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3 Tips For Speaking Thai Like A Native Speaker


When learning a new language, everyone should have an ultimate goal to work towards. Whether you want to be able to connect with a Thai relative, easily order food while traveling, or take part in a spiritual journey in the kingdom, having an end goal for your learning can be very motivating. One of the more popular but difficult examples of this is learning to speak Thai like a native speaker. You would easily become the life of the party if people heard you, as a foreigner, speak like a local. So what ways can you work towards this goal? That is what we will be looking into today. Here are 3 tips you should follow to start speaking Thai like a native speaker.

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Tip 1. Focus On Vocabulary

Man studying

If your goal is to speak like a native, it is easy to get carried away by focusing on speaking and pronunciation. However, what is often overlooked is how big a role vocabulary plays. Your choice of words will reveal a lot about your understanding of the language. 

Anyone who has used a phrasebook for a language has likely come across a situation where they have said something, only to get back the dreaded look of confusion. While what you said may technically be correct, it may have been inappropriate for the situation or just not commonly used. Imagine saying ‘greetings’ to a close friend instead of just saying ‘hey’ or something along those lines. 

This concept is especially important in a language like Thai where there are different words you should use based on who you are speaking with and their social standing. You definitely do not want to sound rude. Try to listen and distinguish how people talk to their friends and how they talk to their superiors – that should help give you an idea of how to talk with others in a more authentic way. 

It is also worth mentioning that Thai can be seen as quite a laid back language in that it is possible to remove words from sentences or phrases and still have them make sense and, importantly, be understood. Pronouns are a prime example of this as they can often be removed if they are obvious from context. 

Colloquialisms and slang are also commonly used in Thai. As this sort of vocabulary is always evolving, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest words. Things like this are something you can only learn by talking with a local Thai person, making them an invaluable resource. Ultimately, knowing the appropriate vocabulary to use for each situation will really help you sound like you know what you are doing.

Tip 2. Perfect Your Accent

Pair of women talking

There are many different layers that go into learning Thai pronunciation. First, Thai is a tonal language, where a change in pitch can completely change the meaning of a word. Then there is the fact that Thailand is a very large country, and so people from one area of the country will sound different from those in another. So what is the best way to listen to the wide range of accents and different pronunciations? That’s right – through video and audio sources.

YouTube in this case is a goldmine, as there are people from all walks of life uploading to the platform. Whether through an educational video or a random vlog, you will start to hear the subtle (and not so subtle) differences in their speech. Everyone speaks in a unique way based on numerous factors. If you are able to replicate this, then you will definitely sound more like a legitimate Thai speaker.

Unless you have a particular reason for learning a more specific type of accent, you would be better off learning the more basic form. In Thailand, this would be Central Thai, which is seen as the standard for the country. Sure, it would be interesting to learn the Isaan way of speaking but for the purposes of having the most people understand you, Central Thai is your best bet.

Tip 3. Copy What You Hear

Woman listening to her headphones

Do you remember how you learnt to speak as a child? It was rare to learn a new word just by reading or listening. Instead, we would imitate what we hear by saying it out loud. While you are talking to a Thai friend, watching videos and listening to audio in Thai, you can do this and try to replicate the way they speak.

This method enables you to master several things: the flow of the language, the accent, and the pronunciation. Of course, you can also learn some new vocabulary this way. Repetition can be a great way to remember things, after all.

Try doing this using a number of different mediums and sources. That way, you will be exposed to the diversity that the language offers and master the fundamentals of pronunciation. So yes, watch and imitate several different YouTube videos and audio CDs, but try a few different sources to help you cover the nuances of the Thai language. 

For example, the Ling app is a great option for learning to speak Thai through imitation. As a companion, it helps to promote proper pronunciation using speaking activities. The voice samples used in the app are all from native Thai speakers as well, allowing you to hear the authentic sound of spoken Thai and imitate them accordingly. Pair this with the chatbot feature which walks you through a typical conversation with voice clips and you are well set to perfect your pronunciation of Thai and take another step closer to native-level speaking.

Take Your Thai Ability To The Next Level

The ability to speak Thai like a native is a popular goal for many people learning Thai. There is no better feeling than saying something perfectly when the people you are talking to are expecting basic level or broken Thai. With these four tips, you should find that you are able to enhance your Thai speaking ability much closer to a native level. With some time and persistence, you may just end up sounding like you have lived in the country your whole life. Now that would be something to feel pride in.

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