About Thai Language
Thai is one of the oldest languages in East and South-East Asia. It is a monosyllabic language which uses five tones (high, mid, low, rising, and falling tone) to alter the meaning of a single syllable. This makes it rather tricky to learn for most Westerners used to speaking non-tonal languages.
King Ramkhamhaeng the Great who ruled the Sukhothai Kingdom from 1279-1298 initiated the Thai inscription in 1292. The inscription is considered to be a seminal source of Sukhothai history as well as a masterpiece of Thai literature.
The Thai language is liberally sprinkled with words from Pali and Sanskrit (the classical languages, respectively, of Theravada Buddhism and Indian Hinduism). Written Thai employs an alphabet of 44 consonants and 32 vowels that combine to form syllabic sounds.
Like English, it is read from left to right, but that is where the similarities end. Some English sounds like "th", "v" and "z" do not appear at all, while some Thai sounds are not commonly used in English either. Further, it should be noted that in transcribing Thai sounds into English phonetics some consonants (e.g., b, p, l, n, d, and t) can be used interchangeably.
There are no plurals in Thai, nor are there tenses as such. A word or two is usually added to determine the past, present or future.
In Thailand's major cities, the level of English can be quite good, but visitors will find that the Thais' ability to speak English diminishes as one moves further away from the population centers.
The official national language, spoken by almost 100 per cent of the population is, THAI, classified by linguists as belonging to a Chinese-Thai branch of the Sino-Tibetan family. It is a tonal language, uninflected, and predominantly monosyllabic. Most polysyllabic words in the vocabulary have been borrowed, mainly from Khmer, Pali or Sanskrit. Dialects are spoken in rural areas. Principal other languages are Chinese and Malay. English, a mandatory subject in public schools, is widely spoken and understood, particularly in Bangkok and other major cities.
Conservative and courteous social behavior and dress are highly valued by the Thais. The Thai pronouns for "I" are different for male and female speakers. Men will use 'phom' and women 'dee-chan' in formal settings. However, it is common to drop these formal pronouns in face-to-face conversations or to use kin terms (e.g., elder/younger sibling ; aunt uncle) or first names instead. Men will also show deference by ending their questions and statements with 'khrap', a "polite particle" to show respect and refinement. Women end their questions and statements with 'kha'. In greeting, the Thais normally "wai" rather than shake hands. To make the "wai," place your hands together, bringing them up just under the nose and bow the head slightly. Because it is a sign of respect as well, the younger person initiates the gesture, but not the reverse.