Learn Thai: The Ultimate Beginner Guide

Thai Temple


I've been there! Living in Thailand and didn't understand a word. Why couldn't I find somewhere I loved that has the alphabet. Not knowing at the time that Thai does! But just not the English type.

I have worked and lived in Thailand for many years and enjoyed the food, the culture, the sites, and the people. And all of this enjoyment has been further enhanced with knowing the Thai language. Just like knowing any language, it helps you in so many ways when living in another country.

Technology is growing at a rapid speed and even today they have devices which plug-in both speaker's ear and translates what is being said to each other. However, it's just not the same as when both speakers speak the same language. You will just have to wait until the new brain app comes out that automatically teaches you a new language.

Til then you will need to spend a few years learning Thai for now. Lucky for you I have lined the yellow brick road in this article and our online courses.

Not only does this article explain the direct path to learn Thai, but along the journey, you will also read and write too!

As some of you may already know, for some reason learning Thai is confusing. If you speak with one person the advice and information given are usually different from the next. The main reason I developed this site was to help people learn Thai as quick as possible by removing all the wasted time and to make it as simple as possible.

I am a beginner of Japanese (3 years in the making) and have dabbled in Mandarin and Korean. However, since I have a Thai family I speak Thai on a daily basis and am fully connected to Thailand no matter where I live in the world. So Thai will always be with me. If you are on a similar journey or potentially will be, then keep reading...

Why you should learn Thai?

1. It gives you the ability to converse with Thai people: Have you ever been to a party where everyone is speaking another language and you are nodding your head in agreement wondering what the heck everyone is yapping about. Even having the basics like chon gâaeo ชนแก้ว or sawatdii krap สวัสดีครับ (male) /sawatdii ka สวัสดีค่ะ (female) will make the whole process so much better and fun. While exchanging a friendly gesture of trying to learn the Thai language, the Thai people will respect this and open up. Moreover, as the small conversation is now on your side you may learn even more Thai words.

2. More likely to find the other half: Don't be worried about making a mistake and ultimately ruining the party as you have previously heard horror stories of similar tone words getting the whole meaning wrong. Just go with the flow and try your best because in reality, Thai people can understand what you are trying to say from the context of the discussion.

3. Self-improvement and a sense of achievement:What better way of gaining an additional skill than learning another language. Instead of waking up and reading the news in the morning, you can learn Thai each day for 15 minutes.Trust me. In 1 month you would have spent about 8 hours of studying which is enough to read this article and complete Thai Made Easy Level 1! And when you look back, you will find a great sense of achievement. So then compare the choice of knowing how many likes you have compared with understanding Thai. Easy answer in my opinion.

4. To be apart of the Thai culture: I remember attending a festival in Suphan Buri with my wife and family. There were many people and lots of monks who came to perform the ceremony. It was a great event however I didn't have a clue why I was doing it. My wife tried to explain but I only got the gist of it. Fast forward several years later where I spoke Thai and there was a funeral. Now in this instance, it wasn't as exciting as you can imagine. However, it was really interesting as in Thailand during a funeral, the funeral is performed at the relative's house for 3-7 days depending on their age that they pasted away. It was also when the football world cup was happening during the night! It was a sad event but I was able to speak with all of my wife's relatives, help with the set-up, and discuss life with the monk who came etc.... I was apart of the funeral organisation instead of the foreign guy in the corner, which I found to be a much better experience albeit as much as it could be at a funeral. However, Thai culture celebrates the passing to the next world so I ended up drinking some beers and watching England on a small TV set in the middle of the jungle with a few of the relatives.

5. Able to increase your earnings by speaking Thai: Thailand is one of the trickiest places to get a job. This is because you cannot work there without a visa and the visa will only be given for jobs that Thai people cannot do instead. This means that the only job you can get in Thailand is teaching English! This is not always true as I have met people who work in manufacturing, engineering, and job agencies, but these are rarities. Once you go down the English teaching route you find that in order to earn more than 30,000 baht (~800 GBP) per month you need an English teaching certificate from your own country which takes 1 year with a bachelor's degree! AND you need to get into a school who gives you the job! Most foreigners tend not to do this and are happy with the 30,000 baht per month by getting a TEFL or equivalent certificate. Once you realise that you can teach part-time for 500 baht per hour in addition to your English teaching job you can live well in Thailand. However, you can increase your hourly rate to 700 baht or more - just because you speak Thai. The real reason for this is because parents pay for the privilege that their English speaking teacher also speaks Thai. Which is a win-win: You get paid more money The parents show that their teacher can also speak Thai during their casual conversation with their neighbour. The children who you are teaching learn English quicker as you can understand and answer their English queries.

6. The be the apart of the few: Not to show off - but it is a nice feeling when Thais are shocked (dtok jai mot) when they hear a foreigner speak Thai. Most people who visit Thailand learn the basics and understand how to say:

Please (xxxx)
Thank you (xxx)
Hello (xxx)
Can I have another (xxx)
What is your name? (xxx)
Where is the toilet? (xxx)
Numbers (xxx, xxx, xxx...)

The reason for this is because it looks and sounds so difficult. There are 5 tones and squealy writing. But between me and you, it really is pretty simple and systematic.

History of the Thai Language

Ancient Thailand:

20th Century Thailand:

21st Century Thailand xxxxx

Thai Grammar Basics

1. Simplier than English. No need for 'the', 'a', plural  etc.

2. Car White instead of a white car.

3. Just put leeo, ja, are daai to make the sentence past, present, or future.

The Great Things about the Thai Culture

1. Food
2. Buddhism
3. Life

How difficult is learning Thai?

1. They have an alphabet
2. The grammar is super easy.
3. Need to adjust to tones

The Thai Writing System

To be able to read and write Thai you need to know 44 consonants and more than 32 vowels. When compared to 26  consonants and 5 vowels in the English language it may seem like a lot. But actually it not that bad and the reason I say this is that when you look at a few of the 44 consonants in a Thai dictionary there are many that are not used anymore or have limited words used for them. With this in mind, we can reduce this to 36 consonants. Moreover, many of these consonants are pronounced the same i.e. s, s, s. This means we are able to pronounce each them of them as they replicate what we know in English except for the 'ng' sound. A summary of the Thai consonants is given below. They are highlighted based on its own class which is used to determine the tone of the word:

Don't worry once you know the rules its copy and paste thereafter.

Thai Consonants

2. Vowels

3. Combine the two and that's it!

Avoid my 5 Major Mistakes when learning Thai

1. If you can avoid transliterations.

2. 90% of the online resources are incorrect

3. Trying to understand different Thai dialects

4. Listening to unqualified teachers

5. Analysing the tones too much

The Method to Learn Thai Fast!

1. In a perfect world learn the Thai alphabet - no transliterations 

2. To speak ASAP and begin talking with the most common sentences.

3. Getting taught correctly from the beginning.

Online Thai Resource Jungle

1. My online course and blog is just the beginning.

2. What I recommend.

Get speaking Thai and enjoy the journey

1. To be afraid to start speaking straight away and forget about the tones (for now).

2. Every Thai person loves a foreigner learning Thai (just not when they are fluent :))

3. You could read in 2 weeks and be able to converse in 3-6 months.


Learning Thai is one of the most challenging and best things I ever did when living in Thailand...

Senior Engineer in the Energy Industry.
Masters in Petroleum Engineering and Renewables.
Senior Engineer in the Energy Industry.
Masters in Petroleum Engineering and Renewables.
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