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The most widely spoken of the Tai family of languages, Thai (or Siamese), is the official language of the Kingdom of Thailand, which has an estimated population of 69.5 million. There are regional dialects of Thai (significant among these are the northeastern or Isan dialect), but Standard Thai, based on the usage of educated residents of central Thailand, including Bangkok, is taught and used in schools, media, and governmental offices throughout the country. Thai is related to Lao, Shan, and the various Tai languages spoken in the highlands of Vietnam and southern China.

The Thai writing system is alphabetic and is unique to the Thai language. It is derived from Indic scripts and can be traced back to the latter part of the 13th century (CE) and the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng. Thai is a tonal language with five distinct tones.

The Department of Asian Languages and Literature offers classes in Thai that are open to both undergraduate and graduate students. Mastery of the language opens for the student opportunities to enjoy such classics as the Lilit Phra Lo of Sunthorn Phu, contemporary novels like Chotmai chak Muang Thai by Botan (Supa Sirising), as well as cinematic works such as the epic film, Suriyothai, directed by Prince Chatrichalerm Yukol. Other courses relevant to the study of Thailand and Thai culture are available across the campus in such fields as history, anthropology, and comparative religion.

The department offers courses in Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Thai, as well as the opportunity to pursue independent research at the undergraduate level. Please see the UW Course Catalog for course descriptions and Courses for class offerings per quarter.

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