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How Long Does it Take to Learn Thai?

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If you’re like most aspiring language learners, you’ve probably asked this all-too-common question at some point: How long does it take to learn Thai? 

Thai is not an easy language to learn, especially for a native English speaker. You’ll have to learn a whole new reading and writing system, study a new set of grammar rules, and—most difficult of all—get the hang of Thai pronunciation. Fortunately, the grammar part is pretty simple as there’s no verb conjugation to worry about (tense, mood, and gender play no role here).  

Taking the language’s difficulty into consideration, what kind of time commitment should you expect? 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the three different levels of Thai fluency: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. For each level, we will provide a list of abilities the learner should have at that stage (based on the CU-TFL test for non-native speakers). In addition, we’ll talk about the different factors that can influence your progress and give you tips on how to learn the Thai language faster. 

Let’s go!

How Long Does It Take to Learn Thai?
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Thai Table of Contents
  1. Factors That Affect Your Thai Language Learning
  2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner Level?
  3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Intermediate Level?
  4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Advanced Level?
  5. Conclusion

1. Factors That Affect Your Thai Language Learning

Before we get ahead of ourselves, you should know that there’s no concrete answer regarding how long it takes to learn Thai. There are many factors that can affect your Thai learning progress:

  • Where you live.

    If you live in Thailand or visit the country often, you’ll naturally become more familiar with the Thai language. This frequent exposure will help you pick up basic words and phrases, and get you acquainted with Thai pronunciation.
  • Whether you have Thai people in your life.

    One of the best ways to gain Thai speaking skills is to practice with native speakers. If you have family members, friends, or colleagues who are Thai, you can pick up the language much more quickly!
  • Your reasons for learning the language.

    Why are you learning Thai? If you chose to learn Thai for personal reasons, such as interest in the culture or a loved one who speaks the language, you’re more likely to learn it well!
  • Your opportunities to use Thai.

    The more you use the language, the better your language skills will become. By practicing what you learn, you’re allowing yourself to internalize the information and concepts—the ultimate key to success!
  • Your learning ability.

    Is langu1age learning your specialty, or are you better at math and science? Are you a fast learner in general? How’s your memory? Your learning experience and abilities have a massive effect on how long it will take you to learn Thai.
  • Your learning resources and methods.

    Who’s teaching you Thai? What materials are you using? Having good Thai learning resources for your studies is like having a good car for driving: It will help you get to your destination faster and with fewer issues.

To put it simply: If you’re in a good environment for learning Thai, you can learn it faster.

2. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Beginner Level?

So, how long does it take to learn basic Thai? 

It should take around 500 hours (20 weeks if you study 25 hours a week).  

Thai Skills Needed for Beginner Level

In order to reach the beginner level, there are a few skills you’ll need to master. 

Reading: 

  • Memorize all characters of the Thai script. 
  • Memorize the vocabulary used in daily life.
  • Understand basic phrases and sentences. 
  • Read and understand signs written in basic language.
  • Understand basic written orders and instructions.
  • Understand vocabulary associated with the characteristics of objects, people, and places.

Listening: 

  • Understand short, simple sentences.
  • Understand the phrases used in day-to-day conversations.
  • Memorize key phrases used during social interactions.

Speaking: 

  • Use simple words and sentence structures to make basic conversation. 
  • Communicate effectively in daily life.

Writing: 

  • Write simple words, phrases, or sentences used in daily life.
  • You tend to use the same simple sentence structures over and over again.
  • You will probably make a lot of spelling and spacing mistakes.  

Learning Tips for Beginners

500 hours is a long time! But luckily for you, we’re here with some tips on how to learn basic Thai more effectively. 

  • Memorize all 44 consonants and 21 vowels early on.

    Instead of learning with romanization, you should learn all of the Thai characters right from the start. Doing so will make Thai pronunciation easier for you to master. A great way to really internalize them is to listen to and repeat after the alphabet songs Thai children listen to.
  • Practice the five tones.

    The hardest part of learning Thai is the pronunciation, especially when it comes to the tones. In Thai, the consonant and vowel sounds combine with one of five tones in order to form different words. Practicing these five tones early on will help you become familiar with them from the start, and help you make faster progress later on!
  • Memorize the most important vocabulary used in daily life.

    Beginner-level students should be able to make and understand day-to-day conversations, so it’s very important to remember key vocabulary. Using flashcards and trying to remember words and phrases based on category is a great idea at this point.
  • Listen to Thai songs.

    Listening to Thai songs is a great way to become familiar with the pronunciation, even if you can’t understand the lyrics. This is an enjoyable study method that you can do at the same time as other activities: during your morning routine, on the way to work, while exercising, etc. It won’t take long for you to find yourself pleasantly surprised at how much vocabulary you’ve picked up through songs!
I Love Thai Songs.
  • Watch educational kids’ shows or cartoons.

    Even Thai children pick up the language through educational shows and cartoons, which makes this a wonderful learning resource for non-native beginners.
  • Read kids’ tales or stories.

    Stories for children are often written using simple language, which makes them good for both reading and pronunciation practice.

How ThaiPod101 Can Help

ThaiPod101.com is the best place to learn Thai online. In addition to our recommended lesson pathways for beginners, we have plenty of fun and effective resources you can take advantage of from Day One! 

  • Our Thai Alphabet Video

    If you’ve just started learning Thai, we recommend beginning with our Thai alphabet video. As mentioned earlier, learning the Thai alphabet should be your first priority as this will speed up your progress and make your continued studies easier. We have a few lessons and articles on our website covering this topic, but many new students benefit from visual and auditory learning. Click the link above to visit our Thai alphabet video on YouTube!
  • ThaiPod101 YouTube Channel

    Speaking of YouTube, have you been to our channel? We provide fun, engaging content on a range of topics, from vocabulary and pronunciation to culture!
  • Flashcards

    Wondering how to learn Thai vocabulary effectively? Use the spaced repetition flashcards on our website to memorize new words and phrases via a proven method!
  • Painless Thai Grammar

    Our Painless Thai Grammar lesson is the perfect place to get some useful tips on how to learn the more difficult grammar concepts. However, we also have tons of other lessons on various Thai grammar points! You may find it useful to write three original sentences after each lesson, applying the concept(s) you just learned; this will help you ensure you understood the lesson correctly.
  • Introduction to Thai Writing

    If you aren’t sure how to learn Thai writing, we recommend visiting our Introduction to Thai Writing page. Here, you’ll find all of the information you need to know as a beginner. Learning to write in Thai will be even easier with the help of a native speaker, so you may want to upgrade to Premium PLUS and utilize our MyTeacher service. This way, you can practice writing sentences and then send them to your personal teacher for feedback!
Write Three Original Sentences for Your Teacher.
  • Ultimate Thai Pronunciation Guide

    Another page you should visit is our Ultimate Thai Pronunciation Guide. This lesson will provide you with all of the basics you need to know, so you can get a good headstart on your learning. It will be hard to get the pronunciation and tones correct by yourself, so you should record yourself speaking and send the audio to your teacher for feedback.

3. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Intermediate Level?

How long does it take to learn intermediate-level Thai? It should take around 1,100 hours (44 weeks if you study 25 hours a week). Following is a breakdown of what you should know… 

Thai Skills Needed for Intermediate Level

To complete the intermediate level, here are the Thai language skills you need to have. 

Reading:

  • Understand short essays or stories on topics that interest you (or that you’re specialized in) with long and complicated sentences.   
  • Identify the main idea of an essay or story. 
  • Understand the context of a sentence.

Listening:  

  • Understand stories when spoken in a clear fashion at normal speed.
  • You might still be unable to understand long and complicated stories.

Speaking: 

  • Use both formal and informal language when speaking, and offer opinions on topics that are familiar to you.
  • Communicate with Thai people on less-familiar topics (though you might struggle) and use some non-verbal language.

Writing:  

  • Write essays with a good flow in terms of time, ideas, and logic.
  • Use conjunctions in essays and other texts.
  • Describe, explain, and give information via writing.
  • You might still make some mistakes in spelling, spacing, and word choice.

Learning Tips for Intermediate-Level Students

Reaching this level is a huge time commitment, but we have a few tips on how to learn Thai more quickly. 

  • Read short stories or essays on topics that interest you.

    To write well, you should start by reading so you become more familiar with sentence structure and how to use conjunctions. By reading stories or essays that match your interests, you’ll make the process more enjoyable and might be able to memorize even more vocabulary.
  • Translate short stories or essays.

    This will allow you to pick up more useful vocabulary and become familiar with things like conjunctions and essay structures. As with the tip above, you should make sure to pick short stories or essays on topics that fascinate you. For example, if you like cooking, try translating your special recipe into Thai.
  • Watch Thai TV shows, movies, or dramas.

    Watching Thai TV shows, movies, or dramas is a great way to practice listening and become more familiar with how Thai people speak in various situations.
Thai Movies Are Fun.

How ThaiPod101 Can Help 

ThaiPod101.com has plenty of useful resources for intermediate learners, too! Here are just a few recommended pages and tools for you. 

  • 5 Tips to Reach Intermediate Level 

    If you’re feeling stuck at the beginner stage, listen to these five tips from Alisha on how to finally move forward to the intermediate level.
  • Intermediate-Level YouTube Videos

    Of course, our YouTube channel features plenty of fun and educational videos designed for intermediate-level learners. Check it out!

4. How Long Does it Take to Achieve Advanced Level?

To become completely fluent in Thai, you’ll need to put in a whopping 2,500 hours (100 weeks if you study 25 hours a week). Here’s everything you should know about reaching the advanced level. 

Thai Skills Needed for Advanced Level

Reading:

  • Understand both academic and non-academic texts on a variety of topics, featuring both complex and simple sentences. 
  • Know and be able to use Thai idioms, proverbs, and other sayings that aren’t used much in daily life.

Listening: 

  • Understand both academic and non-academic stories, even when the speaker talks quickly. 
  • Understand the tone of the speaker and the cultural/societal context within the story. 

Speaking: 

  • Use formal/informal language as required by the situation. 
  • Communicate well on a variety of topics. 
  • Give explanations and opinions, influence and persuade others, and make compromises. 
  • Use all Thai vocabulary and grammar correctly, including slang, idioms, and proverbs.
  • Have a good understanding of Thai culture and apply this to your speech. 

Writing:

  • Write essays on various topics.
  • Explain, discuss, share opinions, and do creative writing.
  • Use suitable words and sentence structures, as well as idioms, proverbs, and other Thai sayings.
  • Write essays with good flow in terms of time, ideas, and logic, with a solid conclusion at the end.

Learning Tips for Advanced Students

  • Read and summarize academic essays.

    You likely have no problem with non-academic topics at this point, so you should focus on the academic part. By reading and summarizing essays written in Thai, you can learn new words and structures and practice writing.
  • Watch or listen to Thai news.

    Listening to something more formal like the news will help you become familiar with academic vocabulary that’s less common in daily life.
  • Watch Thai TV shows, movies, or dramas in various genres.

    Watching Thai movies and shows is a great way to practice your listening and become more familiar with Thai culture. It will also expose you to various Thai accents, and give you a better idea of how idioms and proverbs are used in different contexts.
  • Debate on various topics.

    Try debating with your Thai friends on various topics. This will help you practice explaining concepts, giving your opinions, influencing others, persuading your audience, and making compromises.
Let’s Debate on Which Is the Healthier Way to Cook: Boiling or Steaming?

How ThaiPod101 Can Help

  • Conversation Starters for Advanced Listeners

    Knowing how to start and hold conversations is a crucial skill for advanced-level learners. In our Conversation Starters for Advanced Learners series, you can listen to various Thai-related stories to improve your listening and speaking skills.
  • Must-Know Thai Slang Words & Phrases

    Knowing how to use slang, idioms, and proverbs is a major step forward. In our Must-Know Thai Slang Words & Phrases series, you’ll be able to learn phrases you wouldn’t find in a textbook—from sayings about personalities and electronics, to words you can use to sound cuter!
  • Advanced-Level YouTube Videos

    Finally, our YouTube channel has plenty of videos geared toward advanced-level learners. Pick up more complex phrases and sentences, dive deeper into various grammar concepts, discover more about Thai culture, and have fun the entire time!

Conclusion

By this point, we’re sure that you have a better idea of how long it takes to learn Thai. What are your thoughts on the topic? If you’ve already started learning Thai, please comment below to let your fellow language learners know how long it took you to get where you are!

Since you’re reading this article, you’re surely interested in the Thai language and/or culture. ThaiPod101.com has an array of fun but practical lessons and materials you’re sure to enjoy going through! Create your free lifetime account today to get the most out of your time studying with us, and see your progress soar.

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Is Thai Difficult to Learn? (And Tips to Succeed!)

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If you’re interested in learning the Thai language but haven’t started yet, you may be wondering: “Is Thai difficult to learn?” We’re here to tell you that learning Thai may not be as hard as you think it is!  

There are certain things that make the Thai language hard to learn, and for these, you’ll need to spend some time studying and practicing. But there are also many other aspects that are pretty simple and straightforward! You may feel a little doubtful about this, as the Thai alphabet, grammar, pronunciation, and so on, are new to you. But you’ll get familiar with these things in no time once you start learning with ThaiPod101.com.  

There are many foreigners who can speak and understand Thai so well, after just a few years, that even native speakers are surprised. So with some time, practice, and the right tools, anyone can learn to speak Thai. Yes, that includes you!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Learning Thai Table of Contents
  1. The Hardest and Easiest Parts of Learning Thai
  2. I Want to Learn Thai. Where Should I Start?
  3. Advice for a New Thai Learner
  4. Why is ThaiPod101.com Great for Learning Thai?
  5. Conclusion

1. The Hardest and Easiest Parts of Learning Thai 

In the following sections, we’ll cover the easiest aspect of Thai first, and then the hardest! Let’s go. 

What Makes Thai Easy?

Many language-learners dread the grammar aspect of their studies, and for good reasons! As such, you’ve probably been wondering: “Is Thai grammar hard?” 

Good news: It’s not difficult at all! It’s probably the easiest part of learning Thai.  

This is because there are no tenses or conjugations in Thai, so there’s a lot less to understand and remember.  You don’t have to learn how to change verb forms or swap around the sentence structure from one situation to another. For example:

Present simple tense:  

ฉันกินอาหารไทย
chǎn-gin-aa-hǎan-thai
“I eat Thai food.”

Present continuous tense

ฉันกำลังกินอาหารไทย
chǎn-gam-lang-gin-aa-hǎan-thai
“I am having Thai food.”

Adding กำลัง (gam-lang), which is like “ing” in English, shows that you’re in the process of doing the action.

Past simple tense:  

เมื่อวานฉันกินอาหารไทย
mûuea-waan-chǎn-gin-aa-hǎan-thai
“Yesterday, I had Thai food.”

Adding เมื่อวาน (mûuea-waan), which means “yesterday” in Thai,  shows that the action happened in the past.

Yesterday, I had Thai Food.

Future simple tense:  

วันพรุ่งนี้ฉันจะกินอาหารไทย
wan-phrûng-níi-chǎn-jà-gin-aa-hǎan-thai
“Tomorrow, I will have Thai food.”

Adding วันพรุ่งนี้ (wan-phrûng-níi), which means “tomorrow” in Thai, shows that this is a plan for the future. Adding จะ () shows that you will do it.

You can see that there’s not much difference between the four sentences above. That just goes to show how difficult it is to learn Thai language grammar. (Not at all, right? ^^)

Why is Thai Hard to Learn?

The hardest part of learning Thai is the การออกเสียง (gaan-àawk-sǐiang), or “pronunciation.” 

The biggest problem here is the เสียงวรรณยุกต์ (sǐiang-wan-ná-yúk), or “tones.” There are five tones in the Thai language, and foreigners often have difficulty distinguishing between them, thinking they all sound the same. For example:

  • ป้าดูปลาในป่า 
  • phâa-duu-phlaa-nai-phàa
  • “Aunt looks at fish in the forest.”
  • For foreigners who have just started learning Thai, it can be hard to differentiate between the words ป้า (phâa), ปลา (phla), and ป่า (phàa).

So, is it hard to learn to speak Thai? It certainly can be, but it’s still very achievable! 

Learning how to pronounce the Thai alphabet and tones correctly will help a lot, as it will create a strong foundation for your future studies. And by listening to plenty of Thai content, you’ll become more familiar with Thai pronunciation, making this portion of your studies a bit simpler.

2. I Want to Learn Thai. Where Should I Start?

When you start learning Thai, you should start with the most basic units, which are the พยัญชนะ (phá-yan-chá-ná) or “consonants,” and สระ (sà-rà) or “vowels.” Learning how to pronounce and write the Thai alphabet will enable you to read and write Thai with little problem, and make your conversations a lot smoother.

If you’ve been studying and practicing with the Thai alphabet for a while, and still struggle with reading, writing, or pronunciation, you may need to practice some more. Mastering the Thai alphabet right from the start will make the rest of your language-learning journey so much easier.

Learning the Thai Alphabet

At the same time, you should also start practicing basic conversational phrases and learn easy Thai words.  Learning new words along with the conversational phrases will make the words easier to remember. Not to mention how useful basic phrases can be in daily life! 

3. Advice for a New Thai Learner   

Learning a new language is not an easy thing to do. Here are a few tips for you.

1 – Listen to lots of Thai content

Whether it’s a Thai song, TV series, news station, or drama film, listen to your target language as much as possible. Even if you don’t understand anything you’re hearing, you’ll start to become more familiar with Thai pronunciation and tones. And it’s even better with subtitles! This will allow you to more easily learn vocabulary and sentence structures while enjoying yourself!

I Watch Thai Movies Everyday.

2 – Find something you like about Thai

Learning any language takes time, and this is especially true for a language very different from your own, like Thai. You can’t master Thai in just a few days!  

That said, it’s easier to do something for a long time if that thing interests you. You should find something you like about Thai so that you can develop a passion for learning the language. 

For example, if you like a certain Thai actor, you’ll enjoy watching that actor in a movie or TV drama—and you’ll be able to learn Thai at the same time! You’ll also want to understand what he said in an interview or behind the scenes, which will motivate you to learn the language.  

It doesn’t have to be a person, though. There are many other Thai-related topics that may interest you: TV shows, culture, food, desserts, or even ghost stories. You just need to look for it, because we guarantee you’ll find something!

3 – Be patient

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

As mentioned earlier, you can’t master any new language in only a few days, so you have to be patient when learning Thai.  

You may find it a bit tough and not very enjoyable at first because everything is new and there’s a lot to take in. There are a lot of letters to remember, several pronunciation rules you need to memorize, and the tones are driving you crazy. But that’s just because you’re not familiar with the Thai language yet. As you start to understand Thai, you’ll feel very satisfied with yourself and your language skills. 

There’s a saying in Thai: ความพยายามอยู่ที่ไหน ความสำเร็จอยู่ที่นั้น (khwaam-phá-yaa-yaam- yùu-thîi-nǎi khwaam-sǎm-rèt-yùu-thîi-nân). It means that if you keep trying, you’ll be successful. In other words: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” So next time you feel like giving up, just remember these words.

4 – Choose the right learning tools

Have you ever seen chefs in five-star restaurants using dull knives? No, they use high-quality knives and keep them sharp. Their cooking may not depend on the knife they use, but having a good sharp one will make the job a lot easier! 

The same is true for learning Thai. If you’ve been learning Thai for a while, and still find it very difficult, you may be using the wrong tool. 

Good books used to be enough, but nowadays, everything you need to learn Thai is at your fingertips when you use ThaiPod101.com. ThaiPod101.com is like a knowledgeable teacher, a friend who gets you interested in Thai culture, and an encouraging mentor all wrapped up into one person. So don’t hesitate to visit and learn more about us! 

4. Why is ThaiPod101.com Great for Learning Thai?

ThaiPod101.com is a fast, fun, and easy way to learn Thai. Below, we’ll give you just a few reasons to give us a try: 

1 – A variety of lessons and materials

We provide various Thai lessons for learners at every level. For example, our page on the Easy Way to Learn the Thai Alphabet for beginners, and our Thai Language Exam article for more advanced students.

We also have audio lessons so that you can hear how Thai people speak, improve your listening skills, and practice your pronunciation. And don’t forget our handy vocabulary lists, categorized by topic. Examples include Talking About YouTube and Useful Words and Phrases for Going to the Movies. You’ll also find a grammar bank on our website (which contains almost 400 grammar topics you can learn) and printable PDF lesson notes for you to review after lessons.  

And by upgrading to a Premium PLUS account, you’ll be able to communicate one-on-one with your own personal teacher. Your teacher will be more than happy to help with your Thai learning and provide you with the tools and encouragement you need to succeed.  

With these abundant materials, ThaiPod101.com is the best and easiest way to learn Thai! 

2 – Learn Thai 24/7

You don’t need to meet your teacher face-to-face to learn Thai. With internet access and a mobile phone, tablet, or PC, you can access all of our Thai lessons through ThaiPod101.com—anytime, wherever you are.

I Can Learn Thai 24/7

3 – Flexible learning plans for individuals

ThaiPod101.com provides the most flexible Thai class you can join. If you don’t know where to start, we can provide you with guidance and suggestions, tailored to your current level and your goals. But you can also plan your lessons based on your interests, strengths, and weaknesses. In addition,  you can always repeat a lesson if you forgot something or didn’t quite understand the topic. Learn at your own pace, your way! 

4 – Pronunciation practice

Learning Thai pronunciation is the hardest part of learning the language. As such, you may be concerned that learning Thai online will take away from your ability to practice pronunciation. Don’t worry! ThaiPod101.com has a pronunciation and accent review function for you to practice with. You can keep practicing until you get it right.

5 – Assignments, quizzes, and tests

Don’t leave yet! Even though assignments, quizzes, and tests are typically boring and unwelcome, you can’t deny that completing assignments and quizzes improves our understanding and shows us where we need to do better. And don’t worry: there’s not much pressure when completing them, like there would be in a traditional classroom.

6 – Daily learning encouragement

If you’re a student, we know that you probably have tons of homework to do, tests to prepare for, and recreational activities to attend to stay sane. If you’re a full-time worker, finding time to learn a new language can be an issue when there are work responsibilities and other things you need to do. We understand and will encourage you to learn Thai little by little with us. There are even short lessons you can complete daily—we’ll even remind you to do them. 😉

7 – Cultural knowledge

ThaiPod101.com also provides information about Thai culture: how Thai people live, act, and think in daily life.  These lessons are interesting for both Thai learners and foreigners who are living in Thailand. 

Learn More about Thai Culture.

5. Conclusion

At this point, we hope that if someone asks you whether the Thai language is easy or hard, you’ll let them know it’s not that bad. 

It will take some time, but anyone can learn Thai. 

The best way to get started is to visit ThaiPod101.com and explore our many lessons and learning tools. We recommend starting with our Thai Alphabet Made Easy lessons.

Before you go, let us know in the comments if you feel ready to start learning Thai! If not, we’d love to hear your questions or concerns as well. 

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The Top 10 Common Thai Mistakes for Learners to Avoid

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In Thai, there’s a saying, ผิดเป็นครู (phìt-bpen-khruu), which means “learning from your mistakes.”  

Still, making mistakes can sometimes be embarrassing, so it’s better if you can avoid them in the first place.  Hence, this comprehensive guide on typical Thai language mistakes from ThaiPod101.com.

You’ll learn about mistakes in Thai grammar, vocabulary, word choice, and the appropriate use of Thai phrases. By the end of this article, you should be able to decrease the number of common Thai-English mistakes you make, or avoid them altogether!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Thai Table of Contents
  1. Similar Consonants
  2. Short and Long Vowel Sounds
  3. A Note on Tone Marks
  4. The Correct Tone for คะ (khá) and ค่ะ (khâ)
  5. False Friends
  6. ตัวผู้ (dtuua-phûu) is for Male Animals
  7. Word Order: Nouns and Adjectives
  8. Politeness Level
  9. Special Words for Monks
  10. Being Too Afraid to Speak
  11. Conclusion

1. Similar Consonants

A frequent mistake in Thai language-learning is that of confusing similar-sounding consonants. In Thai, there are many consonants that have similar sounds, and pronouncing them incorrectly can completely change the meaning of a word. Below are some examples.

1 – ข (kh) and ค (kh)

Despite having the same romanization, these two consonants have different sounds. ข (kh) sounds deeper than ค (kh), and if you use the wrong sound, this could happen:

Thai sentence: เนื้อปลาขาว ๆ น่ากินมาก
Thai pronunciation: núuea-bplaa-khǎao-khǎao-nâa-gin-mâak

Correct pronunciation meaning: “The white fish looks yummy.”
Incorrect pronunciation meaning: “The fishy fish looks yummy.”

Explanation:  

  • ขาว (khǎao) means “white” in Thai.
  • คาว (khaao) means “fishy” in Thai.

You can see that common pronunciation mistakes for Thai-learners like this one can be quite funny. 

We recommend that you listen to Thai people speaking often, so that you can learn how to pronounce these consonants correctly.

White Fish Sushi

The white fish looks yummy.

2 – ช (ch) and ฉ (ch)

Another pair of similar-sounding consonants is ช (ch) and ฉ (ch). 

Thai sentence: ฉิ่งเป็นเครื่องดนตรีไทย
Thai pronunciation: chìng-bpen-khrûueang-don-dtrii-thai

Correct pronunciation meaning: “The cymbal is a Thai musical instrument.”
Incorrect pronunciation meaning: “Running away is a Thai musical instrument.”

Explanation:  

Here’s another tip for avoiding typical Thai mistakes like this one: If there’s romanization, pay attention to the tone of the word. You may notice that, despite both words having the same tone mark, the tones are not the same.

3 – ถ (th) and ท (th)

The last pair of consonants is ถ (th) and ท (th). Here’s what a mistake in Thai might look like if you confuse them:

Thai sentence: คนให้ทั่ว ๆ นะ
Thai pronunciation: khon-hâi-thûua-thûua-ná

Correct pronunciation meaning: “Stir it thoroughly.”
Incorrect pronunciation meaning: “Stir it nut.”

Explanation:  

  • ทั่ว (thûua) means “thoroughly” in Thai.
  • ถั่ว (thùua) means “nut” in Thai.

Hopefully the examples and tips above will help you avoid these common mistakes English-speakers make in Thai!

2. Short and Long Vowel Sounds

Another common pronunciation mistake is to pronounce Thai vowels too short or too long. As there are many pairs of short and long vowels in Thai, it’s important that you pay close attention here. Pronouncing a word too short or too long can change its meaning.

1 – ุ (u) and ู (tuu)

Pronouncing ุ (u) and ู (tuu) incorrectly can lead to this weird situation:

Thai sentence: ดูเด็กคนนั้นสิ น่ารักจัง
Thai pronunciation: duu-dèk-khon-nán-sì nâa-rák-jang

Correct pronunciation meaning: “Look at that child, so cute.”
Incorrect pronunciation meaning: “Scold that child, so cute.”

Explanation:  

  • ดู (duu) means “look” in Thai.
  • ดุ () means “scold” in Thai.
Little Kid Counting on His Fingers

2 – ิ (i) and ี (ii)

ิ (i) and ี (ii) are another vowel sound pair that English-speakers often get confused by. See what happens if you use the wrong sound: 

Thai sentence: เขาเป็นช่างตีเหล็ก
Thai pronunciation: khǎo-bpen-châang-dtii-lèk

Correct pronunciation meaning: “He is a blacksmith.”
Incorrect pronunciation meaning: “He is a person who criticizes iron.”

Explanation:  

  • ตี (dtii) means “hit” in Thai.
  • ติ (dtì) means “criticize” in Thai.

3 – ะ (a) and า (aa)

The last example we’ll cover here is the pronunciation of ะ (a) and า (aa).

Thai sentence: วันนี้วันจันทร์
Thai pronunciation: wan-níi-wan-jan

Correct pronunciation meaning: “Today is Monday.”
Incorrect pronunciation meaning: “Today is Dish day.”

Explanation:  

  • จันทร์ (jan) means “moon,” or if it’s after วัน (wan), it means “Monday” in Thai.
  • จาน (jaan) means “dish” in Thai.

3. A Note on Tone Marks

Despite having the same name, you can’t use tone marks to define the tone of words. This is a common mistake in spoken Thai. There are many factors, other than tone marks, that affect the tone of a word. For example, initial consonants and vowel sounds. 

Example 1: ขา (khǎa), which means “leg” in Thai, has a rising tone despite having no tone mark.

Example 2: ซ้ำ (sám), which means “repeat,” in Thai, has a high tone despite having a falling tone mark.

Example 3: ฆ่า (khâa), which means “kill” in Thai, has a falling tone despite having a low tone mark.

4. The Correct Tone for คะ (khá) and ค่ะ (khâ)

In Thai, to be polite, females add คะ (khá) and ค่ะ (khà) to the end of sentences. However, many people use these incorrectly. This is the most common mistake in Thai, for both native Thai people and foreigners. Below are examples of how to use คะ (khá) and ค่ะ (khà) correctly.

1 – คะ (khá)

คะ (khá) is used in two conditions: 

  • After questions
  • After sentences that end with นะ ()

Example 1:  

กระดาษอยู่ที่ไหนคะ
grà-dàat-yùu-thîi-nǎi-khá
“Where is the paper?”

Example 2:  

อย่าทำแบบนี้อีกนะคะ
yàa-tham-bàaep-níi-ìik-ná-khá
“Don’t do this again.”

2 – ค่ะ (khâ)

ค่ะ (khâ) is used after affirmative and negative sentences.

Example 1:  

ฉันไม่กินเผ็ดค่ะ
chǎn-mâi-gin-phèt-khâ
I don’t eat spicy food.

Example 2:  

ฉันจะไปทะเลตอนสงกรานต์ค่ะ
chǎn-jà-bpai-thá-lee-dtaawn-sǒng-graan-khâ
“I will go to the sea during Songkran.”

Someone Swimming in the Sea with Scuba Diving Gear

5. False Friends

For those who can speak English, don’t be so happy to see or hear English words in Thai. The meanings may be very different! 

1 – Fit 

ฟิต (fít) is “too tight” in Thai, while in English, it means “not too tight or too loose.” 

  • กางเกงตัวนี้ใส่แล้วฟิตมาก 
    gaang-geeng-dtuua-níi-sài-láaeo-fít-mâak
    “These pants are too tight for me.”

2 – Over  

โอเวอร์ (oo-vôoe) is “exaggerate” in Thai, while in English, it means “end.” 

  • เรื่องที่เธอเล่ามันโอเวอร์มาก
    rûueang-thîi-thooe-lâo-man-oo-vôoe-mâak
    “The story you told is exaggerated.”

6. ตัวผู้ (dtuua-phûu) is for Male Animals

Another Thai word mistake you should know has to do with ตัวผู้ (dtuua-phûu). This word is used for male animals in Thai

When you start learning the language, you may learn that เมีย (miia) is “wife” in informal Thai and ผัว (phǔua) is “husband.” However, when it comes to animals, Thai people put ตัวเมีย (dtuua-miia) after the animal’s name to specify that the animal is female. You may see this, and think that you should use ตัวผัว (dtuua-phǔua) to specify that the animal is male, but this is incorrect! Instead, you should put ตัวผู้ (dtuua-phûu).

Example:  

  • สิงโตตัวผู้ (sǐng-dtoo-dtuua-phûu) is “male lion” in Thai.
  • สิงโตตัวเมีย (sǐng-dtoo-dtuua-miia) is “female lion” in Thai.
A Lion Roaring

7. Word Order: Nouns and Adjectives

Now, let’s talk about common Thai grammar mistakes that foreigners often make. 

In English, adjectives are put in front of nouns; in Thai, it’s the other way around.  

Example 1:  

ดอกไม้สีขาวมีกลิ่นหอม
dâawk-mái-sǐi-khǎao-mii-glìn-hǎawm
“The white flowers smell nice.”

A Bunch of Small White Flowers

Example 2:  

แม่ชอบผลไม้เปรี้ยว ๆ มากกว่าผลไม้หวาน ๆ
mâae-châawp-phǒn-lá-mái-bprîiao-bprîiao-mâak-gwàa-phǒn-lá-mái-wǎan-wǎan
“Mom likes sour fruit more than sweet fruit.”

8. Politeness Level

Politeness level is the source of many common Thai-English mistakes. In Thai, there are many words that mean the same thing but have different levels of politeness, which you may know already if you’ve studied Thai pronouns. Thus, it’s important to use the right words in the right situations. Using the wrong words can be both inappropriate and funny.

Example 1:  

คุณครูกินข้าวเที่ยงรึยังคะ
khun-khruu-gin-khâao-thîiang-rúe-yang-khá
“Have you had lunch yet?” (Talking to a teacher)

Explanation:  

The situation here is that a student is talking to a teacher. Thus, the student should ask the teacher this question in a polite manner. The student has already put คะ (khá) after the question, which is good. However, instead of using กิน (gin), it would have been better to use รับประทาน (ráp-bprà-thaan). And instead of using ข้าวเที่ยง (khâao-thîiang), the student should have used อาหารกลางวัน (aa-hǎan-glaang-wan).

Appropriate Thai sentence:  

คุณครูรับประทานอาหารกลางวันรึยังคะ
khun-khruu-thaan-aa-hǎan-glaang-wan-rúe-yang-khá
“Have you had lunch yet?” (Talking to a teacher)

Example 2:  

เธอมีบุตรกี่คน
thooe-mii-bùt-gìi-khon
“How many sons and daughters do you have?”

Explanation:  

Here, two friends are having a conversation. The speaker must be close to the other party, as there’s no ครับ (khráp) or คะ (khá) at the end of the sentence. In this case, using บุตร (bùt), which means “son” or “daughter,” is too polite. Instead, the speaker should have used ลูก (lûuk), which has the same meaning but sounds better.

Appropriate Thai sentence:  

เธอมีลูกกี่คน
thooe-mii-lûuk-gìi-khon
“How many sons and daughters do you have?”

9. Special Words for Monks

In Thai language, we have special words for monks which include pronouns and verbs. This is a part of คำราชาศัพท์ (kham-raa-chaa-sàp). Don’t be confused if you hear some words you are not familiar with when the topic involves monks in Thai.  Also, it is a good idea to learn basic words related to monks so that you won’t make common Thai mistakes.

Example 1:  

พระกำลังสวดมนต์อยู่
phrá-gam-lang-sùuat-mon-yùu
“The monks are praying.”

The Monks Are Praying

Explanation:  

สวดมนต์ (sùuat-mon) is “pray” in Thai, but it should be used with normal people. For monks, instead of using สวดมนต์ (sùuat-mon), Thai people use ทำวัตร (tham-wát).

Appropriate Thai sentence:  

พระกำลังทำวัตรอยู่
phrá-gam-lang-tham-wát-yùu
“The monks are praying.”

Example 2:  

พระไม่กินอาหารเย็น
phrá-mâi-gin-aa-hǎan-yen
“The monk didn’t have dinner.”

Explanation:  

กิน (gin) is “eat” in Thai, but it should be used with normal people. For monks, instead of using กิน (gin), Thai people use ฉัน (chǎn).

Appropriate Thai sentence:  

พระไม่ฉันอาหารเย็น
phrá-mâi-chǎn-aa-hǎan-yen
“The monk didn’t have dinner.”

10. Being Too Afraid to Speak

The biggest mistake in learning Thai is being too afraid to speak with natives. 

Don’t be afraid to speak, even if Thai people don’t seem to understand what you’re saying. Thai pronunciation is hard and Thai people know this. Actually, most Thai people find it cute when they hear foreigners trying to speak Thai, and they’ll try their best to understand. 

11. Conclusion

After finishing this lesson, we hope you can avoid making these common Thai mistakes. Have you ever made one of these Thai mistakes before? What did you feel? Let us know in the comments! 

Do you already know what you’re going to study next in your Thai learning? If you’re not sure, here are some suggestions:

Or you can visit ThaiPod101.com and choose another lesson that interests you.

Happy Thai learning!

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Thai Keyboard: How to Install and Type in Thai

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You asked, so we provided—easy-to-follow instructions on how to set up your electronic devices to write in Thai! We’ll also give you a few excellent tips on how to use this keyboard, as well as some online and app alternatives if you prefer not to set up a Thai keyboard.

Log in to Download Your Free Thai Alphabet Worksheet Table of Contents
  1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Thai
  2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Thai
  3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer
  4. How to Change the Language Settings to Thai on Your Computer
  5. Activating the Thai Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet
  6. Thai Keyboard Typing Tips
  7. How to Practice Typing Thai

1. Why it’s Important to Learn to Type in Thai

A keyboard

Learning a new language is made so much easier when you’re able to read and write/type it. This way, you will:

  • Get the most out of any dictionary and Thai language apps on your devices
  • Expand your ability to find Thai websites and use the various search engines
  • Be able to communicate much better online with your Thai teachers and friends, and look super cool in the process! 

2. Setting up Your Computer and Mobile Devices for Thai

A phone charging on a dock

It takes only a few steps to set up any of your devices to read and type in Thai. It’s super-easy on your mobile phone and tablet, and a simple process on your computer.

On your computer, you’ll first activate the onscreen keyboard to work with. You’ll only be using your mouse or touchpad/pointer for this keyboard. Then, you’ll need to change the language setting to Thai, so all text will appear in Thai. You could also opt to use online keyboards instead. Read on for the links!

On your mobile devices, it’s even easier—you only have to change the keyboard. We also provide a few alternatives in the form of online keyboards and downloadable apps.

3. How to Activate an Onscreen Keyboard on Your Computer

1- Mac

1. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Check the option “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in Menu Bar.”

3. You’ll see a new icon on the right side of the main bar; click on it and select “Show Keyboard Viewer.”

A screenshot of the keyboard viewer screen

2- Windows

1. Go to Start > Settings > Easy Access > Keyboard.

2. Turn on the option for “Onscreen Keyboard.”

3- Online Keyboards

If you don’t want to activate your computer’s onscreen keyboard, you also have the option to use online keyboards. Here are some good options:

4- Add-ons of Extensions for Browsers

Instead of an online keyboard, you could also choose to download a Google extension to your browser for a language input tool. The Google Input Tools extension allows users to use input tools in Chrome web pages, for example.

4. How to Change the Language Settings to Thai on Your Computer

Man looking at his computer

Now that you’re all set to work with an onscreen keyboard on your computer, it’s time to download the Thai language pack for your operating system of choice:

  • Windows 8 (and higher)
  • Windows 7
  • Mac (OS X and higher)

1- Windows 8 (and higher)

  1. Go to “Settings” > “Change PC Settings” > “Time & Language” > “Region & Language.”
  2. Click on “Add a Language” and select “Thai.” This will add it to your list of languages. It will appear as ไทย with the note “language pack available.”
  3. Click on “ไทย” > “Options” > “Download.” It’ll take a few minutes to download and install the language pack.
  4. As a keyboard layout, you’ll only need the one marked as “Thai – ไทย.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts.

2- Windows 7

1. Go to Start > Control Panel > Clock, Language, and Region.

2. On the “Region and Language” option, click on “Change Keyboards or Other Input Methods.”

3. On the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, click on “Change Keyboards” > “Add” > “Thai.”

4. Expand the option of “Thai” and then expand the option “Keyboard.” Select the keyboard layout marked as “Thai.” You can ignore other keyboard layouts. Click “OK” and then “Apply.”

3- Mac (OS X and higher)

If you can’t see the language listed, please make sure to select the right option from System Preferences > Language and Region

1. From the Apple Menu (top left corner of the screen) go to System Preferences > Keyboard.

2. Click the Input Sources tab and a list of available keyboards and input methods will appear.

3. Click on the plus button, select “Thai,” and add the “Thai” keyboard.

Adding a system language

5. Activating the Thai Keyboard on Your Mobile Phone and Tablet

Texting and searching in Thai will greatly help you master the language! Adding a Thai keyboard on your mobile phone and/or tablet is super-easy.

You could also opt to download an app instead of adding a keyboard. Read on for our suggestions.

Below are the instructions for both iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets.

1- iOS

1. Go to Settings > General > Keyboard.

2. Tap “Keyboards” and then “Add New Keyboard.”

3. Select “Thai” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by tapping and holding on the icon to reveal the keyboard language menu.

2- Android

1. Go to Settings > General Management > Language and Input > On-screen Keyboard (or “Virtual Keyboard” on some devices) > Samsung Keyboard.

2. Tap “Language and Types” or “ + Select Input Languages” depending on the device and then “MANAGE INPUT LANGUAGES” if available.

3. Select “ไทย” from the list.

4. When typing, you can switch between languages by swiping the space bar.

3- Applications for Mobile Phones

If you don’t want to add a keyboard on your mobile phone or tablet, these are a few good apps to consider:

6. Thai Keyboard Typing Tips

Typing in Thai can be very challenging at first! Therefore, we added here a few useful tips to make it easier to use your Thai keyboard.

A man typing on a computer

1- Computer

  • Thai keyboards are quite simple because Thai’s consonants, vowels, and tone marks are all included on the keyboard (with Shift and without Shift). To increase typing speed, it’s suggested to remember the location of each Thai letter on the keyboard.
  • There are two layouts of the Thai keyboard called “Ketmanee” and “Pattachote.” However, in 1988, TISI (Thai Industrial Standards Institute) announced that the Ketmanee layout is the standard layout for computers.

2- Mobile Phones

  • There are two types of keyboard layouts for mobile: the QWERTY keyboard and the 3×4 keyboard. People mostly use the QWERTY layout as it’s similar to a PC keyboard.

7. How to Practice Typing Thai

As you probably know by now, learning Thai is all about practice, practice, and more practice! Strengthen your Thai typing skills by writing comments on any of our lesson pages, and our teacher will answer. If you’re a ThaiPod101 Premium PLUS member, you can directly text our teacher via the My Teacher app—use your Thai keyboard to do this!

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Best Guide to Learn about Thai Family in the Thai Language

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Regardless of nationality or native language, family is the basic institution for everyone. So it makes sense for you to learn how to describe family members when you learn a new language. For Thai people, family is very important. So by learning about the family in Thai, you’ll get to know more about Thai family culture and Thai family values.

The basic questions most Thai learners have when attempting a Thai conversation about family are about how to say “father” in Thai, how to say “mother” in Thai, and how to say “sister” in Thai. In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions for you, and give you everything you need to know about Thai family. For easy understanding, study the family tree in Thai and English below.

  1. Family in Thai
  2. Thai Terms for Family Members
  3. Thai Terms for Relatives
  4. Thai Terms for Additional Family from Marriage
  5. Interesting Things You Should Know About Thai Family
  6. Thai Proverbs About Family
  7. How ThaiPod101 Can Help You Master Thai Language & Culture

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1. Family in Thai

Family Words

First, let’s learn about Thai family life in general, and family in Thai culture. What is family in Thailand?

When it comes to family life in Thai culture and society, people value the family institution. You can see that family members in Thai society are pretty close to each other; also note that family values in Thailand tend to revolve around seniority.

For this reason, Thai people don’t call people who are older than them by their name alone, but rather a term based on seniority and relationship. In other words, they call them by the appropriate family term together with their name. Before we go too much more into depth here, let’s learn some basic vocabulary and family words in Thai.

First and foremost, how do you say “family” in Thai?

Family

1- Family in Thai

Thai: ครอบครัว (khrâawp-khruua)

Example:
ครอบครัวของเราอาศัยอยู่ที่ภาคใต้
khrâawp-khruua khǎawng rao aa-săi yùu thîi phâak dtâi
“Our family lives in the southern part of Thailand.”

Additional note: In Thai society, people normally live with their family. It’s perfectly normal for people who are of age to stay with their parents. Thai people usually move out when they start their own family or if they have to work far from home.

2- Family Members in Thai

Thai: สมาชิกในครอบครัว (sà-maa-chík nai khrâawp-khruua); คนในครอบครัว (khon nai khrâawp-khruua)

Example:
คนในครอบครัวของเราผมหยิกกันหมด
khon nai khrâawp-khruua khǎawng rao phŏm yìk gan mòt
“Every one of our family members has curly hair.”

3- Relatives in Thai

Thai: ญาติ (yâat)

Example:
ญาติของเราจะมารวมตัวกันในวันตรุษจีนทุกปี
yâat khǎawng rao jà maa ruuam dtuua gan nai wan dtrùt jiin thúk bpii
“Our relatives gathering is on the Lunar New Year day every year.”

Family Gathering

4- Sibling in Thai

Thai: พี่น้อง (phîi náawng)

Example:
พ่อมีพี่น้องทั้งหมด 3 คน
phâaw mii phîi náawng tháng mòt săam khon
“My father has three siblings.”

2. Thai Terms for Family Members

Now, let’s begin learning what to call family members in Thai. We’ll start with family terms in a single family first.

1- Father in Thai

Thai: There are two words for father in Thai, as shown below:

  • พ่อ (phâaw) is “father” in Thai.
  • บิดา (bì-daa) is the formal written language for “father” in Thai.

Example:
พ่อของฉันชื่อธีระ
phâaw khǎawng chăn chûue thii-rá
“My father’s name is Teera.”

How to address/endearment terms: There are many ways for children to address their father in Thailand. Using พ่อ (phâaw) is okay, but many people also use ป๊ะป๋า (bpá-bpǎa), ปะป๊า (bpà-bpáa), ป๊า (bpáa), แดดดี๊ (daddy), and เตี่ย (dtìia).

Additional note: Thai people really love King Rama IX, so we call him พ่อของแผ่นดิน (phâaw khǎawng phàaen-din), which means “father of Thai people” in Thai. (Its literal meaning is Father of the Land.)

2- Mother in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “mother” in Thai, as shown below:

  • แม่ (mâae) is “mother” in Thai.
  • มารดา (maan-daa) is the formal written language for “mother” in Thai.

Example:
แม่ของฉันชอบไปทะเล
mâae khǎawng chăn châawp bpai thá-lee
“My mother likes to go to the sea.”

How to address/endearment terms: Similar to “father,” there are many ways for children to address their mother in Thailand as well. Apart from แม่ (mâae), Thai people also use หม่าม๊า (màa-máa), หม่ามี๊ (màa-míi), and ม๊า (máa).

Additional note: You may be able to guess this after reading about the terms for “father.” Since Thai people called King Rama IX พ่อของแผ่นดิน (phâaw khǎawng phàaen-din), it makes sense for us to call the wife of King Rama IX แม่ของแผ่นดิน (mâae khǎawng phàaen-din), which means “mother of Thai people” in Thai. (Its literal meaning is Mother of the Land.)

3- Older Brother in Thai

Thai: พี่ชาย (phîi chaai)

Example:
พ่อของฉันมีพี่ชาย 1 คน
phâaw khǎawng chăn mii phîi chaai nùeng khon
“My father has one older brother.”

How to address/endearment terms: In Thai, people call a sibling who is older than them พี่ (phîi) + name, regardless of their sibling’s gender. For example, according to the family tree, my father calls his older brother พี่ธำรง (phîi tham-rong).

Additional note: You may hear Thai-Chinese people use the term เฮีย (hiia) for an older brother as well.

4- Older Sister in Thai

Thai: พี่สาว (phîi sǎao)

Example:
พี่สาวของพ่อชื่อธารา
phîi sǎao khǎawng phâaw chûue thaa-raa
“The name of my father’s older sister is Tara.”

How to address/endearment terms: In Thai, people call a sibling who is older than them พี่ (phîi) + name, regardless of their sibling’s gender. For example, according to the family tree, my father calls his older sister พี่ธารา (phîi thaa-raa).

Additional note: You may hear Thai-Chinese people use the term เจ้ (jêe) for an older sister as well.

5- Younger Brother in Thai

Thai: น้องชาย (náawng chaai)

Example:
น้องชายของพ่อหน้าตาเหมือนพ่อมาก
náawng chaai khǎawng phâaw nâa dtaa mǔuean phâaw mâak
“My father’s younger brother looks a lot like my father.”

How to address/endearment terms: In Thai, there are two ways to address your younger sibling. People either call a sibling who is younger than them น้อง (náawng) + name regardless of their gender, or just call him by name. Most people use the second option. This is because of the focus on seniority in Thai culture.

6- Younger Sister in Thai

Thai: น้องสาว (náawng sǎao)

Example:
แม่มีน้องสาวที่อายุห่างกัน 2 ปี 1 คน
mâae mii náawng săao thîi aa-yú hàang gan sǎawng bpii nùeng khon
“My mother has one younger sister who is two years younger.”

How to address/endearment terms: In Thai, there are two ways to address your younger sibling. People either call a sibling who is younger than them น้อง (náawng) + name regardless of their gender, or just call her by name. Most people use the second option. This is because of the focus on seniority in Thai culture.

Close Sister

3. Thai Terms for Relatives

Let’s learn even more about family members in a bigger family, otherwise known as the extended family in Thailand. This section will show you what to call your father and mother’s family members, and other relatives.

1- Grandfather in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “grandfather” in Thai:

  • ปู่ (bpùu) means “father of your father” in Thai.
  • ตา (dtaa) means “father of your mother” in Thai.

Example:
ทั้งคุณปู่และคุณตาของฉันแข็งแรงมาก
tháng khun bpùu láe khun dtaa-khǎawng chăn khăaeng-raaeng mâak
“Both of my grandfathers are very healthy.”

How to address/endearment terms: Normally, when Thai people address their grandfather, they just call them ปู่ (bpùu) or ตา (dtaa). Thai people don’t use their grandfather’s name when they call them.

Additional note: In Thai society, grandparents are known to unintentionally spoil their grandchild. They tend to buy things for their grandchild and grant their wishes.

2- Grandmother in Thai

Thai: Similar to “grandfather,” there are two words for “grandmother” in Thai:

  • ย่า (yâa) means “mother of your father” in Thai.
  • ยาย (yaai) means “mother of your mother” in Thai.

Example:
คุณย่าทำอาหารไทยอร่อยมากในขณะที่คุณยายทำขนมไทยอร่อย
khun yâa tham aa-hăan thai à-ràauy mâak nai khà-nà thîi khun yaai tham khà-nŏm thai à-ràauy
“One of my grandmothers can cook delicious Thai food, while the other one can cook delicious Thai sweets.”

How to address/endearment terms: Like “grandfather,” when Thai people address their grandmother, they just call them ย่า (yâa) or ยาย (yaai). Thai people don’t use their grandmother’s name when they call them.

3- Great-Grandfather and Great-Grandmother in Thai

Thai: ทวด (thûuat)

Example:
แม่เล่าให้ฟังว่าทวดรำไทยสวยมาก
mâae lâo hâi fang wâa thûuat ram thai sŭuai mâak
“Mom told me that my great-grandmother did Thai dancing very beautifully.”

How to address/endearment terms: Like with grandparents, when Thai people address their great-grandparent, they just call them ทวด (thûuat). Thai people don’t use their great-grandparent’s name when they call them, unless they want to specify which great-grandparent they’re referring to.

4- Uncle in Thai

Thai: There are many words for “uncle” in Thai, which we’ll explain below:

  • ลุง (lung) means “older brother of both father and mother” in Thai.
  • น้า (náa) means “younger sibling, including younger brother of your mother” in Thai.
  • อา (aa) means “younger sibling, including younger brother of your father” in Thai.

Example:
พ่อกับอาธนินท์ชอบดูฟุตบอลด้วยกัน
phâaw gàp aa thá-nin châawp duu fút-baawn dûuai gan
“Dad and Uncle Tanin like to watch football together.”

How to address/endearment terms: In Thai, there are two ways of addressing your uncle. Thai people either call their uncle ลุง (lung) / น้า (náa) / อา (aa) + name, or just call them ลุง (lung) / น้า (náa) / อา (aa). Most people use the first option to prevent confusion, in case there are many uncles in your family.

Additional note: The words น้า (náa) and อา (aa) can be used for both genders. So it can mean either “uncle” or “aunt.”

5- Aunt in Thai

Thai: There are many words for “aunt” in Thai, which we’ll explain below:

  • ป้า (bpâa) means “older sister of both father and mother” in Thai.
  • น้า (náa) means “younger sibling, including younger sister of your mother” in Thai.
  • อา (aa) means “younger sibling, including younger sister of your father” in Thai.

Example:
น้ากนิษฐ์บอกว่าฉันดูเหมือนแม่ของฉันตอนเด็ก ๆ มาก
náa gà-nít bàawk wâa chăn duu mǔuean mâae khǎawng chăn dtaawn dèk dèk mâak
“Aunt Kanit said I really look like my mom when she was young.”

How to address/endearment terms: Similar to “uncle,” there are two ways to address your aunt in Thai. Thai people either call their aunt ป้า (bpâa) / น้า (náa) / อา (aa) + name, or just call them ป้า (bpâa) / น้า (náa) / อา (aa). Most people use the first option to prevent confusion, in case there are many aunts in your family.

Additional note: When Thai people talk to people they don’t know or haven’t met before, like a food seller or a man at the bus stop, if those people seem like they’re their parents’ age, they address them as ลุง (lung) or ป้า (bpâa).

6- Nephew and Grandson in Thai

Thai: หลานชาย (lǎan chaai)

Example:
ปู่บอกว่าตอนพี่ชายเกิด ปู่ดีใจมากที่มีหลานชาย
bpùu bàawk wâa dtaawn phîi chaai gòoet · bpùu dii jai mâak thîi mii lăan chaai
“My grandfather said when my older brother was born, he was so happy to get a grandson.”

How to address/endearment terms: Because of seniority, grandparents, uncles, and aunts normally call their nephews or grandsons by name.

7- Niece and Granddaughter in Thai

Thai: หลานสาว (lǎan sǎao)

Example:
ตาบอกว่า ยายรักฉันมากเพราะฉันหน้าตาเหมือนยายตอนสาว ๆ
taa-bòk-wâa yaai-rák-chǎn-mâk-prór-chǎn-nhâa-taa-mǎaeun-yaai-ton-sǎo-sǎo
“My grandfather said my grandmother loves me so much because I look like her when she was young.”

How to address/endearment terms: Like nephews & grandsons, grandparents, uncles, and aunts normally call their nieces and granddaughters by name due to seniority.

8- Cousin in Thai

Thai: ลูกพี่ลูกน้อง (lûuk-phîi-lûuk-náawng)

Example:
กนกเป็นลูกพี่ลูกน้องของฉัน
Gà-nòk bpen lûuk-phîi-lûuk-náawng khǎawng chǎn
“Kanok is my cousin.”

How to address/endearment terms: If your cousin is older than you, you have to call him/her พี่ (phîi) + name. But if he/she is younger than you, you can call him/her by name.

4. Thai Terms for Additional Family from Marriage

Your family normally gets bigger through marriage. So this part of the article will teach you what to call your new family members and in-laws.

1- Husband in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “husband” in Thai, which we’ll explain below:

  • สามี (sǎa-mii) is the formal way to address the “husband” in Thai.
  • ผัว (phǔua) is the informal way to address the “husband” in Thai.

Example:
สามีของป้ากนิษฐ์ชื่อน้าปิติ
Sǎa-mii khǎawng bpâa gà-nít chûue náa bpì-dtì
“The husband of Aunt Kanit is Piti.”

How to address/endearment terms: A husband and wife will usually call each other by name, or by a pet name. However, once they have a child, they usually begin to call each other the terms of “father” and “mother.”

2- Wife in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “wife” in Thai, which we’ll explain below:

  • ภรรยา (phan-rá-yaa) is the formal way of addressing the “wife” in Thai.
  • เมีย (miia) is the informal way of addressing the “wife” in Thai.

Example:
ป้าส่องศรีเป็นภรรยาของลุงธำรง
bpâa sàawng-sǐi bpen phan-rá-yaa khǎawng lung tham-rong
“Aunt Songsri is Uncle Tamrong’s wife.”

How to address/endearment terms: A husband and wife will usually call each other by name, or a pet name. However, once they have a child, they usually begin calling each other by the terms for “father” and “mother.”

3- Son in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “son” in Thai:

  • ลูกชาย (lûuk chaai) is “son” in Thai.
  • บุตร (bùt) is the formal written language for “son” in Thai.

Example:
ลูกคนแรกของปู่เป็นลูกผู้ชาย
Lûuk khon râaek khǎawng bpùu bpen lûuk phûu-chaai
“The firstborn of my grandfather is a son.”

How to address/endearment terms: Thai parents normally call their child by name.

4- Daughter in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “daughter” in Thai:

  • ลูกสาว (lûuk sǎao) is “daughter” in Thai.
  • ธิดา (thí-daa) is the formal written language for “daughter” in Thai.

Example:
ยายมีลูกสาว 2 คน
yaai mii lûuk sǎao sǎawng kgon
“My grandmother has two daughters.”

How to address/endearment terms: Thai parents normally call their child by name.

5- Mother-in-law in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “mother-in-law” in Thai:

  • แม่ยาย (mâae-yaai) is the title for the wife’s mother in Thai.
  • แม่สามี (mâae sǎa-mii) is the title for the husband’s mother in Thai.

Example:
ย่าเป็นแม่สามีของป้าส่องศรี
Yâa bpen maâe sǎa-mii khǎawng bpâa sàawng-sǐi
“My grandmother is the mother-in-law of Aunt Songsri.”

How to address/endearment terms: When a wife addresses a parent of her husband, or a husband addresses a parent of his wife, they use the terms “father” and “mother” as if they are their own parents. The words แม่ยาย (mâae-yaai) and แม่สามี (mâae sáa-mii) are used as third-person pronouns.

6- Father-in-law in Thai

Thai: There are two words for “father-in-law” in Thai:

  • พ่อตา (phâaw-dtaa) is the title for the wife’s father in Thai.
  • พ่อสามี (phâaw sǎa-mii) is the title of the husband’s father in Thai.

Example:
ตาเป็นพ่อตาของน้าปิติ
Dtaa bpen phâaw-dtaa khǎawng náa bpì-dtì
“My grandfather is father-in-law of Uncle Piti.”

How to address/endearment terms: When a wife addresses a parent of her husband, or a husband addresses a parent of his wife, they use the terms “father” and “mother” as if they are their own parents. The words พ่อตา (phâaw-dtaa) and พ่อสามี (phâaw sáa-mii) are used as third-person pronouns.

7- Female In-law in Thai

Thai: When your male family member gets married, the woman he marries is called สะใภ้ (sà-phái). Here are the terms of สะใภ้ (sà-pái) you should know:

  • ลูกสะใภ้ (lûuk sà-phái) is the title for your son’s wife in Thai.
  • พี่สะใภ้ (phîi sà-phái) is the title for your older brother’s wife in Thai.
  • น้องสะใภ้ (náawng sà-phái) is the title of your younger brother’s wife in Thai.
  • หลานสะใภ้ (lǎan sà-phái) is the title of your grandson’s or nephew’s wife in Thai.

Example:
ป้าส่องศรีเป็นพี่สะใภ้ของพ่อ
bpâa sàawng-sǐi bpen phîi sà-phái khǎawng phâaw
“Aunt Song-sri is my father’s sister-in law.”

How to address/endearment terms: The terms of สะใภ้ (sà-phái) listed above are like titles, and are used as third-person pronouns. Parents, aunts, and uncles of the husband normally call their daughter-in-law by name. The brother and sister of the husband use the terms พี่ (phîi) or น้อง (náawng) + name, depending on their age.

My Sister-In-Law

8- Male In-law in Thai

Thai: When your female family member gets married, the man she marries is called เขย (kěay). Here are the terms of เขย (khǒoei) you should know:

  • ลูกเขย (lûuk khǒoei) is the title of your daughter’s husband in Thai.
  • พี่เขย (phîi khǒoei) is the title of your older sister’s husband in Thai.
  • น้องเขย (náawng khǒoei) is the title of your younger sister’s husband in Thai.
  • หลานเขย (lǎan khǒoei) is the title of your granddaughter’s or niece’s husband in Thai.

Example:
น้าปิติเป็นน้องเขยของแม่
náa bpì-dtì bpen náawng khǒoei khǎawng mâae
“Uncle Piti is my mother’s brother-in-law.”

How to address/endearment terms: The terms of เขย (khǒoei) listed above are like a title, and are used as third-person pronouns. Parents, aunts, and uncles of the husband normally call their daughter-in-law by name. The brother and sister of the husband use the terms พี่ (phîi) or น้อง (náawng) + name, depending on their age.

5. Interesting Things You Should Know About Thai Family

Now that you know all the terms for family members, let’s learn some more things about the Thai family.

1- Terms about Children

Apart from ลูกชาย (lûuk chaai) and ลูกสาว (lûuk sǎao), the following terms can be used to describe your children as well.

  • ลูกคนเดียว (lûuk khon diiao) is “single child”
  • ลูุกคนโต (lûuk khon dtoo) is “eldest child”
  • ลูกคนกลาง (lûuk khon glaang) is “middle child”
  • ลูกคนเล็ก (lûuk khon lék) is “youngest child”
  • ลูกชายคนโต (lûuk chaai khon dtoo) is “eldest son”
  • ลูกชายคนกลาง (lûuk chaai khon glaang) is “middle son”
  • ลูกชายคนเล็ก (lûuk chaai khon lék) is “youngest son”
  • ลูกสาวคนโต (lûuk sǎao khon dtoo) is “eldest daughter”
  • ลูกสาวคนกลาง (lûuk sǎao khon glaang) is “middle daughter”
  • ลูกสาวคนเล็ก (lûuk sǎao khon lék) is “youngest daughter”

2- Politeness

If you want to talk politely or formally when addressing or talking about a family member or relative, you can put the word คุณ (khun) before the term, such as in คุณตา (khun dtaa). Further, you should end the sentence with ครับ (khráp) for a male speaker, or ค่ะ (khà) for a female speaker.

6. Thai Proverbs About Family

Family Quotes

In the Thai language, people usually use proverbs in conversation. Here’s a list of Thai proverbs about family you can use if you want to sound like a Thai native.

1- ลูกไม้หล่นไม่ไกลต้น

Thai pronunciation: lûuk-mái lòn mâi glai dtôn

Literal meaning: “Fruit doesn’t fall far from its tree.”

Meaning: Children are often similar to their parent (in terms of behavior).

Similar English idiom: “Like father, like son,” and “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Example:
ต้นทำอาหารเก่งเหมือนพ่อเลย ลูกไม้หล่นไม่ไกลต้นจริง ๆ

dtôn tham aa-hăan gèeng mǔuean phâaw looei lûuk-mái lòn mâi glai dtôn jing jing

“Ton is very good at cooking like his father.”

2- ดูนางให้ดูแม่

Thai pronunciation: duu naang hâi duu mâae

Literal meaning: “Look at her mother to look at her.”

Meaning: If you want to know what a woman likes, look at her mother.”

Similar English idiom: “A chip off the old block.”

Example:
หลานสะใภ้ชั้นไม่ดูแลบ้านให้เรียบร้อย นิสัยเหมือนแม่เค้าเลย ดูนางให้ดูแม่จริง ๆ

lăan sà-phái chán mâi duu-laae bâan hâi rîiap-ráauy ní-săi mǔuean mâae kháo looei duu naang hâi duu mâae jing jing

“My nephew’s wife doesn’t clean her house well, really like her mother. If you want to know what a woman likes, you really have to look at her mother.”

3- สามีเป็นช้างเท้าหน้า ภรรยาเป็นช้างเท้าหลัง

Thai pronunciation: săa-mii bpen cháang tháo nâa phan-rá-yaa bpen cháang táo lăng

Literal meaning: “Husband is elephant’s forefoot. Wife is elephant’s hind foot.”

Meaning: The husband is the leader of the family, while the wife is a good follower.

Similar English idiom: “It’s a sad house where the hen crows louder than the cock.”

Example:
ครอบครัวสมัยก่อน สามีทำงานหาเงิน ภรรยาดูแลครอบครัว ถือว่าสามีเป็นช้างเท้าหน้า ภรรยาเป็นช้างเท้าหลัง

khrâawp-khruua sà-măi gàawn săa-mii tham ngaan hăa ngooen phan-rá-yaa duu-laae khrâawp-khruua thǔue wâa săa-mii bpen cháang tháo nâa phan-rá-yaa bpen cháang tháo lăng

“For family in the past, the husband was the one who worked for money, while the wife looked after the family. It can be said that the husband is the leader of the family, while the wife is a good follower.”

4- รักวัวให้ผูก รักลูกให้ตี

Thai pronunciation: rák wuua hâi phûuk rák lûuk hâi dtii

Literal meaning: “If you love your ox, tie it up. If you love your child, hit him/her.”

Meaning: “As a parent, you need to punish your children when they do the wrong thing.”

Similar English idiom: “Spare the rod, spoil the child.”

Example:
เมื่อเห็นลูกทำผิด ต้องลงโทษ อย่าคิดว่าไม่เป็นไร รักวัวให้ผูก รักลูกให้ตี

mûuea hĕn lûuk tham phìt dtâawng long thôot yàa khít wâa mâi bpen rai rák wuua hâi phûuk rák lûuk hâi dtii

“When your child does the wrong thing, you have to punish them. Don’t think it’s okay. As a parent, you need to punish your children when they do the wrong thing.”

You Shouldn’t Do This.

7. How ThaiPod101 Can Help You Master Thai Language & Culture

Congratulations on reaching this point! You’ve learned everything you need to know about Thai family, including how to say “family” in Thai and other essential family in Thai terms. Some terms are different from those in English, but with a little practice, you can use them well in no time.

And once you get used to all of these, go and learn other interesting topics at ThaiPod101.com. For example, learn about Thai national holidays, tourist attractions in Thailand, and traveling phrases you should know to plan for a trip to Thailand.

Before you go, let us know in the comments how you feel about family terms in Thai now. More comfortable, or is there still something you’re struggling with? We look forward to hearing from you!

While you’re at it, why not practice talking about family in Thai writing? If you want, write us a paragraph about your family written in Thai!

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