6 Insightful Thai Localization Tips
Thailand’s cultural richness, together with its native language, combine to create two main obstacles for any foreign company when entering this market. To grasp the opportunity for success in Thailand, localizing your content into Thai services is an absolute necessity.
With the help of our native Thai translator, Panakarn Laphasupthaweekul, GTE Localize has listed some of the most notable factors and tips for a successful Thai localization project.
Table of Contents
1. No Space between Words
The Thai language does not use space to separate words and phrases in a sentence. Instead, it uses a set of rules to help people recognize words. Once you get familiar with these rules, you will not even notice the lack of spaces between Thai words anymore.
Some of the rules are as follows:
- The preposed vowels (เ แ โ ใ ไ) start a syllable.
- ะ ends a syllable (unless it is followed by a consonant with the symbol อ์ as in the word เคราะห์ . These exceptions are rare.)
- Gaaran ends a syllable, except for European loan words (such as กอล์ฟ).
- A syllable starting with ใ or ไ is an open syllable.
- อั and อ็ do not appear over a syllable-final consonant.
- อำ ends a syllable.
In Thai localization projects, no space between Thai words poses a great challenge for the Desktop Publishing (DTP) step. If your DTP-ers are not native Thai speakers or fluent in Thai, there is a great chance that they will make mistakes in breaking lines, causing unreadable content.
Panakarn informed us that “Line break is always a problem found during the final process of the localization. Wrong breaking between words makes them unreadable. Computers cannot automatically detect words correctly and human recheck is highly recommended.”
To make sure no unfortunate mistakes are made in this step, you should only let native experienced linguists and DTP-ers handle your content. After the DTP step, investing some time and money to hire a native Thai editor to review the whole documents again is a should.
2. Complex Rules for Spacing
Although the Thai language does not use space to separate words within a sentence, spaces are required in different cases. In fact, the rules for spacing in the Thai language might be a little tricky and complex that even some native Thai people use them in the wrong way.
We have found an informative article by Suphawut (Bryan) Wathabunditkul about the spacing in the Thai language with a detailed guideline on how to use spaces the right way in Thai. We would like to share some notable spacing rules below. For the full guideline, please visit Bryan’s article.
|Add one space when you finish a phrase, clause or sentence, and wish to start a new idea.||ตาตี๋ตกต้นตาล ตอตาลตำตูด ตายใต้ต้นตาล
|One space after a comma.||ช้าง, ม้า, วัว, กระบือ|
|One space after a colon.||ขั้นตอนงานหล่อทองโดยย่อมีดังนี้: เตรียมทอง, หลอมทอง, เททอง
|One space before and after the repetition mark (ๆ).||ต่าง ๆ นานา|
|One space before and after the preposition ณ and the 3rd person pronoun ธ.||ร่มนาครบริรักษ์ ณ ภาคนี้|
|One space before and after a person’s rank and his/her name.||รองศาสตราจารย์ นายสัตวแพทย์ พิเชฏฐ์ เหลืองทองคำ|
|One space before and after any foreign words, phrases or sentences inserted into the Thai and vice versa.||ใน Collins Dictionary มีการแปลวลี turn on ไว้ห้าความหมาย|
|One space between a person’s military or social rank and his/her name.||พลเรือเอก ประเสริฐ บุญทรง|
|However, leave no space between นาย, นาง, นางสาว, น.ส., คุณ, ครู, อาจารย์ and his/her name.||นายเกริกไกร จีระแพทย์|
These rules will be helpful for you in the process of creating your own translation style guide for your Thai localization projects, guaranteeing consistency in the use of spaces throughout the whole documents.
3. Thai Pronouns
If you are only familiar with the use of pronouns in English which depends on only 3 factors – the person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), number (singular or plural), and genders, you will be confused with the pronouns in Thai. In the Thai language, to choose a suitable pronoun, you need to consider some additional factors like formality, respect, politeness, familiarity, etc.
There are several pronouns in Thai. Some are obsolete and considered rude words nowadays. Below are some common pronouns in Thai:
|Thai Pronoun||English Equivalence||How to use it|
|First-person||ฉัน||I||– Unisex (Singular)|
|ดิฉัน||– Female (Singular)|
|ผม||– Male (Singular)|
|ข้าพเจ้า||– In the legal context (Singular)|
|พวกเรา, เรา||We||– Unisex (Plural)|
|You||– Unisex, normally used.|
|– In formal context or respectful person
– Some brands use with their customers.
|– Unisex or Male|
Since using the wrong pronouns can confuse or offend addresses, your company should be extra careful when choosing the pronouns to communicate with your customers. Our advice is always to research your target audiences, understand the culture of the target locales, and seek consultancy from native Thai localizers. Based on the customer insights you gain from research, the native localizers will help you choose the most powerful pronouns for a successful Thai localization project.
4. Two Number Systems
Thai people use two different numeral systems: Arabic numerals and Thai numbers (ตัวเลขไทย).
|Arabic numerals||Thai numbers|
|0 – ศูนย์ (sǔun)
1 – หนึ่ง (nùeng)
2 – สอง (sǎawng)
3 – สาม (sǎam)
4 – สี่ (sìi)
5 – ห้า (hâa)
6 – หก (hòk)
7 – เจ็ด (jèt)
8 – แปด (bpàaet)
9 – เก้า (gâo)
|0 – ศูนย์ (sǔun)
๑ – หนึ่ง (nùeng)
๒ – สอง (sǎawng)
๓ – สาม (sǎam)
๔ – สี่ (sìi)
๕ – ห้า (hâa)
๖ – หก (hòk)
๗ – เจ็ด (jèt)
๘ – แปด (bpàaet)
๙ – เก้า (gâo)
The Arabic numerals are widely used by the Thais in writing in most situations. The Thai numbers, on the other hand, are limitedly used in a very formal context such as legal documents for the government or the court and sometimes in the house address label.
In Thai localization projects, you should carefully check which number system should be used for your types of content to bring the best reading or experience for Thai audiences.
5. Thai Calendar
Thai people use two calendar systems alongside each other – the Thai solar calendar and the Thai lunar calendar.
- The Thai solar calendar is based on the Gregorian calendar, used in most countries around the world. This calendar is used for legal and commercial purposes.
- The Thai lunar calendar (also called the Tai calendar) is a lunisolar Buddhist calendar. Thai people use Tai calendar for traditional events and Buddhist religious practices. Years are now counted in the Buddhist Era that is 543 years greater than the Christian Era. For example, the year 2021 is the year 2564 in the Thai lunar calendar.
The use of two calendars sometimes confuses linguists and require conversion between the two to match the types of content, context, and audiences. Thus, when working on a Thai localization project, you should clearly mention to your linguists what calendar should be used.
6. Other Thai Localization Details and Locale Specifics
Below is the checklist of localization details for the Thai market you should consider:
- Texts in Thai are usually 15% longer than in English.
- Thailand is a mobile-first market. More and more people in Thailand can afford mobile phones and adapting quickly to prioritizing mobile in their digital lifestyles.
- In Thailand, every day has its own colour. The lucky colours of the day are: Sunday – red; Monday – yellow/cream; Tuesday – pink; Wednesday – green at daytime, grey at night; Thursday – orange/brown; Friday – light blue; Saturday – purple/black.
- Thai people have adopted the metric system of measurement since 1923. However, the old Thai units are still in common use, especially when measuring lands (wha, ngaan and rai).
- There are two time systems in Thailand. The standard time is in 24-hour notation, used in military, aviation, navigation, meteorology, astronomy, computing, logistical, emergency services, and hospital settings. For everyday usage, Thai people prefer the six-hour clock which divides the day into four quarters, counting six hours in each.
- The full name format is first name followed by the family name. The vast majority of Thai people have two names: their full, official name and a nickname. A Thai person only uses his or her official name in formal situations. Even at work, most people use their nicknames. They are bound up in the very nature of Thai-ness and an important part of Thai culture.
- The address format is house number, street, ward, district, city.
We hope the Thai localization insights in this article will help you find great success in the Thai market. If you are planning on localizing your content into other Asian languages, download our free whitepaper for more localization tips into 10 major languages in Asia.