Thai is the official language of Thailand, a country which is also home to many minority languages and different ethnic groups. Thai is a tonal language, which means that changing the pitch when pronouncing a word can change the meaning of that word. It is written with a script descended from the Brahmi script of India. It is closely related to Lao, with which it is mutually intelligible in spoken form, although the scripts used for each are different. There are five distinct registers of Standard Thai, which are used in different contexts – such as when discussing Buddhism or addressing a monk. Learning the appropriate registers can prove a challenge for English speakers, although most day-to-day interactions take place using the “Street” (common) or “Elegant” (formal) registers. The Thai community in Australia has grown significantly in the last decade. Community language schools have been established to assist with language maintenance, and some university-level courses exist. With Thailand such a popular tourist destination with Australians, learning Thai provides a richer cultural experience than is otherwise possible as an English-speaker.

Number of people in Australia who speak this language at home: 36,665 (ABS Census Data, 2011)

Language Category: Asian Languages

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