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Thai language

About the Thai Language

Video about the Thai Language program

Thai is the official language of Thailand, a kingdom of roughly 60 million people. Thai, a monosyllabic and tonal language, is unique in that it bears little resemblance to any of the neighboring languages of East or Southeast Asia, including Chinese, Burmese, Khmer, Vietnamese, and Malay. Thai belongs to the Tai language family.

Apart from the Thai of present-day Thailand, the Lao peoples of the Republic of Laos, the Shan, who inhabit northeastern Burma, and various highland peoples in northern Vietnam and southern China, speak a related Tai language, bringing the total number of Tai speakers in Southeast Asia to more than 80 million.

Thai has its own script and its own unique alphabet. Thai has consonants and vowels like English. However, when written, the vowels may appear either above, below, in front, or after the consonant. In addition to vowels, tone markers are also written above consonants and vowels. When writing Thai, one does not include space between words—each sentence appears as a single line, as evidenced below (It is not as difficult as it looks).

ภาษาไทยเป็นภาษาประจำชาติของคนไทย เปรียบประดุจดั่ง ต้นไม้ที่ได้แตกกิ่งก้านสาขาและเจริญเติบโตงอกงาม โดยเราได้รับเอา ภาษาบาลี สันสกฤต เขมร จีน ฯลฯ มาใช้ ทำให้ภาษาไทยแตกกิ่งก้าน สาขามากมาย มีคำเพิ่มมากขึ้นตามกาลเวลา

Why study Thai at Ohio University?

Ohio University is home to the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, one of only eight programs in the United States designated as a National Resource Center and funded by the Department of Education. Thus, Ohio University offers not only language instruction in Thai, but courses in Thai history, culture, philosophy, literature, politics, and much more.

Ohio University Libraries houses one of the largest collections of research materials on Southeast Asia in the United States. In addition to its world-class Malaysian Resource Center, and renowned Indonesian collection, Ohio University Libraries is home to the David K. Wyatt Thai collection. Consisting of more than 15,000 volumes, about half of which are in Thai, the David K. Wyatt Collection includes most of the standard works on Thailand, a substantial number of Thai royal chronicles, King Chulalongkorn's (1868-1910) diaries and letters, and an extensive array of monographs, memoirs, and cremation volumes. The Wyatt Collection is one of the largest private library collections ever acquired by Ohio University

Ohio University offers a growing number of undergraduate study abroad programs, internships, intensive language programs, and graduate student scholarships dedicated to the study of Thai and Thailand.

The study of Thai can "open doors." Hundreds of international organizations, NGOs, American businesses, and U.S. governmental agencies operate in Thailand. Some knowledge of the Thai language, which is always in high demand, positions one well for a rewarding international career in Thailand. But above all, Thailand is a fascinating country, noted for its unique history, magnificent scenery, extraordinarily rich culture, and undeniably charming people.

Course Offerings

  • Elementary Thai
  • Intermediate Thai
  • Advanced Thai

A few links to learn more about Thai and Thailand

Thai Consonants


Royal Thai Institute Dictionary Online

David K. Wyatt Thai Collection

Thai Development Blog, by Jordan Templeton, a Thai language student at Ohio University

Thai Tourism Authority

Thai Music