Should I learn Thai reading and writing?

Every beginner Thai learner has this burning question – should I just learn conversational Thai? 🤔 Or should I also pick up Thai reading and writing skills? 🤔🤔

If you have read my page on the Thai writing system, you will realize how daunting learning the Thai alphabet can be. If you haven’t, I suggest checking out my page as it gives you an overview of the struggles you will face while learning to read and write (or text) in Thai.

To recap in brief, the Thai writing system is so difficult to master because

555555 in Thai texting -learnThaiinSingapore

A serious Thai learner aiming to master Thai reading and writing? Start off by learning to text in Thai!

  • There are 44 Thai consonants and 32 Thai vowels. In comparison, the English language has only 21 Consonants (less than 50% of Thai consonants) and 5 vowels (merely 15.6% that of Thai vowels) 🤯
  • There are no spaces nor punctuations between Thai words. This makes reading Thai a nightmare, and a practically impossible feat if you cannot recognize at least 50% of the Thai words in the sentence. It will just appear as an intelligible string of squiggly characters to you 😨

For example, can you read this string of Thai words?
ฉันมีความฝันว่า ไม่ว่าฉันอยู่ทีไหนหรือคุยกับใคร คนทั่วไปก็จะคิดว่าฉันเป็นคนไทย ดังนั้นวันนี้ ฉันอยากเรียนภาษาไทยอย่างขยันๆ จนถึงวันหนึ่ง ฉันสามารถพูดภาษาไทยได้เก่งมาก

  • Thai words are most-of-the-time not pronounced the way it is spelled. Reading Thai is like figuring out how to pronouncing “fait accompli” or “pyrrhic victory” half the time (just throwing out English words that are not pronounced the way it is spelt) 😖

Given how difficult it is to learn how to read and write the Thai language, why would anyone bother learning Thai writing then ❓❓❓

Why should you learn Thai reading and writing?

1. Learning how to read and write Thai helps you to order street food with ease 😇

Simply memorizing a few words for Thai menus can help you go a long way in navigating Thailand by yourself. Thai street food stores do provide menus and when you can read the menu, you will know what the store sells and can then order your food confidently. Like a “true Thai”, you can even write your order in Thai and then pass it to the store owner without any questions being asked. 😎 Thai prices guaranteed. 😎😎

2. The Thai alphabet gives you an indication of how the word is pronounced 😍

Thai language is a tonal language and the Thai script incorporates pronunciation into the writing system. For example, there are tone rules whereby pairing a mid consonant with a long vowel, without a tone mark, and ending with P/T/K will make the word follow a low tone. 🤨 Bamboozled? You’re not alone. 😅 But once you master these tone rules, you will immediately know how to pronounce familiar words when you see them 🤩 instead of guessing through the five tones. And like I said in my blog on the importance of Thai tones, if you get the tone wrong, it becomes a different word altogether and Thai people will not be able to understand you 😔

3. Knowing how to read Thai helps you better assimilate into Thai culture 🥰

There’s no need for further elaboration if you need to work in Thailand and have to use Thai in written documents such as emails. But even if you do not use Thai at work, learning Thai reading enables you to read your bills and ensure you are not overcharged 👍 Knowing how to text in Thai enables you to communicate on Thai social media platforms freely 🥳 (which by the way, is still predominantly in Thai script as opposed to karaoke even for the younger generation). To put it in a different way, if you are clueless about the Thai alphabet, it’s like being illiterate and even basics like road signs will be a struggle in your daily life 🥺

When do you only need to learn Thai speaking and listening?

There is no argument that Thai reading and writing is very difficult and will take a lot of time and effort. Despite the obvious benefits of learning the Thai alphabet, I believe one should only learn how to read and write Thai if they are fully committed to mastering the language. 👍 If you are uncertain about learning the Thai language, start off by just learning to speak Thai first. Trying to fly before you can even crawl will only make you demotivated and end up giving up before mastering Thai properly. If you are only going to Thailand for a short holiday, learning conversational Thai is good enough. Also, there are still a lot of ways you can fully leverage your Thai speaking skills in Singapore. So there is no fear nor shame in only knowing how to converse in Thai, without learning how to read or write Thai as well.

I hope this article helps you decide better if you should learn Thai reading and writing. If you have any further questions or need motivation to learn Thai, do reach out to me and I’ll be happy to advise you and help you along your Thai language learning journey!

Get help with learning to read, write and text in Thai today! 🥰

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.