ/kráp/

Have: มี /mee/
มี /mee/ ____

(I) have a doctor.
มีหมอ /mee mo/

Do you have?
มี ____ ไหม / mee ____ măi/

Do you have a doctor?
มีหมอไหม /mee mŏr măi/

I don’t have a doctor.
ไม่มีหมอ /mâi mee mŏr/

yes: ใช่, ครับ, ค่ะ /châi, kráp, kâ/
no: ไม่ใช่ /mâi-châi/
can: ได้ /dâai/
cannot: ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/

Excuse me.
ขอโทษ นะคะ/นะครับ /kŏr tôht ná-kâ/ná-kráp/

I’m sorry.
ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/

I speak Thai only a little bit.
พูดไทยนิดหน่อย /pôot tai nít-nòi/

Please speak slowly.
พูดช้าช้าหน่อย /pôot cháa-cháa nòi/
OR
ช้าช้าหน่อย /cháa-cháa nòi/
OR
ช้าช้า /cháa-cháa/

slow: ช้า /cháa/
fast: เร็ว /reo/

I don’t understand – I only speak Thai a little.
ไม่เข้าใจ พูดไทยนิดหน่อย /mâi kâo-jai pôot tai nít-nòi/

I don’t understand.
ไม่เข้าใจ /mâi kâo-jai/

I understand.
เข้าใจ /kâo-jai/

Help write (it for me) please.
ช่วยเขียนหน่อย ค่ะ/ครับ /chûay kĭan nòi kâ/kráp/

How do you say it in Thai?
ไทยพูดยังไง /tai pôot yang-ngai/

Repeat it please.
พูดอีกที ค่ะ/ครับ /pôot èek-tee kâ/kráp/

Help!
ช่วยด้วย /chûay dûay/

How: ยังไง /yang-ngai/
v + ยังไง /yang-ngai/

What: อะไร /a-rai/
What? อะไร คะ/ครับ /a-rai ká/kráp/

What happened?
อะไร คะ/ครับ /a-rai ká/kráp/

No, nothing happened.
ไม่ มี อะไร /mâi mee a-rai/
(polite for “none of your business” if asked “what happened?”)

What is this?
นี่อะไร /nêe a-rai/

What is that?
นั่นอะไร /nân a-rai/

What do you want?
รับคะ/ครับ /ráp ká/kráp/

When? เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/
v + เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/

When are you coming?
มาเมื่อไหร่ /maa mêua-rài/
OR
เมื่อไหร่ /mêua-rài/

Today: วันนี้ /wan-née/
Tomorrow พรุ่งนี้ /prûng-née/

Where are you going?
ไปไหน /bpai năi/
(Thai for “hello, how are you doing?”)

ไป _____ /bpai _____ /

Who? ใคร /krai/
n + ใคร /krai/
ใคร /krai/ + verb

Who is that person?
คนนั้นใคร /kon nán krai/

Who does it? Who makes it?
ใครทำ /krai tam/

Who is it?
ใคร คะ/ครับ /krai ká/kráp/

Why?: ทำไม /tam-mai/

How much, how many?: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/, กี่ /gèe/

How many baht?
กี่บาท /gèe bàat/

What’s the matter?
เป็นอะไร /bpen a-rai/

What do you think?
คุณคิดยังไง /kun kít yang-ngai/

Are you sure?
คุณแน่ใจไหม /kun nâe-jai măi/

Is it possible?
เป็นไปได้ไหม /bpen bpai dâai măi/

Is it good?
ดีไหม /dee măi/

What is this?
นี่อะไร /nêe a-rai/

Really?
จริงๆเหรอ /jing jing rĕr/

It’s fine.
ดี /dee/

O.K./All right.
โอเค /oh-kay/

That’s all right, no problem, never mind.
ไม่เป็นไร /mâi-bpen-rai/

I don’t know (something).
ไม่ทราบ /mâi sâap/
ไม่รู้ /mâi róo/

I don’t know (someone, something, someplace).
ไม่รู้จัก /mâi róo-jàk/

Beautiful: สวย /sŭay/

Is it beautiful?
สวยไหม /sŭay măi/

It’s not beautiful.
ไม่สวย /mâi sŭay/

Delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/

Is it delicious?
อร่อยไหม /a-ròi măii/

It’s not delicious.
ไม่อร่อย /mâi a-ròi/

Wonderful, very good: ดี มาก /dee mâak/
Expensive: แพง /paeng/

Is it expensive?
แพงไหม /paeng măi/

No, not expensive.
ไม่แพง /mâi paeng/

Is it ____?
_____ ไหม /măi/

Hot (temperature): ร้อน /rón/
Hot (spicy): เผ็ด /pèt/
Hot (really spicy): เผ็ดเผ็ด /pèt-pèt/
Not spicy: ไม่ เผ็ด /mâi pèt/

I’m… hungry, thirsty, full, tired, sad…
ฉัน/ผม ___ chăn/pŏm ___
OR
___

Hungry: หิวข้าว /hĭw-kâao/
Thirsty: หิวน้ำ /hĭw-náam/
Full (of food): อิ่ม แล้ว /ìm láew/
Tired: เหนื่อย /nèuay/
Unwell: ไม่ สบาย /mâi sà-baai/

Here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
There: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
There (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/

I…
ฉัน/ผม ___ chăn/pŏm ___
Like: ชอบ /chôp/
Don’t like: ไม่ ชอบ /mâi chôp/

Don’t! อย่า! /yàa/
Stop! หยุด! /yùt/
Police! ตำรวจ! /dtam-rùat/

I’ll call the police.
ฉัน/ผม จะบอกตำรวจ! /chăn/pŏm jà bòk dtam-rùat/

Help!
ช่วยด้วย /chûay dûay/

I’m sick.
ฉัน/ผม ไม่สบาย /chăn/pŏm mâi sà-baai/

I’ve been injured.
ฉัน/ผม บาดเจ็บ /chăn/pŏm bàat jèp/

I’m lost.
ฉัน/ผม หลงทาง /chăn/pŏm lŏng taang/

Where is?: ที่ไหน /têe năi/

Where is ___?
n + อยู่ที่ไหน /yòo têe năi/

Where is the toilet?
ห้องน้ำอยู่ที่ไหน /hông-náam yòo têe năi/

Where is the hotel?
โรงแรมอยู่ที่ไหน /rohng-raem yòo têe năi/

Where is the restaurant?
ร้านอาหารอยู่ที่ไหน /ráan aa-hăan yòo têe năi/

Where is the market?
ตลาดอยู่ที่ไหน /dtà-làat yòo têe năi/

How do I get to _____ ?
จะไป _____ อย่างไร /jà-bpai _____ yàang-rai/

Is it far? ไกลไหม /glai măi/
Is it near? ใกล้ไหม /glâi măi/

go straight: ตรงไป /dtrong-bpai/
turn left: เลี้ยวซ้าย /líeow sáai/
turn right: เลี้ยวขวา /líeow kwăa/
u-turn: กลับรถ /glàp-rót/
(or just say U turn (with a Thai accent)
traffic lights: ไฟแดง /fai-daeng/

(I’m) going to _____ (market, hotel, hospital, shopping…)
ไป _____
bpai _____

Stop here please.
จอดที่นี่ ค่ะ/ครับ / jòt têe-nêe kâ/kráp/

Kidding, joking: พูดเล่น! /pôot lên/

Posts in the Top 100 Thai Words series…

Ok, that’s it for me. I didn’t use all of the words because I’m short on time (and I’d like to do something else this Saturday afternoon). But, I did have fun creating short sentences from these 100 words of Thai.

Two more posts in the series:
Learning Languages: The art and science of remembering everything
Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

Share Button

Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

Compiling a Top 100 Thai Vocabulary List

Compiling a top 100 Thai vocabulary list…

Hey all, I need your help putting together a top 100 Thai vocabulary list. The aim is to create a word list for newbies to communicate in Thai at a basic level. Only the barest Thai words are needed, but which ones?

I compiled a sample list of Thai words (below) but I took a kitchen sink approach. So what I need are opinions (yours) on words that are missing or unnecessary. Bottom line: What 100 words do/did you absolutely need to get by in Thai?

EDIT: If you gravitate towards phrases instead of individual words, please share your top sentences as well.

To explain my search for 100 Thai words…

My last post, The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, hooked me on the Loci Method for learning more Thai vocabulary.

Following his instructions (sort of) I experienced the beauty of Loci. Excited about the possibilities, I dropped everything to discover ways to actually show how Loci works for learning Thai. Theory is all fine and good, but…

So I downloaded everything I could find on amazon (co and uk) to my Kindle regarding Loci and read the language related bits.

After getting as much as I could into my head, and as I have an anal nature, I decided that a top 100 Thai vocabulary list was needed.

Well, there isn’t an actual top 100 vocabulary list for the Thai language.

Ok, there is a Thai 100 word list on Glenn’s forum, Most Frequently used words in Thai. But… I wasn’t 100% happy with it so after copying it off I kept hunting.

Tony Buzan has several versions of an English top 100 vocabulary list in a book called Use Your Memory. An early version of the book was published by BBC Books (1995) with the list shared around the Internet (take a peek if you like).

Oxford Online also created a top 100 English vocabulary list: Most common words in English.

The Reading Teachers Book of Lists claims that the first 25 words make up about one-third of all printed material in English, and that the first 100 make up about one-half of all written material.

Note that the items listed may represent more than one actual word; they are lemmas. For instance the entry “be” contains within it the occurrences of “are”, “is”, “were” and “was”.

Note also that these top 100 lemmas listed below account for 50% of all the words in the Oxford English Corpus.

Ok, that’s all well and good but I’m going for spoken, not written (and in Thai to boot). But it does outline the importance of learning a select few words in your target language. So again, for good measure (and the lack of a spoken list) I copied off this one as well.

So I ended up with three lists of 100 top words each. The top Thai, Buzan’s list, and one from Oxford Online. I threw them together, added Thai to the English, and then added Thai words I felt were missing. I also peppered polite particles and classifiers around (I couldn’t resist). Figuring that they could be acquired as needed, I ignored category lists such as food, animals, colours, numbers, days of the week, months, such as that. Hmmmm…

But after compiling the list I realised that there wasn’t a focus on the bare minimum words to get by in Thai. What I have instead is a list of Thai words one should know but that’s not the same. And that’s why I need you.

Below is the list so far. In your opinion, what Thai words are missing? What are not needed at this stage? Please leave your advice in the comments or send it via my contact form. Up to you ;-)

Round 1: The top 100 Thai words one must know…

about, regarding, concerning a problem, trouble, matter, affair, thing: เรื่อง /rêuang/
– classifier: movie, story or tale
again, once more, more: อีก /èek/
already: แล้ว /láew/
– general marker indicating a specified action has happened or a state has been attained
also, likewise, then, so, therefore, well, umm, err, in addition, as a result: ก็ /gôr/
– often used when trying to think what to say
as well, also, too: ด้วย /dûay/
as, like, way, sort, variety: อย่าง /yàang/
– converts an adjective to an adverb, equivalent to English -ly suffix or saying “in a … way”
– classifier: types, kinds or sorts of objects
ask for, request for, ask: ขอ /kŏr/
back side: ข้างหลัง /kâang lăng/
bad (not good): ไม่ดี /mâi-dee/
be (+ noun), to be something: เป็น /bpen/
be at, live at, stay: อยู่ /yòo/
beautiful, attractive, pretty: สวย /sŭay/
because, because of, beautiful (voice): เพราะ /prór/
before, first, former: ก่อน /gòn/
big: ใหญ่ /yài/
but, only: แต่ /dtàe/
can, be able to, get, have done, have chance to: ได้ /dâai/
can’t, cannot (when used after verb): ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
case, item: ราย /raai/
cause, make, to do for: ทำให้ /tam-hâi/
come, arrive: มา /maa/
– shows direction to the speaker
day: วัน /wan/
delicious: อร่อย /a-ròi/
didn’t, did not (when used before verb): ไม่ได้ /mâi-dâai/
do, make: ทำ /tam/
don’t have, there isn’t: ไม่มี /mâi-mee/
excuse me, apologize, sorry: ขอโทษ /kŏr-tôht/
far: ไกล /glai/
follow, come after: ตาม /dtaam/
for, in order to: เพื่อ /pêua/
for, to, on behalf of: สำหรับ /săm-ràp/
friend: เพื่อน /pêuan/
from, depart, leave, go away from: จาก /jàak/
front: ข้างหน้า /kâang-nâa/
get, receive: ได้รับ /dâai-ráp/
give, offer, let, have someone do something, to become, for: ให้ /hâi/
go, leave, depart: ไป /bpai/
– shows direction away from the speaker
good, nice: ดี /dee/
happy, well, fine: สบาย /sà-baai/
have, there is: มี /mee/
have to, must: ต้อง /dtông/
he, she, him, her, they, them, horn, mountain: เขา /kăo/
heart, mind, spirit: ใจ /jai/
hello, goodbye, good morning, good afternoon, good evening: สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/
help, aid, assist: ช่วย /chûay/
here: ที่นี่ /têe-nêe/
home, house: บ้าน /bâan/
how much: เท่าไหร่ /tâo-rài/
I (to someone younger), you (to someone older), he, she, him, her (referring to someone older): พี่ /pêe/
I, me (feminine): ฉัน /chan/
I, me (masculine): ผม /pŏm/
if: ถ้า /tâa/
in front of, front, face, front, top, next, following, upcoming: หน้า /nâa/
in, of: ใน /nai/
– intensifier: 1. ‘So… !, Extremely… !, 2. therefore, as a result, 3. to go further
it, potato, greasy, the fat, to be fun (slang): มัน /man/
keep, save, store: ไว้ /wái/
know (someone, something, face, place, know at a basic level): รู้จัก /róo-jàk/
know (something, know in detail): รู้ /róo/
like: ชอบ /chôp/
little bit: นิดหน่อย /nít-nòi/
little, few, not many: น้อย /nói/
love: รัก /rák/
maybe: อาจจะ /àat-jà/
name, be named: ชื่อ /chêu/
near: ใกล้ /glâi/
never mind, no problem, it’s ok: ไม่เป็นอะไร /mâi-bpen-a-rai/
new, recent, the latest, again, once more: ใหม่ /mài/
no, not: ไม่ /mâi/
now, right now, at this moment: ตอนนี้ /dton-née/
of, item: ของ /kŏng/
ok, right? (confirmative particle masculine): นะครับ /ná-kráp/
ok, right? (confirmative particle feminine): นะคะ /ná-ka/
old (humans, animals): แก่ /gàe/
old, to be old: เก่า /gào/
one: หนึ่ง /nèung/
out: ออก /òk/
particle: softens a sentence: หน่อย /nòi/
particle: softens a sentence, makes it more persuasive: นะ /ná/
particle: used by female speakers at the end of questions to make them more polite: คะ /ka/
particle: used by female speakers at the end of sentences to make them more polite: ค่ะ /kâ/
particle: used by male speakers at the end of sentences to make them more polite: ครับ /kráp/
person, people: คน /kon/
– classifier: people
play: เล่น /lên/
prefix: กำลัง… /gam-lang/ 
– put before a verb to show action is happening (present/past continuous tense)
reach, arrive, get to, until: ถึง /tĕung/
really: จริงๆ /jing jing/
say, tell, blame, criticise, sentence connector ‘that’: ว่า /wâa/
search for, look for, to meet: หา /hăa/
self, oneself: ตัว /dtua/
– character, letter, entity
– body, physique
– prefix: for an actor or character
– prefix: meaning “someone or something that does/is…”
– classifier: animals, all pieces of clothing (except ones that come in pairs, but including trousers), chairs, tables and other pieces of furniture, letters and numbers of the alphabet, musical instruments and also functions as a general purpose classifier for things and objects.)
send, send something to someone: ส่ง /sòng/
sense, meaning, substance: ความ /kwaam/
– prefix: converts a verb or adjective into an abstract noun
small, little: เล็ก /lék/
still, yet: ยัง /yang/
suffix: อยู่ /yòo/
– put after verb show the action is happening (present/past continuous tense)
task, work, job: การ /gaan/
– prefix: converts a verb or adjective into an verbal noun
tell, say, describe: บอก /bòk/
Thai currency: บาท /bàat/
Thai, Thailand: ไทย /tai/
thank you: ขอบคุณ /kòp-kun/
that, those: นั้น /nán/
– marker: used after a noun or pronoun to emphasize it as the subject of the sentence, or to show the end of a relative clause
there: ที่นั่น /têe-nân/
there (further): ที่โน่น /têe-nôhn/
think, calculate: คิด /kít/
this (+ noun/classifier): นี้ /née/
time, when: เวลา /way-laa/
to, at, that, which, who, the place, area: ที่ /têe/
together, jointly, one another, each other, obstruct: กัน /gan/
very much, a lot, very: มาก /mâak/
want (+ noun), take, bring: เอา /ao/
want to: อยาก /yàak/
watch, look, see, appear, seem: ดู /doo/
we, us, our: เรา /rao/
what about? (question particle masculine): ละครับ /la-kráp/
what about? (question particle feminine): ละคะ /la-ká/
what, something, anything: อะไร /a-rai/
where, which place: ที่ไหน /têe-năi/
who, someone, anyone: ใคร /krai/
why: ทำไม /tam-mai/
will, shall: จะ /jà/
with, together with, and: กับ /gàp/
work, job, task, event, ceremony, festival: งาน /ngaan/
yes (masculine): ครับ /kráp/
yes (feminine): ค่ะ /kâ/
you, he, she, him, her (used when referring to someone younger): น้อง /nóng/
you (to a friend, teacher to student…): เธอ /ter/
you, your: คุณ /kun/
you; your (to a child, someone younger), I; me (used by young children, and by women when speaking to their elders): หนู /nŏo/

Other top Thai vocabulary lists…

sealang.net: Thai Vocabulary List
thai-language.com: Most Frequently used words in Thai
thai-language.com: Common Words of the Thai Language
womenlearnthai.com: The Top 39 Thai Words You Must Know
womenlearnthai.com: FREE: Quick & Dirty Thai Vocabulary Download

And lastly, an ongoing conversation: Putting together a 100 word list for conversation in Thai.

Note: The transliteration comes from T2E as is. The English translations are also from T2E and late last night it was edited by Thai Skype Teacher Khun Narisa. The final edits were made by me so I will obviously take the responsibility for any snafus found. Coding this in was a pain and my brain fuzzed out when it came time to do a final edit so there might be some weirdness going on too…

Share Button
Older posts