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How widely spoken is English In say Chiang Mai


kanela

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I guess this may have been done quite a bit, however I am curious to know How I would get along speaking zero Thai? We have considered both Chanthaburi and Chiang Mai. I am sure English would be more wide spread in Chiang Mai over Chanthaburi, but I would be curious about both. Chanthaburi because I would need to head away from the smoke during burning season. Also if anyone knows anything about bringing my cat that would be a plus!!

Thanks

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Bringing your cat from where? If you mean from overseas then there are posts and helpful info in the pet forum.

As for language, a few basic phrases in Thai will see you through most situations, make an effort to learn some , its not difficult.

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My experience in Chiang Mai :

Many Thais (esp younger ones) can speak some simple English, but a lot are afraid to try in case they make a mistake.

For some reason, I notice that Thais usually respond better when they encounter a female tourist or a young tourist or both - maybe they are less intimidated or are more protective of a lady/youngster in distress.

Your accent matters too - if you are from (e.g.) Russia with a think Russian accent, that will increase the difficulty. Same if you are from the Scottish isles or deep Alabama.

Whatever the case, speak very slowly, one word at a time, and choose small words and short sentences.

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My experience being a fluent Thai speaker that barely uses English anymore in Thailand is that even in the tourist areas, the quality of English is usually abysmal. You can get by with just English in Chiang Mai but you'll probably find yourself being able only to accomplish the basics by hopefully getting your point across when ordering at restaurants, checking in at your hotel or for a flight at the airport, basically the bare minimum. However, don't expect to be able to have in-depth discussions about any topic with locals in Chiang Mai (or anywhere else in Thailand for that matter) with very, very few exceptions. Thais just don't have sufficient knowledge of English. Incidentally, it should be noted that Chiang Mai rates as being (in my opinion) as one of the places in Thailand where you're most likely to find foreigners who can speak Thai. There seems to be far more foreigners capable of speaking decent Thai living in Chiang Mai than anywhere else in the country that I've encountered, including smaller towns with few foreigners.

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You need to define your terms more clearly for the question to have any meaning.

Most Thais in any area of Thailand speak hardly any English.

Most in areas frequented by foreigners speak a little bit, usually just enough to complete the transactions in which they specialize.

Very very few anywhere speak it well enough to communicate anything outside of day-to-day practicalities.

If that's all you're concerned about, you'll be fine in CM, but accept the fact that you'll pay more and get lower quality in just about everything outside places with marked prices, than if you had a Thai speaker along who genuinely looked after your interests.

So if you are spending a lot of money in places where prices aren't marked, it would be worth hiring a translator. The challenge is the last bit of the sentence above, so best to find one through personal contacts, starting with someone you trust, NOT a Thai in a tourist-related business.

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Wow a lot of very different opinions here. Ok more specifics. We are currently living in Ecuador where like 1% of the population speaks English. My memory is pretty crappy due to a medical condition. This has made learning Spanish quite difficult. In my research we have found that in Cambodia we can get by on English. It was my thought that we would be able to do the same in Chiang Mai. I am all for taking classes however I am concerned about how much I would maintain. Most foreigners are already taken advantage of financially so I wouldn't want anything to make it worse than it is!!!

I would like to negotiate an apt in English, shop, eat out, sight see, take care of my banking, take care of my visa, etc...

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Wow a lot of very different opinions here. Ok more specifics. We are currently living in Ecuador where like 1% of the population speaks English. My memory is pretty crappy due to a medical condition. This has made learning Spanish quite difficult. In my research we have found that in Cambodia we can get by on English. It was my thought that we would be able to do the same in Chiang Mai. I am all for taking classes however I am concerned about how much I would maintain. Most foreigners are already taken advantage of financially so I wouldn't want anything to make it worse than it is!!!

I would like to negotiate an apt in English, shop, eat out, sight see, take care of my banking, take care of my visa, etc...

Don't be put off, no need to speak Thai in CM at all.

As for being cheated, everyone is cheated in shops that don't display prices, that's why you don't shop in those places.

Cambodia isn't very nice, don't even consider there.

Ecuador sounds good, that's my next destination if I ever get chucked out of CM.

I used to speak Spanish, but have forgotton the lot, guess It would quickly come back.

So many English speaking people here, you never need to speak Thai.

Plenty of Tesco and 7-11 with everything priced.

None of the Thais will speak Thai with you anyway. English or nothing.

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@52, no name-calling, but once again I find myself disagreeing with almost everything you say.

As for being cheated, everyone is cheated in shops that don't display prices, that's why you don't shop in those places.

Then you're definitely being ripped off, but by large companies rather than little individuals.

All you have to do is get to know the prices and work on your bargaining skills, and your cost of living will be reduced by half every six months you live here - and of course only to the extent you adapt your lifestyle to the local ways rather than trying to keep a farang lifestyle living here. And proportional to your Thai language skills as well.

But even when you are overcharged, your cost of living will always be much lower than it would be back home.

Cambodia isn't very nice, don't even consider there.

Actually I have many friends who have moved there from Thailand and enjoy it tremendously. And no they aren't completely motivated by nooky. Outside of that aspect it certainly isn't cheaper though, and other than expensive foreign food restaurants, the food choices aren't nearly as good.

None of the Thais will speak Thai with you anyway. English or nothing.

Now this is completely insane. Other than the wealthy educated Thais that are my customers and students, I never speak any English in my day-to-day life, hundreds and hundreds of Thais speak Thai to me all day long wherever I go.

This has to be due to a major difference either in our relative language skills, or in the kind of Thais we're interacting in or the context - I doubt it can just be down to intelligence and personality??

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@52, no name-calling, but once again I find myself disagreeing with almost everything you say.

As for being cheated, everyone is cheated in shops that don't display prices, that's why you don't shop in those places.

Then you're definitely being ripped off, but by large companies rather than little individuals.

All you have to do is get to know the prices and work on your bargaining skills, and your cost of living will be reduced by half every six months you live here - and of course only to the extent you adapt your lifestyle to the local ways rather than trying to keep a farang lifestyle living here. And proportional to your Thai language skills as well.

But even when you are overcharged, your cost of living will always be much lower than it would be back home.

Cambodia isn't very nice, don't even consider there.

Actually I have many friends who have moved there from Thailand and enjoy it tremendously. And no they aren't completely motivated by nooky. Outside of that aspect it certainly isn't cheaper though, and other than expensive foreign food restaurants, the food choices aren't nearly as good.

None of the Thais will speak Thai with you anyway. English or nothing.

Now this is completely insane. Other than the wealthy educated Thais that are my customers and students, I never speak any English in my day-to-day life, hundreds and hundreds of Thais speak Thai to me all day long wherever I go.

This has to be due to a major difference either in our relative language skills, or in the kind of Thais we're interacting in or the context - I doubt it can just be down to intelligence and personality??

Your three points

1. I don't agree, not marking prices is a no no for tourists (foreigner or Thai). Most of the Mom and Pop stores buy all their goods from Makro, as do I, why pay more.

2. More to do with poor foreigners (mainly drunks and mongers) who don't have enough money to get a VISA in Thailand. I know plenty of guys who went there too. Anyone with enough money stayed in Thailand.

3. Again, tourist areas, where I live (MaeJo) everyone speaks Thai, including me and my kids. Apart from the Burmese, who mainly only speak Burmese.

These bargain deals you get by haggling, name one (with price) and I will tell you a place with marked prices that beats that price.

Edited by FiftyTwo
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Over the last 27 years, I have found that English is being spoken less and less. Many Thais feel that as their country has the same population as Britain, they have an equal right to expect their language to be no 1. Even on Samui, I find little or no English being spoken, except by tourists who have to resort to some common language!

As far as conversations are concerned, when they are indeed possible, I cannot remotely agree. I have had masses of in-depth conversations, especially at University level, on every conceivable topic under the sun!

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Thais do not speak English! Even the best who think they can, speak a form of jibrish that is near unintelligble. Their pronounciation is deplorable.

I know three so-called English teachers, at college level, whose Engli-speak is very poor and grammer is relatively unknown.....

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Probably depends on what you want to say! Day to day living near tourist areas, English will get you by. Now holding a serious conversation, maybe not unless you pick your partner well.

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Thais do not speak English! Even the best who think they can, speak a form of jibrish that is near unintelligble. Their pronounciation is deplorable.

I know three so-called English teachers, at college level, whose Engli-speak is very poor and grammer is relatively unknown.....

Their spelling and grammar could well be better than yours though!

Edited by Felipesed
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Thais do not speak English! Even the best who think they can, speak a form of jibrish that is near unintelligble. Their pronounciation is deplorable.

I know three so-called English teachers, at college level, whose Engli-speak is very poor and grammer is relatively unknown.....

I believe that, but don't assume that just because they're English teachers at the college level that they're the top of Thailand. A Thai woman who has learned English from a farang husband will speak much better English that those teachers.

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OP, I live in Chiang Mai and ten years ago I would have recommended to any farang that they learn as much Thai as possible. Now I would say don't waste your time unless for some reason you absolutely LOVE learning foreign languages, and it sounds like you don't.

There is now no need to learn any Thai if you're going to live in Chiang Mai. You will have to learn "Thainglish" which is what the locals speak. It's a form of English baby-talk and you will learn it automatically.

There has been an explosion of Americans moving here, no doubt due to articles in retirement magazines proclaiming Chiang Mai as a great place to retire. It now looks like a California beach town without the beach: Young and old farangs riding bicycles and jogging, doing yoga, eating in health food stores, drinking, etc.

If you do try to learn, forget the Thai classes at places like AUA since they cannot teach older westerners at all. The only way to learn is by repetition, not the Thai way where they scold you for not remembering a word. This is the way they teach children. Plus the pronunciation is difficult as we westerners don't make the same noises naturally. And it's tonal. If you're having trouble with Spanish, forget Thai. But again, it makes no difference.

I've been to Central and South America and it seems learning Spanish is mandatory. That is simply not the case in Chiang Mai. Also, there isn't much important to talk about here anyway, we order in restaurants, go to stores, complain about Thai driving, etc.

Good luck and I'm sure living in CM will be twenty times easier than living in Ecuador.

Edited by mesquite
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chantaburi also gets a few foreigner for the gems so the locals can get by. you really only need to be able to say "how mutt?" and be able to understand 1 to ten and 20 and thirty in the local lingo. also how to point and smile. this will take you everywhere on the planet. shop at 7 and you dont need to know zip all.

i havent mastered how mutt so i speak the english for this. only if there is no understanding after three repeats do i attempt "tao rai krup"

Edited by nickoffskiov
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My experience in Chiang Mai :

Many Thais (esp younger ones) can speak some simple English, but a lot are afraid to try in case they make a mistake.

For some reason, I notice that Thais usually respond better when they encounter a female tourist or a young tourist or both - maybe they are less intimidated or are more protective of a lady/youngster in distress.

Your accent matters too - if you are from (e.g.) Russia with a think Russian accent, that will increase the difficulty. Same if you are from the Scottish isles or deep Alabama.

Whatever the case, speak very slowly, one word at a time, and choose small words and short sentences.

AND do't use any grammer!!

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Wow a lot of very different opinions here. Ok more specifics. We are currently living in Ecuador where like 1% of the population speaks English. My memory is pretty crappy due to a medical condition. This has made learning Spanish quite difficult. In my research we have found that in Cambodia we can get by on English. It was my thought that we would be able to do the same in Chiang Mai. I am all for taking classes however I am concerned about how much I would maintain. Most foreigners are already taken advantage of financially so I wouldn't want anything to make it worse than it is!!!

I would like to negotiate an apt in English, shop, eat out, sight see, take care of my banking, take care of my visa, etc...

Yes...at old age learn Thai is not easy. After 3 years here I do not speak ANY. In Chiang Mai it is a large expat community and it is a tourist destination. In the most frequented places by foreigners, markets, hotels, restaurants, shops, pharmacies, etc, and around the landmarks, will be not problems, but in the countryside is very rare to find English speakers. The other option will be Chiang Rai, smaller than Chiang Mai and easy to be "adopted" by the community and not abused. Good expat environment, close to everything, and a cheaper cost of living too.

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Over the last 27 years, I have found that English is being spoken less and less. Many Thais feel that as their country has the same population as Britain, they have an equal right to expect their language to be no 1. Even on Samui, I find little or no English being spoken, except by tourists who have to resort to some common language!

As far as conversations are concerned, when they are indeed possible, I cannot remotely agree. I have had masses of in-depth conversations, especially at University level, on every conceivable topic under the sun!

I think we can all relate to wanting foreigners to speak our native tongue when in our countries.

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OP, I live in Chiang Mai and ten years ago I would have recommended to any farang that they learn as much Thai as possible. Now I would say don't waste your time unless for some reason you absolutely LOVE learning foreign languages, and it sounds like you don't.

There is now no need to learn any Thai if you're going to live in Chiang Mai. You will have to learn "Thainglish" which is what the locals speak. It's a form of English baby-talk and you will learn it automatically.

There has been an explosion of Americans moving here, no doubt due to articles in retirement magazines proclaiming Chiang Mai as a great place to retire. It now looks like a California beach town without the beach: Young and old farangs riding bicycles and jogging, doing yoga, eating in health food stores, drinking, etc.

If you do try to learn, forget the Thai classes at places like AUA since they cannot teach older westerners at all. The only way to learn is by repetition, not the Thai way where they scold you for not remembering a word. This is the way they teach children. Plus the pronunciation is difficult as we westerners don't make the same noises naturally. And it's tonal. If you're having trouble with Spanish, forget Thai. But again, it makes no difference.

I've been to Central and South America and it seems learning Spanish is mandatory. That is simply not the case in Chiang Mai. Also, there isn't much important to talk about here anyway, we order in restaurants, go to stores, complain about Thai driving, etc.

Good luck and I'm sure living in CM will be twenty times easier than living in Ecuador.

Ok!!! This seems to be the most logical of all the posts and lines up more with what I have been seeing on youtube. It seems that a place like Chiang Mai with all its foreigners would have more English speaking people. I don't understand how a simple question can have such drastically different responses. Either they speak English or they don't? Maybe it depends on where in Chiang Mai one lives? But how half the responses can be no they don't speak English and the other half yes they do confuses the heck out of me!!

Thanks for the input on the Thai classes. Do you know of one that would be good for me. You are correct about the repetition it is what I need.

You are also correct about Spanish being mandatory in Central and South America!! Whew! I am curious as to what your opinion is on the Thai people and how they feel about Americans. Here in Ecuador they are pretty rude and it is obvious we are not welcome although our $$$ is. I can't say that I blame them as we have pretty much invaded their country.

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