Wishing You a Very Merry SET Christmas

Here’s wishing you all a very Merry SET Christmas… It’s now been six years since I discovered The SET Foundation, and five...

Wishing You a Very Merry SET Christmas

uTalk Thai iOS App Review and Xmas Giveaway

uTalk Thai iOS app Xmas giveaway… Three iOS apps have been kindly donated to WLT by uTalk, a language learning company who designs...

uTalk Thai iOS App Review and Xmas Giveaway

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men, and the Women Who Love Them

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men… Some of you may know that besides contributing to Women Learn Thai...

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men, and the Women Who Love Them
uTalk Thai iOS App Review and Xmas Giveaway

uTalk Thai iOS App Review and Xmas Giveaway

uTalk Thai iOS app Xmas giveaway… Three iOS apps have been kindly donated to WLT by uTalk, a language learning company who designs some of the classiest iOS apps on the market. I totally fell in love with uTalk’s first Thai app, and generations later, this one is better still. NOTE: As many Android users […]

Review: English Thai iOS App Dictionaries: iPhone and iPad

Review: English Thai iOS App Dictionaries: iPhone and iPad

Reviewing iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch Apps: Thai dictionaries… The Thai Dictionary iOS app series is in four parts: English-Thai dictionaries specifically for the English market, English-Thai Dictionaries using the LEXiTRON dataset and/or databases created for Thais, Thai-English dictionaries, and special dictionaries using photos, sign language, etc. At the time of this review there are […]

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men, and the Women Who Love Them

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men, and the Women Who Love Them

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men… Some of you may know that besides contributing to Women Learn Thai I also write a blog on retiring to Thailand. My latest post is one about increasing awareness of a problem many older men have; problems with our prostate. I wrote that post because I thought that awareness […]

Say it Like a Thai Would

Say it Like a Thai Would

Say it Like a Thai Would… Now before you even begin reading this be forewarned that it might ruffle your feathers some. Truth be told, it’s kinda-sorta meant to. At the same time, what I want to do is get the readers’ heads around a concept about learning Thai as well. Not surprisingly, as I […]

A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

A Quest to Fluency: Thai and Italian. Italian?

Paul’s Quest to Fluency… A little over a month ago Paul Garrigan launched his quest to become fluent in the Thai language. Impressed with the obvious dedication shown, Stu Jay Raj (jcademy.com) took Paul under his wing: 6 Months to Thai Fluency – Paul Garrigan Week One – Thai Bites. From day one I was […]

Taking Private Lessons? Who Should Your Teacher Be?

Taking Private Lessons? Who Should Your Teacher Be?

Taking Private Lessons? Who Should Your Teacher Be?… After noticing a survey that declared that Swedes are the best learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL), Catherine asked me for my perspective on why Swedes are so successful. Though there are many points to consider, one aspect of EFL in Sweden and other countries […]

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ruth Curtis

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ruth Curtis

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners… Name: Ruth Curtis Nationality: American Age range: 62 Sex: Female Location: Bangkok Thailand Profession: Missionary [church planter] currently work together with my husband in personnel management for Thailand field member care of OMF Intl. What is your Thai level? Fluent nearly native: speaking, reading, writing, typing, teaching. Do you speak […]

Successful Thai Language Learner: Michel Boismard

Successful Thai Language Learner: Michel Boismard

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners… Name: Michel Boismard Nationality: French Age range: 67 Sex: Male Location: Thailand What is your Thai level? My Thai level is advanced. I learnt some rudiments on my 2nd visit in 1983 (1st in 1979) but really took off in 1987 where I was lucky to stay in a Thai […]

Thai Snippets: Semantics, Spelling, and Sentence Construction

Thai Snippets: Semantics, Spelling, and Sentence Construction

Introducing: Thai Snippets… I’ve been learning Thai for about 5 years now and have advanced beyond the beginner stage. I used to have the “Bakunin learns Thai” blog describing the first two years of that journey, but recently decided to take it offline and delete the content which caused the owner of this blog to […]

SolveThai.com Forum: A Thai Language Community and Resource

SolveThai.com Forum: A Thai Language Community and Resource

The SolveThai.com Forum… Since the beginning of the year, the Farang Can Learn Thai Facebook Group has grown incredibly fast. It’s a great resource and the most active community of its kind. But, due to the nature of Facebook, the majority of the content gets buried within a week. Flaws worth noting with a Facebook […]

Wishing You a Very Merry SET Christmas

Wishing You a Very Merry SET Christmas

Here’s wishing you all a very Merry SET Christmas… It’s now been six years since I discovered The SET Foundation, and five years since I turned over WLT’s ad revenue to SET as well. What’s the SET Foundation? The SET Foundation has a very specific aim: to make a difference. That difference is between a […]

Loi Krathong / Yee Peng: An Unexpected Pleasure in Chiang Mai

Loi Krathong / Yee Peng: An Unexpected Pleasure in Chiang Mai

Celebrating Loi Krathong and Yee Peng in Chiang Mai… Wikipedia: Loi Krathong (Thai: ลอยกระทง) coincides with the Lanna (northern Thai) festival known as Yi Peng (Thai: ยี่เป็ง). Yi means “two” and peng means a “full moon day”. Yi Peng refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Lanna lunar calendar […]

Wishing You a Very Merry SET Christmas

SET Foundation

Here’s wishing you all a very Merry SET Christmas…

It’s now been six years since I discovered The SET Foundation, and five years since I turned over WLT’s ad revenue to SET as well.

What’s the SET Foundation?

The SET Foundation has a very specific aim: to make a difference. That difference is between a youngster being able to study at a vocational college or university, or instead having to labor in the rice paddies, on a Bangkok building site, or in some other mundane, dead-end job.

By giving scholarships and other practical support, SET is making the difference for an increasing number of disadvantaged Thai students. We do it voluntarily, enthusiastically and very cost-effectively.

Have you noticed that each year there’s a shocking charity scandal? After discovering SET I’ve been confident that WLT’s donations go direct to the Thai students in need. So there’s been no more worries about supporting fancy skyrise offices, big fat black cars, or expensive vacations to tropical places.

And nothing makes me happier than when I receive an email about a WLT reader donating to the SET Foundation. And as this is the season of giving, I wanted to give my thanks to those donating in WLT’s name (or just plain donating).

Who’s donating to the SET Foundation?…

Since 2010, instead of sending money for sidebar ads, Benjawan (Talking Thai-English-Thai Dictionary) and Achim (L-lingo) have been donating direct to SET. Can you just imagine how many Thai students have benefitted from their generosity? Megga thanks to both of you!

Learn Thai Podcast is an intermittent sponsor of both SET and WLT (LTP recently helped get WLT back in shape). Recent affiliate donors are Glossika and Jcademy. And a onetime donation came from HelloTalk. Thank you Jay and Jo, Mike, Stu, and Zachary!

Many individuals have donated to SET in WLT’s name but have requested to remain anonymous. Many thanks to all of you as well!

As each donation arrives, Peter Robinson (Director of SET) sends me an email of thanks. I guess you could say that it’s like Xmas for everyone, but all year around.

Peter Robinson: SET receives terrific financial support from many members and sponsors of WLT. That increasing and generous support enables the foundation to help many more impoverished Thai youngsters every year.

In 2015, SET will be awarding long-term scholarships to 1,500 students at school, college or university and an additional 1,000+ one-off welfare grants to those with unexpected financial difficulties. That’s quite an achievement which is made possible only because of the generosity of our friends around the world, including followers of WLT.

We at SET – and our students – offer you our sincere thanks and best wishes for a happy 2015.

Donating to the SET Foundation via Paypal is dead easy. On their sidebar select a number from the paypal dropdown, or type a different number in the box below.

Other posts about the SET Foundation…

The SET Foundation: A Season for Giving Back
Inciting Acts of Kindness: The SET Foundation
Feel Like Donating? Give to the SET Foundation Instead

In WLT’s Sidebar: Feel Like Donating?

Ho ho ho everyone. Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. I thank you all for your support.

Do you have questions about the quirks of the Thai language?
Send them over and we’ll do our best.

uTalk Thai iOS App Review and Xmas Giveaway

uTalk Thai

uTalk Thai iOS app Xmas giveaway…

Three iOS apps have been kindly donated to WLT by uTalk, a language learning company who designs some of the classiest iOS apps on the market. I totally fell in love with uTalk’s first Thai app, and generations later, this one is better still.

NOTE: As many Android users have iPads, I thought it necessary to point out that an iPhone is not needed to run this app.

To win an app, the rules are simple:

  • Leave your comments below.
  • The comment(s) need to add to the conversation.

Note: Each relevant comment gets counted so leave as many as you like. If this is your first time leaving a comment on my site, it will need to be approved. But no worries, once approved it’ll automatically slot in at the correct time.

Duration: The draw will run from the time the post goes live until the Sunday, 21 December, 6pm UK time. At that time I will number the reasonable comments and run them through an online randomizer. The winners will then be announced in the comments of this post. There will also be a dedicated post, but not after Xmas.

Good luck everyone! And ho ho ho.

The uTalk Thai iOS app review…

uTalk iOS apps are a pleasure to use, and this is their slickest yet. The icon driven navigation bounces you through the course, making learning a joy. But this app is not just about pretty pictures. There’s actually Science Behind EuroTalk.

The course is designed around what is called ‘dual coding’. By engaging your visual and verbal memory, dual coding improves both your retention and ability to recall words and phrases. So basically, instead of forcing rote learning down your throat (tedious), uTalk Thai’s quizzes entice you to interact with the study materials.

The quizzes are not just fun, they have been created with learning/retaining in mind. To make any progress (even inside each lesson), you really do need to learn the words and phrases that are 1) spoken (native audio), 2) written (in either Thai script or transliteration), and 3) recorded (by you).

Getting around uTalk Thai…

There are 100 free languages to choose from, each with 15 essential words. After you’ve made a purchase click on the installed course to get started, or just select one of the available free courses.

Settings: User, Language (choose the language for the app, not the target language), Purchases (delete or restore), Support (sound and purchase explanations), and Rate uTalk.

World Tour: No matter if you’ve done well or awful (I tried awful to see) you are given the option of going on a World Tour. Don’t worry, the plane won’t crash! I have yet to figure out the sense of doing this activity but there’s sure to be one. Fun?

uTalk Thai

Nav and topics…

Once you’ve chosen your course, the next screen gives you the option to search or select a topic. As you can see in the graphic above, the search bar doubles as a dictionary search. Making a selection takes you to where the word (phrases included) appears in the course. Clicking the arrow at the top left of the screen takes you back to where you were.

In the full course there are 36 topics: Alphabet, First Words, Phrases, Social Phrases, Likes and Dislikes, Adjectives, Prepositions, Numbers, Numbers up to Twenty, Numbers up to Ten Million, Colours, Shopping Words, Shopping Phrases, Clothes, Vegetables, Fruit, Food and Drink, Restaurant, Outdoors, Sports, Leisure, Business, Technology, Calendar, Emergencies, Illness, Doctor, Body, Transportation, Travelling, Vacation, Countries, Bhra-tate-tai (ประเทศไทย), Directions, Accommodation, Time.

Selecting one of the topics takes you to a screen (shown in the graphic) with icons for Practice, Easy Game, Speaking Game, Hard Game, Memory Game, Recall. For this review I’ve chosen Accommodation.

uTalk Thai

The Practice Activity…

In the Practice Activity you listen, read (Thai script, transliteration, and English), and record yourself.

At the top of the Practice screen is a graphic of the word/phrase. Below, in a lighter coloured band, is the word/phrase in Thai script, then transliteration, followed by the English translation (or the language you selected in the settings). This is the only section where you get everything (audio, visual, Thai, transliteration, English).

Audio: To hear the word/phrase spoken by a native, either click within the lighter coloured band or on the arrow at the bottom left of the screen. If you first hear a native male voice, clicking again on the arrow gives you the native female voice, and visa versa. To slow down the native audio, just click on the 1x (it then changes to 1/2x).

Recording: The recording icon does just what you’d expect (records your voice). It’s up to you whether or not you say a word or phrase twice just like they do. After you record, your recording plays automatically. To hear yourself again just click on the arrow that has now appeared to the right of the recording icon.

To compare your recording to the native audio click on the far left arrow (think of the left arrow as the native audio and the right arrow as your recorded audio). If you are dissatisfied with your recording, rerecord.

Tip: To get the best out of the practice area, take the time to get as close to native as you can. Pay special attention to tone and vowel length as both are important in a tonal language. And be sure to record your gender (in Thai there are different pronouns and polite particles for male and female). If you can, get a Thai teacher to listen to your pronunciation.

To finish the activity: After you are satisfied with your recording, select the next word/phrase by scrolling down with a finger flick. Continue recording words and phrases until you’ve completed the Practice section. To get back to the main screen click on the back button at the top left of the screen (this navigation works for all sections).

uTalk Thai

The Easy Game…

This is a listening and reading game. There is Thai script and transliteration, but no English. Some of the photos and graphics are not exact matches (it’s difficult to portray thoughts and some actions), so in order for your brain to link the audio to the visual you really do need to pay attention.

As soon as you click on the game icon, the game starts. One after the other, graphic boxes appear with matching audio (a mix of male and female voices). The graphics bounce around the screen, switching places. Once they settle you hear a word as well as see it written in Thai script and transliteration.

To move to the next screen you only need to match one graphic to the audio by clicking on it. But, if you do get it wrong, the matching Thai audio for that square is spoken and a big red X appears along with the spoken ไม่! Get it right and you get a big green X with a response ใช่! A ใช่ advances you to a new selection.

Tip: Often the ฉัน and ผม in phrases won’t match the photo, so guessing doesn’t work!

uTalk Thai

The Speaking Game…

In this game you listen, record your voice, and in the game match your recordings to the native speaker’s. Only Thai script is shown, there is no Thai transliteration or English words.

First off, a screen with a selection of graphics appears and a native male voice is heard. From what I experienced, you cannot switch to a female voice. When you click on the recording icon the native voice is heard again (twice), and then you record yourself saying that word.

Note: In this game your recordings are used in the quiz, so you really do need to get it right!

After you’ve completed (recorded) your first set, a new screen comes up with nine icons. That’s when your recordings come into the game. You are to match your recording to one of the graphics on the screen. When you select (click on) a graphic, a native voice speaks the selection, following with either ใช่ (yes) or ไม่ (no). If you get it wrong, you get a native recording, a nasty red X appears on the selection, and you need to choose again. If you get it right, a green X appears and the screen reloads.

Tip: If you need to hear the audio again click on the graphic BEFORE you click on the recording icon.

uTalk Thai

The Hard Game…

This game is audio (male voice) and graphics only. No Thai script, no transliteration, no English.

What you do is listen for the Thai word, then slide the correct graphic into the dotted space at the top of the screen. If you need to hear the audio again just click on the native repeat arrow on the bottom left. A wrong answer gets you a ไม่ along with a red X, and the incorrectly chosen graphic goes back where it came from. As in the previous game, a right answer gets you a ใช่ and a green X. To move to the next screen you need to get all but one right.

uTalk Thai

The Memory Game…

This is a timed game with graphics and audio only. No text at all.

Graphics appear with accompanying audio. A timer appears at the bottom, showing you how much time you have to memorise each position before the graphics disappear.

To play the game, memorise the location and then click on the blank graphic that used to match the audio. As before, click the native arrow on the left to repeat the audio. The game gets more difficult as it progresses, adding more graphics per screen until the end.

uTalk Thai

The Recall Activity…

This activity uses English and Thai script (no transliteration), and recorded audio (yours and theirs).

With this activity you are on your own and on your honour. As shown above, there’s a graphic with a matching English word or phrase. Click the recording icon to record yourself translating the English to Thai. Right away you hear your recording, followed by the native audio. It’s only then that Thai script replaces the English.

Next, two boxes appear. One has a red X and the other a green X. It’s on your honour to select whether you were correct (green) or you bombed (red). If you are not sure, clicking the arrow that’s appeared over the central graphic plays both your recording and the in-app audio. The number at the bottom of the screen denotes how many words/phrase there are to finish in this set.

My wish-list for uTalk Thai…

  • Statistics: With all the hard work needed to study with this app, for anal users (we know who we are) it’d be great to see a graphic showing progress.
  • Transliteration: A pet peeve of mine, the ability to turn it off would be wonderful.
  • Native audio: You don’t get to choose to hear only male or female audio, and in some places there is only male. This could be an issue for those trying to pitch their voices to match (in Thai at least, the male is much lower than the female).
  • Thai vocabulary: In the food section especially, the foods are western. English loanwords (steak, coke, beer, cream, hamburger, hotdogs, etc) are ok, but also needed are local foods people will order in Thailand. This is a universal problem with multi-language courses. An English vocabulary/phrase list is translated into many languages, missing out on the uniqueness of the target language.
  • Formal vrs street: Most Thai courses error on the formal side and this one is no different. Being able to choose between formal or casual phrases would make the app more useful. Baring that, explain it somewhere in the settings (that no, Thais don’t say krap at the end of every sentence!)
  • Explanations: Thai is a tonal language. At the very least they should point out the need to pay attention to vowel length and tones. One of the best examples I’ve come across can be found in the Talking Thai-English-Thai iOS dictionary.
  • Customise: I’d love to be able to add new words and phrases (with audio and graphics), similar to what BYKI offers.

More about uTalk Thai…

uTalk Thai
Price: Free (in-app purchases)
Seller: EuroTalk Ltd
Updated: 20 October 2014
Version: 2.0.3
Word count: Free version – 15 essential words (1 topic)
uTalk Essentials: £6.99 – 500 words and phrases? (11 topics)
Premium package: £11.99 – 1,000+ words and phrases (35 topics)
Audio: Native speakers (both male and female)
Thai script: Yes
Transliteration: Yes
Turn off Transliteration: No
Zoom/pinch: No need
Font control: No
Help: Yes (slim)
Requires iOS: 7.0 or later
Optimised for: iPhone 5 and iPhone 6
Compatible with: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch

Blog: EuroTalk
Facebook: EuroTalk
Twitter: @eurotalk

Btw, there’s a uTalk Challenge going on: Can uTalk a new language in one month? and Why I’m learning Thai in January – a poem. If you do join the challenge, please let us know in the comments, ok?

Once again, Happy holidays everyone – and good luck on winning one of three uTalk Thai iOS apps!

Do you have questions about the quirks of the Thai language?
Send them over and we’ll do our best.

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men, and the Women Who Love Them

Thai Language

Helpful Thai Medical Vocabulary for Men…

Some of you may know that besides contributing to Women Learn Thai I also write a blog on retiring to Thailand. My latest post is one about increasing awareness of a problem many older men have; problems with our prostate.

I wrote that post because I thought that awareness of this problem is quite important for men, and women who have men in their lives. This post on WLT is a companion piece to What We Men Don’t Like to Think About. If you have time, take a look at my post. It is full of info and web links about this condition that most of us men find difficult to talk about even in our own native language.

Since I needed to go to the hospital for certain procedures I came into contact with lots of doctors and nurses. My doctors’ English was usually quite good but the nurses’ English was limited. Luckily I could ask and answer their questions in Thai. It made everything flow quite smoothly and I was treated very well. I am sure that my knowledge of Thai contributed to this positive experience.

Because many men may have to go through exactly what I did I thought maybe I might help with a listing of the Thai words I used during my hospital visit. Here are some useful Thai vocabulary words that may come in handy.

My Visit to the Hospital…

As many men in their 60s, I have been having trouble with my prostate.

Prostate: ต่อมลูกหมาก /dtòm-​lôok-​màak/
– ต่อม /dtòm/ gland
– ลูกหมาก /lôok-​màak/ betel nut, a walnut sized nut that used to be used throughout SE Asia staining the user’s teeth red.

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For many years I have been taking medication for an enlarged prostate.

Take Medication: กินยา /gin-​yaa/

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Enlarged prostate: ต่อมลูกหมากโต /dtòm-​lôok-​màak dtoh/
– โต /dtoh/ large

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I had been to the emergency room a number of times because of not being able to urinate (a symptom of an enlarged prostate).

Emergency Room (ER): ห้องฉุกเฉิน /hông-​chùk-​chěrn/
– ห้อง /hông/ room
– ฉุกเฉิน ​/chùk-​chěrn/ emergency

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Urinate: ถ่ายปัสสาวะ /tàai bpàt-​sǎa~​wá/
– ปัสสาวะ /bpàt-​sǎa~​wá/ urine; This is the polite word used with doctors and nurses.

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Symptom: อาการ /aa-​gaan/

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I also had a number of infections in my urethra, called urinary tract infections or UTI.

Infection: อักเสบ /àk-​sàyp/

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Urethra: ท่อปัสสาวะ /tôr-​bpàt-​sǎa~​wá/
– ท่อ /tôr/ tube

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Urinary Tract: ทางเดินปัสสาวะ /taang-​dern-​bpàt-​sǎa~​wá/
– ทางเดิน /taang-​dern/ path

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Urinary Tract Infection (UTI): อักเสบทางเดินปัสสาวะ /àk-​sàyp taang-​dern-​bpàt-​sǎa~​wá/

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We did a blood test to check my PSA levels.

Blood Test: การตรวจเลือด /gaan-​dtrùat-​lêuat/
– ตรวจ ​/dtrùat/ examine, test
– เลือด /lêuat/ blood

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Since my PSA levels were quite high my doctor, a urologist, was concerned about cancer.

Urologist: แพทย์ที่เชี่ยวชาญด้านระบบปัสสาวะ /pâet-​têe-​chîeow-​chaan-​dâan-​rá-​bòp-​bpàt-​sǎa-wá/
– แพทย์ /pâet/ doctor
– เชี่ยวชาญ /​​chîeow-​chaan/ expert
– ระบบ ​/rá~​bòp/ system

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U-ro: We also use the English loan word หมอ U-ro /mǒr URO/

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Cancer: มะเร็ง /má-reng/

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First we did an ultrasound of the prostate.

Ultrasound: อุลตราซาวด์ /un-​dtrâa-​saao/ (English loanword)

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Then my doctor recommended a biopsy.

Biopsy: การตัดเนื้อเยื่อไปตรวจ /gaan-​dtàt-​néua-​yêua-​bpai-​dtrùat/
– ตัด /dtàt/ cut
– เนื้อเยื่อ /néua-​yêua/ tissue)
– They also use the loanword “bi-op-sy”

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Since I would be under general anesthesia, before the biopsy I needed to fast.

Anesthesia: ยาสลบ /yaa-​sà-lòp/
– ยา /yaa/ medicine
– สลบ /​sà-lòp/ unconscious

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Fast: อดอาหาร /òt-​aa-​hǎan/
– อด /òt/ abstain from
– อาหาร ​/aa-​hǎan/ food

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For the procedure I needed to have an IV inserted.

(IV) Intravenous: การฉีดเข้าเส้นเลือด /gaan-​chèet-​kâo-​sên-​lêuat/
– ฉีด ​/chèet/ inject medicine
– เส้นเลือด /sên-​lêuat/ blood vessel

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Later I woke up in the recovery room.

Recovery Room: ห้องพักฟื้น /hông-​pák féun/
– ห้อง /hông/ room
– พัก /pák/ rest
– ฟื้น /féun/ regain consciousness

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I’ll have to take antibiotics for a few days.

Antibiotics: ยาฆ่าเชื้อ /yaa-​kâa-​chéua/
– ยา /yaa/ medicine
– ฆ่า /kâa/ kill
– เชื้อ /chéua/ germ

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The doctor gave me the good news that I am cancer free.

Cancer free: ไร้มะเร็ง /rái má~​reng/
– ไร้ /rái/ without

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May you all be healthy and happy during this holiday season.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand
Thai Vocabulary in the News

Do you have questions about the quirks of the Thai language?
Send them over and we’ll do our best.

Say it Like a Thai Would

Say it Like a Thai Would

Say it Like a Thai Would…

Now before you even begin reading this be forewarned that it might ruffle your feathers some. Truth be told, it’s kinda-sorta meant to. At the same time, what I want to do is get the readers’ heads around a concept about learning Thai as well.

Not surprisingly, as I make the rounds at the Thai language schools in Bangkok, I run into plenty of foreigners wanting to learn Thai. Almost to a person, everyone I meet says to me, “I want to speak Thai with a Thai accent.” First off, I laugh out loud (really more of a guffaw, which could possibly be off-putting) but then I ask “exactly which ‘Thai accent do you want to learn?” They invariably get that dazed expression, hem-n-haw saying something like, “you know a Thai accent.” I go on with as much sincerity as I can muster (which after seven+ years studying this language and touring more Thai language schools than I remember is marginal at best).

Do you want to speak Thai with that over-the-top Bankokian accent which hi-so’s use? Most of the younger Bangkokians use this accent so other Thais don’t confuse them with country Thais in Bangkok. This is known as พูดดัดจริต. Or do you wanna speak Thai with a Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai accent like the north-western Thais? Wait, I know! You want to speak with that singsong choppy southern accented Thai like from Hat Yai or Songkhla? No? Okay, I got it now. You wanna speak with that พูดเหน่อ บ้านนอก accent like the people from Kanchanaburi, Suphanburi or Ratchaburi, right? Or maybe you want one of the many Isaan accents like from Buriram, Ubon, Udon, Nongkhai, or the dog eating province, Sakhon Nakhon? It could even be that you want the edgier, slightly almost Cambodian accent like the Thais from Sa Kaeo or Surin. Or is it the Chantaburi eastern sea side accent, or the one that pegs a Thai speaker as coming from Korat? I dunno. Really.

One thing I do know with 100% certainty is this: there is no such animal as a “Thai accent” because they’re ALL Thai accents! It’s just like I can tell someone from New York, California, Tennessee or Texas from the accent they have when they speak American English or like a Brit can tell immediately where another Brit was born in the UK because of the accent when they speak the Queens English.

Here’s something for foreigners learning Thai to ponder, especially ones who say that they wanna speak with a Thai accent. It is highly unlikely that is EVER gonna happen! I don’t care how much you think you or someone you know sounds Thai, or how much the over praising people around you say that you sound “just like a Thai”, believe you me, to them you really don’t. Full stop, period, end of story. You should just throw the idea into the circular file and not waste another second on it. You’ll learn Thai about a gazillion times faster than either A) – pretending you sound like a native speaker or B) – agonising over the fact you don’t sound like a native speaker. Believe me, to native Thai speakers listening to you, you sound like a non-native speaker!

There are a handful of gifted non-native speakers of Thai doing the ‘Westerner speaks Thai’ circuit. And in no way would I put myself in that illustrious group of people. Yet, they’re never mistaken for native speakers by real honest to goodness born and bred speakers of Thai. The fact that they’re non-native speakers ALWAYS comes out within a few sentences. Maybe it’s that they speak with the wrong cadence or rhythm, or maybe the structure is a little too forced or un-natural, or maybe their pronunciation is slightly squirrelly. But whatever it is, no Thais would confuse them as being native speakers. Honestly, Todd Lavelle is possibly the closest thing I’ve heard to a native speaker when he isn’t speaking in that over accented Thai he uses on his tv program.

Now, don’t mis-read or mis-remember what I’m saying. I’m saying that there’s no doubt in every native Thai speakers mind that those people are foreign speakers of Thai. What I’m NOT saying about those foreign speakers is their Thai isn’t clear, isn’t concise, isn’t understood 100% outta the gate or isn’t responded to by the Thais. I’m just saying that ANY native Thai speaker knows those people aren’t… <-native speakers.

I've said time and again you should take ANY compliment thrown you way about your Thai with a grain of salt. There is a Thai idiom for something so insignificant, so trivial that it means less than nothing and that idiom is เท่าขี้ตามด or "equal to the sleep in the eye of an ant”. In all my world travels (and I’ve been to a fair few countries) I've never ran into a demographic of people who were more over complimentary to foreigners speaking their language than the Thais. If a foreigner can manage to spit out "Sweaty Crap" <-(you read that right) for สวัสดีครับ, these people are piling on the accolades.

In fact, I’ve found the exact opposite is true where foreigners speaking Thai is concerned. When a Thai doesn't say anything, as in not one word about the fact that you're a foreigner speaking Thai to them, that's when you know your Thai language chops are getting there. Now don’t get confused and start thinking you’re sounding like a native Thai speaker, because you don’t. What you are doing is "saying it like a Thai would”. That is the key to success in speaking this language so that Thais understand what you’re saying to them.

I'm not telling you that you shouldn’t learn how to pronounce Thai words to the best of your ability, because you need to pretty much nail the words. I mean if it's a short vowel you can't draw it out, if it's a long vowel you can't shorten it and the same goes with the tones. You can’t add emotion into your spoken Thai by varying the intonation like we do when speaking English. That’s what the myriad of Thai particles are for. You also need to hit the tones pretty darned close (for the most part). What I am telling you, is to invest the time learning how to "say it like a Thai". Don't take an English sentence and translate it into Thai, re-sequence the words, and think these people are gonna understand you, because they won’t (most won’t anyway). Instead, LISTEN to how Thais say things in regards to sentence structure, cadence and rhythm when they speak. Pay close attention to where they pause <- (very important!) when they are speaking, what words they routinely leave out or drop because they’re understood in the context of a conversation and start speaking your version of Thai that way.

Benjawan Poomsan Becker has a series of c/d’s and booklets out called Speak Like a Thai. They are plain and simple worth twice their weight in gold. Well, most of them are, some are just fluff, but still, they’re good. The vocab is fairly contemporary, the example sentences are good, and you can get the feel of how a native speaker says things She also has one out called Improve Your Thai Pronunciation and it’s good too.

You will improve your spoken Thai by leaps and bounds if you just forget about trying to sound Thai. I know, every one of you will say, “I have a friend who’s fluent in Thai”. My question to you is this, “how would you know the person you’re referring to is fluent in Thai when you aren’t?” Did you consult your crystal balls? Is it because the Thai they’re talking to understands them or the fact that they didn’t hafta repeat what they said three times? Or is it because your Thai is so poor you only imagine your friend is fluent because they don’t have the problems conversing with Thais that you experience?

I say all the time my Thai is nothing to brag about, not at all. It’s totally un-Thai insofar as it’s coarse, blunt and I don’t ครับ, ขอ or หน่อย much when I talk. As far as the conversational rules of engagement in Thai it’s right on the borderline of being rude and sometimes it’s more than a little over that line. It’s also poorly pronounced, off cadence and not surprising, it has a definite Midwestern American (Ohio in fact) hillbilly accent to it. What is surprising is, nearly 100% of the time, once a Thai knows I can speak something close to Thai, I can get ‘em to understand me and answer in kind on the first go round. I guess by some imaginary criteria, I’m fluent too, even though I always tell people when it comes to speaking Thai I’m effluent.

For non-native speakers’ structure, pronunciation and cadence/rhythm are the linchpins of this language. You got to get them all or you’re out in left field with Thais scratching their heads wondering what you’re trying to say. The only way to say things like a Thai is by investing the time it takes trying to nail the sentence structure and getting as close to the real pronunciation as possible. You can get some of the cadence down by reading aloud. Be forewarned, just sitting in a room and stumbling over reading Thai out loud isn’t going to help your spoken Thai one bit. You got to have a live Thai sitting around carefully listening to you AND correcting you while you read. It is my personal experience that few if any Thais are up for this, mostly because it’s about as exciting for them as watching paint dry. It takes a rare breed ‘o Thai indeed to sit there and endure you mangling Thai out loud and also having them man up to correct you time and again when you mangle words or sentences. They just lose the will to live after a while and go watch Thai soap operas, chat with their friends on Line or play Cookie Run.

The next thing you need to do is listen, listen and LISTEN to Thais talking. It doesn’t matter if it’s the radio, the t/v, you-tube or what. There are TONZ of Thai audio out there in internet land, USE them! The only caveat is you need to make sure whatever you’re listening to is close to your comprehension level in Thai. It doesn’t work if you can only understand one out of five words spoken; you gotta pretty much get what’s being said. Another thing is pick topics you have an interest in to listen to. Nothing will suck the life outta you faster than listening to a sound file in Thai about something you don’t have an interest in. Some people find those Thai ละครน้ำเน่า’s palatable, but I don’t. The acting is campy, the mood music sound track is as bad as the mind-numbing theme song and their production values are not all that good. Still, I know several really competent foreign speakers of Thai who data mine incredibly good sentences and phrases out of them. Another plus for this learning is, as fast as a ละคร comes out it’s on You Tube so you can watch it at your leisure.
The last part of the equation is talking in Thai to Thais almost all the time. Stop falling back on English, mime, hand signals, stick figure drawings, sock puppets or whatever you resort to when Thais can’t understand you. I know most of you aren’t gonna like this one bit, BUT here’s another news flash – there’s no short cut, no magic pill, no secret formula, no best way which will get your Thai to the point it needs to be other than speaking to these people, day in day out, all the time. For most of us (or at least early on for me) that was a bummer. I was so put off by them not understanding something I said (which at the time I was saying to the best of my ability) that I plain and simple stopped talking. Instead I went thru a prolonged “silent phase” of listening.

When we first start speaking Thai to Thais, we’re afraid, in fact we’re scared witless. We’re afraid that the Thai we’re talking to won’t understand what we say. We’re also afraid that if the Thai understands us they’ll answer off script or not use the spoon-fed dialog we were taught in our Thai language classes. That is indeed vexing. But what is even sadder still, is the fact that we aren’t able to receive the information coming back to us from a Thai IF it’s off script. In schools we are not taught alternate answers to those rote dialogs pounded into our heads. Despite the fact that there’re usually a myriad of ways a Thai can answer a question we ask which doesn’t follow the script we were taught in school.

One BIG point I want to touch on to make you sound more Thai is to STOP using first person pronouns when making statements. Especially statements where everyone listening understands it’s you saying something. Nothing makes you sound more un-Thai or tips Thais off faster that you’re a newbie Thai speaker than ผม‘ing or ดิฉัน‘ing every time you open your mouth to say something in the first person. Listen to these people when they talk. They just don’t do it, as in, hardly ever! Younger Thais will sometimes use their nicknames, but most of the time no one says anything and it’s understood in context that they’re making a first person statement, unless they designate in the sentence they’re talking about another person.

As I said in the beginning of this piece this isn’t about you speaking Thai with a Thai accent, because you ain’t ever gonna sound Thai enough to fool a native Thai speaker. This is about you saying things like Thais do. If you do that their ears will auto-correct the off-toned words and the long/short, short/long vowel swaps we all make when we speak Thai. I’ve found if you say things the way a Thai says them you’re universally understood. They just get it.

And thus ends the lesson for today. This may sound like a rant from a nobody who writes about learning Thai and you’re free to throw out the ideas I mentioned if you want to, but, I’m telling you it is my personal experience after adopting some of the techniques I’ve outlined that Thais understand me far better now than they ever did.

Good Luck,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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