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Language & culture

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Thai language

Thai is the national language of Thailand and the mother-tongue of the Thai people, Thailand’s largest ethnic group. Many words in Thai are borrowed from Pali, Sanskrit and Old Khmer. Thai is a tonal and analytic language. Modern Thai borrows heavily from English words for technology, fashion and slang. It is not a difficult language for learners to achieve a reasonable standard of conversation, but can be challenging to study at a higher level.

Standard Thai, also known as Central Thai or Siamese is spoken by about 65 million people including speakers of Bangkok Thai. Khorat Thai is spoken by about 400,000 in Nakhon Ratchasima; it occupies a position somewhere between Central Thai and the Isan dialect, and may be considered a variant or dialect of either. The majority of the people in the Isan region of Thailand speak a dialect of the Lao language, which has influenced the Central Thai dialect.

TEFLPlus trainees taking the 4-week advanced tefl course get 10 lessons of Thai language included.

Thai culture
The arts

Thai visual art was traditionally primarily Buddhist, and Thai Buddha images from different periods have a number of distinctive styles. Contemporary Thai art often combines traditional Thai elements with modern techniques.

Literature is heavily influenced by Indian Hindu culture. The most notable works of Thai literature are a version of the Ramayana, a Hindu religious epic, called the Ramakien.

There is no tradition of spoken drama in Thailand, the role instead being filled by Thai dance. This is divided into three categories- khon, lakhon and likay- khon being the most elaborate and likay the most popular. Nang drama, a form of shadow play, is found in the south.

The music of Thailand includes classical and folk music traditions as well as string or pop music.

Thai cuisine

Thai cuisine emphasises lightly-prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. Thai dishes are known for being spicy, but balance, detail and variety are important to Thai cooking. Thai food is known for its balance of the five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and bitter.

All TEFL trainees attend a welcome lunch on the first day of training to enjoy a selection of Thai dishes in a local restaurant.


Thailand is nearly 95% Theravada Buddhist, with minorities of Muslims (4.6%), Christians (0.7%), and a few other religions. Thai Buddhism is supported and overseen by the government, with monks receiving a number of government benefits, such as free use of public transportation.

Buddhism in Thailand is influenced by traditional beliefs regarding ancestral and natural spirits, which have been incorporated into Buddhist cosmology. Most Thai people own spirit houses, miniature wooden houses in which they believe household spirits live. They present offerings of food and drink to these spirits to keep them happy. If these spirits aren’t happy, it is believed that they will inhabit the larger household and cause chaos.

Thai customs – some Do’s and Don’ts

One of the most obvious customs is the greeting called a ‘wai’. This gesture is used to show greeting, farewell, or acknowledgment, and comes in several forms depending on the relative status of the person wai’ing and the person being wai’d.

Keep smiling! Thailand is the land of smiles, so join in and keep a smile on your face. You’ll be surprised how much happier you’ll feel and so will those around you.

Physical demonstrations of affection in public are common between friends, but less so between lovers. It is common to see friends holding hands, but couples rarely do so except in westernised areas.

Touching someone on the head may be considered rude. It is also considered rude to put your feet at a level above someone else’s head, especially if that person is of higher social standing or older. This influences how Thais sit when on the ground — their feet will always point away from others, tucked to the side or behind them. Pointing at or touching something with the feet is also considered rude.

It is considered extremely rude to step on a Thai coin, because the king’s head is on the coin. The royal family are held in great regard, so do not say anything to insult them, even jokingly.

When sitting in a temple, you are expected to point your feet away from images of the Buddha.

It is customary (and required) to remove your shoes before entering a home or temple, and not to step on the threshold.

There are a number of Thai customs regarding monks in Thai society. Due to religious discipline, Thai monks are forbidden physical contact with women. Women are therefore expected to make way for passing monks to ensure that accidental contact does not occur.

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