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Is English Spoken in Thailand?

Exposure to the English language in Thai schools is variable at best, unless parents can afford to send their children to more expensive education establishments. For poorer Thais (the majority), while there may be some English taught, it is often not an integral part of the curriculum, the standard poor and while children may be able to repeat a set of standard words and phrases, they probably don't really understand them.

The further away from large cities, like Bangkok or Chiang Mai, the less English you will find in the schools. The net result is very poor English skills in general but the middle classes will have some English language skills. The problem is exacerbated by teachers giving their students pass grades, no matter what their score.

Hotel staff in major tourist areas will nearly always have passable basic English. Conversely, if you find yourself in rural Thailand, far away from any centre, your chances of being able to communicate in English are almost nil. Even when it is spoken, you will have to concentrate to understand the strange grammar, pronunciation and sentence structure, as Thai people struggle to pronounce English properly. When a street vendor or shop keeper needs to tell you the price of something, they will often simply type the amount into a calculator and show you the display without saying a word.

In the business arena, you may often find Thai people communicating with each other in English, especially educated Thais, as they like to show off their high status in society.

Thai society has seen a rise in English language media and the trend continues. There are a number of English periodicals and newspapers in circulation, including large mainstream publications such as The Bangkok Post and The Nation newspaper. Even Thai language publications will often have headlines and snippets printed in English, almost as if it makes it seem more 'chic'.

To summarise, you will get by if you don't speak Thai in Bangkok and other tourist areas... but if you stray away from the areas generally visited by foreigners, you will surely struggle without a phrase book.

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