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Interviewing Thai Teacher: Kruu Cherry

Interviewing Thai Teacher

What Makes a Good Thai Teacher?…

Welcome to the forth post in the Thai Teacher Interview series. If you missed it, Yuki Tachaya (PickUp Thai Podcasts) was the first Thai teacher interview, the second Kannaphat Saelee (Jan), and the third Waan Waan (Learn Thai with Waan Waan).

Note: At the end of each interview you can download the interview questions to ask Thai teachers of your own choosing.

Interviewing Thai Teacher: Kruu Cherry…

Name: Chutima Saetang (Cherry)
Professional name: Kruu Cherry
Age range: 30-40
Location: Nonthaburi, Thailand
Facebook: Rian Thai Kruu Cherry
Twitter: @Thaikruucherry
Skype: krucherryteach

What made you want to teach Thai?

I might have started out like many other Thai teachers by teaching Thai to my foreigner friends. At first, they all gave me the same feedback that I have a talent for teaching and that I should try teaching other foreigners. So, I decided to try teaching Thai and have been teaching for the last two years or so. Now I have been teaching Thai for two years, I have received a lot of positive praise and feedback, way beyond what I could ever have expected.

What qualifications do you have to teach Thai?

The most obvious qualification needed for teaching Thai is of course, Thai, which is my mother tongue. I graduated from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University in 2013, with a bachelor’s degree in Education and in 2017, I attended specific training on ‘Teaching Thai to Foreigners’ held by Sumaa Language and Culture Institute. Aside from these two qualifications, I also love reading both fiction and non-fiction texts, which help me to develop my vocabulary and enable me to teach students in a way that they enjoy.

What are the age brackets of students you teach?

I have taught students from age 10 – 70. I could say people’s ages do not matter, but when it comes to learning a new language, you are never too old to learn!

What are the types of courses that you offer?

Normally I offer both face-to-face Thai lessons and online lessons, but I’m currently living abroad so at present, I can do only online lessons via Skype. My main courses are constructed to follow the skill levels of students and their goals. These include things such as Thai speaking for beginners, speaking Thai with confidence for intermediates, discussion classes for advanced students, Thai for travelling, and even a step-by-step Thai reading class!

What motivates you to continue teaching Thai?

“Happiness” Teaching is a passion of mine, and something that I want to do every day. It gives me a huge sense of energy and happiness when teaching. This may sound like a cliché, but it is true. After I finish teaching, I feel like I have achieved my goal in life, which is to help others. It is such an incredible feeling to see student’s not only progress, but their happiness when they achieve their goals for learning a language. Some of my students started learning Thai for fun, much like a hobby, and then they became more serious learners who fell in love with this beautiful language, like me.

Is your teaching approach more teacher centred or student centred?

I enjoy both approaches. I have my own unique teaching style which is both flexible and relaxed, but I do not enjoy fixed teaching approaches. My approach depends on a student’s preference, such as their learning style and approach, level of Thai and learning goals. I always design a specific lesson plan with my students in mind. For example, if a student is at a beginner level and knows nothing about the Thai language, I will provide a structured plan and everything they need to know for leaning Thai, but if a student has been learning Thai before and already knows what he wants to learn, then I can prepare a lesson based on these needs.

What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of teaching Thai?

In my opinion, I always assess and plan a specific lesson for my students, so I have found it is quite challenging to design approaches suitable for each student, as well as their strong and weak points of skills I can help to improve. The good point is that the more I teach, the more experience I gain and as a result, it only takes one or two more lessons until I am sure that we are on the right track and that students are happy with their learning. Student’s happiness is the most important thing for me. We cannot do things well if we are not happy doing them.

Ideally, when should an absolute beginner start speaking Thai?

First of all, you do not need to know many words to be able to start speaking Thai. For instance, I always start teaching students with just six Thai words: I, you, love, very, true, and really. From these six Thai words, you can then say ten simple Thai sentences. Secondly, it is important for you to be able to use words you learn to make a sentence, not just learn and/or remember the words. To do this effectively, you should learn vocabulary in context and duplicate that sentence from a model sentence. Finally, as a teacher, I must bear in mind that my students take lessons with me because they want to be able to speak Thai. So, it is my responsibility to make them feel that speaking Thai is easy and that I can give them the confidence to do that even from day one of learning.

How important is reading Thai for helping foreigners to learn the language?

Reading Thai is a crucial aspect that helps you to learn Thai faster and it is the best way of improving your pronunciation. Some people can learn Thai through a transliteration system, especially those people who live in Thailand or love watching Thai TV programs or movies. This is because they already have an opportunity to listen to native Thai sounds and it is easy for them to mimic these. However, for those who live abroad or do not have opportunities to interact with Thai people, it is very difficult for them to pronounce Thai words correctly by reading only a transliteration. Sometimes transliterations alone do not make sense for English speakers, even if written in English. Therefore, reading Thai scripts is a more productive method of learning the Thai language.

What do you to do relax?

In my free time, I enjoy interacting with my friends from different countries, as well as trying to improve my English as much as possible. I also enjoy reading books, watching some TV shows, and talking to my family and friends back in Thailand.

Kruu Cherry,
Rian Thai Kruu Cherry

Thai teacher interview questions…

The download has additional questions for you to pick and choose from – enough for everyone’s liking.

Download: Questions for potential Thai teachers

Watch this space for more Thai teacher interviews.

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Interviewing Thai Teacher: Waan Waan

Interviewing Thai Teacher

What Makes a Good Thai Teacher?…

Welcome to the third post in the Thai Teacher Interview series. If you missed it, Yuki Tachaya (PickUp Thai Podcasts) was the first Thai teacher interview, and the second Kannaphat Saelee Study Thai).

Note: At the end of each interview you can download the interview questions to ask Thai teachers of your own choosing.

Interviewing Thai Teacher: Waan Waan…

Name: Napaporn Yinbanroeng
Professional name: Waan Waan
Age range: 30-40
Location: Bangkok
Facebook: Learn Thai with Waan Waan
Youtube: Learn Thai with Waan Waan

How long have you been teaching Thai to foreigners?

Since 1999. Now it is not difficult to guess how old I am, right? Lol

What motivates you to continue teaching Thai?

As a teacher, I do not consider myself to be only a language teacher but more like someone who understands what my students feel when they experience cultural differences but unable to express themselves because of the language barrier. It is such a rewarding sensation to bridge the gap and help them have mutual understanding with the Thai people using the Thai language.

How long do you see yourself teaching Thai?

As long as I still enjoy it. With the social media nowadays, it makes it even more fun to create teaching materials. I find myself enjoying going around Thailand filming different things related to the Thai language for my students, be it cultural, psychological or linguistic aspects of the country. I‘ve got so many ideas in my head for creating resources for my audience and I hope to deliver that to them in a fun and creative way. I also want to write books that my students can use and also do some recordings for audio lessons or organizing workshops / meetups / outings for people who not only want to learn the language but want to immerse themselves in the Thai environment and culture. As you can see my career still has lots of room to grow. Hope you guys do not give up before me! lol

What student age brackets do you teach?

My students are mostly adults between 20 to 60 years of age. Sometimes I have some students who are younger or older than that. The youngest one is 6 years old and the oldest one is 65 years old.

What are the types of courses that you offer?

I offer a variety of courses to fit all kinds of students’ needs. As I tend to create my own materials to teach them, each course can vary from beginner Thai, intermediate, to advanced business Thai, not only conversational, and reading but also writing courses. For example I had a student from Q8 petroleum company so I created teaching materials from his work documents. And when I taught students from the US embassy the teaching materials were created based on their needs to pass the exam held to test their ability of using Thai at the work place. Some other students of mine are from different industries eg Unilever, Chanel, Thai namthip (Coca Cola) and as you can imagine I had to design the courses and activities that were suitable for their interests and nature of work each one has to deal with on a daily basis. All you need to do is contact me and let me know what types of course suit you best, I may have to assess all 4 of your skills and we will further discuss possible options in detail.

What nationalities have you taught?

I have taught students from all over the world like in Asia I have had Japanese, Chinese, Singaporean, Malaysian, Burmese, Indian, Filipino, Cambodian, Indonesian, Taiwanese, Korean students. From Europe, they are from France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Spain, England, Scotland, Belgium, Ireland, etc. and of course students from the US, Australia and Brazil as well.

Apart from Thai, what other languages do you use to teach Thai? Have you studied and/or lived abroad before? If yes, please tell us about your experiences as an overseas student or expat.

English and Chinese language. English was my major subject and the minor subject at the university was Chinese. I lived in Guangzhou, China for my study for two years so that is very useful when I teach students who speak Chinese.

I was also a cultural exchange student in New Zealand and travelled to the US and South America for a year which helped a lot with character building and understanding of different cultures. I realized I became more extroverted after all these years of traveling and living abroad since I had to try to communicate with the locals using English and Chinese. Speaking a language is a skill, just like driving and swimming , which means you will have to actually “do it” and practice a lot if you want to be fluent. When it comes to speaking, I have to say it is really your own choice to have to push yourself against your true nature in order to master a language. I myself was an introvert before and I had to break out of my comfort zone to improve my language skills. All of these experiences greatly give me sympathy for my students as a language learner.

What are some of your favorite teaching methods?

My teaching methods are dependent on whom I teach and how many of them in one class. Some students can learn best when they listen, some by speaking and some by reading. When I start a new class I have to determine what each student is like, what are their interests and learning methods in order to deliver the best lessons to them. Having said that, my favorite methods are flash cards and role play. At the beginning I would make my students look at pictures and listen to a lot of series of words repeatedly without taking notes and I will have them repeated those words with increased speed each time they repeat them. Then I will teach them sentence structures and put those words into sentences and stories. I tend to want to train them to listen and speak with the Thai speed and I also teach them both the proper Thai and the spoken street Thai. So social media like Facebook and Youtube are used for some short listening practice as well as teaching materials created by me.

Is your teaching approach more teacher centered or student centered?

Both teacher centered and student centered approaches are used with different groups of students. I have a course outline of what the students are supposed to learn and I let them determine what they want to learn. With structured lessons and my help, they will grasp things naturally and develop their language skills gradually.

Do you use course books in teaching Thai?

Sometimes as a supplementary material. I prefer my own selected materials.

How do you assess whether or not your students understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

By letting them do exercises after each lesson…maybe making sentences, role play, making questions from what has been taught, etc.

What do you do when it is obvious that your students do not understand what you are saying and/or teaching?

I give them more examples and let them practice with different approaches. One thing I always keep in mind is that each student has their own way and their own pace of learning things and everyone can have a bad day, so sometimes I have to tell myself not to be too hard on them and I will try to find out what works best for them and help them achieve their goal gradually. The key is to Jai yen yen! ☺

What are your thoughts about the use of transliteration in teaching Thai?

I am not too strict when it comes to transliteration. A student said to me once transliteration is like learning another language that no one actually uses in reality …and I agree. So I tend to let my students spell things the way they hear it and it works very well considering they are from different countries having different mother tongues.

In your opinion, how important is reading and writing Thai in helping foreigners learn the language?

I think it is important to learn to read Thai. There are a number of students who claim to read before speaking so I think it is very important on day to day survival because if you can read at least you will be able to read road signs and go around by yourself. However, to go beyond your limits you are required to speak the language as well. In my opinion it is best if you learn to speak a bit before starting to read and the reading exercise should be prepared based on the vocab you previously learn from speaking lessons so that it enhances your speaking ability eg pronunciation and so on. I do not teach reading from ABC (ก ข ค), but I teach them based on their three groups of consonants and built up exercises are created afterward.

Ideally, when should an absolute beginner begin to speak Thai?

As mentioned above, it is your own choice to break out of your comfort zone and start using it. I would say anyone can speak another language from day one they start to learn even if it’s a short sentence like “bpai nai ไปไหน” or a word like “ห้องน้ำ toilet”. When I was traveling in South America I didn’t speak any Spanish, the first word I picked up was Banos as it was written at the toilet every time the bus stopped for it. So I started to say “Banos” and some other words came up from time to time. Later when I had a chance to take an intensive short Spanish course in Sucre, Bolivia, I walked to the market from day one that I learned to buy my food and it wasn’t just ready to eat food, but I tried to buy a kilo of beef / pork and some veggies because I wanted to cook by myself. Yes, I went with my notes taken in class but the next few days I got better and better I didn’t need it anymore. Then one day I wanted to buy sugar but it seemed the sugar shops only sold a kilo at least so I had to think of how to get a small quantity of five baht sugar. So I walked to the fruit juice stall that I had my juice for the past days and tried to tell the seller I only wanted to buy a small amount but those people wanted to sell me a kilo, can I buy just a bit from you? And yeah I got a five baht of sugar for my cooking that evening…And I was so proud of my limited Spanish language at the time. I am not good at Spanish but did you get what moral of the story is?

Last but not least, do I have to tell you speaking a language cannot kill you unlike when you learn to drive or to swim? :D You are not gonna die or hurt yourself by speaking it, right ? So just go out and have a laugh with your new learned language as soon as you can, ok?

With love,
Waan Waan, your Thai teacher
Learn Thai with Waan Waan

Thai teacher interview questions…

The download has additional questions for you to pick and choose from – enough for everyone’s liking.

Download: Questions for potential Thai teachers

Watch this space for more Thai teacher interviews.

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EXTENDED: PickupThai Podcast’s Songkran Sale

PickupThai Podcast

A HEADS UP! PickupThai Podcast’s website has been hacked so I’m running an emergency post to get the word out.

PickupThai’s website (www.pickup-thai.com) is temporarily inaccessible due to unexpected circumstances. However, you can still order podcasts (PickupThai Podcast) and request free samples by email.

Payments are accepted through Paypal and Thai bank transfer. The links to the podcasts will be sent to you by email to download from.

The Songkran Grand Sale – Buy Two Courses, Get One Course Free (all three courses for only $198 USD) is still running and has been extended until April 30th.

Should you have any questions, feel free to contact the admins at contact [@] pickup-thai.com or through their Facebook page: PickUpThai or Twitter account @PickupThai.

Yuki Tachaya and Miki Chidchaya

As their information is down as well, here’s a review of Green (intermediate) and Red (advanced), and an overview of Coconut (beginners):

Green and Red: Review: PickupThai Podcast by Yuki and Miki
Coconut: WLT’s 2016 Thai Language Giveaway: PickupThai Podcast

Good luck Yuki and Miki – your site is sure to be back soon!

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65 Useful Thai Phrases You Won’t Find in a Travel Phrasebook: Part Five

Learn Thai With Porn

Here’s part FIVE of 65 Useful Phrases You Won’t Find in a Travel Phrasebook.

Note: To help those learning to read Thai script, the below phrases have Thai only, no transliteration. A pdf combo of transliteration/Thai/English can be downloaded at the end of this post.

261. บอกแล้วไม่เชื่อ! 

I told you so!
(Literally: tell already not believe) 

262. สมน้ำหน้า 


Serves you right!

263. จะพูดว่าไงดี


How shall I put it?

264. ติดอยู่ที่ปลายลิ้นเนี่ย 


It’s on the tip of my tongue.

265. พูดเล่นใช่ป่ะ 


You must be joking. / You can’t be serious.

266. เอาจริงเหรอ / พูดจริงเหรอ 

Are you serious?!

267. ลืมสนิทเลย 

I have completely forgotten.

268. ฉันคิดยังไงของฉันนะ 


What was I thinking?!

269. เผ่นเหอะ / เผ่นดีกว่า 

Let’s get outta here! / We’d better get outta here! 

(Used with friends, when you see trouble coming your way)

270. ไปให้พ้นหูพ้นตาทีได้ไหม 


Get out of my sight, would you?

271. รออะไรอยู่ 


What are you waiting for?

272. ค่อยยังชั่ว! 

What a relief!

273. ถามผิดคนแล้ว 
You’re asking the wrong person.

274. ผมผิดเอง 

It’s my fault.

275. อย่าโกรธผมเลย 

Please don’t be mad at me.

276. ไปได้ยินมาจากไหน 

Where did you hear that from?

277. เท่าที่ผมจำได้ …
As far as I can remember, …

278. ถ้าจำไม่ผิด …
If I remember correctly, … / If I am not mistaken, …

279. ไปสนใจเรื่องของตัวเองเหอะ 
Mind your own business.

280. ห่วงตัวเองเหอะ ไม่ต้องมาห่วงผม 

Worry about yourself, don’t worry about me.

281. ไม่รู้ซักเรื่องได้ไหม

Can you not know this one thing?

282. ไม่รู้ซักเรื่องจะตายไหม

Will it kill you not knowing this one thing?


Note that 281 and 282 are used when someone keeps questioning you / asking you about personal stuff and you do not want to tell them anything. It is VERY RUDE.

283. ห้องเดี่ยวไม่มี ก็เลยจองห้องคู่แทน

There were no single rooms available, so I booked a double room instead.

284. ถ้าสตีฟไป ประชุมไม่ได้ ผมไปแทนก็ได้

If Steve can’t attend the meeting, I could go in his place.


285. ขอเป็นส้มตำแทนได้ไหม
Can I have somtum instead?


286. ถ้าผมไม่ไป เขาก็จะส่งคนอื่นไปแทน
If I do not go, they’ll send someone else in my place.


287. พฤหัสไม่ได้อะ วันศุกร์แทนได้ไหม 

I can’t make Thursday. Can we make it Friday instead?


288. กาแฟไม่มี เอาชาแทนไหม

There’s no coffee. Would you like a cup of tea instead?


289. สูตรนี้ใช้มาการีนแทนเนยได้

You can substitute margarine for butter in this recipe.


290. ถ้าพลัมหายาก ใช้ฟิกแทนก็ได้

If plums are difficult to find, they can be substituted for figs.


291 to 300 are things you can say to make someone’s day.

291. ไม่ต้องทอน
mâi
Keep the change.


292. วันนี้ดูดีเป็นพิเศษนะ
You look extra nice today.
 


293. ผอมลงปะเนี่ย

Have you lost weight?


294. สีนี้เหมาะกับคุณมากเลย

This color really suits you. / This color is perfect on you.


295. ตัวหอมจัง

You smell really nice. 

296. อยู่ใกล้ๆคุณแล้วอะไรๆก็ดีไปหมด
Being around you makes everything better!


297. ไม่แปลกใจเลยที่ทำไมมีแต่คนรักผู้หญิงคนนี้

It’s no surprise that everyone loves this woman! / Why am I not surprised that everyone loves this woman!

298. คืนนี้เจอกันนะ

See you tonight.

299. แต่งงานกับผมนะ 

Will you marry me?

300. ฉันท้อง

I’m pregnant.
 


301 to 311 are things you can say to get a rise out of someone.

301. อ้วนขึ้นปะเนี่ย

Have you put on weight?


302. ไปทำอะไรมา ดูโทรมๆนะ

You look terrible, what have you been doing? 


303. แปรงฟันบ้างหรือเปล่า
Have you been brushing your teeth?


304. นั่นผมหรือรังนก
Is that your hair or a bird’s nest?


To a very tall person:

305. อากาศข้างบนเป็นไงมั่ง

How’s the weather up there?


To a fat person:

306. คุณไม่อ้วนหรอก
You’re not fat.


To a single person:

307. เมื่อไหร่จะมีแฟนสักที

When are you going to get a boyfriend/girlfriend?


308. คลอดเมื่อไหร่

When is your baby due?

(If you imply that a woman is pregnant when she isn’t)

309. ทำกับข้าวหมาไม่แดก
Your cooking sucks!
(Literally: even dogs won’t eat the food you’ve cooked)


At a bar while everyone is having a good time.


310. กลับบ้านเหอะ

Let’s go home.


311. ยืมตังหน่อยสิ

Can I borrow some money?


312. นอนซะ จะได้หายเร็วๆ
Get some rest, so you can recover fast.


313. จะกินปะเนี่ย ไม่กินจะได้เก็บ

Are you gonna eat this? If not, I’m gonna clear it.


314. บอกมาเหอะ จะได้รู้ว่าควรจะทำยังไงต่อ

Just tell me, so I’ll know what to do next. 


315. เราจะได้เจอกันอีกไหม / ผมจะได้เจอคุณอีกไหม

Will I see you again?

316. ตามปกติ คนไข้ที่อยู่ในประเภทรีบด่วนที่สุด ประเภท 1 – รีบด่วน จะได้รับการผ่าตัดก่อนคนไข้อื่นๆ 

Under normal circumstances, patients with the highest / urgency classification Category 1- urgent will be scheduled for surgery ahead of other patients.

317. กินน้ำเยอะๆ ท้องจะได้ไม่ผูก

Drink lots of water so you won’t get constipated.


318. ไม่รักกันแล้วก็บอกมาจะได้หาแฟนใหม่

If you don’t love me anymore, just tell me so I can find a new boyfriend / girlfriend.

319. อย่ามาพูดเลย / ไม่ต้องมาพูดเลย
Don’t give me that! / Spare me your bull!
(Used to say that you do not believe someone’s excuse or explanation)

320. ใครๆก็ทำผิดได้ทั้งนั้น / ใครๆก็พลาดได้ทั้งนั้น
Anyone can make a mistake.

321. เค้าไม่ยอมช่วยผม แล้วผมจะไปช่วยเค้าทำไม
He won’t help me, so why should I help him?

322. จะว่าฉันอ้วนใช่ไหม
Are you saying I’m fat?

323. เขาพยายามเปลี่ยนเรื่อง
He tried to change the subject.

324. เวลาโกรธ นับหนึ่งถึงสิบก่อนจะพูด
When you’re angry, count to ten before speaking.

325. ทำไมจะไม่ได้ล่ะ
I don’t see why not.
(Used to say ‘yes’ in response to a request)

Downloads…

The pdf below has Thai script, transliteration, and English. The zip has numbered audio files.

PDF (2.2kb): 65 Useful Thai Phrases You Won’t Find in a Phrasebook: Part Five
ZIP (2.7mb): Audio: 65 Useful Thai Phrases: Part Five

Even more phrases are being created on Wannaporn’s FB at Learn Thai with พร.

65 Useful Thai Phrases
: The Series…

Please help support Baan Gerda…

Before I end this post I’d like to share a charity close to my heart, Baan Gerda. Baan Gerda is a project of the Children’s Rights Foundation, Bangkok. The charity supports children who have been orphaned by AIDS; some are HIV positive.

Baan Gerda is located in Lopburi, the province I come from. When I visited the children they reminded me how fortunate we all are. They gave me the hope to live happily so I want to help them live happy lives in return.

I would be overjoyed if you could reach out and help the children with a donation, no matter how small. You can find information on this link: Sponsorship and Support for BaanGerda. Many thanks.

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Successful Thai Language Learner: Frank Smith

Frank Smith

Name: Frank Smith
Nationality: US
Age range: 50-60
Sex: Male
Location: US
Profession: University language lecturer (Khmer)
Websites: Study Khmer and Study Lao

What is your Thai level?

Speaking: low-mid advanced
Listening: high advanced
Reading and Writing: low advanced

Do you speak more street Thai, Issan Thai, or professional Thai?

Mostly colloquial/informal, but I can speak polite/formal when needed; I also speak Issan (Lao) at pretty much the same level as I speak Thai.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

General interest in Southeast Asia, but my ability greatly increased when I moved to Thailand…then I learned it to function as a member of society on a daily basis.

Do you live in Thailand? If so, when did you arrive?

I lived in Bangkok from 2002-2008; visited once a year starting in 1999, visited 3x a year from 2009-2013, now back to once a year. I’ll eventually retire to Thailand.

How long have you been a student of the Thai language?

1999-2018

Did you learn Thai right away, or was it a many-pronged approach?

I started learning from an informal Thai tutor in Seattle in 1999 once I knew I was going to visit, both speaking and reading/writing. From the moment I first landed in Thailand I tried to speak only in Thai to all Thais I interacted with, a strategy I maintain to this day. The only exception was a group of Thais educated in the US (mostly artists and musicians) I interacted with in my first few years of speaking Thai–I spoke English with them then, but speak only Thai with them now.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule?

Not really, since I was pretty much always working on improving my Thai from the moment that I moved there.

What Thai language learning methods did you try?

Learning vocabulary and grammar from an old (1950s or 60s?) textbook (I no longer have it and can’t remember the name or author), constantly practicing with native speakers in a wide range of social situations, reading signs, newspapers, magazines, watching karaoke videos, reading songbooks.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

Immediately.

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

Not difficult at all, because I was already fluent in [spoken and written] Khmer when I began to study Thai.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

After living in Thailand about 1.5 years and using it daily, there was a moment when I had finally figured out all the proper spoken uses of ก็ (and distinguishing those uses from how it’s used in Khmer) and was able to use it confidently in my own speech; that was a significant moment that I remember clearly. Other, related, ‘a-hah!’ moments like that came when I was able to start using the final particles นะ and เลย correctly in my speech.

How do you learn languages? (learning styles)

I learn languages by using them as much as I can for communication, with periodic study of vocabulary and grammar to fill in gaps in my communicative ability. When I decide to learn a language, I will refuse to speak anything but that language to native speakers, no matter how good their English is and no matter how much they protest.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Strengths: Pronunciation, speed/fluidity, use of colloquial vocabulary, domestic issues/relationship discussions, pop culture, expression of personal feelings/opinions.

Weaknesses: political vocabulary/discussions on issues such as politics, the economy, etc.; tones.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

Probably the same misconception that all students of a language that differs radically (grammar, etc.) from their native language share: the belief that every word in the target language (in this case, Thai) must have an exact equivalent in their native language. Once one accepts that the “semantic range” of many Thai words is way, way broader than any one English (or whatever) word, learning gets a lot easier. “Translation” and “word lists” are very inefficient and often frustrating ways to try to learn a new language.

Can you make your way around any other languages?

Khmer (fluent), Lao (probably the same level of proficiency that I have in Thai, including reading and writing), Vietnamese (knew it well years ago, but I can only speak it now when I’m physically in Vietnam), Spanish.

Were you learning another language at the same time as Thai?

No…and as a language teacher, I highly recommend NOT trying to learn two or more languages at the same time.

What advice would you give to students of the Thai language?

Speak as much Thai as you can, to native speakers, as often as you can…resist the urge to resort to English, despite how much more comfortable it might be. Have as your goal “thinking in Thai,” and get away from the notion that learning Thai means translating from English words or grammar into Thai. Also, learn to read and write as soon as you start to learn to speak, and do not use any sort of phonetic transcription or transliteration.

regards,
Frank Smith
Study Khmer and Study Lao

The Series: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

If you’d like to read more interviews the entire series is here: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners.

If you are a successful Thai language learner and would like to share your experiences, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you.

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Xmas Gift from L-Lingo: ANKI Deck with 1000 Thai Words and Phrases (audio included)

Xmas Gift from L-Lingo

Xmas is coming early this year! For those who want to get a jumpstart on their New Year’s Resolution to learn Thai, L-lingo is giving away an ANKI Deck with 1000 top frequency Thai words and sample phrases. Audio included.

Download the deck here: Thai 1000 Common Words

If you’ve never tried L-lingo, check out the free version of their Quiz-Based Thai lessons.

L-Lingo immerses you in the sights and sounds of the Thai language, rather than just the written word. Our multi-channel teaching method gives you real and rapid results much quicker than traditional flash-card or textbook approaches. Before you know it, you’ll be speaking words and longer sentences with real confidence.

Ho ho ho everyone! Happy Holidays to you and yours.

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): Freshy

Andrew Biggs

A few years ago I caused a minor commotion on TV and online in Pantip Plaza chatrooms when I made an announcement that shook the Thai student world to its very foundations.

In a nutshell, I told everybody to stop referring to any first-year university student as a “freshy” because in the English-speaking world this word didn’t exist. And if a single Thai could find me an international dictionary with the word listed, I would run naked down Silom Road in broad daylight.

The news would have been less shocking had I announced I was moving to Pattaya to get a sex-change and begin my new life as Andrea. This was 2004, pre-instant-messaging, but the reaction was still swift. Surely Andrew couldn’t be serious … but he was.

I was tired of hearing young Thais saying and writing: “I am a freshy at Thammasat University.” How wonderful you got into that esteemed institution, nong (น้อง), but please, if you’re going to speak English, use the proper English word. The word is “freshman” (เฟรช’เมิน), not the Thai made-up “freshy”.

I know, I know. I sound like a nit-picking party-pooper. It’s the kind of topic that curmudgeons who infest the Letters To The Editor pages of the Bangkok Post attack with relish. But I mean, on the grand scheme of things, who cares that Thais say “freshy” while the rest of the world says “freshman”?

I do. I think it’s interesting and curious. “Freshy” is a word derived from English but it just hasn’t been yanked out of the English language and thrown into Thai like other words such as “happy”, “u-turn” and “short-time hotel”. Those words made it across safely; not so poor old “freshman”.

“Freshman” didn’t make the jump intact. Somewhere along the line it got castrated; the “man” was gelded and a prissy little “y” slotted into its place.

How did it happen? I would guess it comes from the fact modern Thais know that we add a “y” to the end of our names to make them less formal. Growing up in Sunnybank I was always called “Biggsy” (when I wasn’t “that strange little boy with the big ears and off-putting facial tic”). When I went to the States I was “Andy”, something the Americans arbitrarily decided without ever asking me … I mean, who in their right mind would choose the dinky-sounding “Andy” over the more distinguished “Andrew” – other than that Gibb brother, of course, and look what happened to him.

Because of this knowledge we now have a nation of young Thais with a “y” at the end of their nicknames. Their parents first dispensed with traditional Thai nicknames such as “moo” (หมู – pig) and ”oo-an” (อ้วน – fat) and started calling themselves such English names as “Gift” (กิฟทฺ), “Bank” (แบงค์) and “Donut” (โดนัต). Can you blame them? Give me “Gift” over “Pig” anyday! But the new generation is calling themselves “Gifty” (กิฟตี้), “Banky” (แบ๊งคี่) and even “Donuty” (โดนัทตี้), as I spotted once in a Sanook.com teen chatroom, which is the punishment I get for trawling such websites.

That’s where it all started. From this the Thais figured a “freshman” could be a “freshy” and the rest is history.

I’m not so black-hearted as to grasp Nong Gifty by her delicate wrist and demand she stop ruining the English language by warping perfectly good English words. Though I have to admit at the time I took the opportunity to expand my crusade against genital mutilation of English vocabulary to other words.

For example, all across Thailand, on graduation day, there are giant CONGRATULATION signs hung up across trees and faded concrete university blocks for young graduates to have their pictures taken. CONGRATULATION is probably freshy’s sibling; it, too, went under the knife during the linguistic leap.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross says there are five stages to dying and I think I went through a similar number with CONGRATULATION. The first was bewilderment that one could accurately write such a long and complicated word, then let the whole team down at the very last letter by omitting the S. Then I went through refusal to believe, as I scoured dictionaries trying to see if indeed, the English language has the word “congratulation” (it does, as in “a letter of congratulation”). The next stage was anger, albeit briefly, until I finally settled on sullen acceptance that this simple Sunnybank boy with the big ears and blinky-bill eyes could never change a nation of 62 million people.

Or could he? Since 2004 I’ve notice the addition of that final S on the graduation signs of some of the better colleges around town, even upcountry. Could it be my constant bleatings had an effect, or do I simply have tabs on myself?

Meanwhile “freshy” continues to run rampant and unabated across campuses. The word no longer means “first year student” and now extends to anybody with a fresh face and youthful demeanor, which suggests this column is even written by a freshy.

What’s interesting is that while Thais have been keen to embrace “freshy”, what about freshy’s under-achieving older brother “sophomore”? Why aren’t myriad Thai students announcing “I am a sophomory” … or even a “juny” or “seny”? In my world those three levels of students have as much right to be castrated as the humble freshman – how did they get off scot free?

Oh look, really, it doesn’t upset me. I kind of like the fact Thais use their creative juices when it comes to the English language — and who says the language is set in stone anyway? If 62 million Thais refer to university students as “freshies”, well that’s three times the population of Australia (and 3,770 times the population of Sunnybank). Majority rules; consider it added to MacMillan’s latest tome. This is what happens with language. Next century some big-eared facial-ticked English teacher’s going to be berating Thais who still use the old-fashioned “freshman”.

It’s already heading that way.

Not long after I threw down my public challenge in the effort to eradicate “freshy”, a young Thai posted a comment on the popular Pantip.com website. Freshy, indeed, could be found in an international dictionary.

The Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 2004 (damn you, Bill Gates!) listed the word as a “shortening and alteration of the word freshwater”. For example, an Australian freshwater crocodile is referred to as a “freshy”.

I was fully justified when I scorned the news, announcing in a huff that crocodiles and university freshmen were non-intersecting Venn diagrams, except when the latter went swimming in north Queensland swamps. But my victory was short-lived.

Another student posted that she had a copy of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and there was this entry:

“Freshy, (slang): a freshman in a college, university or secondary school.”

Clearly one of the Webster’s editors spends his annual holidays halfway around the world in the Silom area otherwise how would they know? Who told them? How could they find out?

The news led to a feeling of “me and my big mouth” in the pit of my stomach, though naturally I never let on. Suddenly there were lots of posts on Pantip.com from Thai teenagers demanding I fulfill my part of the bargain.

I should be happy. In the twilight of my life, there are vast swathes of Thai youth just dying to see me naked.

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): No – Maybe

Andrew Biggs

Take a look at this week’s American music charts and there are no less than three songs in the Top 20 with the “F” word in the title.

There’s a song by Cee-Lo Green about a guy who’s girlfriend ditches him, appropriately entitled “F*** You”. Meanwhile Enrique Iglesias seems to be at some Patpong establishment, hence the title “Tonight (I’m F***ing You)”.

(The follow-up could be something like “My Buffalo Is Sick (Pay the Vet Or No More F***ing Me)”.)

And finally, Pink has a song where she extols the virtues of her boyfriend, though not in such prosaic terms as I just used. “Extolling the Virtues”? Nah. Try “F***ing Perfect”.

What has happened to the music of today? There I go, sounding like my father who used to bristle when popular songs like “Stayin’ Alive” dropped the “G”. I can’t imagine how bristly my father would get over this week’s Top 20.

Clean versions of the songs I just mentioned are available in order to get played on the radio. “F*** You” has a version called “Forget You”, while Enrique sings “Tonight (I’m Loving You)” in his lame G-rated version. This is the musical equivalent of bashing someone’s knees with a baseball bat; I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had anybody come up to me in a seedy Silom nightclub and announce: “Tonight I’m lovin’ you!” It sounds like an invitation to eat at McDonald’s.

What a pity the Thai language isn’t more universal because the Thai word for “hatch” (ฟัก), as in chickens, sounds the same as that “F” word with all the asterisks. Imagine the Billboard Top 20 this week with songs such as “Hatch You”, “Tonight (I’m Hatching You)” and “Hatching Perfect”. It kinda works, doesn’t it?

I’m telling you all this because like English, Thai has a number of taboo words too. Anybody who is currently learning Thai from Noi whom you first met at Pussy Galore on Patpong will have memorized these words quicker than you can say “bar fine”. It is not my job to list them here, suffice to say Thai just like English has colorful words for things such as fornication in all its forms, especially with someone’s mother or an elephant, as well as the male and female anatomy.

Despite all these rude and disgusting words, there is one word which out-disgusts them all. It is a word that you will never hear a Thai use, simply because within the frame of Thai culture it is frowned upon, more than “hatch”, more than “tui” … even more than a sick buffalo.

That word is “No”.

There. I wrote it. Thais reading my column are going to feel uncomfortable seeing that word on paper but it’s time for the world to know. When it comes to cross-cultural peeks into the minds the Thais, nothing is more valuable than knowing a Thai is simply unable to say “no” to your face.

In Thai there is a popular phrase: ”Kid doo gorn” (คิดดูก่อน). It can be translated roughly as “Let me think about that,” and indeed I have heard it being used by Thais speaking English as “I will think about that and contact you again.”

This translation is far too literal to be of any use. I’ve seen green foreign businessmen walk away from meetings thinking things went well after a Thai used this phrase. How sadly mistaken they are … for the real meaning of ”kid doo gorn” is “no”.

For ages I believed that when I suggested something at a meeting, their ”kid doo gorn” reply was an indication my words were being keenly considered, or what I suggested was so interesting and deep the recipient needed time to consider its glorious ramifications.

In reality what follows “kid doo gorn” is a deafening silence from your business associate. The phrase means: “No, I don’t want to, but I’m too polite to say it in front of your face for fear of upsetting you. And I don’t want to be around when you find out I mean no.”

Kheu yang nee (คืออย่างนี้) is another way Thais avoid saying “no.” This phrase can be translated as “It’s like this …” and is used to extrapolate or further explain.

Again, I was a slow learner.

Kheu yang nee is actually a linguistic signpost. It means: “The following information will not sit well with you. It is contrary to how you want things to be and this is my feeble excuse why it is indeed that way.” You can see how the Thai language economizes on words nicely.

For example: “The financial report you said you’d send me yesterday still hasn’t arrived. Have you finished it?”

“Kheu yang nee …” You, dear reader, may now insert some unfortunate series of events, not unlike a Channel 7 soap opera, only there is no accompanying soundtrack of cheap muzak downloaded illegally from the net. You will instead develop a slow sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as you realize the speaker is taking his or her time to say: “No.”

You may indeed be sucked in by the “kheu yang nee” as I have on occasions. It acts as a depressant on a par with heroin; and indeed, after hearing some excuses in my time I have felt like transforming one of my six-for-100-Baht Chatuchak handkerchiefs into a tourniquet. But ultimately, if you ask a question that requires a yes-no answer but receive a “kheu yang nee”then the speaker is simply saying “no.”

A long time ago I introduced you to my former squash partner. I called him Eddie From Hell, for reasons you are about to learn. Eddie was so Thai you could literally hear somtam and kai yang as he spoke. Thus he could never bring himself to say “no”.

Instead, he used what is the most commonly-used word by Thais to evade the profane two-letter word … and no matter much I tried to box his ears, or deliberately whack the squash ball into his crotch during play, he would not stop using it.

That replacement word? “Maybe” (อาจจะ /àatjà/).

This should be in the pamphlets they hand out at Suvarnabhumi Airport. “Welcome to Thailand. Don’t do drugs, always use a condom, and ‘maybe’ means ‘no’.”

I have scoured Thai school textbooks which teach the English language and can’t find the offending text that teaches “maybe” as a way to say “no”, but nevertheless the whole country knows it and doesn’t want you to be let in on the secret.

I have been in Thailand so long now that when I have a business meeting I can gauge whether the other party is interested or not. This is not due to any amazing intelligence nor am I the latest reincarnation of Doris Stokes.

It’s just that the moment the other party utters one of these phrases … kid doo gorn, kheu yang nee, maybe … I am aware the meeting is a failure and it’s time to look at other alternatives.

Is this a bad thing? Not if you can read the signposts. While over in the West we are more direct about letting our partners know, here in Thailand they are just as direct – but in a roundabout way.

Also, the Thais are not deliberately setting out to deceive you, and this is an important point. They are trying to save you from feeling bad.

Yes, I know, ultimately a “no” is a “no” and you’re going to feel doubly bad somewhere down the line for not knowing sooner. But we should know the signposts if we are doing business here. It saves us a lot of tears, and will prevent those jaded foreigners who don’t see the signposts from sitting in Silom bars after work using profanities so common in the Billboard Top 20 to describe the Thais.

That’s my dream; for us to start understanding the ubiquitous undercurrent that flows in our private and work lives in this country, rather than just cursing those mother-hatchin’ Thais and their strange ways. With apologies to my father.

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): Paeng and Jeud

Andrew Biggs

When I was a child one of my favorite literary characters was Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.

Dressed in rags and barefoot, he was a 12-year-old vagabond who wandered around St Petersburg smoking cigarettes and getting into all sorts of mischief with his best friend Tom Sawyer.

I never thought I would find common ground with Huck Finn. I’m not a vagabond, and I certainly never wandered around Sunnybank as a child smoking cigarettes – there were far too many broken beer bottles strewn around to do that. But I have to say, on the eve of my departure from Australia back to Bangkok, for the first time I have felt like little Huck. I have also felt like a Thai.

For the past three weeks I’ve been in Australia and how lovely to be back home, despite home now being one of the most expensive countries on earth. A robust economy, a strong dollar coupled with skyhigh labor rates has left me in awe – and as penniless as Huck Finn.

I am not usually one to count my pennies and I must quickly add my spending habits are as bi-polar as a Sunnybank housewife from the late 1970s. Last week in Sydney I purchased a Gant shirt whose price tag would feed a family of five from Mukdahan, down for a red shirt protest in the city, for at least a month.

But my next stop was Target – glorious, glorious Target, where I can pick up a black T-shirt and boxer shorts for the price of a bus ticket to Mukdahan (oh for goodness sakes look that province up on a map – you should know where it is by now anyway). The beauty of Target is it’s cheap and it has my size – not a Robinson sales girl shaking her head and patting my stomach in sight.

While on vacation I am very adept at closing my eyes as I hand over my Visacard, breathing deeply as I pray to Buddha my card is not declined. I can always pay off the bill sometime later. That has been my attitude every time I have been back to Australia. To hell with the cost. Just enjoy yourself.

Until this trip.

Very early into this visit I made myself stop converting price tags back into Baht for fear of having to take a voyage on the good ship Prozac. Going out to dinner is another surprise, putting it mildly. Drinks and dinner at one seafood restaurant set me back $80, something I’d normally not worry about too much because (a) I’m seeing friends I don’t see that often and (b) after my third Penfold’s I’m up for anything.

But on that particular night I did feel a little put out paying 2,500 Baht for my share of dinner at the seafood restaurant not so much because of the price, but because my dear friends forgot I was allergic to seafood, thus rendering the salad I had the costliest I’d ever eaten.

I have become what I often chastise Thais about.

Thais are terrible overseas travellers. There are two very clear reasons why, and they can be summed up in the two most common words you will hear any Thai say when he or she leaves the country — paeng (แพง) and jeud (จืด).

paeng means “expensive” and I love the way they say it. It’s as if one of those Japanese nuclear reactors has exploded in their mouths.

Thais don’t just casually blurt out paeng like they might say sawat dee (สวัสดี) or kin khao (กินข้าว). Oh no. Sawat dee and kin khao are friendly Thai words that require a gorgeous Thai smile along with an amiable slight tilt of the head to the right.

paeng is a different kettle of pla tu (ปลาตู้). It takes effort, along with a general muscle spasm in your face, to say it right. When a Thai sees something that’s expensive, it’s not just an utterance. It’s an event!

I once went on a Sydney trip with Thai students as they participated in a speech competition. Accompanying us was a very friendly Thai government official, a woman whose chief duties abroad were to pile as much food onto her buffet plate as humanly possible along with complaining as to why there was never any fish sauce on the table.

On the few occasions I was medicated enough to take her shopping, her behaviour was nothing short of a constant stream of ejaculations – those of “Oo-ee!” (อู๊ย) and then the subsequent ”Paeng!” The only respite I got from that was when we chanced to pass one of those hideous “NOTHING UNDER TWO DOLLARS!” shops with stacks of koala ashtrays and kangaroo combs in the dirty windows. She nearly ejaculated herself upon seeing that. For the next hour she was lost in the aisles of that dusty cavern, her shopping basket piled high with gifts for those tortured souls back home who constituted her family.

If paeng is a linguistic favorite, then jeud comes a close second.

Back in 2002 I went on a fantastic trip to Italy, with gorgeous memories of driving down the Amalfi Coast. One of the joys of that trip was the pasta and pizza in all its variations. In Sicily I ran into three Thais on a group tour also having a great time. Upon asking about the food, they simply shook their heads and said jeud. They were existing on instant noodles from Thailand.

I had a bowl of instant noodles once; it was like pouring hot water into a bucket of MSG. I couldn’t help but wondering if the shrivelled-up powder sachets might be an inexpensive alternative to cocaine but never got round to testing out that theory.

Thais will visit the most exciting culinary capitals of the world carrying suitcases of these hideous instant noodles.

That’s because of Thais’ terrible belief that food overseas is jeud or “bland”. Well it’s their own fault, that’s all I can say. Thais have tongues that have been numbed by the three kg of chillies they consume on a daily basis. And name me another country with the variety and taste sensations as we have in the Land of Smiles. Thus the moment a Thai ventures out of the country, everything else tastes secondary. It’s like listening to Abbey Road then changing the disc to Celine Dion Live At Las Vegas.

Alas, the karmic wheel has a wicked sense of humor.

On this journey I heard myself uttering paeng and jeud on a daily basis. And indeed, at Bondi Junction in Sydney I felt adrenaline when I saw a Thai restaurant open in the early morning. As my two Aussie mates chowed down on bacon and eggs, I got a Thai omelette with pork on rice. And it filled me with a sense of elation.

By the time this is published I will be back. Huck’s back! I’m no longer the poor cousin from afar – I’m in my home territory! Mind you I have lots to show for my three weeks in Australia. I have new clothes from “abroad” as I’ll loudly explain. I have visacard bills my children shall inherit. And I have lots of koala ashtrays and kangaroo combs to dish out to friends.

All of this I managed to get through without paying excess baggage. And why should I? There was a huge space left in my suitcase after finishing off all the instant noodles.

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Andrew Biggs (Thai Memories): Deluxe

Andrew Biggs

Does this happen to you, too?

In Thailand, do you suddenly find yourself in situations where you think – why? Why is this happening to me?

I just ordered a pizza. Actually it was three, and no, it’s not because I’m prepping for that new Thai TV show that started last night called, of all things, “Dance Your Fat Off.”

(Haven’t seen it yet but loved the pre-publicity: “Fat people take to dancing to lose weight. Each week, the person who’s lost the least amount of weight gets booted off.” Looks to me like the bastard, sadly-deformed-at-birth child of “Dancing With The Stars” and “The Biggest Loser.” Expect a column out of it when I do get to see it.)

No, I had my staff over for our annual beginning-of-the-year meeting. I called it our “2013 Vision” meeting, or “Wi-chun” meeting as my graphic artist kept calling it, which is ironic since his name is “Wi-chien”.

Anyway in my generosity I ordered pizza for lunch on the strict proviso all my staff obeyed my every command for the rest of the year.

Ordering a pizza over the phone is something I haven’t done in ages. This is the conversation that took place in the Thai language.

“Hello Khun Suthon, may I take your order?” the sweet voice answered and enquired.

“I’m not Suthon,” I said.

“You’re not Khun Suthon … hmmmm. According to our records, this cellphone number belongs to Khun Suthon.”

Oh my goodness. I remembered.

Some years ago, the very first time I ordered a pizza in this country, I was required to give all my personal details.

The memory is hazy, but I do recall being on the phone for the time it would take to deliver a pizza to Pattaya, answering all manner of personal details such as my marital status, age, weight, favored position, income and body type.

In that way, I was told, every time I called after that my order would be processed far more conveniently. It had nothing to do with the pizza company’s ability to sell that information to some evil telemarketing company. Of course not. In my ignorance I relented.

That day I wasn’t only wallowing in ignorance. My memory was hazy because I was also wallowing in the effects of one too many Absolut Vanilla screwdrivers so I gave a fake name. Suthon Jaidee.

Ah, the hilarious things we do while under the influence.

“Wait!” I replied. “I remember now. I am Suthon. That’s me. Khun Suthon.”

Silence.

“No, really, I am,” I said quickly changing the subject. “And I want to order three pizzas.”

“Which toppings would you like, Khun Suthon?” she asked in a tone of voice suggesting she didn’t believe in ghosts or UFOs.

“One ham and pineapple, one spicy chicken, and one deluxe.”

“One ham and pineapple, one spicy chicken, and one de-look” (เดอลุกซ์).

“No,” I said. “Not de-look.”

It was at that moment I could feel myself saddling up my high horse. Funny how that equestrian always rears its ugly head in such situations.

“De-LUX.” I added. “It’s de-LUX. Like the soap.”

“So … you want to cancel the de-look?”

Now I was in trouble.

“No! No. I don’t want to cancel it.”

“You said ‘no de-look’.”

“No I didn’t.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand you, Khun Suthon. You want three pizzas, and the last one is a de-look.”

“The last one is a deluxe,” I replied. “We don’t call it a de-look. You Thais made that pronunciation up yourself.”

“Oh … you are not a Thai, Khun Suthon?”

Man, was I digging myself a hole.

“Well no, but my name is Thai. I, er, grew up overseas. I’m a displaced orphan from the Vietnam war era.”

Silence.

“That was a joke,” I said.

“Repeating your order: one ham and pineapple, one spicy chicken, and one de-look.”

She paused.

“Correct?” she asked, saying it as if she was plunging a spear into my chest.

Correct? Correct? How could I say yes to that, dear reader? I’m a linguist, dammit … how can I say that the word “deluxe”, when pronounced de-look, is correct?

There was something definitely evil, almost dominatrix-like, going on here. That pizza operator was playing head games with me, I know. (And of course, by using the name Suthon, I wasn’t playing head games with her, was I?).

I have asked this question before in this column but I will ask it again — Why is it that perfectly good English words get ripped to shreds when pronounced in Thai, especially on days when I haven’t had a good night’s sleep?

I can handle the omission of that final “s” because the Thai language doesn’t have such words. But why do we change a perfectly good vowel sound like “u” as in “but” or “cut” into the more flimsy pathetic “oo” sound of “look” or “cook”?

Isn’t it funny how we all have our pet peeves? I can’t stand any shop assistant who announces: “No have.” My friend Stuart nearly pees his pants if somebody says “Same same.”

Meanwhile Eilat has Siamese kittens when she hears “I no like,” and Craig goes ape-fecal over the pronunciation of “buffet” as “boof-fay” (บุฟเฟ่ต์).

And me? I’m a “de-look” kinda guy.

“Can I just say something here?” I said by way of answering this clearly manipulative, but clever, pizza operator.

“I just want to say that in English, it’s pronounced de-LUX, not de-look as you say it. Remember that. And tell your friends.”

“But we’re not speaking English, Khun Suthon.”

Oh my god.

She got me.

She’s right.

The word “deluxe” has its origins in French, meaning “of luxury”. And, of course, the French pronounce it similar to the way the Thais do, only a little more condescendingly.

Since when has it been stated that when speaking Thai, all foreign words must be pronounced as they are in English?

Was I just smarting because the Thais have favored the French over the English pronunciation?

I have nothing against the French, though they clearly have something against the British. When last in Paris the most valuable sentence I learned was “Je suis un Australien” so they would at least be nice to me – despite, at that time, Australia’s very vocal damning of French nuclear testing in the Pacific.

There are all sorts of words used in Thai that take the French pronunciation. Little nibblies are or-derf (ออเดิฟ), coffee is gar-fair (กาแฟ) and the word for France itself is farang-set (ฝรั่งเศส) which sounds to me like it comes from the French way of saying France with an emphasis on the last sound.

None of these bother me. So why be bothered with de-look? Or boo-fay for that matter, Craig?

Face it, Andrew. You just lost a linguistic battle to a pizza operator.

“Yes all right,” I said, feeling sick. “The … de-look … pizza.”

Kha” (ค่ะ), she answered. I could hear her troops’ hoots of victory from the front line as she spoke.

Two days later I was checking into a hotel in Suphan Buri to give a speech. As the bell boy carried my bag to the room, I was told: “You have been upgraded. To a hong soot” (ห้องชุด).

Oh god.

That’s another one.

A suite is a soot (ชุด) in Thai, rhyming with “suit”, another bastardization that gets my goat.

We can’t even blame the French for that one – where did that one come from? And why does that immediately incur my wrath?

“Air conditioning is here, and the light switch is over there,” the friendly hotel staffer told me once inside the room. “Would you like to order room service?”

“Certainly not a pizza,” I said.

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