Coming to Thailand and thinking you should learn the Thai language is a bit of an urban myth. Many guys are under the belief that learning Thai will give them an edge in picking up Thai girls. This is just plain wrong.
Let's lay out some opening arguments and then give you a better alternative.
Fact: The tonal Thai language is difficult to learn for Europeans Fact: 9% to 17.7% of Thailand's GDP comes from tourism (WikiPedia) Fact: On average, a tourist spends on average 9.5 days on holiday in Thailand (TAT Data) Fact: It takes on average xx time to get to a conversational level
Why you should not be learning the Thai language, for a short stay in the Land of Smiles?
The Thai language is difficult for Europeans to learn because it is tonal by nature. Costs to learn Thai ranges to 33,000 Thai baht for 300 hours tuition. A tourist spends an average of 9.5 days in Thailand so the return on learning investment is low. Thailand is a tourist-centric country with 9% to 17.7% of Thailand's GDP coming from tourism. English is the 2nd most common language used by native Thais, due to tourism.
Many men ask if they should be learning Thai. Many Thai women's opening message question, to them, is whether he knows how to speak Thai.
In our experience, it's an innocent question, without any agenda on the Thai girls' part. These girls are on a dating website, to date, meet up and hang out with foreign men, after all. They also have some level of English language skills and want they are also looking to expand those English skills. (Better job prospects, higher job qualifications and more opportunity for a better life and lifestyle).
Girls on a Thai dating site will ask a variety of opening questions such as:-
All innocent questions - trying to get a handle on your Thai experience. Don't read the question as them wanting you to know or learn their language. Most would never dream to impose such a burden on you.
Basic English words are already understood by Thai people.
Did you know living in Thailand without Thai skills is easier than you think?
Major cinema movies in Thailand are shown in the English language, with Thai subtitles. Translation programs such as Google Translate offer 'live translations' and 'photo to translation' features which are useful for shopping and groceries. Google Translate will now also translate direct live speech when conversing with a native Thai speaker.
Translation programs have come leaps and bounds in the last 12 months when it comes to a richer feature set and translation accuracy, especially for Thai. If the translation isn't 100% accurate, at the very least you will clearly understand the context and meaning.
You will use your lack of Thai speaking skills to your own advantage too. I did my first real grocery shopping in Bangkok, at a local Tesco shopping outlet.
To my uninitiated eyes, every product was written in Thai. "How was I ever going to survive in this country?!?!?!"
It turns out, food always has photos on the label. Food products in Thailand also have English translations. Most foreign speaking countries do the same.
Purely by accident, a cute Thai girl was next to me choosing the same product. Thankfully, she spoke some English and explained what was inside the product I was holding.
Well winner winner chicken dinner! A pickup formula was discovered!
From then on, when I notice a cute Thai girl near me when shopping, I simply feigned being a dummy and asked her if she knew what this food was.
Some don't have a clue with English. 75% of the time, they do. Thank the Thai girl for her help and ask for her Line ID. Your next date is now lined up while you did your shopping.
You are better to invest your time and energy into upping your dating skills than the time, effort and money to learn a difficult language that has little return on investment.
I used to think it would be important to learn Thai myself.
When I landed in first arrived in Bangkok, my friend here was studying Thai at a local language school, for his Student Visa. I thought it was important to do myself and booked in for a block of 10 lessons.
Well, the Thai teachers didn't have a good grasp on English themselves. Then, every time a new student would start the next week, the teachers would start from lesson 1 again. I dropped out with this happening 4 weeks in a row and chalked it up to a poor experience.
Why am I learning Thai in the first place?
If a foreign man living in Thailand wants any degree of English conversation, he needs to target Thai women who already converse, at some level, in English. In reality, that's your real endgame. No fuss, no study.
These girls want to learn English more than you want to learn Thai, trust me.
Since they want to learn, teach them English as an incentive to go out with you. They will teach you a few cute words which will give them their sense of purpose in the arrangement.
Remember to have Google Translate installed, in case you get stuck on the meaning or context of what they're trying to tell you.
If you've traveled anywhere else in the world, outside your home country, you'll already know that simply pointing your finger at something you want to buy works wonders.
Thailand is no different.
It's a tourism driven country and money talks. Thais want to sell their goods to you and they understand what 'the finger' means lol
Example: Looking to buy some cigarettes at the local 7-Eleven? Just point behind the counter where the smokes are located and say the brand you are wanting. The first time it might take a bit of finger pointing but eventually the 7-Eleven girl will find them and you'll know where they are next time.
If you're staying in a location where there are many foreigners such as Sukhumvit, Bangkok then English and finger pointing will get you 95% of what you're looking for.
Some things are better left unsaid or, in Thailand, you're simply better to not understand and leave it at that.
We've had my Thai girlfriend's mother over at our condo a few times. She doesn't speak a word of English, probably because she 75 years old and from a farming background.
She tries to talk to me and uses 'the finger' and sign language - sound familiar?
Anyways, my girlfriend asked me wouldn't it be better if I learnt Thai a bit more so I could chat to her mother.
'Why would I want your mother to understand what I'm talking about, babe', I replied.
I mean come on guys, there's no way you'd want your girls' mother bleeping in your ear all day long, would you?
Avoiding learning Thai is the better winning strategy in this case! lol
Thai girls like to gossip. Actually all women like to gossip.
They like to gossip about their life and about you, with their friends. When their talk about you though, surprisingly, it will only be in a good light. Thai women are always proud to have a boyfriend, especially a foreign one, and will never ever put having one in danger.
Your Thai girlfriend knows you can't speak Thai so she's got a safety zone to talk in her native language if she's got a friend nearby, with you. They're chatter on and on and are happy girls doing it.
Do you really want to try and keep up with the latest Thai fashion, what they've eaten or plan to eat, the weirdness of the Thai work culture or even what she says about you? Nope!
Give your girl some space. If you hear your name mentioned or the word 'falang' (meaning foreigner) then casually ease a question to her sometime later. Don't force it, keep it casual. Let her explain in her own words.
I've spoken with many guys who come to live in Thailand to get away from the BS western women have given them in the past.
Sure they are happy to meet, date and live with the right Thai woman. Thing is they also want to limit the verbal interaction with them to a bare minimum. They also prefer to limit the girl's English skills as well.
Most live a great life under these conditions. They're using 'the finger', body language and gestures with their own live-in Thai partner and it's enough for them and her.
The expat has his buddies to talk 'man stuff' with and his Thai girl does the same.
While this situation isn't for everyone, it works wonderfully well in Thailand.
Learning a few basic words in Thai will be a polite. Enough to be polite for greeting and thanking or food - that's it.
|English||Thai & Sound Bite|
|Hello or Goodbye||sawadee krab/kaa |
|How are you?||sa bai dee mai krab |
|I'm fine||sa bai dee |
|I'm not well||mai sa bai dee |
|Thank you||khop khun krab/kaa |
|Yes||chai krab/kaa |
|No||mai krab/kaa |
|No worries||mai pen rai |
|You are cute||khun naa rak krab/kaa |
|Having fun?||sanuk mai |
|I'm Hungry||hiu (hee-yoo) |
|Delicious||aroi (a-roy) |
|I'm lost||long tahng |
|Can you help||choo-ay dai mai |
|Excuse Me||kor tot |
|How Much Is This?||a nee tao rai (a-nee-tow-rye) |
|I Don't Understand||mai khao jai |
There are lifestyle situations when any foreigner wants to learn another language. That's human nature. Thai and Thailand is no different.
Having a conversational level of the Thai language will be advantageous, to some.
If your plans for Thailand include living outside the main cities, learning Thai will be the better course of action. The further you move into country and remote regions of the country, the less English and other language are used or understood.
Perhaps your Thai girl prefers a quieter more rural lifestyle. She might come from farming stock, for example.
Many people can't live in total communication isolation. Making the jump to learning Thai will be a necessity for you, in the long run.
Some men just want total control over their situation.
Living long term in Thailand, you will find situations which are difficult to handle by yourself.
How would you go about calling a plumber to fix a leaking water pump? Sign language and finger pointing will get you nowhere.
The ideal solution is to live with a Thai woman and get her do give the instructions to the plumber. She loves being able to use her Thai language to contribute to the relationship and your living situation. Finding her jobs to do actually makes her a happy Thai girl - she is contributing and an active part of the relationship.
A happy Thai girl makes you even more happy.
Learning the Thai language is definitely not as an important a task to undertake as some might think.
You will live in Thailand for the rest of your days and will happily get by with almost zero language skills and live a fulfilling, happy and satisfying lifestyle.
Finding the right happy compatible Thai girlfriend makes all the language problems disappear.
It is certainly our recommended path until you need to change.
What are the Top 10 Thai words to understand?
Martin enjoys Asian food, cute Asian girls and travel in South East Asia.