Languages of Thailand : A Glimpse Into Thai Dialects, Phrases and Meanings

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit, the official name of Bangkok, which is over 170 characters and 40 syllables tops the list of unpronounceable cities, thanks to the rich languages of Thailand. Thailand is known for more such long and unpronounceable place names. And it's not surprising, given the fact that there are over 74 languages in Thailand, including several dialects of Thai.

Here's everything you need to know about Languages of Thailand: 

Thai dialect
Thai Dialect

Thai, more specifically known as Siamese Thai, is the lone official language of Thailand and is spoken by well over eighty per cent of the country's population of over seventy million. Sharing borders with neighbour Laos, the official language of Thailand is closely related to the official language of Laos, known as Lao, which is also spoken in Myanmar. Thai is also said to have links with numerous languages spoken in small regions in northern Vietnam southern China. In Thailand, Thai is used in all office administration work, in media, and in schools. The language's standard is based on the dialect of Bangkok, and it is written in the Thai alphabet, which has originated from the Khmer script.

History of the Thai Language 

The linguists believe that Thai is primarily a monosyllabic tonal language which remains uninflected in the Tai-Kadai family of languages. Thai was first spoken in the region which now lies somewhere between the borders of Vietnam and China. The origin of the language dates back to a long time ago. Thai language, in its written form, was first introduced in the year 1283 by King Ramkhamhaeng in the Sukhothai period. Established in central Thailand in the mid-nineteenth century, Sukhothai represented the first major Thai kingdom.

Regional Dialects of the Thai Language

There are four major regional dialects of the Thai language. There's Southern Thai, which as the name suggests, is spoken in the southern part of the country. Yuan, or more commonly known as Northern Thai is spoken in the Northern parts of the country. Similarly, there's Northeastern Thai, spoken in the Northeastern region and the Siamese Thai, national language and the most common of them all, used majorly in schools, media, entertainment purposes, and is widely spoken and understood by the country's population.

There are minor dialects in addition to the four major ones, spoken by a minimal but notable size of the population. Some of them are mentioned below:

Royal Thai: Royal Thai is used to addressing members of the Royal family of Thailand and is primarily influenced by the Khmer language.

Religious Thai: Religious Thai is used while discussing Buddhism by monks and other religious persons, such as religious leaders.

Formal Thai: Formal Thai is used in official forms and letters. It is used primarily by the country's media houses and newspapers. The dialect is also known as Elegant Thai.

Rhetorical Thai: Rhetorical Thai is seen during public speeches.

Common Thai: Common Thai, also known as Street Thai, is the informal dialect used during casual conversations between friends and family and to talk with tourists.

Languages Spoken In Thailand
Thai Language

Other Languages of Thailand

While Thai is the most spoken language in Thailand, it is not the only language that the people of Thailand speak. There are several minority languages which you will come across when you visit this beautiful Southeast Asian nation. The Lao dialect of Isan is by far the most spoken minority language in the Northeastern Thai region.

Yawi, a dialect of the Malay language is the first and primary language of the Malay Muslims, living in Thailand's most southern region.

A substantial ethnic Chinese population also resides in Thailand. Thus, a wide variety of Chinese languages are also spoken all over the country. Varieties that include Cantonese, Mandarin, and Teochew among which Teochew is the most spoken Chinese dialect in Thailand.

Tribal languages also exist within the borders of Thailand, most of which belong to the Khmer or Mon-Khmer family.

English in Thailand

English is widely spoken in cities, especially in Bangkok. As English is also a mandatory language taught in schools and colleges, the number of English speakers keep on increasing substantially.

The role of the English in Thailand is growing thanks to the influx of tourists who flock in every year. With the help of new technologies, especially the internet, fields of business, education, science, demand a high proficiency in English.

The number of English speaking Thai residents have increased over the last decade, especially in Thailand and the growing trend is relatively noticeable.

Tips For Tourists

You don't need to have a proficiency in the Thai language to visit Thailand, but it always helps when you have to talk to locals who are not familiar with English. In case you have to deal with a non-English speaking person or tuk-tuk drivers when buying tickets for trains or buses, it is advisable to write down instructions on paper and hand it over. You can take help from other people on the streets or copy down phrases from a Thai dictionary.

Common Thai Phrases and Their Meanings

How are you?Sabaaidii mai?
I'm fineSabaaidii
I'm not wellMai sabaii
I come from (India)Pom/Chan maa jaak (India)
What country are you from?Kun maa jaak bprateet arai?
Thank youKhop kun
SorryKhot hort
No problemMai bpenrai
Can you speak English?Kun pood paasaa anggrit dai mai
What is your name?Kun chuu arai?
My name is __P'm / Chán chuu __.
Speak slowlyPuut chaa chaa noi

Phrases To Use While Traveling

Do you use the meter?Chai meter mai
NearbyGlai glai
Go straightDtrong bpai
Go leftLeo saai
Go rightLeo kwaa
Go to the airportBpai sanam bin
Bus stopBpaai rot mee
BusRot mee
SkytrainRodfai faa
SubwayRodfai dtaaidin
AeroplaneKruang bin
MinibusRot dtuu

Words Implying Questions

Why?Tum mai?

Phrases To Use While Shopping

How much?Taorai
Very expensivePaang mak
Can you reduce the price?Lod noi dai mai
I want this oneAo annii

Phrases To Use In Case Of Emergency

Where is the police station?Sataanii dtamruat yoo tee nai
Where is the hospital?Rongpayaabaan yoo tee nai
Call an ambulanceDahm rot pa-ya-bahn
I'm lostLong tahng
Can you helpChoo-ay dai mai

A country's culture in its truest form is seen in its languages, and that is evident in Thailand. So "Thiaw Hai Sanook" (have fun travelling) on your next trip to Thailand.

This post was published by Yash Saboo

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