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Thai Time: Using Pronouns Like a Pro (Part 3: To ‘He/She’ or Not to ‘He/She’, That is the Question)

Bingo Lingo

Using pronouns like a pro…

I lied. I promised I wouldn’t take a year to write my next post but I did. Life has been hectic and I have been beyond busy. Deepest apologies. Well, my apologies won’t help you learn Thai so without further ado, let’s get into the 3rd person pronouns. They’re a lot less complex than what we’ve learnt so far.

เค้า /káo/
Person: 3rd
Sex: Both
Formality: –
Respectful: –
Polite: –
Familiar: –

This pronoun is as neutral as a pronoun can get. Apart from referring to a third party, this word doesn’t mark ANYTHING. So the good news is when you want to say he, she, or they in Thai, this word’s already got 90-95% of it covered. What’s that? Something in Thai that isn’t complicated? Oh my!

Just on one note (of course, an exception!), when talking about people of high prestige (such as what we discussed in Part 2), you should call them by their title instead and keep the use of เค้า /káo/ to a minimum.

When to use: With practically anyone.

When not to use: Probably not with people of high prestige.

ท่าน /tâan/
Person: 3rd
Sex: –
Formality: VERY
Respectful: VERY
Polite: VERY
Familiar: HELL NO
*SEMI-FROZEN REGISTER*

This pronoun is the same pronoun as the 2nd-person ท่าน /tâan/. It is used mostly by service providers when speaking to valued customers, by subordinates when speaking to a person of a significantly higher level of authority, to people of the utmost prestige, by public speakers addressing the audience, or in written language. Please refer to ท่าน /tâan/ in Part 2.

When to use: With VIPs or in formal settings.

When not to use: most of the time, unless you want to be sarcastic.

มัน /man/
Person: 3rd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: VERY
*VULGAR*

This word literally means ‘it’ but it can be used like ‘he’ or ‘she’, but in a vulgar way. To put it simply, มัน /man/ is used in the same context as กู /guu/ and มึง /mueng/, although it is slightly less offensive than those two. Still, only use with very close friends. Do not use with strangers as it will provoke them. You mustn’t use it in the presence of a respected audience. Some people might think calling some ‘it’ is degrading, but within the context of Thai language, it’s fine, so long as you know when and with whom to use it.

When to use: Limited use. With close friends who have equal social status.

When not to use: With people who are of a higher status. Also, not in formal settings.

แก /gae/
Person: 3rd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: Somewhat
Polite: –
Familiar: Yes

Now, แก /gae/ is quite a bizarre pronoun: when used as a 2nd person pronoun (i.e. “you”) it’s rude and not suitable to call older people, but as a 3rd person pronoun, it’s fine! 3rd person แก /gae/ is predominantly used to refer to mature adults and the elderly in a somewhat respectful manner. When talking about your older relatives and professors (warning: ABOUT them, not TO them), you can refer to them as แก /gae/ with no problem (but NEVER to them as a 2nd person!), although you have to actually be somewhat familiar with them. Referring to strangers with this word is not cool.

When to use: Referring to older people whom you are somewhat close to.

When not to use: With everyone else.

หล่อน /lòrn/
Person: 3rd
Sex: Female
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: Yes

This word is a popular direct translation of the word ‘she’ in English—textbooks just love it and usually pair it with เขา /káo/ and state that หล่อน /lòrn/ means ‘she’ and เขา /káo/ means ‘he’ (and we now know that not to be true because เขา /káo/ is gender-neutral!). However, no one takes this word seriously and the Thais only use it facetiously. When used, for whatever reason, it is to refer to your female friends or female individuals whom you’re close to. In reality, though, just know it exists, you don’t need to use it.

When to use: Don’t.

When not to use: Always.

‘Zero pronoun’—you say it best, when you say nothing at all

We have already covered most well-known Thai pronouns—21 to be exact—and at this point you can start to appreciate how many things Thai people need to take into consideration before they can even start talking to someone.

This can be a minefield in the early stage of acquaintance with the individual you’re speaking to or of: “Is he older?”, “Has she got a good job?”, “Does he mind casual speech?”, “If she’s older, does she want to be treated with respect or as a friend?”, etc. This, as some linguists have posited, may partially contribute to why Thais ask some intrusive questions such as “How much money do you make?” or “How old are you?”—to establish the relative standings in society between you and them.

They do however have a hidden strategy up their sleeves to tackle this convolution. If pronouns are such a nuisance, let’s just not use them at all!
Thais drop personal pronouns all the time in conversations—in fact, NOT using any pronouns is sometimes probably more natural than using any at all. This has at least 2 benefits: #1—to save you a few superfluous words in Thai. Let’s set up a situation: you and a friend are in a room. You ask your friend where your phone is. He said it’s on the table. You can’t be bothered to get up and get it yourself so you’re asking your friend to do it. A complete sentence might look like this:

เธอไปเอามันมาให้ฉันหน่อยได้มั้ย?
ter bpai ao man maa hâi chán nòi dâi mái?
“Can you go get it for me?”

But if it’s already established to whom you’re talking to and regarding what you’re talking about, do you know how Thais would normally phrase it?

ไปเอามาให้หน่อยได้มั้ย?
bpai ao maa hâi nòi dâi mái?
“Can (you) go get (it) for (me)?”

The context (in this case, the previous conversation you had with your friend) would provide all the information that you need to fill in the pronoun gaps. Words said, job done, no pronouns, no problem.

Benefit #2, though, is our main point in this article: to avoid the whole pronoun shenanigans altogether. If you don’t use any pronouns, you don’t need to consider age, gender, social status, etc, right? Let’s have another situation: you are a flight attendant on duty. You walk up and down the aisle while serving refreshments to passengers. They are of different ages, different backgrounds, some are casual and some are uptight, some may even identify as a gender not assigned at birth. It’s impossible to acquire all that information for 100+ people while you’re serving drinks, not that you’d want to anyway! So, instead, just drop it:

รับชาหรือกาแฟคะ?
ráp chaa rŭe gaafae ká?
“Would (you) like tea or coffee?”

Problem solved. No need to even make eye contact. You can talk to a kindergarten pupil or to a prime minister using the same sentence. At this point, you may now have a question: then why don’t you do without the pronouns? Well, because there are situations you will need to use them to avoid ambiguity. Suppose there is no context or previous dialogues whatsoever, you suddenly say to your friend:

จะมาใช่มั้ย?
jà maa châi mái?
“??? is coming, right?”

Nobody will be able to decipher that. You are going to need a pronoun there for clarification. What you can take away from this is that Thai people generally omit pronouns when they think (“THEY think” are the operative words) it’s abundantly clear what the referents are. Otherwise, keep the pronouns there for succinct and effective communication.

And thus concludes this topic: “Using pronouns like a pro”! I hope you have learnt something interesting from this whole series. I will try to come up with a new topic to write again when time permits and when the muse comes to me. See you next post!

Part 1: How to Say ‘I’ in Thai
Part 2: What Should I Call ‘You’

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Top 100 Language Lovers of 2017: The Votes are IN!

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2017

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers Giveaway…

Wow, was that ever a tough competition. I swear, it gets harder each year – but so worthwhile (fun too). In the Top 25 Language Blogs of 2017, WLT came 15th. I’m soooo chuffed! Did you see the competition in the blog section? Wowza. The fabulous Universe Of Memory deservedly came first – it’s a fantastic blog (I’m a fan).

In the Top 100 Language Lovers 2017 section, where they trim 400 entries down to 100, WLT made it to 30th place. Not too shabby! I’m one happy camper this year.

And even more good news, Wannaporn Muangkham’s Learn Thai with พร came seventh in the Top 25 Language Facebook Pages 2017 section and 46th in the Top 100 Language Lovers 2017 section. Congrats Wannaporn! It’s totally well deserved. I just love your stuff :)

Via the TLL competition, in past years I discovered The iceberg project, Learn Italian with Lucrezia, Universe Of Memory and too many more to mention here. My new find this year is the German blog Sprachheld, that promises to help save time learning languages. I’m game.

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers series…

Help Nominate the Top 100 Language Lovers of 2017!
Each year Bab.la and Lexiophiles put out a request for new nominees (previous entries are automatically added).

Please Vote THAI | 2017: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition
And now … the voting begins!

Happy Birthday Bab.la! – Celebrating TEN Years and TEN Days!
Bab.la turned ten this year and I’m proud to admit to being a fan for nine of those years (since the first year of the competition). Congrats Bab.la – here’s the ten more!

And now to the prizes in WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers Giveaway – for everyone. That’s right. If you haven’t downloaded yours, please do.

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers Giveaway: PickUp Thai
Yuki and Miki created Anki files (complete with audio) to go with PickUp Thai‘s free courses.

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers Giveaway: Learn Thai with พร
Wannaporn Muangkham’s 65 Useful Thai Phrases You Won’t Find in a Travel Phrasebook series was put into spreadsheets to use in Anki, Flashcards Deluxe, Quizlet, etc. Audio included.

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers Giveaway: Benjawan and Paiboon Publishing
Benjawan Poomsan Becker‘s vocabulary list from Thai for Beginners, Thai for Intermediate Learners and Thai for Advanced Learners was recorded, then put into spreadsheets to use with your flashcard app/software of choice.

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Giveaway: Arthit and Duke Language School
Duke Language School sponsored one chapter from each of their Journey books (1-3), and Arthit sent a chapter from his popular Read Thai In 10 Days ebook. Audio included with both.

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Giveaway: L-Lingo
Achim sent in L-Lingo‘s top 1000 Thai words from their brand new 5000+ words VoCab trainer. As an additional treat, audio included. Phrases come with each word.

Top 100 Language Lovers Competition: Giving Thanks
You’ve all been great. Thanks again! I owe – I owe.

So that’s a wrap! Thank you everyone – the 2017 TLL Competition was a hoot.

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WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Giveaway: Arthit and Duke Language School

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2017

WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers Giveaway…

Top Language Lovers 2017Welcome to the FOURTH and FIFTH prizes in WLT’s 2017 Thai Language Lovers giveaway! Please read Vote THAI | 2017: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition to find out what to expect.

If you haven’t voted yet (one vote per section) clicking the red Top Language Lovers logo to the right will take you there :)

Arthit and Duke Language School…

To celebrate WLT’s ninth year Duke Language School gifted one chapter from each of their Journey books (1-3) created by Arthit Juyaso, and Arthit kindly sent a chapter from his popular Read Thai In 10 Days ebook.

Audio downloads have been included. And as we all know how import audio is for learning Thai, they are welcome indeed.

Arthit/Bingo Lingo: Read Thai In 10 Days…

The free chapter is aptly named ‘A Matter of Life and Death: Live and dead syllables and why they matter’.

Arthit: You’ll learn about final consonant sounds, also the concept of live and dead syllables and how they affect tones.

In language courses especially, voices can be a deal breaker. To his credit Arthit has a pleasant sounding accent and his recordings are crisp and clear. From first hearing him talk I knew I could listen for hours on end.

In this sample Arthit first runs you through a group of low class consonants, then compares how Thais pronounce English loanwords to how English speakers pronounce the same words. Next up there’s a handwriting sheet to practice the consonants you’ve been studying (a lot can be said for physically writing out the Thai alphabet).

In the next section he visits long vowel endings, followed by their handwriting sheet. Then you practice what you learned by reading short words (have no fear, you are given audio help).

There’s even a bit of insight into live and dead syllables to assist in understanding. And to make sure you’ve understood the lesson, the chapter includes yet more practice.

But he’s not done yet – a recap itemises what’s been covered in the lesson (tips and tricks included). So Arthit has you coming and going. Perfect.

Downloads:
Read Thai in Ten Days: Download PDF (1.7 MB)
Read Thai in Ten Days: Download audio (2.8 MB)

Website: Read Thai in 10 Days
YouTube: Read Thai in 10 Days
Twitter: @readthai

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

Duke Language School…

Duke Language School sent a whopping 42+ MBs for you to sample. Impressive.

Journey Foundation 1: Chapter 7: Eating at a Restaurant
Journey Foundation 2: Chapter 8: Abilities & Limitations
Journey Foundation 3: Chapter 2: A guide to understanding Thai Social Status

Arthit Juyaso: One of the main points of the course is to recycle previously seen vocabulary as much as possible (it’s my love for spaced repetition).

The Journey Foundation materials, carefully crafted by Arthit Juyaso with the full support of Duke Language School, are absolute jewels. Throughout the courses, Arthit peppers useful grammar and cultural tips (without, some you might not learn right away unless a caring Thai takes you under their wing).

On the pdf you are given English, Thai, transliteration, and Japanese. The courses start out with Core Vocabulary, followed by Key Sentences, Dialogue Vocabulary, two sets of Dialogue, Language Points and Explanations (love this part) and Word Builders.

The Noteworthy sections are placed wherever they are most useful. I find the tips valuable in an “ah ha!” way. For instance, how many times have you been frustrated by waitstaff handing you a menu, expecting you to order right away? There’s a fix for this (download the files to find out just what).

For the audio files, the vocabulary is first spoken slow, followed by a more normal speed. The phrases are spoken at a comfortable speed for intermediate students (if it’s too fast you can always drag it into Audacity to slow it down). Included is a sweet mix of male and female voices.

Downloads:
Journey Sample: Download PDF (19.5 MB)
Journey Sample: Download audio (23.4 MB)

Duke Language School:
10/63, Trendy Building, 3rd floor
Sukhumvit Soi 13, Wattana
Bangkok 10110, Thailand
Tel: +66 8-2444-1595

Website: Duke Language School
Facebook: Duke Language BKK
Twitter: @DukeLanguageBKK
Tod’s Review: Duke Thai Language School

Please vote Thai…

Top Language Lovers 2017Clicking on the TLL (Top 100 Language Lovers) logo to the right takes you to the blogging section of the competition. Thank you thank you thank you in advance!

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Please Vote THAI | 2017: Top 100 Language Lovers Competition

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2017

Pleeeeease vote Thai…

Top Language Lovers 2017The Top 100 Language Lovers Competition is here once again! If you want to get straight to voting, just click the logo to the right.

The Top 100 Language Lovers Competition, hosted by the amazing team from bab.la and Lexiophiles, is where WLT pits Thai against other languages such as English, Chinese, French, German, etc. Scary.

When the call goes out, almost a thousand blogs, twitter accounts, Facebook pages and YouTube accounts are submitted to the hardworking competition team who then whittle the count down to a mere 100 in each section.

This year FOUR Thai resources made the cut: Language Learning Blogs (A Women Learning Thai), Language Facebook Pages (Learn Thai with พร, Wondrous Thai), Language Twitter Accounts (0 Thai entries), and Language YouTube Channels (Adam Bradshaw).

Competition rules: You get one vote per section (for a total of four votes).

I hope you can help out as every vote for Thai puts the Thai language that bit closer to the top. Ta in advance!

And now for WLT’s FREE Thai giveaways…

In past Language Lovers Competitions I’ve celebrated with free draws but for WLT’s ninth year, I wanted to do something different. Instead of a select few winners getting free stuff, thanks to the sponsors below, everyone will be a winner.

PickupThai Podcast: Anki flashcard decks to go with select courses. Each lesson comes with two decks (Thai script and transliteration). Audio included in the decks.

Learn Thai with พร: Compilation of Wannaporn Muangkham’s popular series, 65 Thai Useful Thai Phrases You Won’t find in a Phrasebook. Audio downloads included.

Paiboon Publishing: Audio files for Benjawan Becker’s Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced vocabulary lists (mentioned on WLT’s Thai Frequency Lists with English Definitions).

Duke Language School and Arthit: One chapter from each of Duke’s Journey books (1-3) created by Arthit. A chapter from from Arthit’s Read Thai In 10 Days ebook. Audio downloads included with both.

L-Lingo: 1000 top Thai words with sentences from their recent course update (English, Thai script, and transliteration). Audio downloads included.

And there you have it – plenty of free stuff for everyone.

Please vote Thai…

Top Language Lovers 2017If you haven’t voted please click on the TLL (Top 100 Language Lovers) competition logo to your right. Thanks in advance!

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Thai Time: Using Pronouns Like a Pro (Part 2: What Should I Call ‘You’)

Bingo Lingo

Using pronouns like a pro…

In the previous post, Using Pronouns Like a Pro Part 1 (which was yonks ago—I apologise!), I introduced you to the world of Thai personal pronouns. We also broke the first person pronouns into factors and inspected the usage of each word. Now, in this post, we’ll talk about how to use the second person pronoun ‘you’.

คุณ /kun/
Person: 2nd
Sex: Both
Formality: Yes
Respectful: –
Polite: Yes
Familiar: No

This word is a pair word for both ผม /pǒm/ and ดิฉัน /dichán/, and is perhaps the only word beginners use to address every Thai person, but over time you might want to change this word to something more familiar and less formal to your listeners. Now, learners need to be aware that while it is true that this word is polite, it is NOT respectful (NB: not respectful doesn’t mean disrespectful); คุณ is not okay to use with people of higher prestige or authority. If you perceive your listeners to have higher prestige or authority status than you, call them by their appropriate title instead (we will discuss social status later on in this post.)

When to use: With most people. Strangers, service providers, people you have a professional relationship with.

When not to use: Probably not with close friends or with friends you want to get close to, also with people of higher social status.

Paired pronoun: ผม /pǒm/, ดิฉัน /dichán/

เธอ /ter/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: –

เธอ /ter/ is a paired word with ฉัน /chán/ — it is considered a default ‘you’ pronoun and you’ll hear this word used a lot in songs and literature. This word is popular amongst Thais when used cross-gender; female calling male and male calling female. This word is considered ‘non-respectful’ (different from disrespectful) and should not be used with people of higher social status.

When to use: Talking to friends of the opposite sex around the same age or younger.

When not to use: When you need to be extremely polite. Certainly not with people of higher social status, such as doctors, monks, university professors. People you don’t know well.

Paired pronoun: ฉัน /chán/

นาย /naai/
Person: 2nd
Sex: Male
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: –

นาย /naai/ is cute. It originally meant ‘lord’ but now means ‘Mr.’ or ‘boss’ in contemporary Thai. When it is used as a 2nd person pronoun, it can be used to call any male listener of the same age with any level of familiarity. However, you might want to change this pronoun to something more personal later on as you and that male person get closer. In addition, this word can be used in lieu of เธอ /ter/ as they share the same hierarchical attributes, but only if the listener is male, of course.

When to use: your listener is around your age, same social status, and is a man!

When not to use: anyone who does not fit the criteria above.

Paired pronoun:

เรา /rao/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: –
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: Somewhat

What? เรา /rao/ can mean you?? Yes, it can! Older people use this word to call someone around their child’s age in an endearing tone e.g. พ่อแม่เราอยู่ที่ไหน? /pôr-mâe rao yùu tîinǎi?/ “Where are your parents?”. Aw. However, as a 2nd person pronoun it is a little condescending, because by calling someone with this word you treat them like a little kid, which in some cases is dismissive of their social status, so be careful who you’re ‘rao’-ing because he or she might turn out to be a university professor or a high-rank police officer, and they will hate it, and hate you in the process.

When to use: Talking to kids or someone your child’s age.

When not to use: When that ‘kid’ has achieved more than you have.

มึง /mueng/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: HELL NO
Respectful: HELL NO
Polite: HELL NO Familiar: VERY *VULGAR*

This word is the paired pronoun of กู /guu/ and it is chosen for the same context of use. Only use with very close friends. Do not use with strangers as it will provoke them. You mustn’t use it in the presence of a respected audience. And all that jazz.

When to use: Very limited use. With close friends (only when they initiate it, and only when respected individuals are not around).

When not to use: When you’re not sure you can get out of it alive.

Paired pronoun: กู /guu/

เอ็ง /eng/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: VERY *VULGAR*

It is the paired pronoun of ข้า /kâa/ and is similar to มึง /mueng/ above; this one is also considered vulgar, although it is nowhere near as vulgar as มึง /mueng/. Just like the pronoun ข้า /kâa/, เอ็ง /eng/ sounds quite archaic for the 21st century. Its implication is that the speaker is of an older generation or that he or she comes from quite a remote part of Thailand.

When to use: Never? Unless you’re writing a Thai epic novel.

When not to use: When you’re not writing a Thai epic novel.

Paired pronoun: ข้า /kâa/

แก /gae/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: Yes
*SEMI-VULGAR*

This word has a similar context of use as มึง /mueng/ and เอ็ง /eng/ but is much less vulgar. It is used both by male and female to refer to someone close and around their age. It is perfect amongst friends of considerable intimacy. It’s not really that impolite but still should be reserved for friends you know very well. Use with caution.

When to use: Friends your age or slightly younger. Probably best to wait until they initiate it first.

When not to use: Older people and strangers.

Paired pronoun: (in some cases) ฉัน /chán/

ท่าน /tâan/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: VERY
Respectful: VERY
Polite: VERY
Familiar: HELL NO
*SEMI-FROZEN REGISTER*

This pronoun is an over-the-top respectful pronoun used mostly by service providers when speaking to valued customers, by subordinates when speaking to a person of a much higher level of authority, to people of great prestige, by public speakers addressing the audience, or in written language. This word is hardly heard in spoken language so when you do hear it, you know there’s a real V.I.P. in the room!

When to use: With V.I.P. or in formal settings

When not to use: most of the time, unless you want to be sarcastic

ลื้อ /lúe/
Person: 2nd
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: Yes
*CHINESE ORIGIN*

This word comes from the Teochew word 汝 [lɨ˥˨] (you). This word is used mainly by people of Teochew ancestry and is still commonly used amongst Thai families of Chinese descent. Not recommended for learners, just like อั๊ว /úa’/

When to use: When you’re Chinese-Thai.

When not to use: When you’re not Chinese-Thai.

Paired pronoun: อั๊ว /úa’/

ตัวเอง /dtua-eeng/
Person: 2nd
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: No
Respectful: –
Polite: –
Familiar: Yes
*LOVERSPEAK*

This word essentially means “self” and is paired with the 1st person pronoun เค้า /káo/ “I” which essentially means “he, she” …yes, whoever came up with this utterly confusing idea must have been wasted on Ya Dong or something. Just like the 1st person pronoun เค้า /káo/, this word is generally used by young females to call their best friends or boyfriend and in my opinion should not be picked up by learners of Thai, especially if you’re male, because it sounds incredibly effeminate and obnoxious! But that’s just my opinion.

When to use: Should you use this word? No. At least save it for when talking to your boyfriend/girlfriend only.

When not to use: Need I say more?

Paired pronoun: เค้า /káo/

Prestige, authority, seniority—because we’re better than (the pronoun) ‘you’…

Thailand is characterised by, despite what some Thais desperately try to tell you, social hierarchy. Where you stand in society can affect how people address you. Those who have a higher social status must be addressed with respect by those of lower status. And in many cases, even the polite pronoun คุณ /kun/ may not be polite enough, as I will explain.

From my experience of having been hearing many non-native speakers of Thai preferring to stick to polite pronouns such as คุณ /kun/, thinking they would always sound nice and never offend anyone if they use polite pronouns all the time. Was that a true statement? No. Not at all. A couple of years back while I was still doing my Master’s course, one of my professors told the class that foreign students at our university irritate her when they speak Thai to her because they address her as คุณ /kun/!

Why did a seemingly polite word such as คุณ /kun/ manage to offend my easy-going professor? The reason is that in Thailand, people with high prestige such as educators or doctors must be treated with respect. While คุณ /kun/ is a “polite” word, it is neutral in terms of “respectfulness”. By calling her คุณ /kun/, those students unknowingly dragged her down to their ‘level’. My professor said she understood that they knew no better and she could look over their faux pas, but she felt compelled to switch to English because she didn’t want to be called คุณ /kun/ repeatedly by students. There goes their opportunity to practice Thai, just because of one pronoun.

So how should they have addressed her? In the next section I will explain about the first—and perhaps the most prominent agent that dictates the way Thai people address each other: social status. Where you rank in the hierarchy is determined by a complex set of many different factors, but in this article we’ll consider only the three most important ones, in their respective priority order: prestige, authority, and seniority.

Prestige is usually decided by profession or personal achievement. Examples of people with high prestige are educators (teachers and lecturers), doctors and medical practitioners (dentists and surgeons), high-ranking military officers, politicians, people with a high academic degree (Ph.D. and above), or even respected astrologers, etc. Normally you address them by their title first, and if you want, stick their name after it. For example:

ครูอาทิตย์ /kruu Arthit/ “Teacher Arthit”
อาจารย์สุดาพร /aajaan Sudaporn/ “Professor Sudaporn”
(คุณ*)หมอพรทิพย์ /(kun*) mǒr Pornthip/ “Doctor Pornthip” (medical doctor)
(ท่าน)นายกสมชาย /(tâan) naayók Somchai/ “Mr. Prime Minister Somchai”
(ท่าน)พลเอกประยุทธ์ /(tâan) pon-èek Prayuth/ “General Prayuth”
ด็อกเตอร์อมรา /dórk-dtêr Amara/ “Doctor Amara” (PhD)
อาจารย์ลักษณ์ /aajaan Lak/, หมอลักษณ์ /mǒr Lak/ (title for astrologers)

*Note that the word คุณ /kun/ is this case doesn’t mean “you” but a polite title like “Mr.” or “Ms.”

People with high prestige must be addressed by their profession, field of expertise, or the title that gives them the prestige they possess, rather than by pronouns like คุณ /kun/, which may be viewed as disrespectful to their status.

Authority is usually decided by who has more power or a higher rank, such as a relationship between employer vs employee, boss vs subordinate, police or government officer vs civilian, etc.

People with higher authority are generally addressed by their position or by using polite pronouns (in most cases without their name):

ท่านประธาน /tâan bprataan/ “CEO”
เจ้านาย /jâonaai/ “Boss” (literally “master”)
หัวหน้า /hǔanâa/, บอส /bórt/ “Boss”
ผ.อ. /pǒr-or/ “Dean” (of a university, hospital, etc.)
คุณตำรวจ /kun dtamrùat/ “(Police) officer”

Except your bosses or direct superiors, you can use the word คุณ /kun/ with people of high authority, but be aware that using any disrespectful or impolite pronouns with them is a direct challenge to their power. Respect my authoritah!

Seniority plays a very important role when addressing people. In the Thai language, kinship terms are often used instead of pronouns to show respect to older people while creating solidarity; by addressing people as if they were your own relatives, you create a casual, friendly atmosphere. For instance, when visiting your Thai friend or partner’s parents, they may ask you to call them แม่ /mâe/ “Mum” or พ่อ /pôr/ “Dad” instead of คุณ /kun/ which sounds too formal and distant.

If your addressee is a relative of your friend or partner, you can just address them in the same way that your friend or partner does. For strangers and acquaintances, you can still use kinship terms to address them as well. In this case, age is crucial. Speakers must estimate the age of an addressee to determine his/her generation and choose an appropriate kinship term.

พี่… /pîi…/ (lit. older brother or sister)
for calling someone who may be slightly older than you

(คุณ)น้า… /(kun) náa…/ (lit. mother’s younger sibling)
for calling someone who’s younger than your parents but couldn’t be your parents’ child

(คุณ)ป้า… /(kun) bpâa…/ (lit. parents’ older sister)
for calling a female older than your parents, but couldn’t be their mother

(คุณ)ลุง… /(kun) lung…/ (lit. parents’ older brother)
for calling a male older than your parents, but couldn’t be their father

(คุณ)ยาย… /(kun) yaai…/ (lit. mother’s mother)
for calling a female who’s around your grandmother’s age

(คุณ)ตา… /(kun) dtaa…/ (lit. mother’s father)
for calling a male who’s around your grandfather’s age

You can just use these kinship terms by themselves or stick the person’s name afterwards like พี่ติ๊ก /pîi dtík/. Older people automatically assume respect from younger people. By default, you have to address them with respectful kinship terms. Avoid using คุณ /kun…/ (except in formal situations) because it will drive a social wedge between you and them.

Now, you may have a question like “What if I am a university professor talking to an older fruit seller? Who’s higher in the hierarchy?” In a “status dilemma” such as this, just remember that prestige takes precedence over authority, and authority takes precedence over seniority, so if you’re a teacher which is a prestigious status, you automatically rank higher than older people who do not have the prestige over you. In this case, the fruit seller will have to (assuming he or she knows you’re a teacher) address you as ครูจอห์น /kruu John/ or อาจารย์ลอร่า /Aajaan Laura/. However, both of you can engage in what I call “mutually respectful entitling”; you can also call him or her with a title of seniority such as น้า /náa/ ป้า /bpâa/ or ลุง /lung/ while he or she calls you with a title of prestige like ครู /kruu/ or อาจารย์ /aajaan/.

Does that seem a bit too hard to digest? I’ll leave you to have a respite for now. Don’t shy away from re-reading this article again if you feel that you still haven’t quite fully grasped the idea. In my next and the last post regarding pronouns, Thai Time: Using pronouns like a pro (Part 3: To ‘He/She’ or Not to ‘He/She’, That is the Question) we will discuss how to use 3rd person pronouns, and whether using pronouns is important at all! I promise I won’t wait a year this time!

Until next time (soon)!

Part 1: How to Say ‘I’ in Thai
Part 3: To ‘He/She’ or Not to ‘He/She’, That is the Question

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2016 WINNERS: Bingo-Lingo’s Read Thai in 10 Days

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway

Welcome to the THIRD week of WLT’s seven weeks of Thai Language Giveaways. The Language Giveaways are a part of the Language Lovers Competition. The LLC is now over – the results and a huge THANK YOU from me are in my post, Thank You for Voting: Top Language Lovers of 2016.

Chosen by Arthit (Bingo-Lingo), here are the winners of Read Thai in 10 Days:

Hello everyone, thank you for sharing your experience in learning Thai and expressing your interest in my book. I appreciate your participation and hope the winners get the most out of Read Thai in 10 Days!

And the winners are … FABIAN, BERNARD, MATTHEW and PETER!

Congratulations to all of you for winning Read Thai in 10 Days by Bingo-Lingo (with audio). In fact, you are going to receive the 2ND EDITION of my book with a new cover as well! I have rewritten the chapters about Thai tone and devised something I call ‘DLS string method’ to help you visualise the tones rules for those who prefer picturing than memorising rules. Please tell me how you find my new method and give me feedback :-)

Happy learning! Bingo, Author of RTITD

Winners, if you would please send your addresses via WLT’s contact form we’ll get the books to you asap. Again, congrats!

Bingo, thank you so much for sponsoring the THIRD week of WLT’s giveaway. And lucky them, to get your second edition (I’m envious!) My thanks also go to those leaving comments – be sure to come back for more (there’s plenty more).

Note: To get a list of the coming prizes please read the first post in the series, Vote THAI and WIN! | SEVEN Weeks of FREE Thai Giveaways.

The SET Foundation would appreciate our help…

As previously mentioned, the SET Foundation seriously needs our help this year. Did you know that…

SET was originally established to help just one needy student (Seckson) study for a Bachelor degree in Physics. With SET support, he went on to gain a Masters and a PhD. Dr Seckson is now director of the Institute of Fundamental Studies at Naresuan University.

If you can, please donate to The SET Foundation by filling out the Paypal button at the top right of their site. Thanks in advance :)

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WLT’s 2016 Thai Language Giveaway: Bingo-Lingo’s Read Thai in 10 Days

WLTs Thai Language Giveaway

WLT’s 2016 Thai Language Giveaway…

Here we are at week THREE of WLT’s seven weeks of Thai language giveaways! If you don’t know what’s going on be sure to read Vote THAI and WIN! | SEVEN Weeks of FREE Thai Giveaways. There are prizes galore.

Bingo-Lingo: Read Thai in 10 Days…

Bingo-Lingo (Arthit Juyaso), is giving away FOUR copies of his detailed book and CD, Read Thai in 10 Days.

Thai national Bingo is an author, linguist, translator, and popular guest writer at WLT. Not only is he the principal of Duke Language School, he’s also responsible for the fantastic course materials at Duke. Dissatisfied with how the Thai alphabet is being taught to expats, and influenced by his studies in linguistics, he came up with the method taught in his well written book, Read Thai in Ten Days.

Learn to Read Thai in Ten DaysRead Thai in 10 Days
Author: Arthit Juyaso (Bingo-Lingo)
Price: $17.99 (orig $49.99)
Paperback + audio files: 170 pages
 

I wrote an overview in Learn to Read the Thai Alphabet in 2 Weeks, 10 Days, 60 Minutes, but here are the main selling points from Arthit:

Simplification: Many Thai script teaching courses don’t handle rules well. For example, the tone rules. Instead of using bloated tables or cumbersome-looking tone flow charts, RTITD organises tone rules into one principle (plus the default tone for each tone mark) and three exceptions. The course also has a different take on Thai vowels. RTITD simplifies the ‘traditional’ number of vowels from 32 vowels (plus 10 vowel changes) to 22 vowels (4 of which have two forms), and treats vowel shortening and vowel-less words as separate.

Understanding: People may forget what they remember, but they will never forget what they understand! RTITD doesn’t rely on sheer effort to purely memorise individual character’s sounds when at initial and final position, it tells you WHY they are the way they are. The course also explains the nature of the Thai phonological system, that there are no unreleased finals, and which initial sound will become which final sounds, and much more.

Organisation: By prioritising what’s essential, the entire course is carefully structured in such a way that makes sense. Lesson by lesson, what learners have previously studied is repeated and combined with the new materials being introduced.

For reading skill reinforcement, the approach draws from the principles of spaced repetition. Words chosen for the reading practice exercises are not random, but appropriately distributed throughout the course. Using this method, students quickly gain confidence in their ability to read Thai.

Website: Read Thai in 10 Days
YouTube: Read Thai in 10 Days
Twitter: @readthai

Rules for WLTs Thai Language Giveaway…

The rules are simple:

  • To be included in the draw, leave comments below.
  • Comment(s) need to add to the conversation (it really does matter).
  • Each relevant comment gets counted, so please leave as many as you like!
  • If you don’t collect your prize within a week of the announcement, it will be given away to the next person in line.

Arthit will choose the winners, so don’t worry if you’ve known me for yaks ages, you can still win. And it doesn’t matter if you’ve won before, you can keep entering.

The draw will run from now until 12 June (Sunday), 6pm Thai time. After the winners have been selected I’ll leave a comment below as well as create a dedicated post.

Thank you Arthit for sponsoring WLT’s eight year celebration!

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Vote THAI and WIN! | SEVEN Weeks of FREE Thai Giveaways

Top 100 Language Lovers of 2015

Just like last year’s Language Lovers Competition, this year fabulous sponsors supporting the Thai industry have again donated products. Thanks all!

PickupThai Podcast (24th-29th May): SIX winners will get subscriptions to the new Creamy Coconut course for beginners (One winner – all 30 lessons. Two winners – 15 lessons. Three winners – 10 lessons).

Duke Language School (31st May-5th June): TWO 60 hour Journey One group lessons with course books. This is not a taster, the winners go straight through the course to the end.

Bingo-Lingo (7th-12th June): FOUR copies of Bingo’s detailed book and CD, Read Thai in 10 Days.

Learn Thai Style (14th-19th June): FOUR Speak Thai Course winners (includes a pre-release version of Speak Thai Course with Thai script only – no transliteration) will receive a lifetime access to over 40 hours of audio and video materials, over 300 worksheets (with or without transliteration), online quizzes, self study materials, learn Thai blog access, as well as access to over 700 trained teachers (UK, USA, Singapore, Thailand and Skype).

Learn Thai from a White Guy (21st-26th June): TWO courses of Learn to Read Thai in 2 Weeks and TWO courses of The Need to Know Sentence Pack.

Learn Thai Podcast (5th-10th July): THREE subscriptions to learn to speak, read, write Thai via LTP’s massive Thai course that has over 800 video, audio and text lessons.

Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand (12th-17th July): FOUR EACH of the newly updated Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Dictionary apps (your choice of iOS or Android).

Giveaway Rules:

  1. Leave as many relevant comments as you like (with a stress on ‘relevant’).
  2. Comment on as many of the giveaways as you want (there is no limit on how many prizes you can win).
  3. Claim your prize before the week is out (unclaimed prizes will go to the next in line).

Each post will go live on Tuesdays at 7.30am Thai time and will close out on Sundays at 6pm Thai time.

Note: Those donating will be responsible for choosing the winners so even if you are my buddy you too can win!

Vote Thai…

Vote the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs 2016If you haven’t voted yet, please click on the Top 100 Language Learning Blogs button to your right. Thanks in advance!

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Thai Time: Using Pronouns Like a Pro (Part 1: How to Say ‘I’ in Thai)

Bingo Lingo

Using pronouns like a pro…

“I” for males is ผม /pǒm/ and for females is ดิฉัน /dichán/, “you” is คุณ /kun/, and “he” and “she” are เค้า /káo/. Every student knows that. Every student uses these. That’s how the Thais do it. Or do they?

One of the blessings of the English language is the ease of the choice of pronouns. It is generally agreed that there are 7: I, we, you, he, she, it and they (we’ll put vernacular variations such as “one”, “y’all”, “youse” aside). There are only 3 factors that govern the choice of these pronouns: person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), number (singular or plural) and sex (masculine, feminine, or non-human neuter).

And that’s it. “I” will always be “I” no matter who “I” am. “You” will always be “you” whether “you” are a president or a beggar. However, if you have even a little bit of knowledge of the Thai language, you must have at least heard that there are OODLES more pronouns than just 7. If a learner asks “How do you translate the pronoun XXX into Thai?”, they will get something like this as a result:

Bingo Lingo

The tabulated mess above is caused by the Thai pronoun system which reflects the interconnected relationships amongst Thai people. Thai people’s choice of pronouns is NEVER absolute; they will choose a pronoun that suits the situation and the relationship between them and the person they’re speaking to. They can refer to themselves and others in many different ways.

Bingo LingoAt this point, you would probably think, “Yeah, it’s all well and lovely that Thai language is so profound, I get it, but please just give me one word for each English pronoun to use, just one word!” After doing some quick look-up on your favourite phrasebook, your wish is granted:

And I think that these equivalents are a good place to start. When you start learning a language, no one wants to have the entire grammar book shoved down their throat. You tear off each page, chew, swallow, and digest. These words are perfectly functional and will get the job done. However, learners will benefit greatly from the ability to shuffle between different pronouns appropriately, as the ability to do so is another milestone that will move you up a few steps from “poot Thai daai nit noi”, and you will convince Thai people you have an understanding not only of their language but of Thailand’s social structure, which encourages Thais to speak to you in Thai. If you sound natural then Thais will think you ‘get’ them.

But before we go into each individual word, let’s look at some of the factors that influence the choice of pronouns.

Factors that govern the choice of Thai pronouns…

This is a deep, hard, complex subject to touch upon. I do not dare to claim I have it all figured out and certainly cannot provide you the perfect formulae for the choice of pronouns. It seems there are countless variables at work when it comes to this, but I can give you what I think of as the most important for determining your relationship with whomever you’re conversing with. So here goes:

Person: This factor is universal for all languages, not just Thai. The 1st person is the speaker (or yourself in this case), the 2nd person is the person you are speaking to, and the 3rd person is the person you mention while speaking to the 2nd person.

Sex: Obviously. Some pronouns can tell you the gender of the person being referred to. Everyone knows ผม /pǒm/ is for male and ดิฉัน /dichán/ is for female. However, a lot of Thai pronouns can be used to refer to either sex, such as เขา /káo/ which can either refer to the male or female 3rd person.

Formality: The situation or circumstance people are in restricts the way in which they refer to one other. You might call your friend such obscene nicknames in private, but when you refer to him during a formal quarterly meeting—for whatever reason—you will most definitely have to refer to him as ‘Mr. (followed by surname)’. Formality also comes from your audience. Rude nicknames that you give to your friend can’t be used when both of you are talking to your university professor. A respected individual brings about a formal air wherever they go, so take that into account.

Respect: In Thailand, you would want to express your modesty to people who are ranked high in the social hierarchy, be it through age, authority, or other criteria. This can be done in two ways: address the listener or the mentioned individual with a respectful pronoun and/or refer to yourself with a humble pronoun. Beware however, as excessive reverence can be seen as sarcasm.

Politeness: A lot of people seem to mix this one up with the respect factor. Being polite means that you’re following social norms because you want to show the world that you’re good-mannered and educated, while being respectful means that you want to display some kind of reverence to a particular individual because society dictates that they deserve it. Politeness is more about ‘expressing your virtue’ but respect is more about ‘expressing your subservience’.

Familiarity: You wouldn’t call a guy you just met ‘Toby Boo Boo’. That would be such an egregious violation of personal space. This factor is not really apparent in English, but in Romance languages there are pronouns designated for different levels of intimacy: tu-vous in French, tú-usted in Spanish, and so on (for reference: “T-V distinction” by Brown & Gilman, 1960). In Thai, there are also pronouns you reserve for people you don’t know well and pronouns you exclusively use with those you are close to.

Please note that I’m missing the ‘Number’ factor from this article, because most pronouns in Thai can be used to refer to a single person or a group of people. If you must express that you’re referring to more than just 1 person, you can stick the พวก /pûak-/ prefix in front of that pronoun. However, the reality is that Thai people do not use it that much and I imagine if you’re here reading this, you want to speak like a native speaker, not the Thai language that follows English’s grammatical rules (the only exception being เรา /rao/ which I’ll talk about in the pronoun list).

There is also another important factor: ‘Moods & attitudes’. Our state of mind and our attitude towards people or things are reflected in our speech. This is how humans can read each other; through their rhetoric. You know your Mum is in a good mood when you’re referred to as ‘Ben honey’ and you know her wrath is about to rain down upon you when that turns to ‘Benjamin’. However, we’re not going to talk much about it in this article because of its complicated nature. For instance, some forms of moods can change the speaker’s intention entirely. To give you an example, while the word คุณ /kun/ shows politeness [+polite], it implies that you and the person you’re speaking to are not that close [-intimate]. However, if it’s meant as a sarcasm or irony towards your friend (like when you’re being extra polite to your best friend as a joke), suddenly it is not polite [-polite] but very familiar [+intimate]. As you can see, this is going to be problematic for our simplistic, box-ticking method, so I’ll leave it out until someone cares enough to do a proper analysis on it.

How to say ‘I’ in Thai…

With the factors explained above combined, you can read through this list to see what attributes each pronoun has. I’ll also give a short description and concrete examples of interpersonal and situational context where the pronoun may be deemed appropriate. If that factor has blank (-) at any pronoun, it means that that factor isn’t really relevant and the pronoun can be used in either situation.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the 1st person pronouns first.

Some 1st person pronouns also have a counterpart which is normally used in the 2nd person as its pair. I’ll note which word each pronoun is paired with, if any.

Let’s start!

ผม /pŏm/
Person: 1st
Sex: Male
Formality: Yes
Respectful: Yes
Polite: Yes
Familiar: No

If you’re a guy, you’ve probably used this word hundreds of time by now. This very convenient male pronoun for men can be used with pretty much everyone and will never offend anyone. However, keep in mind that ผม /pǒm/ carries an air of formality, so while it is a nice little polite word, it can also sound stuffy when using with friends.

  • When to use: Pretty much with everyone e.g. teacher, older people, younger people that you don’t know well, in a (mature) relationship, strangers, acquaintances, etc.
  • When not to use: Probably with close friends or with friends you want to get close to.
  • Paired pronoun: คุณ /kun/

ดิฉัน /dichán/
Person: 1st
Sex: Female
Formality: VERY
Respectful: Yes
Polite: Yes
Familiar: HELL NO

I can’t think of many pronouns that are more official-sounding than ดิฉัน /dichán/. While it is true that it’s polite and you’ll never offend anyone with it, it sounds frighteningly distant and is rarely used among people who have any kind of relationship of any degree of familiarity with each other rather than professional. Thai teachers use it a lot in Thai classrooms because it’s easy to teach, but in reality you’ll only hear this word from Thai females in situations which they consider formal, such as in meetings with clients, in interviews, making a speech. Some female friends of mine say they have never even used this word in their lives!

For female learners who want to sound natural, I suggest you find another strategy, such as referring to yourself by name (I know, some of you think it’s silly, but hey, that’s what we do).

  • When to use: Dealing with Thai officials, people you have a professional relationship with, being interviewed, with strangers, etc.
  • When not to use: In any situation that requires solidarity. Not with your friends, partner, partner’s family, colleagues, bosses, or anyone you wish to love you.
  • Paired pronoun: คุณ /kun/

ฉัน /chán/
Person: 1st
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: –
Respectful: Sometimes no
Polite: –
Familiar: Yes

ฉัน /chán/ is a funny one—it is considered a default ‘I’ pronoun, this is why you’ll hear this word used a lot in songs and literature. In real life, it is commonly used by females in informal situations, but can also be used by men as well, especially when talking to females of equal or lower status. Many male learners think this word is exclusively feminine and are reluctant to use it. It’s a fun word to use with female friends who you are close to!

Another myth I want to debunk, there is nothing polite about the word ฉัน /chán/. If anything, with a sharp tone of voice and a wrong attitude, it makes you sound arrogant! It’s not impolite, it’s just not polite either.

  • When to use: Talking to friends of the opposite sex, people who do not mind you being a bit cheeky to them.
  • When not to use: When you need to be extremely polite. Certainly not with people of higher status, such as doctor, monks, university professors. Probably not even with your Thai teachers, unless they don’t mind. (Chances are they won’t, because they’re the one teaching this word to you!)
  • Paired pronoun: เธอ /ter/

เรา /rao/
Person: 1st
Sex: Both
Formality: –
Respectful: No
Polite: –
Familiar: Somewhat

If you look up a dictionary you’ll see เรา /rao/ being translated as ‘we’ in English, but in fact this word is often used as singular. (Think of the royal singular ‘we’, it’s not the same but you get the point.) This nice little word is very versatile—both male and female speakers can use it with almost everyone around the same age or younger, as long as the circumstance doesn’t require you to be formal.

  • When to use: Talking to friends or acquaintances of the same age. Pretty much with anyone who isn’t older or who doesn’t have a higher social status.
  • When not to use: With older people or people you should be showing respect to.

หนู /nǔu/
Person: 1st
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: –
Respectful: Yes Polite: Yes
Familiar: Somewhat

The literal meaning of หนู /nǔu/ is ‘rat, mouse’. The metaphorical use of this word as a pronoun expresses deference towards the listener who is of a higher status or deserves respect; calling yourself a rat surely makes anyone feel small! It is normally used by females when talking to their parents, older relatives, teachers, bosses or more senior colleagues, although some small boys may use this word when talking to their parents as well. (In which case they generally drop this use when they’re older—or not, I know a few male adult ‘rats’!)

This word is a good word to show respect to older Thais while sounding friendly as well. At first they might be surprised when female foreigners try to use this word. I say keep at it, if you want to win over their heart.

  • When to use: You’re female and you want to show respect and win favour from older Thais.
  • When not to use: You’re male. (unless you want people to second-guess your sexual orientation.)

กู /guu/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: HELL NO
Respectful: HELL NO
Polite: HELL NO
Familiar: VERY
*VULGAR*

Years ago before the polite pronouns had been invented, กู /guu/ used to be the default pronoun for ‘I’. Everybody used it, including kings. Nowadays it is considered a profanity. The only context in which this would be acceptable to use is with your really close friends to express intimacy, and even then you mustn’t use it in the presence of a respected audience; you can call yourself กู /guu/ with a friend who doesn’t mind that, but if your professor is there too then their presence will automatically create an environment where only polite language is allowed. Violate this and prepare to be scolded, or at least judged!

Also, if you try and use this word with people you’re not close to, it will immediately be interpreted as a provocation. For a nation that avoids confrontation at all cost, provocation is a serious issue for Thais! No matter how angry you are with anyone, do not attempt to use กู /guu/ and มึง /mueng/ with them unless you’re prepared to handle the ramifications that may follow… it can turn pretty ugly, in my experience.

I say avoid using this word until your Thai proficiency is right up there first. Don’t run before you can walk, don’t swear before you can talk.

On a side note, males tend to use this word more than females but it is not really an uncommon thing to hear Thai females using it any more, if they feel comfortable enough with their company.

  • When to use: Very limited use. With close friends (only when they initiate it, and only when respected individuals are not around).
  • When not to use: When you’re not sure you can get out of it alive.
  • Paired pronoun: มึง /mueng/

ข้า /kâa/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: VERY
*VULGAR*

Similar to กู /guu/ above, this one is also considered vulgar, although it is nowhere near as vulgar as กู /guu/. However ข้า /kâa/ sounds quite archaic for the 21st century. Its implication is that the speaker is of an older generation or that he or she comes from quite a remote part of Thailand. You’ll see this word a lot in old literature or in stories set in the past. Granted, there are people still using this word, but it’s not really a fashionable word people use today. It’d be an odd choice of pronoun for non-native speakers, dost thou not agree?

  • When to use: Never? Unless you’re writing a Thai epic novel.
  • When not to use: When you’re not writing a Thai epic novel.
  • Paired pronoun: เอ็ง /eng/

ข้าพเจ้า /kâapajâao/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: VERY
Respectful: –
Polite: Yes
Familiar: HELL NO
*FROZEN REGISTER*

The use of ข้าพเจ้า /kâapajâao/ is restricted only to the ‘frozen register’—the level of language that is highly ceremonial and unchanging, often in one-directional communication style, such as formal speeches, pledges, contracts or declarations, etc. Therefore, normally you’ll only see it written, not said.

  • When to use: Drafting a speech or a housing lease.
  • When not to use: In general two-way communication.

อั๊ว /úa’/
Person: 1st
Sex: –
Formality: No
Respectful: No
Polite: No
Familiar: Yes
*CHINESE ORIGIN*

This word comes from the Teochew word我 [ua˥˨] (I). This word is used mainly by people of Teochew ancestry who migrated to Siam/Thailand throughout its history. As the influence of the Chinese-Thai grew, ethnic Thais also started picking up Chinese words to use in their speech as well.

In Chinese-Thai families where the Chinese identity is still strong, code-mixing between Thai and Chinese is very common and it is perfectly fine and inoffensive, but when spoken by Thai people (who have no Teochew background) this word can be off-putting because it has a harsh, angry tone to it. This is not to mention it might also confuse your listener, because why would you use a word of Teochew Chinese origin when speaking Thai?

  • When to use: When you’re Chinese-Thai.
  • When not to use: When you’re not Chinese-Thai.
  • Paired pronoun: ลื้อ /lúe/

เค้า /káo/
Person: 1st
Sex: Mostly female
Formality: No
Respectful: –
Polite: –
Familiar: Yes
*LOVERSPEAK*

Confused? You should be. Me too. This word is originally a 3rd person pronoun, but you might have witnessed overt Thai lovebirds referring to themselves by this word. เค้า /káo/ as a 1st person pronoun is largely used by Thai females who have a ‘sweet girl’ personality. You know, lovely and cute and naive. They won’t just use it with anyone either, it has to be their close friends, boyfriend or husband. This pronoun, used in this way, expresses the speaker’s affection towards the listener, albeit a little nauseating. So it’s a good thing! I guess…

  • When to use: Should you use this word? No. At least save it for when talking to your boyfriend/girlfriend only.
  • When not to use: Need I say more?
  • Paired pronoun: ตัวเอง /dtua-eeng/

…And that was just the words for “I”! In my next post, Thai time: Using pronouns like a pro (Part 2: What should I call ‘you’), in addition to the factors we’ve learnt in this post we’ll also explore the crucial concept of ‘social status’ and how to apply that to addressing Thai people appropriately. It’s not as straightforward as in English, but at least I hope you’ll find it interesting.

Until next time!

Part 2: What Should I Call ‘You’
Part 3: To ‘He/She’ or Not to ‘He/She’, That is the Question

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Thai Time: Thai Sentence Expansion Drills

Bingo Lingo

Thai Sentence Expansion Drills…

The idea for this brief post came from Aaron Myers’ handy Language Learning Tip: Sentence Expansion Drills (see his post for further explanation). For sure, it’s a quick way to increase your Thai skills!

How It Works: You can do sentence expansion drills in a lot of different ways. The simplest is to just have these sorts of conversations with yourself about the things you see around you. You could also do this drill on paper. Another great way to do these sorts of drills is to do them with a native speaker.

Using this method, below are sample sentences. Added words have been underlined.

–>> And please don’t panic. Pdf files with and without transliteration are in the downloads below. Audio downloads are included.

ฉันไปโรงเรียน
I go to school.


ฉันชอบไปโรงเรียน
I like going to school.


ฉันชอบไปเรียนที่โรงเรียน
I like going to study at school.


ฉันชอบไปเรียนภาษาไทยที่โรงเรียน
I like going to study Thai at school


ฉันชอบขี่จักรยานไปเรียนภาษาไทยที่โรงเรียน
I like riding a bicycle to go to study Thai at school.


ฉันกับเพื่อนชอบขี่จักรยานไปเรียนภาษาไทยที่โรงเรียน
My friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school.


ฉันกับเพื่อนคนจีนชอบขี่จักรยานไปเรียนภาษาไทยที่โรงเรียน
My Chinese friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school.


ฉันกับเพื่อนคนจีนชอบขี่จักรยานไปเรียนภาษาไทยที่โรงเรียนทุกเช้า
My Chinese friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school every morning.


ฉันกับเพื่อนคนจีนชอบขี่จักรยานไปเรียนภาษาไทยที่โรงเรียนทุกเช้าวันเสาร์อาทิตย์
My Chinese friend and I like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school every Saturday and Sunday morning.


ฉันกับเพื่อนคนจีนไม่ชอบขี่จักรยานไปเรียนภาษาไทยที่โรงเรียนทุกเช้าวันเสาร์อาทิตย์
My Chinese friend and I don’t like riding bicycles to go to study Thai at school every Saturday and Sunday morning


 

Tips and rules…

1. Thai is an SVO language; the word order is subject-verb-object.

2. In Thai, adjectives come after nouns, e.g. เพื่อนคนจีน (friend human-China) “a Chinese friend”.

3. When using multiple verbs in one sentence, you can often just “stack” them up without using any connector, e.g. ฉันชอบไปเรียน (I like go study) “I like to go to study”.

4. When doing sentence expansion drill in Thai, it’s easier start from the core components first (nouns & verbs) and then use descriptive words such as adjectives and adverbs (time, place & manner) to expand sentences.

Downloads: Thai Sentence Expansion Drills…

Thai Sentence Expansion Drills (pdf with transliteration): 174kb
Thai Sentence Expansion Drills (pdf without transliteration): 170kb
Thai Sentence Expansion Drills (audio): 796kb

Note: These files are for personal use only (please do not place them on other websites).

Until next time!

(Bingo) Arthit Juyaso
Principal of Duke Language School
My book on reading Thai fast: Read Thai in 10 Days

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