Thai Language Translation: Grammar Specifics, Usage, and Challenges

Chiang Mai TranslationThai Language Translation

Thai Language is Challenging

Thailand has never been under any European government rule nor invaded by any foreign power. This is the main reason why no other language other than Thai has gained extreme prominence in Thailand. English is a subject that is mandatory at most schools in Thailand, but the number of fluent English speakers remains significantly low, most especially outside of Bangkok. These facts demonstrate the need for accurate professional translation services for people doing any type of business in Thailand.

With its own unique script as well as language pattern, Thai language is considered as a very difficult language to interpret and translate, and in the business of translation, Thai continues to be a challenge to translate for most translation services providers.

There is much need for intensive understanding of Thailand’s culture as well as their language in order to provide successful and accurate Thai translations.

Thai Script or Alphabet

Thai language’s own unique script is based on the Khmer script which comes with no links whatsoever found relating it to any other language. The Thai alphabet is a syllabic alphabet consisting of 44 basic consonants. No independent vowels exist in the Thai alphabet and an inherent vowel goes with each consonant. The Thai alphabet consists of 6 diphthongs or compound vowels, 18 single vowel symbols, and 8 consonant-like vowels which combines into numerous forms of vowels, and which also modifies the consonants.

A professional Thai translator needs to know that in order to use other vowels in the Thai alphabet, each consonant is to be written with vowel symbol markings. A symbol marking appears as a subscript that follows a consonant, or which appears as a stroke written either before and/ or after a consonant.

A Thai translator needs to deal with all these linguistic challenges.

Thai as a Tonal Language

Thai is a language with a total of 5 tones. Some words are pronounced with a low tone, a mid tone or a high tone, while others have either a rising tone or a falling tone. Thai words, although sounding very similar, completely have different meanings depending on their tone. For some consonants, multiple letters indicate different tones, and syllable’s tone is determined by a combination of the type of syllable, the class of consonant, the tone marker, and finally, the length of the vowel.

A professional Thai translator performing Thai translations must understand these rules of the Thai language. Translation performed by unqualified individuals or computers still can’t deliver the same level of quality.


As in most other languages, different Thai dialects are also used by people in different regions. The main dialects of the Thai language are as follows: Standard Thai, which is used by the ethnic majority; Bangkok Thai, which, as the name implies, is used in Bangkok, Thailand, Central Thai, Khorat Thai, and Southern Thai; and finally, Standard Thai, which is understood and spoken by all Thais, aside from their own regional dialects.

 Thai Language Usage as Based on One’s Social Rank

Standard Thai consists of several distinct forms/registers, which also comprises of different qualifying verbs and nouns as well as different pronouns for usage in different given social contexts.

The basic Thai usages are as follows:

Street Thai:  Informal and used between close relatives and friends.

Formal/Elegant Thai:  Uses respectful or “elegant” terms of address and used in newspapers.

Rhetorical Thai:  Typically used for public speaking.

Religious Thai:  Used when addressing monks or discussing Buddhism.

Royal Thai:  Used when addressing or speaking with members of the royal family and/or describing their activities.

Most Thai people can usually speak or use only the first and second mentioned usage forms, although they can understand the others forms.

A good Thai translator must have very thorough knowledge of the totally different sets of vocabularies as characteristic of the Thai language, as well as have precise understanding as of which ones to use depending on a given social context.

 Thai Grammar Specifics and Language Pitfalls

Often it will not suffice even when a Thai translator already has in-depth knowledge in all Thai registers and dialects as there are yet a number of other important grammatical specifics to bear in mind when translating either from or into the Thai language:

  • In Thai language, the tenses are indicated not by verbs but by the adverbs used as well as the context
  • There are no distinctions between adverbs and adjectives.
  • Adverbs and adjectives are placed at the back of the verb or noun they are referring to
  • Nouns don’t display gender or plural forms and collectives are formed through re-duplication
  • The passive voice is used only in a negative sense
  • Thai letters don’t have small letters and capital forms
  • No full stops are used at the end of sentences
  • As a rule, words are written successively until the end of the sentences and spaces between words are not used
  • Instead, to indicate the end of a sentence or clause, spaces in Thai text are used.


Since Thai language is difficult to translate especially for businesses, it is very essential to employ the services provided by a language translation provider who is well-versed and experienced in Thai language translations.  CHIANG MAI TRANSLATION Company is a full-service translation provider with over 20 years of experience as well as a presence extending to several different countries across the globe.

Coordinating the Thai translation process from start to finish is a project manager who initially assigns the translation projects to its most suitable Thai translator, with Chiang Mai Translation employing a team of 30 native Thai speakers residing in Thailand and who are familiar with all Thai language specifics as well as the socio-cultural nuances involved in translating Thai.

Chiang Mai’s translators are also fully capable of translating from or into a number of Thai dialects, and finally, all Thai translations are proofread by a group of editors to ensure optimum quality and accuracy.

CHIANG MAI TRANSLATION has all the experience and resources to complete even the most challenging Thai translation projects, that is, regardless of high volumes and/or very tight deadlines.