I Learned to Speak Thai Fluently & You Can Too

I guess I should qualify such a bold statement before Catherine from Women Learning Thai or Rikker from Thai 101, who are much more knowledgable on the subject,  come along and call me out. I do speak fluent Thai but it’s a dialect of the Thai language that most Thai language speakers, teachers, and learners are unfamiliar with.

To begin with there are quite a few possibilities when speaking Thai. There is colloquial Thai, street Thai and then the further you get into rural Thailand you will have Thai mixed with Lao or Khmer,  better known as Issan Thai. In Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom it’s always a mix of Thai and Lao in the same sentence which can make it hard when learning Thai.  But, I have finally hit on a little known and used dialect of the Thai language used by a certain tribe that numbers in the Thousands. Not only do they understand me completely when I speak this Thai…they have accepted me as one of their own!

I have to give credit where credit is due and to that end I must confess I have been tutored by a private teacher for months. Her name is Fa Thongon and she happens to have a PHD in the subject language. The particular Thai dialect she is an expert in is High Gibberish Thai . It may be important to note at this point that Fa is only 3 years old but don’t let that put you off as she will be four soon enough.

While Fa knows a little Thai and a few words in English, her prefered linguistic approach is always in High Gibberish Thai. We had a very long phone conversation about this particular dialect of the language last night, and while I could clue you in to the subtle nuances of the language I’m afraid most of you just wouldn’t understand and would be at a loss to figure it out. In Fa’s short time studying the language she has truly mastered it,  and helped me to master it as well.

In this particular dialect of the Thai language the speaker isn’t forced to rely on tones or pronunciations, they actually tend to complicate the process. No, this Thai language is more of a free form flow of thoughts and ideas punctuated with giggles and hand gestures. Often times short screeches can be substituted for actual words and oddly enough every conversation starts off in English with Hello, hello, hello.

The language itself is mostly used in informal settings but can be used at any time. Unfortunately the language is limited to Thai children which makes it unuseable in most day to day situations, unless you are a baby sitter.

For now though I am content that I can communicate with my little Thai friend because it is something I enjoy immensely. I have my work cut out for me though because eventually she will be a fluent Thai speaker and I don’t want to miss our little talks.

My little Thai teacher

sig1 I Learned to Speak Thai Fluently & You Can Too

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Comment by JonNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 01:45:33

Ha ha, brilliant – had to re-read the intro a couple of times.

Perhaps I should wait to have my 9 month old tutor me once he is old enough ;O
Jon´s last blog ..Raising children in Thailand My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 12:18:04

Jon, If nothing else you’ll be on an even footing with the your baby until he learns the language. And then hopefully you can learn better with him.

Comment by MartynNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 02:34:25

Love it, very funny and one cute photo. In my early Thailand days I spent stacks of time in Pattaya and became fluent in a language that was known as Buakhao Mao. A few of us falang would meet most days in Luckys Bar in Soi Buakhao and the more we drunk the more our language became a mix of English and very bad Thai and hence Buakhao Mao was born. Your posts seem to bring back many memories to me. Best wishes.
Martyn´s last blog ..Safe Sleeping My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 12:11:02

Martyn, I speak Buakhao Mao fluently too…have spent many nights studying the nuances of “hab” and ” no hab”.

Comment by MikeNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 03:48:35

Hi Talen, that brightened my day-great post.

Funnily enough Doy who is 6 on Saturday and I have a similar language much to the annoyance of MTF who spends hours trying to teach her central Thai. Our language is a mixture of Thai English and gestures.

Trouble is that she still hasn’t figured out that if I don’t understand it the first time I won’t on the 20th repeat!

Great fun though and I have learned a lot of Thai since she came to stay with us. She actually pronounces some English words better than MTF which of course goes down like a lead balloon!
Mike´s last blog ..National Symbols of Thailand My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 12:12:41

Thanks Mike. Having a child around is definitely an advantage to the language game and I’m hoping I can piggy back off of what Fa learns.

Comment by Richard Subscribed to comments via email
2009-07-29 03:52:41

Good post. Funny! :D

Comment by MalcolmNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 06:42:30

Talen , what a great post and when I saw the title of the post I got jealous and thought to myself,” how can that be” , he doesn’t even live here full time and says he can speak fluent Thai . You had me going there for a while . What a wonderful,time in life and pleasure for you it is to be able to share these times with Fa and sadly tho they will past and you will be right back with the rest of use doing the best we can and speaking Pig Latin (when I was growing up ) and try to make since of things being said around and to us and feeling real proud of ourselves when we get one or two words right and , also when we understand a word or two. Thanks again for the lovely post and picture. Malcolm
Malcolm´s last blog ..THE SIGNS ARE EVERYWHERE My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 12:16:32

Malcolm, if Thai was Pig Latin I have a feeling most if not all of us would have mastered it by now and be teaching it.

The great thing about Fa is we can speak the same language for now and get along swimmingly and everyone smiles. When I butcher the real Thai everyone laughs too so I’m batting 1000.

As it is now I can speak fluently enough to get the price, the beer and the bathroom so at least the essentials are covered :)

Glad you liked it.

Comment by Nomadic MattNo Gravatar
2009-07-29 14:55:50

I like the name “Fa” – sky!
Nomadic Matt´s last blog ..What Type of Backpacker Are You? My ComLuv Profile

Comment by CatherineNo Gravatar
2009-07-30 06:23:58

Talen, what a hilarious post! It was an absolute joy to read.

‘this Thai language is more of a free form flow of thoughts and ideas punctuated with giggles and hand gestures.’

Now THAT’s my kind of Thai :-D
Catherine´s last blog ..Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners: David Long My ComLuv Profile

Comment by @pleiades21 Subscribed to comments via email
2009-11-05 09:53:53

hahaha, your post remind me something about my father said to me when I was just a little girl and didn’t study English yet.

“Go, and play with the boy next door and you can learn how to speak English.” (the boy’s half-Thai half-American and only 4 years old)

But the one who had earned the most benefit was a boy’s grandma because she’d leared how to order some Thai foods (how to pronounce some food names), such as Somtum,Kanom Jeen Kang Kai…, from me instead, and I never spoke English with them but we could communicate 5555+

By the way, Nong Fa is so cute :D I have imagine that both of you must have a lot of giggles and hand gestures. 5555+
@pleiades21´s last blog ..pleiades21: @ontm ????????????????????? XD My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-11-05 18:39:35

That’s a nice storyy Pleiades. Little Fa is a cutey and we giggle and hand gesture every chance we get.

Comment by Siam.RickNo Gravatar
2009-11-05 20:26:07

Oh my gawd, Martyn and Talen! I speak Buakhao Mao too! It’s a small world, isn’t it? I’m pretty proud about that. No one’s ever questioned my tones either. Sometimes I even remember to say “Krap!” at the end. Sometimes at the beginning too. As in: “Krap! Gep mahk!”
Siam.Rick´s last blog ..Canada takes more active interest in Southeast Asian issues My ComLuv Profile

Comment by TalenNo Gravatar
2009-11-05 20:58:48

Rick, Hopefully one day we’ll all be in Thailand at the same time and we can all head to Pattaya and have a shit session speaking fluent Buakhao Mao… it would be real interesting.

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