Each year over 12 million people travel to Thailand and a large number relocate or spend an extended amount of time there.

Tourists can easily get by speaking no Thai if they stick to the main tourist areas and establishments. If you want a richer holiday and fuller cultural experience, knowing a little Thai will definitely go a long way.

If you plan to stay for a while, your ability to speak Thai will give you more choice of possible partners and will allow you to build more friendships. It will also give you independence for all those simple day to day tasks like ordering food, going shopping or renting a DVD. Knowing Thai will allow you to start a business with a much greater chance of success than any non-Thai speaker and can make it a great deal easier for you to land a high paying expat job. Furthermore, it will allow you to successfully integrate into society and have a happier and more fulfilled life. Overall the quality of your life in Thailand will be significantly increased if you can speak Thai.

The below information is definitely worth reading for those who are planning to spend an extended amount of time in Thailand.

Relationships and Love

It is an undeniable fact that a lot of foreigners come to Thailand to build relationships with Thai women and why not? Thai women can be extremely beautiful, very feminine, caring and honest. If you are one of those who has an interest in meeting a Thai woman but you can’t speak Thai, you are putting a huge limit on yourself.

The average Thai person will study English while they are in school and maybe a little after that while in university. Most of those who have studied have never practiced and, therefore, are unable to converse. If you are unable to speak Thai, you are ruling out having a relationship or even a friendship with a large portion of the population. For myself, in the past, I missed a number of opportunities with really nice girls. This was because, back then, I couldn’t speak Thai and they couldn’t speak English well. It’s not that these girls were not smart or educated. I recall that one was a civil engineer. It’s just that the average person in Thailand cannot speak English well enough to have a conversation.

By learning Thai you will open up a tremendous number of opportunities in building relationships. You wouldn’t want to miss that perfect girl just because you couldn’t speak to her. It’s unquestionable, speaking Thai will open up the gates to having relationships with Thai people.

I have often heard people say that a percentage of the girls who can speak English fluently may be out there looking for someone for something other than love. Being able to speak Thai will give you opportunities to meet those normal girls who represent the vast majority of women in Thailand.

Integrating into society

Imagine that you are living in your home country and a new neighbor moves in. You try to build a friendship with him over the years but his language skills are terrible and he doesn’t seem to be improving or even interested in improving. I’m sure that you won’t think very highly of him. Will the situation be so different if you were living in Thailand?

Sure, this new neighbor of yours can live in your country but how fulfilled will his life be? It goes without saying that he will be missing out on a lot of important aspects in his life due to his communication inabilities. This neighbor of yours will only go out with his foreign friends and won’t develop an understanding of or relationships with the people around him. He will be living inside his own little society.

Understanding the language of the country that you live in is essential to integrating and having a sustainable and happy life. I have heard a number of people admit that they are ashamed that they can’t speak Thai. I think I would feel ashamed, too, if I lived in a country but couldn’t speak the language. I would at least want to be in the process of learning it. One of the main reasons that people don’t speak Thai even though they live in Thailand is because they think studying Thai is hard.

Well, studying any language can be very hard if you use the wrong method. It is easy to waste countless hours, weeks, and months of time studying ineffectively. Our program has been specifically designed based on scientific research so that you learn Thai in the minimum amount of time with maximum efficiency.

People will appreciate you and look at you differently

As tourism is such a big industry in Thailand, people will see that you are a foreigner and tend to look upon you and treat you as a tourist. Once you can speak Thai, local people will view you in a totally different light. They will be friendly and curious to get to know you. Showing that you can speak Thai will demonstrate that you have put an effort into integrating into their country. Thai people will be very impressed when they hear that you can speak Thai.

Friendships

Let's face it. Having friends and relationships is one of the most important things in having a happy and fulfilled life. It is easy back in your own country because you can chat with your next door neighbor, your workmates, relatives, shopkeepers and almost everyone in your country about anything you could possibly think of.

In your home country it would be no problem to go out to dinner with your friends or relatives. You could also chat with your coworkers about the latest news or sports. You wouldn’t have any problems perusing your favorite hobbies with like-minded people. If you are living in Thailand and don’t speak Thai, you will realize that you take this for granted.

Speaking Thai will allow you to build a whole new social network, create lifelong friends, join in on conversations, ask for someone’s opinion or simply discuss your feelings about a particular topic. It’s these small things that can make the difference between being happy and content in a country and wanting to go back home.

In the more developed places within Thailand there are sure to be English speakers around, but there is no doubt that having to rely on English speaking people for every thing you do in Thailand will limit the pleasure and fulfillment of your stay.

Business and Trust

You may or may not have heard stories about people being cheated in business or relationships in Thailand. It does happen I have experienced it on a couple of occasions myself. I know that, if I could have spoken Thai back then, it probably wouldn’t have happened. If it did, however, I would have been able to quickly find out the truth.

It will be much harder for someone to cheat you if you can speak Thai well. First, you will be able to gain a much deeper understanding into that person’s character just by the fact that you can understand how they interact and behave with the people around them.

I know personally that if I had a business in Thailand, I would want to know what my employees were talking about. If I had a Thai girlfriend, I would want to gain a deeper understanding of her personality and understand how she behaves with people apart from me.

Here are a couple of quotes from the book “Start Up and Stay Up in Thailand,” the quotes are included in the section on Richard Murray who runs a distribution company in Bangkok with around 100 employees.

“Knowing Thai increases the size of the talent pool available to you as so few Thais, especially at the worker and clerical level, can speak foreign languages.”

“And finally, knowing the language will better ensure that you, the foreign entrepreneur, will know what is happening around you. In a foreign land, where the cultural cues differ, guessing what others are thinking and doing can become a hazardous adventure.”

“I see this all the time. An expat opens up a small company. He hires people who can speak very good English. By doing this he thinks, ‘Ok, now I don’t have to learn Thai.’ But you know, not everybody is a saint. Sooner or later, certain people are going to figure out they can bleed you white if they wanted to. When I started my business I decided that I never wanted to be taken advantage of."

Here are some quotes from the book “How to Establish a Successful Business in Thailand” by Phillip Wylie.

“Learn the Thai language and respect Thai customs and etiquette” is second in the list of “Top Ten Do’s” for starting a successful business in Thailand..

David Frost, who is managing a print cartridge manufacture company that annually grosses over ninety million Baht, states “Learn a working knowledge of Thai as quickly as possible,”

Independence

If you can’t speak the Thai language, even a simple task can become a real problem. How are you going to order food at the local restaurant? How are you going to go to the local video shop and sign up for a membership? What about if your car or bike breaks down? How are you going to organize for it to be repaired? What if your toilet springs a leak? There are countless other situations in which you will be left helpless if you cannot communicate.

One way to get around this is if you have a Thai partner. But is this really a way to live being dependent on your Thai partner to help you with every small task? I know certainly it would be hard for me to live being so dependent on a partner for an expended period of time

Satisfaction

There is no doubt that the satisfaction of learning a language can be very gratifying. The feeling of conversing in another language can be incredibly pleasing. Any non-Thai speaking foreigners are sure to envy your skills.

Employment

Jobs for foreigners are quite limited in Thailand. There are lots of foreigners who would love to relocate to Thailand but they cannot because they are unable to find a job. In Thailand there are lots of large multinational companies that do employ foreigners and normally offer large salary packages. If you can read and speak Thai, it will be infinitely easier for you to land these types of these jobs.

Entertainment

Obviously it goes without saying that the vast majority of books, magazines, TV shows, news reports, radio stations, signage, promotional materials, newspapers, timetables, program guides, menus, and websites in Thailand are written in Thai. Being able to read and speak Thai will put a huge range of information and entertainment options at your disposal. You will be able to chat about the latest Thai news and events with your neighbors, colleagues or friends.

Can older people learn a language?

The National Teaching and Learning Forum have put together an extensive research paper on the matter. It is definitely worth a read for any older people who are thinking about learning Thai. Here are a few extracts:

“There is no decline in the ability to learn as people get older; except for minor considerations such as hearing and vision loss, the age of the adult learner is not a major factor in language acquisition; the context in which adults learn is the major influence on their ability to acquire the new language.”

>”Studies comparing the rate of second language acquisition in children and adults have shown that although children may have an advantage in achieving native-like fluency in the long run, adults actually learn languages more quickly than children in the early stages

“More recent research in neurology has demonstrated that, while language learning is different in childhood and adulthood because of developmental differences in the brain, "In important respects adults have superior language learning capabilities" (Walsh and Diller). "The advantage for adults is that the neural cells responsible for higher-order linguistic processes such as understanding semantic relations and grammatical sensitivity develop with age. Especially in the areas of vocabulary and language structure, adults are actually better language learners than children.”

Here is what Steve Kaufmann, author of “The Linguist” and founder of www.thelinguist.com, a site that helps millions of people learn English and other more common languages, has to say, “I do believe that older (over 20) people make the best language learners. They are more motivated. I also think they are just as good at it, as children, despite the often repeated myth that children learn languages better.”

There has been a lot of study about what the effects of being able to speak multiple languages have on the mind. Here are some extracts from various research papers:

“The researchers determined that the mean age of onset of dementia symptoms in the monolingual group was 71.4 years, while the bilingual group was 75.5 years. This difference remained even after considering the possible effect of cultural differences, immigration, formal education, employment and even gender as influencers in the results.”

“"The data show a huge protective effect," adds co-investigator Dr. [Fergus] Craik, who cautioned that this is still a preliminary finding but nonetheless in line with a number of other recent findings about lifestyle effects on dementia.”

“There are lifelong cognitive benefits to knowing two languages and transitional benefits gained during the learning process. Studies show that at every level, bilinguals perform better in cognitive tests. Children who study a second language do better at logical reasoning, mathematics and English verbal tests. They get better exam results and adults who are competent in more than one language do best in both verbal and nonverbal intelligence tests.”

”Old people wary of dementia are encouraged to keep their minds active by learning another language. The mental challenge should strengthen brain connections and keep them sharp. Quite apart from all this there are obvious social and employment advantages to having access to two cultures.”

“As we grow older, one of our many health concerns is to maintain our mental health. If scientists could only come up with a surefire way to keep the aging brain sharp and agile, it would be a major breakthrough. Well, they have. Studies have shown that acquiring a second language actually changes the brain and increases mental acuity. A study on the language region of the brain was conducted by Andrea Mechelli, a neuro scientist at University College, London, and reported in the science journal Nature. They found that the grey matter in the language region of the brain was larger in people who speak two languages than in those who speak only one. Another study, conducted by researchers from York University in Canada has found that adults who were fluent in two languages were sharper mentally.

It has long been known that education in general has beneficial effects on the brain. People with more education, and especially those who continue their education in some form, are less likely to have dementia in old age. In a similar manner to exercising your body to keep it healthy as you grow older, learning in general exercises the brain and can keep it healthier into old age. It is a sort of a “use it or lose it” philosophy for the brain. But language acquisition, in particular, has a protective effect on the brain, not only on language related skills such as vocabulary, but also on non-verbal and cognitive skills.

What is the lesson? Get out there and learn a language. The studies have shown that the better the proficiency in the second language, the more the language region of the brain grows, but even learning the rudiments of a second language can help. Continuing the study of the language will, of course, accrue these healthy brain benefits longer. There are additional benefits to studying a language that are not directly brain related, but can also help the aging brain.”

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