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Tourists don't speak thai
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  1. #1
    rcrowe Guest
    English speaking tourists usually expect Thai people to understand their English. Is it because English is considered an international language or what? Does that annoy Thai people? If someone were to come to my country and expect me to communicate with them in their language, I would be annoyed.

  2. #2
    D80 Guest
    Personally I don't think it is annoying. I think Thai people appreciate it if you try to learn some basic Thai before you go there. You may even get treated better if you know a tiny bit of the language. Besides, it is a sign of respect to try to understand the culture of the country you are visting and that includes the language. But I don't think Thai people get too annoyed about tourists not being able to speak Thai.

    The thing that will get them annoyed though, is 'expecting' Thais to understand and speak fluent English. When I was a teenager (long time ago ), I remembered a western woman with a big backpack asking me the direction to Kao san Road. I had to ask my aunty where it is and translated that back to her. And since I did not deliver the answer quick enough, half way through my giving direction to her, she stormed off huffing and puffing while muttering 'stupid Thai' under her breath! That, no doubt, got me very offended (and I'm pretty sure it would have got any Thais pretty offended). Unfortunately, my English then wasn't so fluent enough to have a go at her!

    So, I would say it is always nice to learn a bit of language before you go. Most Thai in tourist areas speak English well and would quite like to practice anyway. So I don't think they will be too annoyed at tourists not speaking Thai. Just don't expect all Thais to be able to speak English well and you'll be all right.

  3. #3
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    As an American, the story of that rude woman offends me. Please know that not all Americans are that way.
    I was amzed in Thailand to find how many people speak very good English. It put me to shame! I am trying hard to learn Thai, and it is not easy. I am afraid to speak Thai to Thai people as I cannot grasp the concept of the different tones, and I don't want to be laughed at or misunderstood. My mother-in-law assures me that the laughing is good natured and that the people are so pleased to hear me speak the language, however poorly. I don't want to say dog when I mean horse. or say anything naughty or rude.

  4. #4
    D80 Guest

    happy

    hiya dscarter,

    The story about the rude woman I told happened a long time ago, more than ten years. Still, I remembered it quite clearly.

    Don't worry too much about speaking the Thai and getting some words wrong sometimes. I'm sure people will understand. If they are not sure what you were tryig to say, they are likely to ask you & clearify it. I think it is great that you are trying to learn. My husband gets confused between a horse and a dog too! heheheh

    Good luck with your Thai & see you around the forum sometimes!


  5. #5
    rcrowe Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (D80 @ April 14 2003,20:20)] When I was a teenager (long time ago ), I remembered a western woman with a big backpack asking me the direction to Kao san Road. I had to ask my aunty where it is and translated that back to her. And since I did not deliver the answer quick enough, half way through my giving direction to her, she stormed off huffing and puffing while muttering 'stupid Thai' under her breath!
    There is a good response to people who behave like the woman you describe but it unfortunately involves the use of sharp implements and police in all countries frown on that sort of thing!!!

  6. #6
    Vali Guest
    Well of course whatever is said here is going to be a sweeping generalisation, but I guess that's what is being asked for

    What I think is that Thai people really enjoy when you speak Thai. Even if you are horrible, the fact that you are trying to speak and have tried to learn raises their bar of respect for you... You aren't just there to live off the Thais and expect them to know English and help you, you are trying to help yourself

    On the other hand, in Bangkok (as that is the area I am most familiar with) many people (especially younger people) know some English so it is fairly easy to get by with little Thai. I still think you should try out your Thai though. For example you could say "hong nam yuu nai" but have horrendous pronunciation such that they wouldn't understand. Then you could revert to English and say "where is the bathroom" and then they would probably be able to understand (either by English or by putting two and two together)...

    Just my advice ... It's always fun to practice that Thai!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (Vali @ April 15 2003,10:38)]"where is the bathroom?"
    Why would anyone want a bathroom? Do you want to take a shower in a stranger's house or a department store?

    When speaking English to Thai people, always speak slowly and avoid slang or words/phrases that are not widely used. If they don't understand your first attempt don't keep trying the same phrase slower and louder until you are shouting at them. Instead, rephrase what you are saying. If you don't have much luck with "Where is the bathroom?" then try "Where is the toilet?"

    All Thai people love it when foreigners try speaking Thai. Even a poor attempt at "hello" or "thank you" in Thai will have everyone smiling and clapping at your efforts. Don't worry about making a fool of yourself or that the Thai people seem to be laughing at you. It is just their way of covering up embarrassment. They try to diffuse a situation by laughing. Keep trying!

    The Thai governemt recognize that English is seen as an international language. As tourism is a very important revenue earner for the country, they have taken steps to teach more English across the country. As a result, it is now compulsory for students to learn English from Primary 1.

  8. #8
    seamon Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] (sawatdee @ April 15 2003,20:48)]When speaking English to Thai people, always speak slowly and avoid slang or words/phrases that are not widely used. If they don't understand your first attempt don't keep trying the same phrase slower and louder until you are shouting at them. Instead, rephrase what you are saying. If you don't have much luck with "Where is the bathroom?" then try "Where is the toilet?"
    i agree on this one... it'll be even better if you try broken english in their slang... for example, when you say "I don't understand what you are saying". You could say " me no understand you speak what"... this is how i communicated with most of them and they didn't have diffuculties in understanding what I was saying.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by [b
    Quote[/b] ]All Thai people love it when foreigners try speaking Thai. Even a poor attempt at "hello" or "thank you" in Thai will have everyone smiling and clapping at your efforts. Don't worry about making a fool of yourself or that the Thai people seem to be laughing at you. It is just their way of covering up embarrassment. They try to diffuse a situation by laughing. Keep trying!
    I've always wondered how Thai locals felt when tourists attempted to speak their lingo. Now I have my question answered without even asking...

  10. #10
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    Oopsie...

    As a linguist I have to disagree with Seamon; no offence intended. He writes: it'll be even better if you try broken english in their slang... for example, when you say "I don't understand what you are saying". You could say " me no understand you speak what".

    On occasion when in the compnay of other farang I have heard this approach used...even with Thai people who are well-educated. I would think that this must insult their intelligence. Most Thais have studied English for several years (and nowadays English is taught even in primary schools). To talk Tarzan-talk to Thais is not only confusing, but it can also result in their speaking incorrect English because that's what they hear foreigners speaking. Really not a good outcome.

    I've found that when using correct grammar--as much as possible (maybe even more so than we are accustomed to!)--the Thais do understand and are able to communicate well. Speaking slowly and clearly, and using easy or basic vocabulary often helps with shy Thais. But dropping plurals, tenses, pronouns, articles, and the like usually results in reinforcing bad usage. Moreover, to others listening, it can make the speaker sound pretty silly, too.
    Abandon wrongdoing. It can be done.
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