A great way to practice Thai is by reading Thai literature. What you find in Thai language books is considered ‘perfect’, ‘correct’, ‘intelligent’, polite, lacking of slang and regional/dialectal vocabulary, and follows proper grammatical structure. All beginners to the Thai language are taught this form by Thai teachers – it’s considered the benchmark of fluent prowess.
But no Thai actually speaks like a book.
Thai as found in books is not the same as spoken Thai. No one uses perfect, correct, polite speech, without slang or regional dialect, and correctly follows all grammatical structure. This isn’t just because Thai schools fail to properly educate, but because ‘book Thai’ is too unwieldy for daily usage. It’s bogged down with complexity and over redundancy.
Enter: spoken Thai.
The Thai language is very contextually based. Sentences are chopped up, redundant words are removed – you say exactly what you mean and no more. You avoid words with more than one syllable. You then add a single word at the end of the sentence to make the entire thing polite, or harsh, or whatever. Straight and to the point.
But that’s not all. You can even remove the subject, unit words, verbs, and even syllables within words.
Why is this? Context. If the situation is obvious, there is no need to redundantly explain it. In the following examples I’ll show how you take a full ‘book’ example and shorten it to be ‘normal’ spoken Thai. The great advantage to all this is that your mind doesn’t need to formulate complete sentences to speak or to listen. It just needs to know the context.
Let’s take this first simple sentence, “I like to eat fish.”
The ‘perfect’ book translation would then be,
As it is obvious you are referring to yourself, there is no need to say ‘I’:
If you are at a restaurant, or referring to food in general, we already know you mean ‘to eat it’. So let’s shorten that some more to:
Let’s say the context was about fish, for example you were asked ‘do you like to eat fish?’ Well, you don’t need to repeat the word ‘fish’ as it’s already contextually understood. So you then just say:
The word ครับ with that ร requires an awkward tongue movement. Remove that syllable to get:
Even then,you shouldn’t be too polite. If you’re just with friends, that last word isn’t neccessary. So what are we left with?
to be continued…