I feel like this is a pretty important question that seemingly no one has asked.
Just how difficult for a person who cannot speak Thai to get around?
In other words, what is everyday life for people who cannot speak the language? Is there large enough of a english speaking population there? Do I have to learn the language besides or can I get by on just knowing a few phrases?
We've discussed this in various threads or sub-forums.
If you're in a big place like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, it's not a serious problem to ask basic tourist kinds of questions. In some teaching jobs, they forbid you to speak Thai in the classroom, but you're lost in the staffroom trying to have a substantive conversation with a Thai teacher.
If you can learn Thai, it's best to get on and do just that. But don't try learning Thai from someone who isn't capable of teaching it to you (such as a leased gogo club employee).
"The times I've been mistaken, it's impossible to say" - by the Moody Blues
Also often with educated Thais writing it down will help (as they can often read and write it, but might have problems speaking listening to it).
I can't speak Thai really and I've never had any major problems with my charade skillZ!
Riddle me this brother can you handle it
Your style to my style you can't hold a candle to it
Equinox symmetry and the balance is right
Smokin' and drinkin' on a Tuesday night
It's not how you play the game it's how you win it
I cheat and steal and sin and I'm a cynic
You could try getting drunk and speaking international language of the drunk
What PB said.
In Bangkok, easy peasy... in a less cosmopolitan place e.g. Ayutthaya a bit more of a challenge.
I am fortunate in that my girlfriend is Thai, and in addition my landlord (her boss) is a falang who's been in Thailand 16 years and speaks Thai (to my untrained ear) fluently.
It really depends on what you mean by 'get around'. Much 'getting around' doesn't require any language at all. In the larger places (even in a smaller one like Hat Yai) many signs and products are in English, as well as Thai.
Getting food from a vendor might be a different story. Pointing and charades work very well.
Don't sweat it.
Just keep trying and listening you will pick up key words and phrases. Buy a small phrase book, seems to easy but they do come in handy if ya cant speak a word.
Too long in Exile, too long not singing my song.
Too long like a rolling stone, Too long in exile
Too long in Exile, baby you just arent my friend.
Too long in Exile my friend, Baby you can never go home again.
The phrase books are a good place to start, but you should start checking your pronunciation with English speaking Thais or foreigners. Most of the phonetic English in these books is approximate and sometimes wildly inaccurate. Get one that has Thai script beside each translation so you can at least point to the phrase in your book if all else fails.
We could all sit outside on banana lounges discussing the best way to rebuild a 4WD transmission and agree, through shared stories of conquests supporting our assertions, that there is no basis to the proposition that those least assured of their persuasions are the first to condemn others for theirs.
I spent 2 1/2 years in China I havent been actively trying to learn Chinese for 2 years , but somehow every day I learn new Chinese words which come floating out of my subconscious. I reccon it will be the same with Thai ( eventualy ) And the funny thing is When in China I learnt more Chinese through English speaking Westerners, than fron Chinese speakers.
Combine all of the above and you have sound advice here.
The language is phonetic, so if yo ulearn to read it the entire place becomes a school. I have to sort of pick at the letters but I can fathom most words, given time, and you learn how they form words (the positioning of syllables etc) quite quickly. I simply learned the consonants and figured out how the vowels work simply from reading.
As for the spoken language, just imagine a language where they appear to have the same word for five different things, except the tonality is slightly different...
As said above, don't even think of learning anything from bar workers.
Its deeper than that for us English speakers
Ma please come here
Watch out for those tones!!!
Don't try saying the Thai word for snow unless you are sure of your tones...
And be careful when offering bananas to females.
Just go man for god sakes.
Just bloody well go!!!!!!