Learning the basic words and greetings of another language is one of the best parts about visiting a foreign country and a great way to show interest and respect (even though you may be butchering the language) for the local culture. Native people, in my experience, appreciate and welcome this effort. Even though many Thai people know enough English to get by or have other means of communication, for example, in the markets you will pass a calculator back and forth to negotiate a price, they are still very welcoming and eager to share their culture with visitors that show an interest.
For the learning purpose of this guide and your understanding, the Thai translation has been written phonetically in the English alphabet (and not the beautiful loopy Thai alphabet you have zero chance of sounding out). So here is some basic Thai to get you started!
Also, it’s important to note that in Thailand, to be polite, you end sentences with:
Khap for males and Kha for females.
Hello ~ Sa-wat-dee
How are you? ~ Sa-by-dee-mai
Good ~ Dee
No Good ~ Mai-dee
Good/Well ~ Sa-by-dee
Bye-Bye ~ La-korn
Useful Words/ Phrases in Thai:
Thank You ~ Khob-khun
No ~ Mai-chai
Yes ~ Chai
Please ~ Ka-ru-na
Sorry ~ Sier-jai
Help ~ Chuay-duay
Happy ~ Mee-farm-sook
I Do Not Understand ~ Mai-khaw-jai
I Have a Problem ~ Chan-me-pan-ha
Where is the Toilet ~ Hong-nam-yoo-nai
Thai Food Related Words:
Food ~ A-harn
Delicious ~ A-roy
Spicy ~ Phed
Very Spicy ~ Phed-Mark
Not Spicy ~ Mai-Phed
How Much ~ Tow-rai
Enjoy ~ Sa-nook-mark
Thai Travel Related Words:
Cheap ~ Mai-pang
Expensive ~ Pang
Airport ~ Sa-nam-bin
Bus Station ~ Sa-ta-nee-rod-bud
Train Station ~ Sa-ta-nee-rod-fai
Hotel ~ Rong-ram
Fun Thai Phrases:
I Love You ~ Chan-rak-khun
Sexy Boy ~ Roop-lhor
Sexy Girl ~ Soy-mark
1~ nung 2~ song 3~ sam 4~ see 5~ ha 6~ hok 7~ jed 8~ pad 9~ gao 10~ sib
20~ yee-sib 100~ nueng-roi 1,000~ nueng-phan
Give it a try and don’t be afraid to sound silly! A tip that my sister said to me, that at first sounded rude but turned out to be super helpful, is to whine – exaggerate the last sound of the word and draw it out. It is both oddly satisfying and actually how it’s supposed to sound! Saying Sa-wat-dee-khaaaaaa (if you’re female) is going to be your new favourite hobby, I swear.
Great general tips here. I also recommend getting the Thai Phrasebook from ThailandRedCat. It contains a lot of great lessons and will help you learn faster. The tricky thing about Thai is the tonal sounds. There are around 6 different sounds. So I recommend listening to Thai speakers on Youtube and listening to the Thai news as well. This helped me comprehend better because Thais do speak very fast.
If you are really serious about learning, then apply for a Thai ED visa through a good language school. You can get a 1 year Thai visa along with Thai classes for around $1,500. It’s a great deal plus gives you a long visa without worrying about visa runs!
Thanks for sharing all that great info!
Sure thing. I’d be happy to share more Thailand travel tips with your audience. Please drop me an email if you’re interested. Great blog BTW!
Nice tips, I learned many words in here. Hope it helpful when I visit Thailand
I hope so too! 🙂
I’ve lived here for 7 years now, with my Thai family.
The longer I stay, the more I realize, Thai doesn’t translate to English!
The best thing for newcomers who are serious about learning the language, learn the alphabet on day 1 and live in Bangkok. (not Chiang Mai)
There are different dialects in different regions. If you live in Chiang Mai, they will teach Bangkok Thai in schools but speak a different language (Lanna) in the community.
great article on the translation work in thai. great job. if i was about to board the flight to thailand this would be the most important things to say and listen to. thanks for putting this up
great list. it was really helpful for me.
Excellent choice of words and phrases. Effective communication is key when you don’t speak the native language.