In Thailand’s northernmost Chiang Rai province, language learning is seen as crucial for greater regional economic and social success. For people in Chiang Rai, learning Mandarin Chinese is the flavour of the decade. It is a priority for the local university and school system, and nowadays street signs in downtown Chiang Rai are commonly in Thai, English and Chinese. The Chinese march down the Mekong is definitely being felt. While many are, no doubt, excited by the new opportunities, it should be noted that not everybody is happy.
While the Thai are busily learning Chinese, many of the non-Thai residents and visitors to Chiang Rai are keen to learn something of the local lingo. I have seen a few different language schools advertising Thai lessons – there’s obviously a market for it. The boldest even claims that “You can speak Thai in 6 hours”.
It’s quite a marketing pitch. Any takers for “You can speak Chinese in 6 hours”? “Easy, relax, fun”?