Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand

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So, you’ve learned all the basics of the Thai language, but you sound like you just stepped out of a textbook? Knowing how to speak Thai, even just the basics, is already an admirable achievement, but true mastery goes beyond just knowing words and grammar rules – it involves embodying the nuances of pronunciation, intonation, and local expressions. While achieving native-level fluency is not an easy thing to do, there are ways you can speak Thai like a local in no time.

Here are the top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local by ALA Language School, a language centre in Bangkok offering a fun & fast way to learn Thai.

1. Focus on tones for accurate pronunciation

Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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The first thing you need to keep in mind when trying to speak Thai like locals do is that Thai is a tonal language. This means that the tone in which a word is spoken can change its meaning. There are five tones in the Thai language: low, mid, high, rising, and falling.

For example, the word khǎw (เขา) can mean different things depending on the tone used. When spoken with a rising tone, it means he, she, her, him, or they (third-person singular or plural pronoun). With a low tone khàw (เข่า), it means knee, and with a falling tone khâw (เข้า), it means to enter or go in.

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Make sure to practise these tones as much as you can until you can differentiate them accurately. Aside from preventing misunderstandings, paying attention to tones will also help you sound more natural.

2. Learn the Thai alphabet

sign board - Exit, with Thai letter meaning : "Exit". Sky train station. MRT Station, Bangkok, Thailand. Learning how to read Thai can help foreigners sound like a native.
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For many foreigners, not being able to read Thai script can be a significant barrier to learning the language effectively.

Mastery of Thai script is imperative for a comprehensive grasp of the language, as much of its authentic material, spanning from street signs to newspapers and online content, is exclusively presented in this script. Proficiency in reading Thai script not only enhances access to a vast array of language resources but also facilitates a deeper immersion into Thai culture by allowing learners to decipher cultural nuances embedded within the language.

Moreover, Thai script offers a more precise representation of pronunciation compared to Romanization systems, enabling learners to refine their spoken Thai fluency and pronunciation while simultaneously gaining a profound understanding of the language’s structural intricacies, grammar, and vocabulary.

3. Surround yourself with the Thai language

A woman sitting on a couch watching TV to surround herself in the Thai language so she could speak Thai well
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By surrounding yourself with a variety of Thai language resources, you can create an immersive learning environment that accelerates your language acquisition. Read Thai books, newspapers, and online articles. Engage with native speakers on Thai websites, social media, and forums. Watch Thai movies, listen to Thai music, and label items in your home with Thai words.

You can also practice speaking with language exchange partners and consider joining Thai language classes or conversation groups. Engaging with a diverse range of Thai language resources can significantly elevate your learning journey, bolstering your proficiency while instilling confidence in language usage.

4. Practice speaking with locals regularly

Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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If you have the opportunity to visit Thailand or be around Thai friends, make sure to practise speaking in Thai as much as possible. This real-life interaction allows you to learn how native speakers use slang, idioms, and informal expressions that add colour and depth to the way they communicate. As a result, you can greatly enhance your learning experience and help you gain confidence in using the language. Moreover, this approach cultivates deeper connections with native speakers and facilitates smoother integration into Thai society, enriching your overall language acquisition experience.

5. Always use the gender-specific particles

Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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In Thai language and culture, the practice of using gender-specific particles such as khráp (ครับ) for males and khâ (ค่ะ) for females to conclude sentences holds profound significance in social norms and etiquette. These particles, serving as markers of politeness, underscore the societal emphasis on hierarchy and mutual respect. By employing the suitable particle, speakers not only demonstrate their adherence to cultural conventions but also express respect towards the listener, reflecting the esteemed values of harmony and deference within Thai society.

6. Learn slang and phrases used by locals

Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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Slangs and colloquial expressions may not be found in standard Thai language books but are commonly used in everyday conversations. And using them will make you sound like a local. For instance, you might hear words like àray kɔ̂ɔdâay tueng waa (อะไรก็ได้ ถึงว่า), which means “anything no wonder” or waa laew (ว่าแล้ว) when native Thais speak to each other. In Thai slang, “ฟิน” (pronounced “Fin“) is used to describe a feeling of excitement, exhilaration, or satisfaction, often in response to something enjoyable, thrilling, or pleasurable.

It’s these kinds of colloquial expressions that can help you better understand and connect with the local culture. Plus, it can help you navigate social situations more effectively. And, of course, using these informal phrases will make you sound more like a local.

7. Understand cultural nuances and context

Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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Language and culture are deeply intertwined. Therefore, one important key to truly sounding like a local in Thai is to grasp the cultural subtleties and nuances unique to the country. Remember that language is not just about vocabulary but also about conveying emotions and connecting with others effectively. Plus, understanding the nuances of Thai culture will also show respect for the traditions and values of the locals, along with helping you speak more naturally.

8. Be patient and persistent

Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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Language learning is all about perseverance and patience. Don’t expect instant results. It takes time for Thai words to become ingrained in your memory due to the language’s unique features, such as its tonal nature, complex script, and grammatical structure , and that’s okay. Avoid the temptation to rush through your learning process because mastering a language and speaking like a native is a gradual journey. Patience allows learners to persevere through challenges and setbacks, while persistence ensures continued effort and improvement. Celebrate small achievements along the way to stay motivated and focused on your Thai language learning goals.

9. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Top 10 tips to speak Thai like a local in Thailand | News by Thaiger
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One of the biggest enemies of language learners is the fear of making mistakes and looking like a fool. Because of this, they don’t even take a risk to speak the language whenever they can. This is one thing you need to overcome if you want to sound like a native Thai. Don’t worry about “looking silly,” especially when you’re speaking to a local. You won’t make progress if you don’t open your mouth. And locals won’t laugh at you anyway, they will appreciate your effort to speak their language even if you’re butchering a bit. So, instead of letting mistakes knock you back, you need to learn from them. It’s okay to try and fail. After all, that’s how we get good at things, including the Thai language.

10. Join a Thai language class

Young woman taking notes during study session so she can speak Thai like a local
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Enrolling in a Thai language class at ALA Language School can greatly enhance your ability to speak like a local. They offer both online and in-person learning options with skilled instructors who are dedicated to helping you improve your language skills. The school’s student-centred approach ensures that the curriculum is tailored to suit students of all abilities and educational backgrounds. Furthermore, their well-equipped classrooms and convenient location make it easy for you to access quality language education.

By joining their Thai classes, you will have the opportunity to receive genuine feedback from teachers, which is essential for improving your speaking skills. The friendly instructors at ALA Language School strive to create a supportive and engaging learning environment. With a focus on making learning enjoyable, the classes are designed to be interactive and fun for students.

If you can, it’s a good idea to enrol in their one-on-one class. This way, you can learn the Thai language at your own pace, according to your specific needs and interests.

We hope these tips can help you sound more authentic and less robotic! Visit ALA Language School’s website to learn more about their courses and offerings.


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Cita Catellya

Cita Catellya is a journalist and writer who covers a range of topics from medical and property to leisure and tourism. Her career began as a copywriter 5 years ago, where she worked with several brands in Indonesia to help them increase their online presence. Cita writes in both English and her native Bahasa Indonesia

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