Tones Are Hard
As anyone who has tried learning Thai knows, it is a very difficult language, the basics are easy enough but the tones are the real killer. Thai is a tonal language, the same word can have up to 5 meanings depending on the tone used. Tones are a completely foreign concept to westerners, we simply don’t use them. Take the following example:
“Khay Khaay Khay Kay” which means “Who sells eggs”
To me, each word sounds the same. But to Thais, each word has a pronounced tone and has a completely different meaning. I started learning Thai from a book and then practicing it out in the real word, with mostly humorous results. I went to the road side “Barbecue Chicken” vendor and asked for chicken, easy enough but then I thought I would ask for rice and was greeted with a blank stare followed by the usual “Alaina?” and, when I repeated it, she told me she doesn’t sell mountains. I had to point to the rice for her to understand.
To really learn Thai you need to speak to a Native Thai speaker. That way you will grasp the subtleties of the Thai language. Since meeting my girlfriend, my Thai has improved drastically. I now speak a pseudo language, that is a mixture between Thai and English, but at least it gets the message across.