Learn a few ways to say “Hello” and “Goodbye” in Thai as well as how to wai or greet a Thai person. We also talk about the common reactions you might get from Thais as you begin your Thai language journey in The Land of Smiles. Listen to our first episode!
Download MP3 and listen to it offline here
Hello is just not hello. We already know this, yet we seem to forget this. So much of language is cultural context and when you begin your journey towards acquiring another language, you start to really become aware of this.
In paa-săa Thai, or the Thai language, women say,” sà wàt dii kâ“, and men say, “sà wàt dii kráb”. kâ and kráb are polite particles.
The idea of male and female speakers using different words is really not so foreign as most Americans are familiar with Spanish, and how the endings of words are different depending on the speaker and whether or not words are considered masculine or feminine.
I imagine English speakers in Europe are also aware of this because of their rich histories or backgrounds with so many other European countries. So, in Thai, we have the same thing. The lady folks say “kâ” at the end of talking and the men folk say “kráb” often dropping the r and saying “káb”.
Up here in the North or in Chiang Mai, speakers say, “sà wát dii jâo”. Normally it’s the women who say “ jâo”
You might also hear “wàt dii” which is what I equate to as the English equivalent of “hi”. In other words, it’s just a shorter version of “sà wàt dii”.
And if you’re really lazy (or efficient) like me, you’ll just respond to sà wàt dii, by saying “kâ”.
It’s also important to greet and say goodbye to a Thai person with a wai. It’s the comparable to the American handshake. But unlike the handshake, Thais have different levels of respect regarding the wai. The deeper the wai, or head placement, the more respect is shown for the other person, like with an elder or monk.
With children or with cohorts it is okay and appropriate to wai without bowing your head so low. And sometimes a nod can suffice, as a response to a wai with someone younger than you. Obviously context is king here. If you are leaving a restaurant, it is perfectly okay not to wai back.
It seems like a lot to remember, but Thais are very patient and encouraging when you are practicing Thai. Sometimes they laugh out of embarrassment, or because the situation is uncomfortable but they are NOT laughing at you. Thai people want to help, and will often find a friend who speaks better English to do so, at least that has been my experience. So I hope, you will have fun and enjoy learning Thai.For the English, Thai script and transliteration of episode 1, click here.
- Blog post written by Lani. For more on her life in Thailand visit Life, the Universe and Lani.
It’s a beautiful pictorial language. Don’t be shy in sharing your experiences too!
We’d love to hear from you. Until next time, “póp gan mài kâ”! (see you again)