3 hours ago
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Pudt Pasa Ungrit Mai Ka
Thai is one hell of a confusing language. I am probably the last person who should be writing about this because my Thai is about on par with a two year old. But I wish I'd read up on it a little more before I came instead just picking up a Teach Yourself Thai! (the exclamation is needed. These things always seem to want to make you super excited about learning and of course, that's the best way to do it) CD and hoping for the best. I did want to try and get conversational before I left but I found it difficult to make Thai friends in my situation so I kinda lost the motivation. Also, it's so easy for foreigners here because English is everywhere. I'll admit it, I was just too darn lazy. Plus the chances of me ever using it again are pretty much slim to none.
Like I said, Thai is a confusing language. It's tonal to begin with, which means different tones on different parts of the same word mean different things. You might think you're asking for rice but you're actually talking about your leg. There are also quite a few sounds that we don't really make in the English language like bp, dt, ng and bpl. There are also long and short vowels that differentiate words. Plus, there are masculine and feminine words, most the ending of sentences, krup for men and ka for women. Crazy times! I know your probably thinking"OH GOD! run away! run away now!". But fear not! Here are some tips and tricks I have picked up that should make learning Thai a little easier for you.
1. Learn to read it before you speak it.
Thai, unlike a lot of Asian languages (Chinese=OMG ARE YOU PEOPLE CRAZY! You do not need 3000 letters!) has an alphabet. The characters are crazy and look really confusing but are easy once you know what they all stand for. There are 59 letters and 4 tones. The vowels (there are 15) are combined together to make various vowel sounds (oua, oi etc. They are not all pronounced the same as in English). I would recommend getting a pocket sized book and carrying it with you everywhere and try and read everything! You might not understand what everything means but to will give you and idea of the sentence structures and you will learn new word, things like exit and or no smoking that you see everyday. They might not always be useful but everything helps!
2. Count everything.
The most important thing to learn in Thai is numbers as far as I'm concerned. So make this one of the first things you learn, along with the obvious hello, thank you etc. And when you do, count everything. I would count my steps as I was walking, my strokes in the swimming pool, the amount of people on the train EVERYTHING! Some Thai people probably thought I was cray on the few occasions I would count out loud "neung, sorng, sahm, see, ha". I found this really helpful in remembering it all.
3. When you learn a word, use it!
This is the biggest struggle for me. I do not have a head for languages. I would spend an hour a day when I first got here jabbering along with the CD and as soon as I stopped, I'd already forgotten everything! But, if I use things that I learn straight away, I find I retain it a lot better. For example, I have no idea how to say where is the toilet, but I can ask where the Chinese embassy is, because I used that. I doubt this is the same for everybody and that I'm just a little slow with languages but I thought I'd throw it in anyway.
4. Make Thai friends.
And just talk to people in general. They are usually thrilled that you want to learn their language and are happy to help. Don't be disheartened if people giggle at you when you try and speak Thai. I am assured that they just think you're cute. Speaking Thai with Thais is also the best way to learn the language properly. I find that CDs and the such like teach a very formal version of Thai that no one really uses.
Here are a couple of words you will definetly need in Thailand. Please keep in mind that Thai people generally will not understand Thai written in English letters.
No = Mai krup/ka (m/f)
Yes = krup/ka (m/f)
Hello = Sawatdee krup/ka (m/f)
Thank you = Kup kun krup/ka (m/f)
Turn left = Leo sai
Turn right = Leo kwa
Go straight = Dtong bai
How much? = Tow lai krup/ka (m/f)
Don't want! = Mai ow!
Drinking water please = Kor nam pow krup/ka (m/f)
This is referred to as taxi Thai or tourist Thai because it's usually all foreigner pick up when they are here. Another little thing to remember is it's always polite to end your sentences with krup/ka. I hope this has been helpful for anyone wanting to learn Thai. I'm no expert but these are all the things I've found that made it that little bit easier.