Teach me Thai

Beep. Beep.

This means squeeze in Thai.

The Thai language, which seemed awkward and inaccessible at the very beginning of my new life here, has become quite a fun language to learn. Playful, with plenty of repetition. Communicating ideas is relatively simple (no need for all those crazy auxiliary verbs like the English language!)

Omit pronouns? Sure! They can be understood based on context, anyway. No need to say ‘I’ or ‘you’ in a sentence or even remember if it’s ‘he’ or ‘she’ or ‘him’ or ‘her’.

Present continuous? Naaah. It’s ever-present in English but Thai seems to get along well with more simple constructions.
‘I go to the store.’ Simple, yet effective. In Thai, this phrase conveys all the information you need.

In English, minor changes to the verb ‘go’ have major changes on meaning:
‘I am going to the store,’
‘I was going to the store,’
‘I will be going to the store,’
‘I will have been going to the store’
… you get my point.

In that sense, Thai can be a conspicuously vague language.
Someone, somewhere, at some unspecified time, is going to the store.

Onomatopoetic words? Yes, please! And plenty of them! Like beep, which is ‘to squeeze.’

And maew, the word for cat.

A ching is a bell.

A hoook is an owl. (HOOOK! HOOOOK!)

Oo-aak is the word for vomit. No really.

Repetition? A double helping, please!

A-roy maak maak. = Very delicious.

A-roy is delicious. Maak is very or a lot

boi boi = sometimes

chueei chueei = so so

chaa chaa = slowly

ray-o ray-o = quickly

But wait. It can get tricky too. Be careful using Thai words.

The tone will drastically change the meaning of a word.

Suay (pronounced ‘soo-wai’) with a rising tone on the second syllable means beautiful.

But if you say suay with a low tone, like you’re disappointed, you’re calling someone unlucky.  Not very polite, is it?

Your attention (or inattention) to vowel length can get you into some serious social trouble.

Like the word for snow. He-ma.

If you accidentally spend too much time pronouncing the vowels and say it, Hee-maa, you’re saying quite a vulgar phrase. Which I’m not going to explain here. You’ll just have to find that out on your own.

And, to make things more complicated, the sound of some real English words are actually quite vulgar in Thai.

Like the English pronoun she, which, in Thai, is a vulgar way to say urinate.

The sound of the English word yet, (as in, I haven’t been there yet!), is one of the worst words in the Thai language.

And then, in reverse, the sound of some Thai words seem vulgar to English speakers. Like the Thai word for an older brother or sister, which is pee.

It’s the polite way to address someone, “Pee, ka!” is like saying, “Excuse me, miss!

The best one is the Thai word for pumpkin.

Well, go ahead. Look it up.

It’s all these strange characteristics that make languages interesting and exciting to learn. Not to mention it also makes for some fantastic cross-linguistic puns.

Like soi-dog. No, not a hotdog made out of soy, but a local name for the mangy stray dogs that wander up and down the soi, which is the Thai word for street.

Watch out! Here comes a soi-dog!


About KShaw

English teacher in Thailand. Global Traveler. Amateur linguist. Reader. Writer. Photographer. Musician. Friend.
This entry was posted in Musings on Life / Current Events and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Teach me Thai

  1. joyful article today..thank you Katie..
    any chance you will go to Jakarta, Indonesia to teach me Thai..? :mrgreen:

  2. Creens says:

    And now it makes complete sense as to why you guys wanted me to name Klaus “Soy”. 🙂

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