First of all! I’ve never ‘studied’ Thai, and I’ve only lived here for 2 years total so I’m not an expert by any means, but these are a few things I wish I learned sooner / that I use on a regular basis.
First thing to know: men say KHAP! and women say KAA! at the END of every sentence when you are done talking! It’s like a politeness thing and just a unique part of Thai language! So try not to forget to say KHAP if you are a man, and KAA if you are a woman.
Second thing, is there’s no correct english spelling of Thai words… it’s all just rough approximations of the sounds! So in you will see KAP also spelled KHRAP, KUP, KAB, etc… and Khaosoi spelled Kaosoy, Kao Soi etc.
The other thing best to know before you come is the numbers. I learned the Thai numbers on my first plane ride over. Download a Thai language app and just memorize the numbers! All you need to learn is 1-11, 100 and 1000 and you’re good to go!
1) Hello! – say SAWA-DEE-KAP (if you’re a man), and SAWA-DEE-KAA if you’re a woman.
- For short, how most people say it casually – SWEADY-KAP! // SWEADY-KAA! .
- Also putting your hands up to your chest below your chin means Hello. Your hands should not be in front of your face unless it’s a monk you’re addressing.
2) Thank you! – say KHOB-KHUN-KUP! // KHOB-KHUN-KAA!
- Often I’ll say Khob khun MAAK na kaap or Khob khun MAAK MAAAK na Kappp = thank you very much
- Say Na-kap / Na-kaa instead of just kap/kaa to say it more like a local. It means nothing, just sounds better.
3) How much? – say TAO-RAI Kup! // TAO-RAI Kaa!
4) Yes & No – Yes = CHAI , No = MAI CHAI… + MAI at the end of a sentence makes it a question.
5) Can/Cannot ++ Have/Don’t have – Can = DAI , Have = MEE //// MAI DAI = Cannot // MAI MEE = Don’t have
- So to ask if they have spaghetti, say ‘Spaghetti MEE MAI kap/kaa? If they don’t have, they’ll say “Mai Mee Kaa!”:) If they do have it, they’ll say “Mee! Kaa!” Or if they ask do you have a Thai girlfriend, say “Ohhh Mai Mee kup!” (don’t have!)
- To ask if you can do something, say “DAI MAI kap/kaa” .. to say you can’t do something ( like speak thai), say “MAI DAI kup/kaa”
BONUS! Let’s keep goin cuz I’m on a roll:)
6) Want / Don’t want = OW – Use when ordering, offering or refusing.
- If u wanna order chicken phat thai, say “owww phat thai gai kap!”
- or to order an iced Americano like I do every day, say “oww Americano yen kup!”
- To refuse a tuktuk driver offering you a ride say, “Mai oww kup!” (always with a smile!!:)
- Or to offer a your beer to a friend say, “Bia ow mai kup?” She will say “Mai Ow kaa:)” if she doesn’t want
7) What’s your name? – Khun CHOO ALAI kap? // Khun CHOO ALAI kaa?
- Khun = you
- Choo = name
- Alai = what
8) What?? – ALAI NA kup // ALAI NA kaaa?
- Used when you don’t understand
- NA is often stuck in before kup/kaa e.g. KHOB KHUN MAK na kup = thank you very much
9) Very Delicious! – AROI MAAK MAAAK!
10) How are you? – SABAI DEE MAI kup/kaa?
- To respond, say SABAI DEE! Kap/kaa!
- Sabai = happy
- Dee = good
- Mai = no?