Can travelers who only speak English still enjoy their visit to Thailand? Do tourists need to be fluent in Thai to experience all Thailand has to offer? Can English-only speakers live and work in Thailand? These are all great questions to ask before taking a plane to Thailand. We aim to answer all these and more in this post.
Yes, they do speak English in Thailand. Many Thai people know some basic English phrases and could help travelers along their journey. Major tourist hubs and large cities have a lot of people who speak English. Foreigners could gain a lot by learning basic Thai to help them in their travels.
Also read: What To Wear In Thailand (And What Not)
Do They Speak English In Thailand?
There are loads of Thai people who speak English fluently living in Thailand. Globetrotters looking to visit Thailand will find the most extensive collection of English speakers in major cities like Bangkok, where a mix of Thai and English is required for trade and industry.
Some of the nuances of the English language might become lost in translation as things like proverbs, colloquialisms, idioms, references, etc., are not familiar to the local Thai population. That being said, travelers will find that they can hold a decent conversation with anyone they meet in a local bar or restaurant, provided they speak slowly.
English-speaking Thai people are very accommodating to visitors. They would often take their time to understand their guests and even teach them some Thai to help them as they travel through their beautiful country to ensure they get the most out of their experiences.
Can You Live In Thailand Only Speaking English?
You can live in Thailand and not know a single Thai word or phrase. Many people who immigrated to Thailand have had very successful, fulfilling, and lucrative careers.
Thailand features a robust communications network that caters to foreigners. International SIM cards, for example, are widely available throughout Thailand, and standalone internet cafés make connecting with friends and family overseas a breeze.
The most important thing visitors to Thailand need to learn is not the language but the etiquette. Thai people take being polite pretty seriously. It’s ingrained in their culture. Before travelers start learning Thai, they might want to consider learning how the locals conduct themselves when interacting with other people.
4 Most Common Languages Spoken In Thailand
Five dominant languages make up the majority of spoken languages in Thailand. Let’s look at each of these languages in a little more detail.
The Thai language is a rich and cultural language with many variations that add flavor to the language. These dialects include Central Thai, Isaan, Southern Thai, and Northern Thai. Thai makes up 92.7% of the spoken languages in Thailand.
Northern Thai is distinct from the other dialects and can be heard most prominently in the northern regions of Thailand. Southern Thai is the most common dialect in the southern part of Thailand. Isaan is a collection of Loa dialects and is more common in northern Thailand. Central Thai is Thailand’s main dialect taught in schools and used in film, television, and music.
English ranks as the second most commonly used language in Thailand at 44.6%, according to a recent survey of Thai citizens done in 2019. Many schools in Thailand offer English as a second language to help the local Thai people develop to better compete in global markets.
The third most commonly used language in Thailand is Chinese, at 8.5%, primarily due to the large Chinese population living in Thailand. Among all the Chinese dialects, Mandarin is the most common, followed by Cantonese and Hokkien.
Coming in at only 1.9%, a small minority of Thai citizens speaks Burmese. People speaking Burmese can most commonly be found living close to the Myanmar border in provinces such as Tak. The Burmese dialect spoken in Mae Sot is a variation of the Shan language.
Is English An Official Language In Thailand?
Yes, English has been formally recognized as an official language in Thailand, spoken mainly by expatriates, international workers, and business people traveling abroad. Alongside English, the Thai government also includes Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Karen, and other languages.
Even though English is a recognized official language in Thailand, few Thai people living in rural areas speak English. This is because English isn’t used that frequently outside official businesses. Travelers will be hard-pressed to find a native Thai fluent in English when they visit a small farm in a remote part of Thailand.
What Language Is Thai Closest To?
Central Tai forms part of the Southwestern collection of the Tai-Kadai family tree. Being closely related to Lao, Southern Thai, and Shan, Thai is spoken and understood by over 40 million people living in Thailand, of which 20.2 million speak Thai as their first language.
Thai can also be found spoken in Singapore, the Midway Islands, The United Arab Emirates, and as far west as the United States of America. Thai people came from China and are believed to have moved into the Indochina peninsula around 2000 years ago, only becoming independent halfway through the 13th century AD.
Where Do Most Foreigners Live In Thailand?
People who want to immigrate to Thailand have various cities to choose from where they can integrate almost seamlessly into the Thai culture. Every year more and more people flock to Thailand thanks to the low cost of living, low crime rates, and excellent career opportunities.
Here are a few options that will help ex-pats adjust quickly to the Thai way of living while being able to keep speaking English.
Bangkok’s metropolitan area houses the most significant amount of foreigners in Thailand. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city, has positioned itself as Southeast Asia’s political, social, and economic center, sporting a diverse collection of ethnic groups from all over the world.
Though Bangkok is dealing with a pollution issue at the moment, the local government is hard at work to resolve this problem as quickly as they can.
The island of Phuket has a thriving tourism sector and welcomes foreign investors and immigrants to its lush environment. Travelers have often remarked that choosing to stay in Phuket permanently has been an easy decision to make. Many locals are used to having international visitors and can speak English very well, making the transition more straightforward than in most Thai cities.
Koh Samui isn’t a huge island, but many immigrants find the positive atmosphere almost too enticing to pass up. People who want to live here are warned that the island’s economy is fueled by tourism, and thus they should expect loud beach parties and large crowds of people come the festive season.
The cool weather and quiet streets of Chiang Mai invite travelers to extend their stay in Thailand. This grand northern city is famous for its Buddhist temples and locally sourced and manufactured arts and crafts. People looking to live in Thailand will find this city a great stepping stone to further integration into Thai culture.
Is Thai Difficult To Learn?
Thai can be complex if prospective students find tonal languages challenging to learn. Tonal languages use inflections to convey different meanings, similar to how English uses the words like lead and lead. Most travelers find that writing Thai is more demanding than speaking it, as some characters look incredibly similar.
Through diligent practice and immersion in the culture, anyone can learn how to speak, read, and write Thai fluently within a few years. Learning Thai will open many career and travel opportunities to those who are patient enough.