Breaking Down Language Barriers in Thailand: One Coffee at a Time

Programs for this blog post

Teach in Thailand Program

Authored By:

Antoinette W.

Hey Yall / S̄wạs̄dī kha ( สวัสดีคะ),

Let’s talk about talking... I severely underestimated the language barriers I would experience here in Thailand. Spoiler Alert: No I did not study Thai before coming BUT hear me out…

Being from New Orleans, Louisiana means I was born with a language barrier between people from my city and others in our country. If I told you, "I sat on the neutral ground during the secondline drinking a hot cold drink and listening to bounce"… that would probably need to be translated. This brings me to language barrier number 1. The person CIEE placed at my school with me is from Memphis, Tennessee and at least three times a day (although we both speak English), words and phrases must be translated for us to understand each other! It’s even worse when we’re talking about cultural things. You’d swear we were from different countries.

The second barrier is the more obvious one. No, it’s not between my coworkers and I, or even my students. The greatest barrier is between me and the other people in my community. My first trip abroad was traveling through Europe, but even when I was in places with out any English speakers, we still figured each other out. Maybe studying Spanish in high school and French in college helped a bit. However, none of that matters in Thailand. The locals are utterly confused when I speak, and I’m completely baffled when they speak. Thai is a tonal language, so even when I try speaking Thai its often in the wrong tone and they still can’t understand me. I’m trying my best though! I feel this experience is significantly enhancing my language learning skills and confidence. Not speaking the language of the country you're interested in should not deter you! Come with an open mind (and open ears) and all will be fine. 

The silver lining is, after one month of being here I have perfected “Lā tê pạ̀n khwām h̄wān! (ลาเตปั่นควัน หวาน)”... Latte blended, extra sweet please!