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Common Mistakes To Avoid While Learning Thai

Common Mistakes To Avoid While Learning Thai [+ Tips]

Learning a foreign language can be quite challenging especially if your mother tongue is vastly different from the one you’re trying to learn. You might feel this way while learning Thai and we feel you – it’s a unique language that requires a lot of practice and patience.

It’s doable but you have to make sure that you avoid some of the common mistakes while learning Thai. We’ve listed some common pitfalls you must avoid to help you achieve Thai language proficiency!

8 Common Mistakes When Learning Thai

Ignoring the tone

One of the most common mistakes you might fall victim to when learning the Thai language is mispronouncing certain words. You see, Thai is a very tonal language compared to other Western ones that usually have a more consistent tone.

As such, once you start to learn the Thai language you have to keep in mind the different tones and how they are used. These are the rising, falling, mid, low, and high tones. 

You may know which Thai word to use but if you use the incorrect pronunciation or ignore the right use of tone, the meaning of that word might get altered. 

For example, the Thai word pronounced as “Mai” means “mile” when a middle tone is used while it means new if a low tone is used. Imagine switching these words up during your conversation here if you use the incorrect tone – truly awkward and embarrassing!

Disregarding the pronunciation of words

Aside from tone, word pronunciation is another aspect of the language you need to focus on. There are some consonants that sound alike but have different meanings when used together with other letters to form words.

For example, the consonants ข and ค are both pronounced as “kh” but they do not have the same meaning and usage in words. ขาว pronounced as “khao” means white while the word คาว also pronounced “khao” means fishy.

This can be a bit tricky for you and other learners as a simple change in the consonant can spell a world of difference. It’s best if you can listen to how the locals talk to each other to get a feel and better idea of these consonants.

Vowels are the same deal in the Thai Language and depending on how long or short you pronounce them can alter the meaning of a word. 

In this case, the short pronunciation of “ดู” means to scold while the long pronunciation means to look. Imagine how confusing it would be if you told someone to “scold” another when you actually meant “look” at someone!

Taking everything literally

It’s common knowledge that Thai and English have different sentence constructions, right? This simply means that you can’t and shouldn’t use direct translations of Thai sentences or words into English as this will lead to misunderstanding and inaccuracies.

Keep in mind that each language has idioms and nuances unique to that language. These are things that are drawn from the culture of the people using them so if you want to learn Thai, you have to understand the cultural background of these idioms. 

Not paying attention to the order of words

Just like English, the Thai language uses the pattern of Subject-Verb-Object or SVO. However, Thai is much more flexible and utilises particles to indicate how the words in the sentence are used.

In addition, adverbs and adjectives are placed after nouns which might be confusing especially if you’re a native English speaker. Using the improper order of words can lead to ambiguous statements and can make them sound unnatural and clumsy.

If you don’t learn the idiosyncrasies and the specific rules of the Thai language in terms of word order, locals may have a hard time understanding what you’re trying to say or find it difficult to comprehend what you have written in Thai.

Dropping the polite language

You’d be surprised that a great majority of the mistakes for new learners of Thai come from the level of politeness they use when using the language. With regard to pronouns and honorifics, it’s important that you know which words to use to stay respectful.

The Thai language is big on courtesy so it’s going to be quite awkward, inappropriate, and sometimes even funny if you use casual or (worse) inappropriate words when talking to your teacher, boss, or elders. 

The use of polite language is crucial here and we strongly suggest that you avoid the mistake of dropping your politeness if you want to succeed in your language learning journey. 

Getting the pronouns wrong

The Thai language is a very inclusive one and you’ll learn that there are a number of pronouns you can use to speak to and about a local based on their social status, age, and gender. 

You just need to make sure that you use the right one based on the situation in front of you. Once you’re able to master this, you can say that you’re on your way to becoming a much more effective Thai speaker especially when you’re interacting with the locals.

Using wrong particles

Just like Thai pronouns, the language has a lot of particles you need to master if you want to be fluent in the language. Some of these particles you might find useful include krap (polite particle for males) and ka (polite particle for females), among others.

Imagine using the wrong particle such as krap on a local female you’d like to chat with. It’s definitely going to confuse the other person and will make you look silly in front of the locals – so learn and master how to use the correct and appropriate articles!

Also, try to pick up on how the locals speak to and about monks. Thailand has special honorifics and words for them and it’s best that you understand and learn how to use them especially when talking to and about monks (facts on Thai Buddhism).

Not learning the common expressions and idioms

Just like the English language, Thai has a ton of expressions and idioms that you must learn and master. As such, we strongly suggest that you avoid falling into the trap of literally translating these idioms and expressions into Thai as they can be awkward.

What’s worse is that the idiom or expression you improperly use may lead to misinterpretations of your intentions which can then affect your fluency and confidence. 

The bottom line is learning more about these Thai expressions and idioms can help you navigate the local culture with ease, better understand Thai media, and most importantly, be able to communicate effectively with the locals and the community.

Tips on How to Learn Thai Quickly

Also learn to read and write

Learning the grammar of the Thai language isn’t going to cut it if you want to communicate effectively. Aside from speaking, you also need to learn how to read and write in Thai in order to effectively communicate and open your cultural horizons further. 

We understand that the language may have a different script or unique alphabets but don’t let this deter you. Practice doesn’t make perfect overnight but it sure does bring about excellence (in communication) if you just keep at it!

Practise speaking with the locals

Aside from learning how to read and write in Thai, you also need to pay attention to your speaking skills. As such, we highly encourage you to practise speaking with locals each and every opportunity you get. 

You might feel shy at first, and that’s understandable. At the end of the day though, it’s just you and your goal of learning the language so set this fear aside and start talking with the locals in your area.

It won’t just result in better Thai speaking skills and knowledge, but you’ll also be rewarded with a sense of community, a new friend, and a much deeper immersion into the culture of the country!

Join a Thai language class

Now that you know which mistakes to avoid when learning Thai, it’s time to further boost your Thai learning experience by joining a Thai Language class. There are a lot of these language courses which you can enrol in online or onsite (depending on your choice).

Here, you get to interact with your teachers and classmates and simulate talking to a local. They also have lessons where they’ll teach you how to read and write, making these language courses the perfect way for you to learn Thai!

Some schools you could check out include ALA Language School and Ling Live. Both these language schools offer courses depending on your mastery or knowledge of the Thai language.

Hire a tutor

A lot of the Thai language tutors will offer their services to you online and we think this is a phenomenal choice if you want to learn the language from the comfort of your home. You can consider online schools such as Italki and Learn Thai With Mod.

Most of these online schools can offer you either group lessons or private lessons. Depending on your skill level and your budget, you can choose to go with group lessons where you can interact with other students.

On the other hand, you can also enrol in their private lessons in order to get a more focused and customised approach from the teacher. This is ideal if you’re still not that confident about your speaking skills and if you want to learn the basics of conversational Thai.

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