The official language of Thailand is Thai which can also be known as Central Thai or Siamese. This language is the principal means of government and communications as well as education in the country. The Thai alphabet is an evolution of Khmer Script which is a language used in neighbouring Cambodia. The Thai language is a part of the Tai-Kada language family, found in China, Northeast Indian, and Southeast Asia. There are many regional variants of Central Thai that are mutually intelligible.

Approximately 68.9 million people live Thailand, and over 20 million of these citizens speak a variation of the Central Thai language as their native tongue. There are over 24 different dialects of the Thai language within the region, but the most widely spoken is Thai Lao, with speakers mostly located in the northeastern part of the nation. In total, approximately 60 million citizens in Thailand will know Central Thai as a first or secondary language.

Many locals in the major tourist centres will know English, however, learning a few phrases in Thai will be much appreciated. “Sa-wat-dee”, means Hello in Thai and 'khob khun”, means thank-you. “Nee tao rai?” is a way of asking how much something costs and “mai aow”, means “I do not want it”. The written language is tough to decipher for tourists and “mai kow jai”, meaning “I do not understand”, can be useful in situations that call for it.

According to many experts, there are over 70 living languages in the country as well as six variations of sign language. The most significant minority language in the country is Lao, a traditional language of the Lao Kingdom. There are also pockets of Malay speakers in the far south of the country as well as many Chinese languages spread across this diverse nation. English, Japanese, and Vietnamese are spoken by a tiny percentage of the population as a first language. Other minority languages in Thailand include dialects from the Afro-Asiatic, Austronesian, and Sino-Tibetan families of language.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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