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Thai Vocabulary for Keeping Cool (Tempers) in Thailand

Keeping Cool (Tempers) in Thailand

Flash tempers in Thailand…

I inherited a flash temper that I’ve mostly grown out of, and I attribute a chunk of the change to living in Thailand. Even so, I’ll stay cool cool cool, but if I butt up against tough conditions too often, I explode. And once my pissy fit is over, the worry that I’ve upset Thai friends begins. Sigh.

If you’ve been watching the news, you’ll notice that Thai politics especially brings out nasty tempers in both Westerners and Thais. It’s a given that with the protests raging all around us, we won’t always act as ใจเย็น /jai yen/ (cool headed) as we’d like.

With a recent AGGGGHHHH episode on my mind (don’t ask) I emailed around for a few Thai words and phrases to use, plus advice on how to keep cool in Thailand. Here are the responses:

Mia Rongsaiw (Thai Skype teacher)
Site: Learn2SpeakThai | YouTube: learn2speakthai | twitter: @learn2speakthai

Thais have tempers too. We have been brought up to not show our feelings, either love or hate. And no matter how Thai people feel, we will coat it with a ”smile”.

The Thai do not necessarily smile “about” something, but their smiles are not meaningless” Robert Cooper, Cultural Shock Thailand.

In the well-known saying “นับหนึ่งถึงสิบ” /náp nèung tĕung sìp/, we are told to count from 1-10. This trick works really well for me. By the time I count to 10, I only focus on the numbers and forget about whatever was bothering me.

One of my Thai proverbs is น้ำขุ่นอยู่ใน น้ำใสอยู่นอก /nám kùn yòo nai · nám săi yòo nôk/. You can see it on my website here: Bite Your Tongue

Every time this proverb comes to mind, I hear the voice of my mother saying it to me. It works for her as well.
The phrase ใจเย็นๆ /jai yen jai yen/ (cool heart) we also use often.

Jai yen doesn’t work well for some westerners because of cultural differences. For Thais, ใจร้อน /jai ron/ (hot heart) is not so good, but ใจเย็น /jai yen/ (cool heart) is a lot better. Europeans and Americans like a warm heart and the worst thing you can say about someone is that they are “cold hearted”.  So ใจเย็น /jai yen yen/ can sound a little strange at first.

My husband says: “As an expat, I have learned to manage my feelings from the outside in. When in public, I always speak softly, smile all the time, and try to notice any signals. I have asked my Thai family to let me know when I am speaking too loudly, and someone will say: บางเบา  /baang bao/ (softly) or just เบา /bao/ (soft). I smile and nod my head and speak softly. If I smile and think gentle thoughts and look at others to see what they are feeling, and lower my head,  — even if I am angry inside, I will soon be calm again.

When you say things out of anger, พูดเล่น /pood làyn/ can cool down the situation. It’s like what you said was a joke.

ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/ is the classic way to say “I’m sorry for losing my temper”. Just don’t wai when you apologise to friends or a younger person.

Generally, if someone is acting out (being temperamental), it doesn’t matter what culture it is, you will be revealed as spoiled and low class. The same is true in the Thai culture.

Ironically, when a leading actress in a Thai soap shows her anger, temper and negative emotion, most of the time she’s spoiled and comes from a HI-SO family. This gives a bad example. It’s as if it’s somewhat acceptable for those who are rich or better off to show off that type of emotion.

Yuki Tachaya (Thai Skype teacher)
Site: Pick up Thai | twitter: @PickupThai | YouTube: pickupthai

My thought on the topic is that Thai people’s lifestyle of สบายๆ (sabaai sabaai) or as we would say in colloquial Thai “ชิลล์ๆ” (chill chill) is what makes the Thai culture charming as it allows everyone to take time and enjoy lives. Also, I believe that it shapes Thai people’s personalities of generous, understanding and forgiving.

The expression “ไม่เป็นไร” (maipenrai) you use to say “It’s OK” or “That’s alright!” is certainly a reflection of this culture. However, the downside of it is that people tend to take appointment times less seriously and often get late as they expect that the people who are waiting for them would be flexible, lenient and forgiving as well. And sometimes, it is just important to be strict. Whereas Western people’s hectic lifestyles tend to give them less time to breathe and relax, they tend to be seen as more responsible and organized than the Thai people.

I think the most important thing is to embrace both cultures and know when you should let go or when you should be more strict with yourself. That way, things in your life can go well while you can be happy with it at the same time :)

Christopher G Moore (prolific author)
Site: Christopher G Moore | Vincent Calvino | twitter: @cgmooreauthor | Heart Talk

The Thai expression น้อมใจ /nOOm jai/ is a verb to describe the action of reaching out to resolve an impasse. Humility, compromise and reconciliation are required. Have we passed the stage where the sentiment in this jai phrase can be rescued from the fires of hate? I hope we haven’t crossed that line.

Below is the Thai vocabulary from this post. I’m on holiday so the audio files will be added after my return. But, if you don’t want to wait, follow these instructions: Does Your Computer Speak Thai?

count: นับ /náp/
one: หนึ่ง /nèung/
to: ถึง /tĕung/
ten: สิบ /sìp/
muddy water: น้ำขุ่น /nám kùn/
in: ใน /nai/
clear water: น้ำใส /nám-săi/
be at, location: อยู่ /yòo/
outside: นอก /nôk/
cool heart: ใจเย็นๆ /jai yen/
hot heart: ใจร้อน /jai ron/
joking, kidding: พูดเล่น /pood làyn/
apologies: ขอโทษ /kŏr tôht/
be well, happy: สบาย /sabaai/
be well, happy (loanword): ชิลล์ /chill/
no problem: ไม่เป็นไร /mai-pen-rai/
reaching out to resolve an impasse: น้อมใจ /nóm jai/

A thanks from me goes to Mia, Yuki and Christopher for their Thai words, phrases, and suggestions on keeping cool in Thailand.

One can never have enough jai words. For more read Heart Talk by Christopher G Moore (the post includes audio), and/or buy his book Heart Talk.

Ho ho ho everyone! And apologies for the crappy photo. Photographing interesting pics of ice in Thailand isn’t easy (but from the weather reports, that’s due to change soon).

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Jai Words: Learn Thai with More Words of the Heart

Thai Heart Words

Heart words, jai words, my words…

I am a terrible Thai student. Fairly often, my Thai teacher arrives with a lesson plan in her satchel, and hope in her heart. When she goes to leave, it is with much laughter. Why laughter? Because at the door, seeing her off, there I am. Me. Promising to be a good student. Next time.

And yet, she calls me one of her favourite students. I say that I am not a particularly good student. But she says that the way I learn is sà-nùk dee (สนุกดี). And sà-nùk (สนุก) makes the hours go down easy.

When my Thai teacher knocks on my door, she doesn’t know if we’ll be chasing down Thai bumper stickers, running after turkeys, or discussing the merits of sexy men sitting next to us on the BTS.

And my lesson for Thursday was just that: Discussing sexy men on the BTS, while using words of the head and the heart.

You might remember a year back when I wrote about Christopher G Moore’s fabulous book, Heart Talk. Tackling Chris’s book during several Thai lessons, I learned just how important heart/jai words are in the Thai language. And between you and me, heart words are my favourite Thai words.

And that is exactly what I studied during my Thai lessons today. Not my Thai teacher’s lesson plan, but mine. Jai words.

And here they are, more heart words…


Wát jai (วัดใจ) means to measure the heart/mind/spirit; seeing how generous or brave the other person is. While wát (วัด) used as a noun is temple, wát as a verb means to measure.

The story: When you are coming up to an intersection without a light, you have to wát jai (วัดใจ) measure/guess at what the other drivers will do. So as you come to a stop, you say to yourself…

ฉัน วัดใจ เขา ว่า เขา จะ ไป ก่อน หรือ จะ ให้ ฉัน ไป ก่อน

chăn · wát · jai · kăo · wâa · kăo · jà · bpai · gòn · rĕu · jà · hâi · chăn · bpai · gòn
I · measure/guess · heart · him · that · he · will · go · before · or · will · give/let · I · go · before
(Guessing)… will he go first, or will he let me go first?


You use jai rá-tuay (ใจระทวย) when you see a sexy guy or gal, and you can’t do anything about it. Rá-tuay (ระทวย) on its own means sad, weak.

The story: A sexy guy sits next to you on the MRT, and you say to yourself…

ผุ้ ชาย คน นี้ ทำ ให้ ฉัน ใจ ระทวย

pù · chaai · kon · née · tam · hâi · chăn · jai · rá-tuay
man · person · this · make · give · me · heart · weak
(Deep sigh)… This man makes my heart feel sooooooooo weak.


Jai lá-laai (ใจละลาย) is almost like jai rá-tuay (ใจระทวย). It is used when you see a sexy guy or gal, and you might be able to do something about it at some point. Lá-laai (ละลาย) means to melt.

Story: A sexy guy sits next to you on the MRT. He looks over to you, then winks. You say to yourself…

เขา ทำ ให้ ฉัน ใจ ละลาย

kăo · tam · hâi · chăn · jai · lá-laai
he · make · give · me · heart · melt
(Yummm)… He soooooooooo makes my heart melt.


Jai-bpâew (ใจแป้ว) is used when you feel disappointed about something. It is almost like ใจหาย jai hăai, but jai-hăai could also mean to frighten. Bpâew (แป้ว) implies to wither or collapse, and is not said on its own.

Story: You are on the MRT and look over to see the man of your dreams with another girl. When pouring out your heart to your best friend, you say…

พอ ฉัน เห็น แฟน เขา ฉัน ใจแป้ว

por · chăn · hĕn · faen · kăo · chăn · jai bpâew
when · I · see · girlfriend · his · I · feel · disheartened
(Dejected sigh)… When I saw his girlfriend, I lost heart.


Jai fòr (ใจฝ่อ) is to lose courage. From Mary Haas: To be frightened, to have one’s heart shrink with fear.

Story: You get off the MRT at Asoke, but your boyfriend is nowhere to be found. Glancing down at your watch, you see that you are 40 minutes late for a promised tryst. You say to yourself…

ฉัน ใจฝ่อ เมื่อ รุ้ ว่า ฉัน จะ ไม่ พบ เขา

chăn · jai fòr · mêua · rú wâa · chăn · jà · mâi · póp · kăo
I · lose · courage · when · know that · I · will · not · meet · him
(Darn)… I lose heart when I realise that I will not meet up with him.


Bplaa-siw (ปลาซิว) is a kind of fish that is very tiny. Jai bplaa-siw (ใจปลาซิว) is used to describe people who have a small heart; those who are stingy.

Story: You are standing outside Asoke station. No boyfriend to be found. He is always on time, so you know in your heart that you have inconvenienced him. You also know that when you are not on time, he becomes unhappy with you. You want to call him to explain, but you don’t dare. So you say to yourself…

เขา เป็น คน ใจ ปลาซิว เขา ไม่ ยกโทษ ให้ ฉัน

kăo · bpen · kon · jai · bplaa siw · kăo · mâi · yók tôht · hâi · chăn
he · is · person · heart · small fish · he · not · forgive · to · me
(Guilty grrrrrrr)… He is a person with a small heart. He won’t forgive me.

ใจปอน ๆ

Bpon-bpon means useless. T2E: sloppy; shabby; slovenly.

Jai bpon-bpon is the title of a famous song by Nui, Ampon Lamphun, from about 20 years ago.

Edit: The video has been taken down from YouTube.

In the song, the man sings that he does not have much to offer the woman, only his heart (which no one would consider worthwhile).

Nowhere in the song does the man say jai bpon-bpon (ใจปอน ๆ). This could be because bpon-bpon, modified from jai bpon-bpon, is now used on its own.

So if the sad man in the song were to use this jai word, he would say…

ตอน นี้ ผม ตก งาน และ ไม่ มี แฟน เลย อยู่ แบบ ปอน ๆ

dton · née · pŏm · dtòk · ngaan · láe · mâi · mee · faen · loie · yòo · bàep · bpon · bpon
period of time · this · I · drop · work · and · no · have · girlfriend · therefor · stay · type · slob · slob
(Sigh, sigh, sigh)… Now I have no job, no girlfriend, therefor I spend my life as a slob.

My heartfelt thanks for this post goes to: my sister Nong Jessie (for sharing your jai words), and my teacher Khun Phairo (for suffering through yet another class without a lesson plan).

For my next Thai lesson, my Thai teacher and I agreed that this weekend I will transcribe the Jai bpon-bpon music video, in preparation for a bit of karaoke on Monday morning. Nine am sharp. Maybe.

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Heart Talk (Say What You Feel in Thai) by Christopher G Moore

Heart Talk

Is there a Christopher G Moore in the house?…

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.

In the Thai language the heart is the centre of thinking, feeling, shaping our moods, nurturing our spirit, bonding us to friends and family. The outline of what it is to move about in the home, office, and society can’t be detached from the idea of jai.

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.

Be a little careful about picking new words out of the vocabulary and using them. If they are nouns you can’t go far wrong as in most cases any one noun can be substituted for another but adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and verbs are very often used in certain contexts only and if you use them wrongly you will not be understood.

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)
náam jai
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)
maan hŭa-jai
Someone who destroys the love existing between people.


Emotional State of the Heart (p131)
hŭa-òk hŭa-jai
Uncaring person (lack of compassion or sensitivity).

Heart (p132)
jai kor
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)
jìt jai
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)
săai jai
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)
yôt duang-jai
Ditto, the child is the centre (star) of a parent’s heart.


Power of the Heart (p190)
plang jai
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)
gam-lang jai
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).


Centre Heart (p208)
ใจ กลาง
jai glaang
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)
jai meuang
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)
jai kwaam
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.

Where to find Christopher G Moore…

Christopher G Moore official website
Christopher G Moore’s blog
Christopher G Moore on WordPress
Christopher G Moore on Facebook

Heart talk heart word resources…

Benjawan Poomsan Becker’s Speak Like a Thai Volume 4: Heart Words

learningthai.com (offline for now): The Heart Words, also from the book Hearts (possibly out of print).

thai2english.com: ใจ – jai – Thai / English Dictionary

thai-language.com: ใจ jai

YouTube: Bebe son kam waa rak Teaches words about love (English Sub)

Note: The Thai transliteration has been adjusted for consistency.

A special thanks goes to: Christopher for giving permission and advice, to Niwat for his voice, and to Jessi for sending over more heart words (coming in a later post).

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