Is Learning Thai Really Necessary? (2.19)

2017-11-14T23:19:08+07:00February 13th, 2017|Bangkok Podcast Season 2, Expat Experiences|4 Comments

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To learn to speak Thai or not learn to speak Thai. That is the question. No, literally. It’s the question we’re asking each other on behalf of all people who come to live in Thailand. As you’ll hear, we have a difference of opinion.

So yeah, we’re the #1 travel podcast in Thailand. That’s kinda cool. But it’s not what we’re talking about today… (but thanks for subscribing!)

We ask ourselves a simple question on this week’s show: If you’re going to “live” in Thailand, do you need to learn Thai? Not surprisingly, we have differing opinions on the matter. Greg, the 16 year expat, staunchly feels anyone wishing to live in Thailand needs to learn the language. Evo, not surprisingly, takes the opposite view. Then again, he only has a year under his belt, so take his opinion with a shot of nam pla.

Some arguments for include the ability to keep yourself out of trouble by knowing what warning signs say, having a deeper understanding of Thai culture, and generally paying homage to the fact that you’re living in a country with something other than your native tongue as the official language.

Arguments against include the fact that most (but not all) signs that you really need to see are also presented in English, Thai students have been forced to learn English (or at least enroll in English classes) for decades, and that technology makes for easy as-you-need it translation.

Not surprisingly, there’s more to it that that. Listen to the show to see which side of the argument you identify with. For bonus points, leave us a comment on the blog, or even a review on iTunes with your thoughts on who’s right. Because we strive for your approval! Kidding.

Oh, and that better translation app Evo mentioned? It comes from, a great web resource. They have an iOS app, but we’re not sure about Android. Get it.

Love, Loathe, or Leave?

Thai pajamas. Or the “farang uniform”. Lightweight, colorful and comfortable pants  that gather around the waist that no self-respecting Thai person would be caught dead in. I think we’re giving away our opinions on these horrid garments. Clean it up a bit, tourists. This is Bangkok. Put on the big person pants when you go out in public, OK?

Want more?

Leave a review here or send us a message on the contact tab at the top menu, or leave a review for us on iTunes or Google Play. Oh, and we have a Facebook page! You can even Tweet to the show @bangkokpodcast or us personally at @bkkgreg or @evoterra. We’ll see you next week on The Bangkok Podcast!



  1. Graham February 15, 2017 at 4:20 am - Reply

    Hi guys, thanks for the podcast.
    My wife is Thai and I’m an occasional visitor – last visit was 5 weeks over Christmas – New Year. I speak ‘conversational’ Thai – I can have a conversation with a person if we use the occasional hand signal and I use my app to look up words I don’t understand. I would like to speak better Thai, and like Evo I know it’s one country so isn’t worth it. The thing is, I would like to have the ‘speaks another language fluently’ achievement in life, and Thai is the closest to home. To speak it better I would have to live in Thailand though. I forget what I learn, and like Greg, if I can get through the day without it nothing forces me to learn it.
    Bangkok might be OK for the locals speaking English, but up country where I spend most of my Thai time it is not. The issue up country is speaking a little bit of Thai, enough to initiate a simple transaction, but then the local will expect you to speak it fluently.
    Also, an anecdote from Malaysia that puts me off relying on the ability of local people to speak and understand English. My wife and I went into the bus station and one of the touts took us up to the counter saying ‘2 percent’. We couldn’t work out what he meant – I thought he was talking about his commission. Then I realised he was saying ‘2 persons’. We had lots of other times when the taxi driver could not understand what we were saying – things like ‘Petronas Towers’ and the name of the hotel, for example.
    Finally, on the side of Evo, speaking Thai means you will understand what people are talking about most of the time. And for me, that meant understanding how often Thai people talk about food. I hopped on a train in Sydney last year and a group of young Thai men were having a conversation. To be fair, they did talk about visas for half my journey. Then, it was food.

    • Greg February 15, 2017 at 5:49 pm - Reply

      Hey Graham, thanks! Yes, when my wife says the word ‘cement’ she pronounces it ‘CE-men’ and leaves off the final t, so…yeah, understanding the context is very important too. 🙂

      You’re very right though – living in Bangkok is a great crutch to say ‘you don’t need to learn Thai’ but if Evo or I were living in, say, Loei, or Mae Hong Son, or Surat Thani, we’d probably be a lot closer to fluency than we are now. 🙂

  2. Tim Rhind February 18, 2017 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    Hello. Enjoying the podcasts. Was a follower of the first series.

    In the podcast Evo mentions an App that he likes and that a link would be added to show notes. Can you add please

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