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Thai 101

Thai is far from the easiest language to master. It is a tonal language in which each word has one of five tones that are integral to and can drastically change its meaning. In addition, vowel length is also important. Every word is either short, with a quick cut off pronunciation, or is long and more drawn out.

In this post, we try to simplify the basics for you with a few phrases to help you dip your toes in the shallow end of the Thai pool. Don’t worry too much about tones and vowels right now. For newbies, Thai people will just be happy to see you trying and in general they will make an effort to understand you. If you still have troubles being understood in the “land of smiles,” try putting one on as it can take you far, especially when bargaining.

Before we start our vocabulary lesson, one basic and important thing to point out is when speaking Thai it is standard courtesy to add ‘ka’ to the end of a sentence if you are female and if you are a male, finish your sentences with ‘khrup, (pronounced ‘krub’).

That said, here we go, ka!

10 starter phrases in Thai:
Thai English
1.Sawasdee ka/khrup Hello
2. Khob khun ka/khrup Thank you
3. Chai Yes
4. Mai chai No
5. Mai ow ka/khrup No thanks (Handy when getting pestered by the touts!)
6. Mai pen rai (The letter “r” is often pronounced as “l” – eg. ‘Mai pen lai’) Never mind/no bother
7. Tao rai ka? How much?
8. Hong Naam Toilet
9. Nit noi A little, not much
10. Kor toht Excuse me/sorry

Once you get these fully under your belt, try spicing things up a bit and taking on some dialogue with the local vendors and shophouses as you order a delicious plate of Thai food. Here are some tasty vocabulary tips when eating out in the Kingdom:

20 Tasty Thai tips:
Thai English
1.Khor may noo phasa Angrit Can I have the menu in English?
2. Nam plao Drinking water
3. Bia Beer
4. Nam cha Tea
5. Ga fae (ran/yen) (Hot/cold) coffee
6. Yai Large
7. Lek Small
8. Mai sai neua Without meat
9. Mai pet/Pet mak mak! Not spicy/Very spicy
10. Thawt Fried
11. Pad Stir-Fried
12. Yang Roasted
13. Neung Steamed
14. Phak Vegetables
15. Neua Beef
16. Gai Chicken
17. Ped Duck
18. Aroi/Aroi mak Good/Delicious
19. I’m full Im laaeo
20. Check please Keb tang

Thais love their country, language and food, and whether you are living in Thailand or just visiting, learning a little of the language goes a long way. Mastering some key Thai words will open new experiences unavailable to those who are unable to establish a sense of connectedness to the locals like you will be able to!

If you are still at a loss for where to start, we think Brooklyn resident, Maggie Rosenberg, has a great way to learn Thai. Pick up your ukulele, clear your throat and sing along:

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