The Many Dialects of Thailand

Although Thailand has its own language that language has many very different dialects. There is of course just one official Thai dialect, the dialect which is spoken by those in central Thailand however, only 20 million of the country’s 67 million inhabitants speak it on a daily basis.

20 million in northern Thailand speak the Isan dialect which is more akin to the old Siamese language whilst in the 4.5 million people in Southern Thailand speak the Dambro dialect.

The rest of the people throughout the country speak other dialects ranging from half a million people in the Nakhon Phanom Province speaking Phu Thai to 30,000 people in the north and central region speaking song. At any formal occasion of course though, it is the official Thai dialect or standard dialect which is used.

If you were planning to visit Thailand and wanted to learn the language, it would be the standard Thai which you would learn as, although it may not be used throughout the country on a daily basis, most Thai do understand it.

All the Thai dialects are tonal in nature which means that different tones in speaking different words, can give those words different meanings.

This is a trend in languages in Southeast Asia as Laos, Vietnamese and Chinese are also all tonal languages. This tonal feature of the Thai language can differ among the different dialects as Isan uses only 3 tones, the same as the old Siamese whilst the standard Thai uses 5.

The Thai people are proud of their language as they are of their somewhat unique history, being the only country in the whole of Southeast Asia, never to have been colonized either as Siam or later as Thailand.

This feeling of pride about their language which the Thai people have means that they are genuinely appreciative of any foreigners that at least try to learn their language and this can have some distinct advantages for any foreign visitor to the country.

Of course, as with elsewhere, knowing a country’s language makes it easier to make friends but in Thailand, where haggling over prices is common, many have a special price for Thai speakers and so your benefits could be financial as well as social.

Thailand is a country which is being visited by more and more foreign tourists each year as it has much to offer them. Firstly the country is rich in history, a history which became popular thanks to the hit movie “The King and I”. 95% of the Thai population is Buddhist and so the capital Bangkok has some very impressive Buddhist Temples which are well worth a visit.

Perhaps the most popular attraction for foreign tourists though is Thailand’s endless sandy beaches and some of its small islands which have been described as tropical paradises. For whichever reason you may choose to visit Thailand, it is always worth at least considering learning their language before you go or at least a few phrases that you think may be well used.