Learn Thai and be prepared before landing!
Thailand is known as ‘land of smile’ or in the past as ‘Venice of the East’. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia. This kingdom is rich in its culture and is full of places of attraction to visit, ranging from historical sites of Ayutthaya to natural scenery like waterfall in the North and sea beaches in the South. Besides natural and historical sites, many Singaporeans are rather attracted to shopping places. Particularly during Amazing Thailand promotional period, more people visit there to get things at much reasonable prices. But most importantly, foreigners can feel the warmth of the Thais’ friendliness and thus always want to come back again. Though it is possible to go to Thailand without any knowledge of Thai language, simple Thai phrases would make your trip even more enjoyable as the locals would be more than pleased to serve you if you speak to them with even a little Thai.
In Singapore, Thai culture is also highly appreciated. Thai food outlets are commonly found across the island. Muay Thai – Thailand national sport is practiced worldwide. Thai movies, particularly horror films and comedies, are well received by Singapore audiences. Perhaps with some Thai knowledge, you can enjoy these movies even up to the maximum content, as some of the Thai jokes may not make sense to you in the English sub-titles.
Singapore and Thai has maintained a close friendly relationship for decades, ever since the establishment of ASEAN in 1967 together with Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines as founding members. With the grand opening of AEC, Thai will even be more important, aside to English, in strengthening the ties between nations.
Overview of the Thai Language
Thai is spoken by the majority of the population in Thailand, as well as by Thai community in other countries. Thai is also mutually intelligible with its neighbor, Lao. Linguists disagree on the number of Thai dialects in existence. Some linguists believe that some Thai speak regional languages or dialects while many others believe that a large percentage of Thai speakers actually speak some regional variant of Standard Thai; Lanna, spoken in the Thailand’s Northern provinces, is also called Northern Thai; and Isan, which is spoken in northeastern Thailand, is also called Northeastern Thai. The question of dialects is further complicated by the fact that Lao, the language spoken in Laos, is also basically the same spoken language as Isan but written in slightly different looking script. People living in the peninsular south speak Southern Thai and majority living in the central Thailand speak Central Thai which form the national standard. There are also still minority groups such as hill tribes in the north and the northeast who speak their own tribal languages which are totally different language from the Thai dialect continuum, but almost everyone does, at least, understand basic Standard (Central) Thai.
Thai, which is sometimes referred to as Siamese, is part of the Tai-Kadai language family. The languages in this family are thought to be descended from Tai tribe in Southern China. The origin of the Thai alphabet is debated by linguists, but it is likely that its roots spring from Southern India and created based on Khmer script. Through the centuries, Mon, Khmer, Sanskrit, and Pali have all influenced the Thai language in both vocabulary and grammatical structures. More recently, Chinese and English words relating to business, commerce, and cuisine have been integrated into the language.
Formal and Informal ways of Addressing a person in the Thai Language
English speakers will notice that there are different ways to address people to show varying degrees of respect or to acknowledge a person’s social rank. For example, there are particles that can be added at the end of a sentence to indicate deference to the person being spoken to, or to communicate the speaker’s opinion about what is being described. There are also different words for personal pronouns such as ‘I’ and ‘you’ depending on the person’s gender, age and social hierarchy.
Thai is a tonal language, which means that the same word can convey different meanings depending on the tone with which it is pronounced. There are five tones: low, high, mid-pitch, rising, and falling. Four of these tones are indicated by signs over the consonants, while the fifth is indicated by the absence of a sign. As a tonal language, Thai is devoid of inflection (such as the rising voice an English speaker might use to show that he is asking a question). Instead, mood, questions, negation, and other parts of speech are constructed by adding certain words to sentences.
Some aspects of Thai grammar are far simpler than in other languages. For example, there are no gendered or numbered nouns and no grammatical cases. There are also no verb conjugations in Thai. The same verb form is used regardless of the subject or tense of the sentence. Instead, distinctions between tenses are marked by adverbs and expressions of time or by the context of the sentence. Overall, Thai is not a very difficult language to pick up.
Most Thai words are monosyllabic. More complex words generally may be formed by combining two monosyllabic words. There are, however, some polysyllabic words, especially those borrowed from Sanskrit, English, and other languages that cannot be broken down into monosyllabic components.