“The team of 1-StopAsia is here to take you yet again on a magical tour through the most charming cultures on Earth.”
This time we’re going to introduce you to Thai language and some of its peculiarities and quirks.
Lying in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand has both geographic and economic advantages that make it one of the most dynamic growing economies in the region. With a population of more than 69 million people, Thailand is a promising market for foreign investors and quite an interesting place for countless tourists. Whatever the reason behind your visit to Thailand, however, you will probably need to know some basics about the Thai language. Here are some facts about the Thai language that will give you an insight into the unique culture of Thailand.
Roots of Thai language
Thai, which is sometimes referred to as Siamese, is part of the Tai language family. The languages in this family belong to the much larger Austric language group. The spoken language is believed to have originated in the area which is now the border between Vietnam and China, an idea which provides clues to the origin of the Thai people, an area of continued academic debate. The Thai Language was introduced by the third Sukothai period king, Ramkamhaeng, in 1283. Except with the creation of the Thai alphabet, king Ramkamhaeng is also credited with the firm establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the state religion of the kingdom. The Thai writing system has undergone little change since its introduction, so inscriptions from the Sukothai era can be read by modern Thai readers. The writing was based on Pali, Sanskrit, and Indian concepts, and many Mon and Khmer words entered the language.
Thai borrows many words from English
Almost every language spoken on Earth has been influenced by English and Thai is no exception. Many Thai words, especially the terms related to science and technology, are borrowed from English. They are adapted to the Thai sound system so that Thai people can use them easily. Tinglish or Thaiglish is the imperfect, macaronic form of English that has developed due to language interference from English. It includes errant pronunciation, unusual word choices, and grammatical anomalies, as well as innovative vocabulary. There are also borrowed words with unchanged spelling like format, movie, etc.
The Thai language has no tense
There are no past and future tenses as there is in English. So to get that meaning, you have to add words that indicate time (yesterday, last week, last time, tomorrow, next month – there are a lot of them). But don`t let that fact confuse you – this language is not easy at all.
Thai is a pretty hard language to learn
The Thai Alphabet uses 44 consonants & 15 basic vowel letters.
The first difficulty beginners meet with when learning Thai is that it’s a tonal language (5 tones). Using the wrong tone changes the meaning entirely, or, changes it to something that isn’t even a word. “Shirt”, “tiger” and “doormat” differ only by tone. People with a musical background tend to pick up on this quickly when listening to spoken Thai. For others, it takes longer.
Another obstacle Thai learners face is the construction of sentences. When forming sentences, the beginner tends to construct them in the same way that they would in a native language. The patterns have no similarity, whatsoever. A Thai speaker would say, in Thai, the equivalent. If a Thai person wants to say that they don’t need anything the equivalent of this statement would sound like “not need what”. There are many examples such as this.
So, you’re reading Thai and you see a word. What is it’s tone?
Thai is an expressive language
Sometimes Thai is very ambiguous and other times it can express concepts that require a quite involved explanation in English. The correct Thai word for spark plug is something like “candle rest on head of engine”. On the other hand, if a Thai person says that they are feeling down, there are several words for sad, so people know right away the source of their discomfort from the word the person chose. Thai is very good for expressing how you feel while English is good for expressing technical details.
Body language is very important
The way you move and look at other people is very important when having a conversation in Thailand. They consider the head to be sacred and the feet to be dirty. To show respect to senior people in a conversation or when passing by, Thais always try to lower their head. Western habit of resting a foot on the desk is offensive to Thais. Therefore, you should be careful with your gestures when you travel to Thailand.
So what do you think? Are you ready for the joys of taming the unknown while also having a lot of fun? Are you interested in discovering the magic of a means of speaking so complex, yet so simple? If you consider learning a new language which combines both, the old and the new world – then Thai is the best choice for you!