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Speaking English in Thailand – Thailish Language Tips

It certainly helps to know a little bit of the Thai language when traveling around Thailand, especially if you are traveling off the beaten track to provinces like Sakon Nakhon. Many upcountry people have little to no experience interacting with foreign tourists, since so few come to their provinces. It also helps to know how many locals will try to speak English when talking with you. You know how frustrating it is when you try to speak Thai and the other person doesn’t understand. The same thing occurs when they try to speak English to you, and you don’t understand. There is no quicker way to shut down communication than when speakers get frustrated and/or embarrassed.

The Thais have adopted many English words into their language. But when they adopt these words, they apply Thai pronunciation rules. They then often apply these same rules when speaking English in general — unless they have had very good English instruction. Linguists have labeled this practice with terms such as Tinglish, Thainglish, Thailish, etc.

So, if you find yourself not being understood when speaking English, try to apply these linguistic rules when speaking, as well as being aware of them when listening to others. While this list appears a little long, these rules will become second nature to you with a little practice.

Note that if you are looking for Sakon Nakhon businesses where English is spoken, visit this page: English Speaking Businesses. There are only a few businesses listen now, as we have only recently started building this website. But the list will grow in the coming months and years.

Rules for Speaking Thai English

1) In words with more than one syllable the stress often will be placed on the final syllable.  For example, the word “furniture” will often sound like “furni-TURE”. And one syllable words will sometimes take on a rising tone at the end, especially when they are just spoken by themselves and not in a sentence.

2) The noun often will be placed first and the adjective or descriptor after it. For example, MonHome Café in Sakon Nakhon will often be spoken as “Café MonHOME”

3) A “b” at the end of a word is pronounced like a “p”. For example, club becomes “clup”.

4) A “ch” or “sh” at the end of a word is pronounced as a “t” or dropped. For example, coach becomes “coat”. And French fries become “fren fry”.

5) A “d” at the end of a syllable or word is pronounced as a “t” or sometimes dropped. For example, download becomes “down-LOW” or “down-LOAT”.

6) An “f” sound at the end of a syllable or word is often pronounced as a “p”. For example, laugh becomes “lap”.

7) A soft “g” sound at the beginning of a word often is pronounced like a “y” and at the end of a word like a “t”. For example, the gym becomes “yim” and homepage becomes “home-PATE”.

8) A hard “g” at the end of a word is pronounced like a “k”. For example, pig becomes “pik”.

9) A soft “k” sound at the beginning of a word or syllable followed by a vowel sometimes is pronounced like a hard “k/g”. For example, “bakery” becomes “bager-EE”.

10) An “l” at the end of the word is pronounced as an “n”. For example, the M.J. Majestic Hotel in Sakon Nakhon becomes “Hoten M.J.” or “Hoten Majes-TIC”.

11) If a word begins with “pl” the “l” is dropped. For example, plan becomes “pan”.

12) If a word ends in “mp” or “nt” the last consonant is dropped. For example, camp becomes “cam” (with the tone rising at the end).

13) An “r” at the end or in the middle of a syllable or word is dropped, but at the beginning of a word it is often pronounced colloquially like an “l”. For example, Chilly Bar becomes “Chilly Bah,” while a word like “red” becomes “led”.

14) If an “r” appears as part of a consonant cluster at the end of a word it is dropped. For example, the restaurant “Farm Hug” in Sakon Nakhon becomes “Fahm Huk”.

15) An “s” at the end of syllable or word is pronounced as a “t” or dropped. The plural “s” is always dropped. For example, Tesco Lotus becomes “Tesco Lot-UT”. While Apple’s restaurant becomes either “App-LE” or “App-UN”.

16) An “sh” or “zh” sound in the middle of a word is either pronounced like a “t + ch”. For example, tissue becomes “tich-OO” and “version” becomes “verch-ION”.

17) If a word ends in “st” the “s” is dropped. For example, first becomes “firt”.

18) An “s” followed by a consonant has an “a” sound inserted in between. For example, spray becomes “sah-pray”.

19) A soft “t” that begins a second or third syllable is pronounced like a hard “t” (dt). For example, internet becomes “in-dter-net”. Or often the last syllable is dropped and becomes “in-DTER”

20) A “th” sound is pronounced as a “t”. For example, pathway becomes “pat-WAY”.

21) A “v” at the beginning of a word is pronounced as a “w”. For example, “view” becomes “wiew”. But it’s pronounced like “f” or “p” if it appears at the end of a word or syllable. For example, Steve becomes “Steef”.

22) A “z” sound at the beginning of a word is pronounced as an “s”. For example, zoo becomes “soo”. But it is dropped or pronounced as a “t” if it appears at the end of a word. For example, jazz becomes “jat”.

23) If a syllable or word ends with an “ai” sound followed by any consonant or syllable, the consonant or syllable is often dropped. For example, wine becomes “why” and motorcycle becomes “motorcy”.

One last thing to mention. In the Thai language there are no verb tenses, so best to simplify all of your sentences to the simple present and eliminate any words that are not completely necessary (even though it is not grammatically correct. So, for example. A sentence like, “Yesterday, I went to Wat Tham Kham” would become “Yesterday, I go Wat Tham Kham”.

Above all, always smile and be friendly! That is best way to enjoy your trip through Sakon Nakhon and Thailand at large.