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Krab and Ka - Yes, please, thank you, hello…

The most important words that you can learn in Thai are the words Krab (for men) and Ka (for women). These words don’t have a direct English translation. They are generally used at the end of a sentence as a mark of respect and can be used in a variety of situations. For example, you may pass a man in the street and he might say to you “krab!”. In this situation he is saying “hello!”. To which you can reply “krab”. Alternatively, you might be in a restaurant and the waiter says, “Do you want ice krab?”, to which you can simply reply “krab”, meaning “yes please”. Of course, if you are a woman you would reply “Ka”. As you can see, these words are very versatile and there is rarely a situation where it is inappropriate to use them. I think the only time when it might seem strange is if you are talking to a close friend, who is Thai. 

Mai Ben Rai - No problem/Don’t worry 

You will hear this phrase used a lot. It is another phrase that be used in many different circumstances. A waiter may inform you that they don’t have any sprite, to which you can reply “mai ben rai krab”. As you may have already guessed, this means “no problem sir”. It is also useful as a “get-out” when there is a communication problem. You can use this phrase to excuse yourself from a situation, without causing any further confusion. The direct translation of the phrase is “no is what”. 

Me - have

This word is simple, but also very useful. You may go to a coffee shop and ask “me WIFI mai krab?”. To which they might reply “me!”, which simply means “have!”. You will notice the omittance of the subject, i.e. "I" and “you”. The omittance of the subject is common in Thai. 

Ow - take

In English we will often say things like “I would like”, or “can I have” etc. In Thai it is common to use the word “Ow”, which basically translates as “take”. If you are ordering food in a restaurant but you don’t know what the name of the dish is, you can point to the picture and say “Ow nee krab”, which basically means “take this please”. 

Mai - No

Again, this is very useful to know, especially when people are trying to sell you stuff. For example, you can say “mai ow krab”, which means, “not take thanks”. NOTE: “Mai” is also used to turn a statement into a question. For example, “Me WIFI mai krab?”, translates as “do you have WIFI sir/madam?”. 

It is common in Thailand for people to swap and drop parts of a word. For example, they often switch the r’s with the l’s. This can be confusing. They often say “kap” instead of “krab”, which is the correct pronunciation. They often say “mai ben lai” as opposed to “mai ben rai”. They also do this for English words. I have heard people say “lestaulant” instead of “restaurant” and “loom” instead of “room”. Additionally, they often chop the end off certain words. For example, they often pronounce the word “house“ as “hou” and the “motorcycle” as “motorcy”. 

To Speak or Not to Speak

Some people think it's a good idea to try and speak the local language when traveling. I bet you've never heard anyone tell you differently, but there are some people who think it's best to not speak. Thai language is one of those languages that can be very difficult for Europeans or Americans to wrap their tongue around. Click here to read the story of one guy who tried learning that but decided that it was best to stop speaking in order to learn.

What every method you choose, I wish you good luck, or as the Thai's would say: choc dee!

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