CISABROAD BLOG · April 12, 2016 · 2 Min Read
Overcoming Language Barriers in Thailand


Lady B. studies art at Georgia State University. She is finishing up her semester at Mahidol University in Thailand, and when asked what the most challenging part of her semester was, she had the following response. Read more from Lady on her personal blog here.

Plain and simply, the language barrier has been most significant challenge I have had to overcome. Many Thai people do not speak English, and others are nervous to use the little they do know. This leads to a lot of nervous laughter, smiling, and silly gesturing. Luckily, a lot of menus, maps, and important signs for transportation have English writing. The Thais that I have met that do speak English are extremely helpful and very nice.

I’ve learned some basic phrases to be able to communicate with waitresses, taxi drivers, and merchants. My Thai language course was really helpful as well, but the language has been very difficult for me to hang on to. Despite being uncomfortable and sometimes unfruitful, it usually works out. One phrase I’ll never forget is : “Mai Ow Tomb, Kha” which means no plastic bag please. Merchants often smile at this and start chatting with me assuming I know Thai because I know this obscure request.

I attached a picture of my favorite chef in town. I wandered into his shop despite having no menu, and asked for vegetarian food. A fellow Mahidol student translated for us, and I was served up with the most delicious food I’d had in Thailand. From that point on, I’ve gone back almost every day.  My roommate and I have nicknamed him “Veggie-Man” because he makes the best stir-fried vegetables we have ever had. We visit him as often as possible and share little bits of conversations in broken English. I had my bilingual Thai friend, KornKris, translate a message thanking him for all the wonderful meals over the past three months. I plan to give him the note tomorrow, my last day in Salaya.




Overcoming Language Barriers

Me, “Veggie-Man”, and Sydney.

The note written and translated by KornKris to give to Veggie-Man

The note written and translated by KornKris to give to Veggie-Man

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A picture of me with KornKris on the last day of school after our film studies class

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