Comprising 44 consonants and 32 vowels and diphthongs, Thai, or Pasa Thai is the national language of Thailand. Dialects vary in the north, northeast and south. Based on contemporary Mon and Khmer, the script was developed around eight centuries ago.
Thai has five tones: mid, low, falling, rising and high. This often intimidates foreigners, but with practice basic words and phrases are relatively easy to master. Learning some Thai can enhance your stay in the country, and even if your first attempts evoke a few giggles, most people will appreciate your effort.
Transliterations from Thai script to roman are sometimes confusing. With no clear rules, one Thai word may have several roman spellings. For example, if you want to take a pleasant stroll in Bangkok, you can go to Lumphini Park. However, signs along the way might also point to Lumpini or Lumpeenee Park, yet they are one and the same. Harder still, ph is pronounced as p; not f, and th reads as t. Also, some letters change their sound according to their position: the Thai character Lor Ling corresponds to l if placed at the beginning of a word, and n if it comes at the end. For this reason, many Thai language guides give different transliterations.
Some sample expressions: krup (male) / ka (female) are common polite suffixes.
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