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Travel Forums Asia languages

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1. Posted by AndyB24 (Respected Member 167 posts) 9y

Hi all, planning to tour around asia in 09, wanting to learn some languages, but unsure which will be most useful.

Planning to visit Indonesia, thailand, vietnam, laos, cambodia, burma, china, japan, as well as a few others along the way.

Anyone advise which would be the most beneficial? planing to spend a while in thailand.


2. Posted by opospa (Travel Guru 1837 posts) 9y

Actually most of the countries that you are visiting doesn't speak much english i suppose
Well, if you plan to stay a while in Thailand, learn Thai to do some bargain and to ask for direction!

3. Posted by CanadaGuy (Respected Member 199 posts) 9y

I have travelled through most of the countries on your list on a couple trips.
In general I think it is great to be able to speak a little bit of the local languages when people travel. I don't know how much of a linguist you are, but personally I find Asian languages very difficult.
Quite honestly it would not be realistic to pick up a working usage of any of those languages if you just backpacking through and spending a month or less in each one, all of which have quite different languages ( well Lao and Thai are apparently quite similar).

Most guidebooks including Lonely Planet have a bit of a "phrase book" at the back- The keys to focus on are the basics - hello, good bye, etc, and numbers ( important for your purchases usually- but not even necessary-- every single merchant always seems to have that calculator to show you how much they want-- Then you can bargain back and forth using it).
Pronounciations are often difficult, and the alphabets and scripts are even different in several of these languages.... But if you put a bit of an effort I am sure the locals appreciate it.

Good luck

4. Posted by AndyB24 (Respected Member 167 posts) 9y

Yeah, thats all i´m after, just the basics, just wasn´t sure if there was a more common language, or if they all had a seperate one. Picked up spanish pretty quick, so keen to have a go at something else! Think thai is going to be the best option.

Thanks for your help.

5. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 9y

You'll find that English is a pretty good 2nd language everywhere......other than that, a quick one page phrase guide to local languages will help...I think counting, greetings and thanks are the most important...some basic nouns - for food etc.

6. Posted by bwiiian (Travel Guru 768 posts) 9y

I would really recommend learning to count in thai. I learnt while i was there and suddenly everything was much cheaper as u can haggle a bit in their language and they respect you much more and give you a price much closer to what the locals would pay.

7. Posted by opospa (Travel Guru 1837 posts) 9y

speak with the correct tone in thai....
different tones have different meaning...

8. Posted by AndyB24 (Respected Member 167 posts) 9y

Ya, heard about the tone difference, that could be a challenge. I agree, I definately should to learn to count, had a friend here whos spanish is so bad that I witnessed him push UP a price when trying to bargain.

thanks everyone.

9. Posted by wildfk (Respected Member 459 posts) 9y

In Thailand there is a 5 tone system - BUT if you are in a touristy area there really is little need to worry about tones in simple one or two word intercourses. Normally, the locals will realise that when you say "maa" you mean ""come" - not dog or horse!?!

However, to get and idea of how important tones can be, try saying a word in your own language and getting the intonation and stress wrong - you'll find that people simply don't understand you

Probably more important is to know about "Khaa" and "Khrap" - the female and male "polite ending" words that litter everything the Thais say and also can work for "yes"....

10. Posted by CanadaGuy (Respected Member 199 posts) 9y

Like I said Andy-- these are really difficult.....
I think you can be very polite and respectful of the locals with the minimal basics-- too much and you may be looking for trouble...