As you might expect, the official language in Thailand is… Thai! It is the language spoken by the vast majority of Thai citizens and is the language used by the government and bureaucracy. This means that the alphabet is different to the one used in western countries, having been evolved from the original Khmer script. It is important to take a phrase book with you when visiting Thailand, as many people in the country do not speak English – and why should they?
To give you a bit of help, we’ve found a site that lists a great selection of different words and phrases you’ll need to help with your language in Thailand. You can find it right here. Of course, getting a book is much better though, as it’ll have more information and can be accessed anywhere, even when you don’t have the luxury of Wi-Fi!
Thai isn’t the only language in Thailand though, as some regions of the country have their own languages. In the south of the country, many people speak the Southern Thai language, while Northern Thai is spoken in places that used to be a part of the kingdom of Lannathai (around from the 13th to 18th centuries). Resources on how to speak these languages are scarcer, however they can be found online.
Aside from Thai, Southern Thai and Northern Thai, the country is also home to a number of smaller tribal languages, spoken in small pockets throughout the country. These include Mlabri, Orang Asli and Karen. These are only found in very rural areas though, so the chances of a standard traveller encountering them are low (although braver travellers should definitely try to get to the more remote areas of the country).
English is taught in all schools in Thailand, however the number of people speaking it is still very low. What might help you though is the fact that all road signs are in both Thai and English, and it is spoken quite a lot in larger cities, such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Please don’t expect someone to speak English though – after all, you’re in their country, so you should be trying to communicate in their language. If you really can’t communicate, hand gestures can usually get you what you need.