Famous Thai-speaking westerners – ฝรั่งดังๆที่พูดภาษาไทยได้

When westerners, or foreigners (in Thai, “farang” ฝรั่ง) first visit or move to Thailand and make the decision to learn Thai language, they may initially be intimidated by the strange, exotic and sometimes obnoxious tonal sounds.

No doubt, learning to speak, read and write Thai may at first seem daunting.

All the sights and sounds around you, Thai is everywhere around you. Photo: Steven Layne

All the sights and sounds around you, Thai is everywhere! Photo: Steven Layne

But for the handful of language lovers who find and embrace inspiration, taking on the challenge with arms wide open, success waits just around the corner.

 Kwam Payayaam Yuu Tee Nai, Kwam Sumret Yuu Tee Nun ความพยายามอยู่ที่ไหนความสำเร็จอยู่ที่นั้น….literally,”Where ever there is effort, that’s where success lies.”

It can be a struggle, but a rewarding one for those who persist. There are plenty of tools to help one along the learning path, be it soap operas, karaoke CDs, and of course, Thai friends and strangers.

Indeed, it’s becoming increasingly more common to meet farang in Thailand who speak Thai seemingly flawlessly after seemingly little time or effort, and youtube is full of Thai-speaking attempts by farang, some better than others: take this beautiful Englishwoman who could almost pass as a Thai girl after only 16 months of being in Thailand; or this funny farang interviewing a Burmese girl in Thai… or this young farang who tries his Thai charms on girls at two famous universities, among many other light-hearted public pranks.

But before the days of Youtube, it was much more difficult for farang to get noticed for their Thai talents; first, they had to master the language, enough so as to really impress someone with connections, who could lay out the golden opportunity for the national studio or stage spotlights.

This post includes a list of some of the most famous farang in Thailand of the last few decades, who’ve mastered Thai, and will certainly inspire, educate you to become a better Thai speaker, if not simply provide some good entertainment for you.

Click the link below to read about the first one, Andrew Biggs.


Famous Thai-speaking westerners – ฝรั่งดังๆที่พูดภาษาไทยได้ — 23 Comments

  1. I think the greatest challenge when you are learning Thai outside Thailand is to stay constantly motivated. This is sometimes very hard because you don't actually get into situations where you need the language. At least this is my problem, sometimes I'm motivated to learn Thai but then I become lazy again and stop praticing for a long time…
    However, I find this an interesting topic that there are Westerners who have perfected their Thai language skills but as far as I see they are all persons who have lived in Thailand for a longer time.

  2. Hmm, I don't think any adult foreign learner of thai is gonna EVER sound enough like a thai to fool a born-bred-rice fed thai speaker. Not your "beautiful English woman", not Andrew Biggs, Todd Lavelle, Adam Bradshaw, nor the singing duo Jonas & Kristy. They ALL sound to thais like non native speakers, no matter how much a thai compliments them.. Now are they good, competent, qualified speakers of thai, Certainly they are, but they ain't thai-sounding enough to fool a thai for more than a couple sentences…

    Ummm, news flash you can't put Christopher Wright into that group, he's a ลูกครึ่ง his mom's thai.

  3. @Tod, Reason why Chris W was included is simple, because he's a westerner too, i.e. a farang, in outlook and culture from his dad, and IMO, a native speaker of English…The title of this list is Thai-speaking westerners, which is what he is.

    Like myself, who was born to a Thai mom, but raised in the US and am just as American as the next guy doesn't make me any less farang because my mom was Thai.While the common word is "half" is used to described a mixed person the fact is, that doesn't imply that we are not whole one culture or the other.

  4. It's an honor to be included on this list. Thanks! I've been in Thailand on and off for 9 years and for 5 straight now. I love the Thai language and will always strive to get better and better! It has been an epic journey thus far.

  5. Mr Adam Bradshaw speak Thaï better than Thaï people man 555 every tones are correct .. What is the sound of a native speaker for you ? ภาษาใต้ ภาษอีสานเหรอ อิจฉาเหรอเปล่า

  6. It's your blog man, but I still don't think Chris Wright (who was born and raised in Bangkok most of his life) should be on it. Nor do I believe any half-thais or polyglots should have a place on it either. By their definition half thais have a thai parent, which means no matter where they were raised, they're thai. Same goes for polyglots, they're ninja language-learners and pretty far removed from most learners of thai I've come across.

    I'm just saying, who's setting the bar as far as successful, you? Is it purely exposure? As in who's on t/v, you tube, who has the most followers on twitter, who's better at sucking up to thais, or what?

    Now before you get your panties in a twist, I don't know you from Somchai the fruit seller, and I'm not slamming you personally. I'm questioning the criteria you're using and the validity of your choices is all.

    There are a TON of incredibly well-spoken foreign speakers of thai which don't go around tooting their drum or beating their horn. Most are NOT famous by your standards. But more than a few could talk circles around most of the people on your list.

    I get you wrote this to drive traffic to your blog, but that's about all I get..

  7. Critical criteria is always a good call to credential…No offense, taken, though your view is valid to a variety of value-sets; your vindication on validation is fundamentally flawed, paricularly the part about panties on my person , 😀 and btw. Thanks for contributing to the conversation. As for your query, the underlying criteria is:

    Anybody who can be explained or described as a famous Thai-speaking farang. Somchai the fruitseller could look at all the people on this list and have a high probability of pointing and saying:

    ฝรั่งนั้นอ่ะ เป็นคนดังนะ เค้าพูดภาษาไทยได้ด้วยนะโวย…

    เข้าใจปะ ฝรั่งคนนี้เข้าใจยากมากว่ะ

    BTW, Tod, looks like we may have just invented a new word, Thanks.

    Tha-speaki-rang" list. Taspikirung a Thai speaking farang; he may be black, he may be white, and he speaks Thai too.

  8. The only reason I took exception to ลูกครึง's being on the list was;

    You'd open it up to Thin-dians (thai-indian), Thai-nese (thai/chinese), Thai-panese (thai/japanese), Thai-reans (thai/koreans) Thai-laysians (thai/malay) etc ,and the list would never stop! (BTW: I made up those terms) Now I've met quite a few of the above mentioned demographics and a lot of them are near native or native speakers in thai.

    What about Bill Heinecke? You'd be harder pressed to find a richer 'former' American here (he gave up his US citizenship), AND he's a thai too! Another one which comes to mind is Andrew Stotz a super successful American who holds thai citizenship and has been here for eons too. It's just there are a LOT of people who don't tick all the boxes yet which still are head and shoulders above some of those 'famous' foreigners.

    Alas, I am under no illusion of where I am on the scale 'o thai learners.. Now if you had one called "foreigners who can be assholes in both english and thai" I'd probably score pretty well.

  9. I had a similar problem. Learning Thai in Switzerland without being in a relationship, I started to find Thai friends. There are plenty of Thais here, but finding real friends is difficult. Fortunately I was "adopted" (joke, we're just pretty close), to a Thai/Swiss family who let me participate at every occasion when they have family gatherings and stuff.
    So I got pretty fluent, without learning material and mostly learning by myself. But yeah, when that motivation fades away, I also stopped practicing for a long time 🙂
    Aren't you native?

  10. I had the great pleasure of meeting Rob Mcblain and working with him briefly in Bangkok in 2013 with the Ministry of education… I judged an acting competition with him. I heard about his death and have only read about it on here after googling his name….. He was a kind and intelligent guy… Very saddened by his passing away. I just remember thinking what a nice, unjudgemental man. rIP Robert.

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