Friday, May 23, 2014

A (very quick and very simple) lesson in Thai


Before I arrived in Thailand, I remember reading the names of certain Thai phrases or cities and not even having the slightest clue of how they were actually pronounced. Some of the words we're so long, it seemed laughable to even try to pronounce them. For example, the name of our metro stop in Bangkok is Ratchadaphisek. Like, what?!?! If you asked me to pronounce that before being here, I wouldn't have had the slightest clue. Now, after hearing several Thais speak, I understand the tonal inclinations a bit better. For Ratchadaphisek, if you try to say it all in one tone, it is overwhelming. But if you break it up into three sections and give one of them (PHI, pronounced "PEE") a high tone, it is easier to say and easier to remember:

          Ratchada-PHI-sek

I don't plan to master the Thai language anytime soon, but after being in Thailand for a week, I did pick up a few key phrases that I thought may be helpful for anyone planning a visit to the country. Mostly you'll get by on broken English, but it helps to know a few simple phrases to show you've given an interest in Thai language and culture.

How to say...

HELLO:

          (If you're a man): Sawadee-KUP
          (if you're a woman): Sawadee-KA

YES:

          CHAI

NO:

          MAI Chai (literally translating to "not yes")

THANK YOU:

          (if you're a man): Cob-kun-KUP
          (if you're a woman): Cob-kun-KA

*The sounds in CAPS represent sounds that should be spoken with a high-pitched tone.
**I am not a linguist and the above does not represent any official spelling of these words. They are written phonetically how I perceive them to sound, based on my own personal experience of traveling to Thailand and listening to the locals as well as my Thai-speaking husband.

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