There is a rumour going around about several must have resources for the serious Thai language learner. Not that I have gone into serious mode or anything, but I am curious about design and transliteration styles. I also have a love for books, so I set out to acquire what I could (which isn’t always easy in Thailand).
The last book on my main list was the esteemed Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary. I saw it a year back at Paragon but balked at the price and then it was gone. Yesterday I didn’t leave the next opportunity to chance.
And then there were four…
Three focus on Thai grammar (take your pic) and one is the above mentioned Thai-English dictionary.
…provides a clear, detailed and comprehensive guide to Thai grammar, designed for intermediate to advanced learners. Written by two leading experts on Thai, it places a special emphasis on functional accounts of its grammatical phenomena: the use of demonstratives, personal reference terms, the modality system, the aspectual system, pragmatic particles, verb serialisation, relative clauses, question formation, passive and causative constructions, topic marking and many more.
Unlike any other book on Thai grammar, it draws on data from everyday spoken discourses such as informal conversation, group discussions, interviews and narratives, as well as non-technical written texts such as folk tales, short stories and newspaper articles, to discuss grammatical phenomena at both sentence and discourse level. An extensive index is provided and examples are given in both Thai orthography and IPA symbols, making this an invaluable resource for linguists as well as students and teachers of Thai.
…the ideal guide to the basic structures of the language for both students on taught courses and independent learners. Grammatical forms are explained in clear, jargon-free style and illustrated by examples, given in both Thai script and romanization. As well as grammar, it includes guidance on pronunciation, speech conventions and the beautiful Thai writing system.
…written to meet the need of students and teachers of the Thai language for information on advanced sentence structure. The book is divided into chapters based on common grammatical-structural categories. There are over 500 separate topics, and the most important feature is the sample sentences for each topic, of which there are over 2,000. These sentences are not stuffy, old-fashioned grammar examples, but samples of typical, idiomatic spoken Thai.
The authors, an American and a Thai both with advanced degrees in linguistics and language teaching, analyzed thousands of Thai sentences to formulate clear and concise explanations for all the important sentence patterns of the Thai language. Examples are given in both Thai script and transliterated Thai, written in the English alphabet with no special phonetic symbols. Tones are marked with a special font that shows the level of the sound of each word, essential to pronunciation in tonal languages like Thai.
Both English-speaking students of Thai and Thai students of all disciplines will be hard put to find a more comprehensive and satisfying answer to their general vocabulary needs. Professional translators, researchers, and even specialists whose only concern is problems of transliteration, will all benefit from this remarkable publication.
Mary died on my birthday in 1996, but as her dictionary is in Bangkok as of yesterday (and doesn’t stick around for long), I thought I’d post this now instead of Sunday.
NOTE: If you want to go for free, you can see some of the Thai-English student’s dictionary on Google Books. Beware the Google viewing limit… (A special thanks goes to Aksara Anwa Akson Thai (no longer online) for bringing it to my attention).
Except for A Reference Grammar of Thai, all books can be found at Kinokuniya, located in the Siam Paragon shopping complex.
Going back to kindergarten. Hmmm. But, if that’s what it takes to read Thai, then so be it.
Thai is a tonal language, so being able to listen while you read is especially important for those clinging to training wheels (like me). And (I hear) even for intermediate readers.
Some Thai-English books for beginners will come with sound, but most won’t. When I got into my mad buying spree (still there), I didn’t realise the significance. I now have a nice pile sitting here, waiting.
But before I get to the Thai-English readers for beginners, I’d like to share tips for listening to Thai language mp3s.
Beginning courses have slower recordings. Once out of the ‘see spot run’ range, you are rushed into normal speed. As you should be.
But for basic beginners on fast forward, well, your brain will cease to exist.
Import your mp3 of choice into Audacity by dragging, then dropping the mp3 icon onto the Audacity program icon.
Once open (if needed) click on the magnifying glass with the + until you see a clear distinction between sound clumps (look for blobs between flat lines).
To select a sentence, drag your curser over a clump of blue.
While it’s selected, click on the green arrow and adjust your selection until satisfied.
In Audacity’s top nav, select effect >> change speed.
Move the percent change slider, then click on the preview button until happy.
Click the ok button, then the undo (command Z for a Mac, ctrl Z for PC) once you get back (you don’t want to slow down a selection twice).
Select everything (command/ctrl A) and go back to the top nav to effect >> repeat last effect.
Again, go back up to the top nav, but this time to file >> export as >> mp3.
Save the file under a different name.
Listen using iTunes, RealPlayer, QuickTime or similar. Or, do what I do. Select sentences inside Audacity and keep hitting that green button as you read. Easy.
Finally, the online readers…
Manii is one of the first Thai readers. First as in first on the ground as well as a first reader. On this site you’ll find pdf and mp3 downloads for Manii Reader 1 and 2, as well as online vocabulary tests. It’s old and clunky, but it’s there if you need it.
Read Thai with Manee and Friends at LearningThai.com (no longer online – for the moment) has a modern Manee (Manii) reader. As there is no direct url, select Read with Manee from the nav on your left. Included are 22 lessons with sound, a vocabulary list, flashcards, tests, and more tests.
SEAlang Lab: Just Read
This is the motherload of online Thai-English reading. Sounds are lacking for whole paragraphs, but when you click on individual words the search takes you to a dictionary with sound and video. It’s powerful, it’s loaded down with Mary Haas, and it goes from beginner to beyond.
Thai Audio Books (spokenthai.com – offline for now)
Talking books written and recorded by students from Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan.
Hard copy readers with sound…
There are several online bookstores selling Thai-English books. One of the top Thai publishers are is Nanmeebooks. But, for basic beginners (unless you have a Thai by your side), finding an online Thai bookshop in English is needed.
For children’s books, Buy Thai Books (offline for now) is the place to be.
From the list below I ordered the four Disney Pixar books as well as the thirty Aesop Tales. The recordings are clear and professional, with Pixar being particularly cheerful.
UPDATE: When the site goes online for good I’ll relink the books.
One book. Illustrated. Thai and English. 24 pages.
One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.
Four books: Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Cars and Monster, Inc. Illustrated.
One book. Illustrated. 24 pages.
Thirty Aesop Tales books written in Thai and English. Illustrated. 24 pages each.
I created Women Learn Thai not just to take on the language, but to study the history and culture of all things Thai.
For research (especially living in a city the size of Bangkok), the Internet is a jewel. But being old-fashioned, my first choice will always be books. And when I need to source a lot of books at once, I go for secondhand over new.
For my first trip for WLT, Dasa Book Cafe was it. Just inside the door beyond the tea tables, the Thai section. A mix of facts, personal experience and fiction.
On the drive over, my Canadian buddy Lynn admitted a firm fiction focus. Christopher G Moore. Famous, proliferate, Bangkok-based, Canadian. She drooled.
So while she headed for Spirit House and the Smile series, I detoured towards Reflections on Thai Culture (William J Knausner), Thailand, a Short History (David K Wyatt), and Bangkok (William Warren).
That was then. This is now. And now (saving Dasa for afters), it was quick-like into a taxi and over to Siam Paragon for a plastic wrapped copy of Heart Talk, by none other than Lynn’s Christopher G Moore.
Thai heart Thai identity…
When I first read the title, I thought “oh, no, not another book about the steamy side of Thailand!”. Which was soon followed by, “wait a second, I LIKE sex!”…
But Heart Talk is not pillow talk. That’s right. A jai does not sexy make.
Another feature is the reversal of order in certain expressions. Thus jai dee (good heart) refers to the nature of a good-hearted person while dee jai (glad heart) refers to the emotional state of gladness. In a number of cases, the switch can turn a negative feeling into a good personality trait. For example, òn jai (worn-out heart) means weary-minded, while jai òn (soft heart) refers to someone who goes out of their way to help others.
A cause for Heart Talk…
When I decided to feature Heart Talk, I searched the web for available resources (and found more than a few). When I mentioned my mini-project to Christopher, he advised to take care.
Checking through my growing spreadsheet, I compared my finds with Heart Talk and I had to agree. Learning heart words without realising the nuances could get you into difficulties with the language. And difficulties, I can do without.
Some jai expressions are descriptive of the nature of a person. For example, a person with an impatient nature is jai rón (hot heart) and a person with a sensitive, touchy nature is nói jai (touchy heart).
Other times a phrase is connected with an emotional state and not necessarily the nature of the person experiencing the emotion. Thus a feeling of panic translates as jai túm túm dtòm dtòm (panic heart).
A similar mistake is to use our western mindset in a Thai world. For instance, look at เย็นใจ (yen jai). เย็น (yen) = cold, while ใจ (jai) = heart (or mind). As a westerner, I jumped to the conclusion that a cold heart is a negative and a hot heart is well, sexy. Wrong. In Thailand, a hot heart is a negative and a cold heart is a positive.
Comfortable Heart สบายใจ (sà-baai jai) เย็นใจ (yen jai): You have entered a state of feeling perfectly in tune with yourself emotionally or a state of comfort and pleasantness. You feel comfortable inside yourself and with those around you; there is an inner peace and sense of calm.
Another mistake beginners (as in myself) often make is to take on Thai words or word units without learning how they fit into a sentence.
And that’s an additional plus of Heart Talk. Each heart word is clarified as being either adverb, adjective, verb, or noun. Tricky stuff. So the heart of this advice? Be free with nouns, but check before using others.
The nouns of Heart Talk…
In Heart Talk there are 60+ nouns. With Christopher’s permission I’ve recorded around half that number. The descriptions are inspired (and at times direct) from HT the book. The voice is all น้ำใจ Niwat.
Inspiration Heart (p28)
raang ban-daan jai
Inspirational. Includes emotional support, guidance, insight and knowledge conveyed to others.
Water Heart (p67)
Someone who is considerate.
Broad Heart (p77)
náam jai an gwâang-kwăang
A generous and unselfish person.
True Essence of the Heart (p84)
náam săi jai jing
A person who helps without expecting a return.
Egocentric Heart (p94)
chôp tam dtaam am-per jai
A self-centred or egocentric person.
Devil in One’s Heart (p121)
Someone who destroys the love existing between people.
CHARACTER OF THE HEART
Emotional State of the Heart (p131)
Uncaring person (lack of compassion or sensitivity).
In the context of a person’s personality or natural disposition. Or the emotional reaction to a person or event.
Mind and Spirit Heart (p157)
A mental state inside your head or heart.
Life, Mind and Spirit Heart (p157)
chee-wít jìt jai
This is my favourite. The idea is that people have value and are entitled to be treated with respect and regard.
Understanding Heart (p158)
jai kăo jai rao
Understand another as you understand yourself.
Thoughts inside the Heart (p165)
kwaam nai jai
Thoughts you keep to yourself.
Beloved Heart (p168)
The bonds of love between mother and child.
Eye of the Heart (p169)
duang dtaa duang jai
The object of your love and affection (husband, wife, sometimes child).
Star of the Heart (p169)
A child is the star of the parents.
Star of the Heart (p169)
Ditto, the child is the centre (star) of a parent’s heart.
COMMUNITY AND SOLIDARITY
Power of the Heart (p190)
The feeling that comes from communal sharing.
Confederate Heart (p191)
pôo rûam jai
A strong, intimate bond between people intune to each other.
Seduction Machine of the Heart (p193)
krêuang lôr jai
Describes the drive some people have for material things.
Power of the Heart (p194)
The sense of spirit or encouragement to complete a task, to accomplish something.
Good Friend Heart (p198)
pêuan rûam jai
A close friend (soulmate).
Refuge of the Heart (p200)
têe pêung taang jai
Where you find refuge (amulets, religion, politics, people).
RESPONSIBILITY AND THE FAMILY
Centre Heart (p208)
The object at the centre of something. For location, it could be a street or building. For people, parents or children could apply.
Geographic Centre Heart (p208)
The centre of a country is jai meuang.
Geographic Centre Heart (p208)
jai glaang meuang
The centre of a city is jai glaang meuang.
Truth in the Heart (p246)
kwaam jing jai
Someone sincere in words and actions.
The Heart of the Matter (p248)
The meaning, substance or gist of the matter in question.
The Heart of the Matter (p248)
kôr yài jai kwaam
Ditto in being the substance or gist of the matter in question.
Where to buy Heart Talk…
If you live in Thailand, you can pick up Heart Talk at most bookstores with English on offer (in BKK, Asia Books and the lovely Kinokuniya Bookstore come to mind). If not, the amazon is a sure bet.