Misunderstandings occur frequently in Thailand, and you can never expect that your words will be immediately understood. If you see a puzzled expression on the face of the person addressed, try to express yourself more simply; try speaking more slowly (but not too slowly), quietly, and without any intonation. The Thais are more likely to comprehend what you are saying if you do not use a lot of intonation in your speech.
When using taxis, the best idea is to ask a Thai to write your destination down in Thai for you. Failing that, write it down in English; and give it to the taxi driver. Thailand boasts a high standard of literacy (95 percent of the adult population) and most people in the travel and tourist trades seem to be able to read Thai and English.
Understanding “Thai English”
Just as foreigners experience difficulties communicating in Thai, they may also have problems in coping with English as spoken by Thais, especially the less well educated. Thais have some major pronunciation difficulties.
Thais often separate consonants by inserting a vowel between them: «whiskey” becomes “wisiki,” and smart becomes “semart,” Sometimes they drop a consonant: «excuse me” becomes “sku me.” Some word endings are difficult for Thais, apart from the endings “m,” “n,’ “ng,’ or “t,” With words ending in “I” the final consonant is often pronounced “n,’ so you’ll hear “bin” for “bill” and “Hoten Orienten” for Hotel Oriental. In words ending in the sounds “s; “sh,’ “eh,’ “j,” and “th” the final consonant is pronounced “t,” Sandwich becomes “senwit,’ “wash” becomes “wot,’ and Smith becomes “Samit,” And in Bangkok Thai, in particular, “r” may be pronounced as “I,” as in “collect” instead of “correct,””light” instead of “right,” or may be omitted altogether.
Grammatically, the Thais often transfer the rules of their own language to English. For example, pronouns are often omitted if it is obvious who is being referred to. The present tense is used even when referring to the past or future if the context is clear (I see him yesterday). No distinction is normally made between singular and plural. There is no definite or indefinite article. The verb “to be” is omitted.
Many Thais know more English than they care to let on, but are hesitant to speak it for fear of making mistakes and thereby losing face. So if a Thai is speaking to you in English, listen carefully and encouragingly and they will become more relaxed.