My Experience Watching Thai Dramas Without Subtitles

Usually, I watch Thai Dramas with English subtitles. In fact, I actively ensure that there are English subtitles for all episodes before I start watching the drama. Only when I am very motivated to learn Thai do I rewatch the dramas without English subtitles. By then, I’ve a rough idea of the plot and it’s easy for me to follow everything even if I don’t understand what I’m hearing 😂

What if I am watching the Thai drama from scratch without English subtitles huh? Will I still understand / enjoy the drama? 🤔

Test: My Sweet Assassin 🥰
I’ll pray that the likes of Great Warintorn Panhakarn will keep me going 😍

Test 1 – Can I understand the trailer without English subs?
If yes, proceed 😇
If no, find another Thai lakorn to watch without subtitles 😖

Proceeded to watch over a period of 2 weeks 📺


  • Understanding – 80/100 😎
  • Enjoyment – 50/100 😭

My Takeaways From Watching Thai Lakorns Without Subtitles


Obviously, I’ve to pick a lakorn set in modern day Thailand. I don’t understand the Traditional Thai way of speech, nor does any Thai class in Singapore teach ancient Thai as far as I know of. Yeah, you can pick simple connections like “khaa” being “you” in Thai etc. but not for a good 5 min conversation with ancient and outdated terms within.

Thank God Thai vocab is relatively easy to pick up 🙏 As mentioned in this blog on Thai Vocabulary, most Thai words are formed by combining a root word with another word to create a new vocab word of a similar meaning. That’s how I picked up a new word – assassin – which is nak khaa นักฆ่า in Thai. Nak / นัก refers to a person in professional context and khaa / ฆ่า means to kill. Hence combined, nak khaa means a professional killer, i.e. an assassin.

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Another good reminder from this experience is it’s really impossible to understand every single statement in the lakorn. Or whenever I consume Thai media without subs, I’ll never be able to understand every single thing. Thai is my 3rd language after all.

When learning a 3rd language, the key is communication and not perfection 💪
  • For Thai Speaking: I cannot express everything the way I would with Singlish – but can I phrase things differently to get my message across? 
  • For Thai Listening: I cannot understand every single word said. Sometimes, I can’t even catch what is said to Google the term and learn a new vocab. But can I at least understand the gist of what’s going on?

My top 3 struggles with listening Thai (which might be shared across all foreigners learning Thai)

1. Language puns / Idioms

For example, 2 words might sound alike and a pun is made from such (the Thai variety show Friend Drive / เฟรนด์ขับ does that a lot). Or an idiom is being said. I’ll never understand those as a non-native speaker.

2. Jargons

For example, the park rangers might be discussing a lot on forest conservation, or about illegal hunting/logging activities. They might be talking about medicine, a ligament tear, a law-related term etc. I don’t have the vocab for such difficult topics and without subtitles, all that conversation becomes a blur mess to my ears 😭

3. Excessive Screaming / Shouting in Quarrels

Perhaps from the start, my ears switch off once I hear some form of screaming within the drama. And for a non-native Thai speaker, the tones become particularly hard to catch once everything goes into the high pitch. I skip those portions with a grateful heart as I doubt I’ll learn much useful Thai from all the shouting 😂


My poor ears have to re-listen to the same thing as much as 5x in order to catch what’s going on 😞

And no, I will not write a plot recap, nor summary, nor character analysis, nor reflections as I do with other Thai dramas I have watched. I am way too drained to do any of that after 2 weeks of intense Thai listening 🥹

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About the author – see the About page for more information

Joanne Tan is an aspiring polyglot and has so far mastered English, Chinese and Thai languages. She first started learning Thai in 2015 before staying in Bangkok for 5 months, and then continued studying Thai up to Advanced Levels at the National University of Singapore. In 2017, Joanne was awarded ‘Advanced Thai Proficiency’ by the Sirindhorn Thai Language Institute of Chulalongkorn University. Today, Joanne continues to teach her friends basic Thai speaking and helps her Thai friends actively promote Thai culture.