When you visit Thailand you will be amazed by its natural beauty as well as the beauty of its national and official language, Thai. The sing-song nasal sound of the language is actually quite soothing to listen to. It is like someone is singing a song softly to you.
The Thai language is accurately called Central Thai or Siamese. It is the mother tongue of the Thai people as well as the dominant ethnic group of Thailand, the Thai Chinese. The language is similar and intelligible with the Lao language. Some of the words in Thai were borrowed from Old Khmer, Sanskrit and Pali. Native speakers of the Thai language number 20 million, while a combined number of speakers, which is mixed with those people that speak Thai as a second language totals 60 million as of 2001. Standard Thai is based on the language spoken by the educated people that are residents of Bangkok. Thai people also speak Siamese Thai aside from the other Tai languages, such as the Northeastern Thia called Isan, Khorat Thai, Northern Thai (spoken in Chiang Mai), Southern Thai and Phu Thai. Lao, Shan language of Burma and Zhuang, spoken in the province of Guangxi in southern China belong to the Tai language family.
Uses of Siamese Thai
In the context of its usage, Siamese Thai has several levels. Common Thais is informal and lacks polite terms when addressing people. This is mostly used when talking with friends and relatives. The written and official version is the formal or elegant Thai, while the rhetorical version is used for public speaking only. The religious versions is influenced heavily by Pali and Sanskrit and used when addressing monks or discussing Buddhism. There is also a royal Thai version that is used when discussing the activities and addressing the royal family. This version is influenced by Khmer.
A complex language
Thai uses its own script, influenced by the Khmer language. There are some interesting points in the language. There is no set pattern on how to transcribe Thai into Latin alphabet, thus a place could be spelled in different ways. Take for example the country’s main airport. It can be transcribed to Suwunnapoon, Suwannaphum or Suvarnabhumi. Thai dictionaries, text books and guide books may be transcribed differently.
The Thai script is said to have been created by King Ramkhamhaeng in 1283, with the Old Khmer alphabet influencing its creation. Several minority languages, like Pali, Sanskrit, and Thai all used the Thai alphabet in their written form.
Giving Thai language a try
If you want to try saying some words and phrases in Thai, this could help you. One thing to note is that some words in Thai are only used by women or by men when asking questions or responding.