A Woman Learning Thai...and some men too ;)

Learn Thai Language & Thai Culture

Tag: Speak Like a Thai

Thai Slang Put into Phrases: Free Audio and PDF Downloads Included

Benjawan Poomsan Becker

After creating the post, Thai Slang You Might Need to Know I thought it’d be whacking great fun to create phrases out of each slang word. And Thai friends though it would be interesting as well. Game on.

But when I went looking for volunteers, not a one would touch it with a ten foot poll. “Go for it” they said “it’ll be a learning experience for you” they said. So here we are.

Be warned. I seriously did not feel comfortable creating the translations for this post. I don’t use a lot of Thai slang personally, so I did struggle.

Sean Harley: Slang evolves constantly (some go out of fashion, some make a comeback, some don’t, some become really popular, etc). It can also be ‘jargony’, for example it may mean something to teenagers but something else to adults.

This list is not new slang, it’s been around for awhile (you can find many of the words in Benjawan’s Speak Like a Thai series (1&2). And while the teenagers of today do have their own evolving language, many of the terms below, like hi-so and gik, are quite common. But of course there will be pockets of the local population who would have to ask for translations of a few, same as I did.

My translations had a double aim: First) to give an ballpark idea of the meaning in English. And second), where possible, to share English idioms with a Thai friend.

Needless to say, my Thai friend and I had a whale of a time with her trying to get Thai slang through to my thick head, and me trying to explain often old-fashioned Western slang to her.

We both loved it. Perhaps too much. My head still hurts.

Now, not everyone will agree with the translations below. As mentioned, this was a learning experience for me, so under those circumstances it’s to be expected.

All I ask is that you please share your corrections/suggestions either by commenting below, or via the contact form. Both will be welcomed.

Ah. I almost forgot. To see how Google Translate (GT) gets on with Thai slang, I added those as well. Ha! And what a laugh that was … just see for yourself.

Finally, Thai slang put into phrases…

กรอบ /gròp/ dirt poor

สมชายจนกรอบ เลยถูกแฟนทิ้ง
sŏm-chaai jon gròp loie tòok faen tíng
Somchai’s girlfriend left him because he’s dirt poor.

GT: Somchai was crushed by the fans. 


กร่อย /gròi/ boring

เรื่องผจญภัยที่เขาเล่ากร่อยมาก
rêuang pà-jon pai têe kăo lâo gròi mâak
The adventure story he told was so boring!

GT: The story of his adventures very chilly.


กระตั๊ก /grà dták/ abundant

เขาจีบผู้หญิงเก่งเขามีแฟนเป็นกระตั๊ก
kăo jèep pôo yĭng gèng kăo mee faen bpen grà dták
He’s good at flirting, that’s why he gets extra bits on the side.

GT: He flirts with a good woman, he has a girlfriend.


กระต่ายตื่นตูม /grà-dtàai dtèun dtoom/ the sky is falling (rabbit frightened of noise)

เรื่องนิดเดียวทำตกใจเป็นกระต่ายตื่นตูม
rêuang nít dieow tam dtòk jai bpen grà-dtàai dtèun dtoom
You are making a mountain out of a molehill.

GT: A little scarecrow shocked.


กิ๊ก /gík/ boyfriend, girlfriend, lover in a non-serious relationship 

ผู้ชายคนนี้มีกิ๊กเป็นกระตั๊ก
pôo chaai kon née mee gík bpen grà dták
This guy gets bookoo fluff.

GT: This guy has a gaggle.


เกิด /gèrt/ have a chance to shine 

ใส่ชุดนี้ไปงาน เกิดแน่นอน
sài chút née bpai ngaan · gèrt nâe non
Wearing this suit makes you look like a million bucks.

GT: Put this dress to the birth of course.


แก้มือ /gâe meu/ try to do better when given a second chance (to fix a new hand)

วันก่อนเขาเล่นหมดเงิน วันนี้เขาจะแก้มือ
wan gòn kăo lên mòt ngern · wan née kăo jà gâe meu
The other day he lost all his money gambling. Today he expects to win.

GT: The day before he played all the money. Today he will revenge.


ไก่อ่อน /gài òn/ inexperienced guy, naive (innocent chicken)

เรื่องไม่ธรรมดาอย่างนี้ไก่อ่อนอย่างเขาทำไม่ได้
rêuang mâi tam-má-daa yàang née gài òn yàang kăo tam mâi dâai
This is an unusual problem for a newbie to deal with.

GT: This is not as unusual as he can not do.


ขาประจำ /kăa bprà-jam/ regular customer

สมชายเป็นขาประจำร้านนี้เพราะคนขายสวย
sŏm chaai bpen kăa bprà-jam ráan née prór kon kăai sŭay
Somchai is a regular customer at this shop because of the nice looking vendor.

GT: Somchai is a regular attendant because of this beautiful salesman.


ขี้เต่า /kêe dtào/ silly/unimportant thing (armpit) 

อย่าคิดให้กลุ้มมันเป็นเรื่องขี้เต่า
yàa kít hâi glûm man bpen rêuang kêe dtào
Don’t think too much; it’s not such a big deal.

GT: Do not think of it as a dorky thing.


ขี้เลื่อย /kêe lêuay/ dull minded (sawdust)

ไอ้หัวขี้เลื่อย เรื่องแค่นี้ก็คิดไม่ออก
âi hŭa kêe lêuay · rêuang kâe née gôr kít mâi òk
Dmn you, stupid! It is what it is – no more and no less. You are clueless!

GT: Sawdust head This just does not work out.


ขึ้นกล้อง /kêun glông/ photogenic (rise in the camera)

นางแบบคนนี้ขึ้นกล้องมาก
naang bàep kon née kêun glông mâak
This model is mighty photogenic.

GT: This model is very camera.


เขี้ยวลากดิน /kîeow lâak din/ tough, does not easily give in (long in the fang – long toothed)

นายจ้างคนนี้มันเขี้ยวลากดิน
naai jâang kon née man kîeow lâak din
This employer is savvy.

GT: This employer is wily.


ควาย /kwaai/ stupid person (buffalo)
ผัวฉันโง่เหมือนควาย
pŭa chăn ngôh mĕuan kwaai
My husband is as foolish as a buffalo.

GT: I’m a fool like a buffalo


ค่าโสหุ้ย /kâa sŏh-hûi/ overhead (cost / expense – Chinese origin?)

ค่าโสหุ้ยแพงหูฉี่
kâa sŏh-hûi paeng hŏo-chèe
The cost is unreasonably high.

GT: Expensive Expenses


คุณไสย /kun-săi/ black magic 

เขาคงโดนเมียน้อยใช้คุณไสยเข้าแล้ว
kăo kong dohn mia nói chái kun-săi kâo láew
His mistress must have used black magic on him.

GT: He was mistaken to use you occult.


เครื่องร้อน /krêuang rón/ act immediately with enthusiasm (hot engine)

นักวิชาการเพิ่งจบมากำลังเครื่องร้อน
nák wí-chaa gaan pêung jòp maa gam-lang krêuang rón
The junior academic is enthusiastic.

GT: The scholars have just finished the heat.


งก /ngók/ stingy

เขางกสุดๆ ไม่แบ่งให้ใครหรอก
kăo ngók sùt sùt · mâi bàeng hâi krai ròk
He’s way stingy. He won’t share.

GT: She was not the best one to share it with.


งงเต็ก /ngong dtèk/ confused

คุณพูดอะไรฉันงงเต็ก
kun pôot a-rai chăn ngong dtèk
What are you going on about? I’m confused.

GT: What do you say?


งูๆปลาๆ /ngoo ngoo bplaa bplaa/ knowing very little about something (snake snake fish fish)

ฉันพูดอังกฤษได้งูๆปลาๆ
chăn pôot ang-grìt dâai ngoo ngoo bplaa bplaa
My English is next to nothing.


GT: I speak english


จ๋อย /jŏi/ be sad and dejected (to be pale)

พอทุกคนรู้ว่าเขาโกหก เขาหน้าจ๋อยเลย
por túk kon róo wâa kăo goh-hòk · kăo nâa jŏi loie
Everyone knows he’s lying. He went pale.

GT: Enough that everyone knows he is lying He’s a lil


จับกบ /jàp gòp/ stumble and fall (to catch a frog)

ถนนไม่ดี เดินดีๆ เดี๋ยวจับกบหร็อก
tà-nŏn mâi dee · dern dee dee dĭeow jàp gòp rók
It’s a bad road. Walk carefully or you’ll fall.


GT: The road is not good.


จ๊าบ /jáap/ cool (Onomatopoeic word?)

ว้าว วันนี้คุณแต่งตัวจ๊าบจัง
wáao · wan née kun dtàeng dtua jáap jang
Wow. You cleaned up mighty fine today!

GT: Wow, today you dress up!


จิ๊ก /jík/ steal little things (the sound of pecking something?)

มีคนมาจิ๊กเงินในกระเป๋าตังฉัน
mee kon maa jík ngern nai grà-bpăo dtang chăn
Someone lifted money from my purse.

GT: Someone was juggling my wallet.


เจ๊ /jáy/ older sister (Chinese word) 

เจ้าของร้านเรียกตัวเองว่าเจ๊
jâo kŏng ráan rîak dtua ayng wâa jáy
The shopowner refers to herself as ‘older sister’.

GT: The owner called himself chef.


เจ๊ง /jéng/ going out of business, bankrupt (to collapse)

ร้านนี้ขายไม่ดี เจ๊งไปแล้ว
ráan née kăai mâi dee · jéng bpai láew
This shop sold badly, it’s gone out of business already.


GT: This shop is not sold well gone.


เจ๋ง /jĕng/ cool, great! 

คุณพูดได้เจ๋งมาก
kun pôot dâai jĕng mâak
You speak very well!

GT: You say so cool


เจาะลึก /jòr léuk/ investigate thoroughly (to drill deep)

เขากำลังเจาะลึกข่าวการเมือง
kăo gam-lang jòr léuk kàao gaan meuang
He’s delving into politics.


GT: He’s going deep into politics.


แจ๋ว /jăew/ wonderful! (Onomatopoeic word?)

ความคิดคุณแจ๋วจริงๆ
kwaam kít kun jăew jing jing
Your idea is magnificent!

GT: Your thoughts are really beautiful.


แฉ /chăe/ reveal (possibly from English ‘share’)

เขาเอาเรื่องเมียเก่ามาแฉ
kăo ao rêuang mia gào maa chăe
He reveals everything about his ex wife.


GT: He was the old man unfolding.


ชวด /chûat/ miss, lose out on (rat, animal of the Thai zodiac)

อย่าช้านะ เดี๋ยวชวด
yàa cháa ná · dĭeow chûat
Don’t be late or you’ll lose out.

GT: Do not be late


ชะนี /chá-nee/ “woman” used by gay men (gibbons make sounds like ผัว /pŭa/ husband)

หมั่นไส้ชะนีพวกนี้ เดินตามผัวอยู่ได้
màn sâi chá-nee pûak née · dern dtaam pŭa yòo dâai
I despise women who walk behind their husbands.

GT: Gibbons Walk with your husband


ช้างน้ำ /cháang náam/ big, fat person (hippo)

เขาใส่ชุดนี้แล้วเหมือนช้างน้ำ
kăo sài chút née láew mĕuan cháang náam
In this dress she looks like a hippo.

GT: He dressed like a waltz.


เช้งกะเด๊ะ /cháyng gà dé/ extremely beautiful and sexy woman (Onomatopoeic word?)

วันนี้คุณสวยเช้งกะเด๊ะจริงๆ
wan née kun sŭay cháyng gà dé jing jing
Today you look smoking hot.

GT: You are really beautiful today.


เชย /choie/ old-fashioned

ชุดคุณเชยมาก
chút kun choie mâak
Your dress is out of fashion.

GT: You very cheesy


เชียร์แขก /chia kàek/ try to get customers to buy (loanword: ‘cheer’ on guests)

เขามีหน้าทีเชียร์แขกหน้าบาร์
kăo mee nâa tee chia kàek nâa baa
Her job is to attract customers into the bar.

GT: He has a cheeky face in front of the bar.


ซวย /suay/ unlucky

ซวยอีกแล้วงวดนี้
suay èek láew ngûat née
Yet again I am unlucky with the lottery.

GT: Hes again this period.


ซา /saa/ subside 

เมื่อก่อนขายของดี แต่ตอนนี้ซาลง
mêua gòn kăai kŏng dee · dtàe dton-née saa long
Before this we could make a good sale but it’s slowed down now.

GT: Once before the sale of good. But now sa


ซ่า /sâa/ showy 

หนุ่มคนนั้นทำตัวซ่าซะไม่มี
nùm kon nán tam dtua sâa sá mâi mee
The young guy behaves like a big shot but he really really isn’t.


GT: The young man does not have a body.


ซิ่ง /sîng/ brave and hip in expressing oneself, to race, to leave quickly (shortened from ‘racing’)

ซิ่งมาเลย ฉันไม่มีเวลาแล้ว
sîng maa loie · chăn mâi mee way-laa láew
Hurry! I don’t have any time.

GT: I have no time.


เซ้ง /sáyng/ lease (Chinese origin?)

ตึกนี้ให้เซ้งทุกๆ10 ปี
dtèuk née hâi sáyng túk túk sìp bpee
This building has a ten year lease.

GT: This building is rented every 10 years.


เซ็ง /seng/ dull 

ผมเซ็งกับงานนี้มาก
pŏm seng gàp ngaan née mâak
I’m really bored with this job.

GT: I was very impressed with this job.


ดอกฟ้า /dòk fáa/ high-ranking woman, young female of rich and powerful family (sky flower)

เธอเป็นดอกฟ้า ผมเป็นหมาวัด
ter bpen dòk fáa · pŏm bpen măa wát
She’s an uptown girl – I’m a backstreet guy.

GT: She is a fairy.


ดองงาน /dong ngaan/ procrastinate on working (pickling the job – slowing down work)

เจ้านายบ่นเพราะเขาชอบดองงาน
jâo naai bòn prór kăo chôp dong ngaan
The boss complains because his employee likes to slow down the job.

GT: The boss complained because he liked the job.


ดำน้ำ /dam náam/ guess (diving without knowing what you’ll hit)

คุณไม่รู้จริงอย่ามาดำน้ำ
kun mâi róo jing yàa maa dam náam
You don’t really know for sure, you just guess.

GT: You do not know, do not dive


ดีแตก /dee dtàek/ turning out to be not so good (broken goodness)

เขาเคยดี แต่เดี๋ยวนี้ดีแตก
kăo koie dee · dtàe dĭeow née dee dtàek
He used to be nice but now he’s just full of it.

GT: He used to be good, but now it’s good.


ดูไม่จืด /doo mâi jèut/ not looking good (look not bland)

ชุดที่ใส่ไปงานเมื่อคืน ดูไม่จืดเลย
chút têe sài bpai ngaan mêua keun · doo mâi jèut loie
The dress you wore at the party last night did not do you any justice.

GT: The dress that was put to work last night did not look fresh.


เด็กกะโปโล /dèk gà-bpoh-loh/ dirty, uncivilized and innocent child (childish child) 

คุณแต่งตัวให้ลูกยังกับเป็นเด็กกะโปโล
kun dtàeng dtua hâi lôok yang gàp bpen dèk gà-bpoh-loh
You dress like trailer trash.

GT: You are also dressed up as a child.


เด็กแนว /dèk naew/ young person who follows all the new trends (stylish kids)

เด็กคนนี้แต่งตัวเป็นเด็กแนว
dèk kon née dtàeng dtua bpen dèk naew
This child dresses trendy.

GT: This kid is dressed up as a kid.


เดิ้น /dêrn/ stylish and modern, go-go (shortened from ‘modern’)

ผมชอบมองเขาเพราะเขาแต่งตัวเดิ้นมาก
pŏm chôp mong kăo prór kăo dtàeng dtua dêrn mâak
I like to ogle him because he dresses stylishly.

GT: I like looking at him because he is very


เดี้ยง /dîang/ dead, out of order, broken, unwell

ตอนนี้เดี้ยง ขอพักก่อน
dton-née dîang · kŏr pák gòn
(I’m) feeling unwell now, (I) want to rest.

GT: Now, let’s rest.


ไดโนเสาร์ /dai-noh-săo/ old-fashioned (dinosaur, English loanword)

อย่าทำตัวเป็นไดโนเสาร์เต่าล้านปีได้มั้ย
yàa tam dtua bpen dai-noh-săo dtào láan bpee dâai máai
Don’t behave like a dinosaur! Will you?

GT: Do not act like a million-year-old dinosaur turtles?


ตกม้าตาย /dtòk máa dtaai/ fail before reaching success or goal (fall down from a horse and die)

เขาทำดีมาตลอดแต่ตกม้าตายตอนเกษียณ
kăo tam dee maa dtà-lòt dtàe dtòk máa dtaai dton gà-sĭan
He started out well but in the end fell flat on his face.

GT: He’s done good, but he fell off his horse when he retired.


ตงฉิน /dtong-chĭn/ work honestly (Chinese origin?)

ตำรวจคนนี้ได้รางวัลเพราะเขาทำงานตงฉินจริงๆ
dtam-rùat kon née dâai raang-wan prór kăo tam ngaan dtong-chĭn jing jing
This policeman received a reward because he’s super honest on the job.


GT: This cop won because he worked really hard.


ต้ม /dtôm/ bamboozle, trick, deceive (to boil) 

ฉันโดนเพื่อนต้มจนสุก
chăn dohn pêuan dtôm jon sùk
I was ripped off by a friend.

GT: I was cooked until cooked.


ต่อยหอย /dtòi hŏi/ very talkative (to keep punching a shell to break it)

ผู้หญิงคนนี้พูดเป็นต่อยหอย
pôo yĭng kon née pôot bpen dtòi hŏi
This woman has a motor mouth.

GT: This girl is talking


ตัวซวย /dtua suay/ jinx (unlucky person)

แกมันตัวซวย ไปไกลๆ ไป
gae man dtua suay · bpai glai glai bpai
You’re jinxed. Get away from me.

GT: It’s far far away.


ตาถั่ว /dtaa tùa/ be careless (peanut eyes)

แกมันตาถั่วจริงๆ นี่มันของปลอม
gae man dtaa-tùa jing jing nêe man kŏng bplom
You really turn a blind eye to fakes.

GT: You really eye it. This is fake


ติ๊งต๊อง /dtíng-dtóng/ wacky (Onomatopoeic word?)

เขาชอบทำตัวติ๊งต๊อง
kăo chôp tam dtua dtíng-dtóng
He likes to act crazy.

GT: He likes to do


ติดดิน /dtìt din/ down-to-earth, earthy (to stick to the ground)

เขารวยมากแต่ชอบทำตัวติดดิน
kăo ruay mâak dtàe chôp tam dtua dtìt din
He’s rich but down to earth.

GT: He is very wealthy but likes to stick to the soil.


ตีนแมว /dteen maew/ burglar (cat feet – cats walk softly, soundless)

เมื่อคืนฝนตก ตีนแมวเข้าบ้านไม่รู้ตัว
mêua keun fŏn dtòk · dteen maew kâo bâan mâi róo dtua
Last night when it rained we didn’t know a burglar had come into the house.

GT: When the rain falls, the cat’s feet enter the house unconsciously.


เตะฝุ่น /dtè fùn/ unemployed (to kick the dust)

เขาไม่มีงานทำเดินเตะฝุ่นทุกวัน
kăo mâi mee ngaan tam dern dtè fùn túk wan
He’s out of work. He’s forever without a job.

GT: He does not have to do daily walks.


เต่าล้านปี /dtào láan bpee/ very old-fashioned person (million year old turtle)

ความคิดแบบเต่าล้านปีนี่ เลิกได้แล้ว
kwaam kít bàep dtào láan bpee nêe · lêrk dâai láew
This outmoded idea has long ceased to be.

GT: This Taoist idea has ceased to exist.


แต๊ะอั๋ง /dtáe-ăng/ grope or touch sexually (Chinese origin?)

เวลาอยู่บนรถเมล์ระวังโดนแต๊ะอั๋งนะ
way-laa yòo bon rót may rá-wang dohn dtáe-ăng ná
Watch out for gropers when you are on the bus.

GT: Time to be on the bus.


ทึ่ง /têung/ amazed (Onomatopoeic word?)

เขาพูดได้น่าทึ่งมาก
kăo pôot dâai nâa têung mâak
He’s impressive when he speaks.

GT: He speaks amazingly.


ทุเรศ /tú-râyt/ obscene, shabby (ugly)

หยุดทำทุเรศๆ ได้มั้ย
yùt tam tú-râyt tú-râyt · dâai máai
Can you stop being so disgusting!?

GT: Can you make it?


นกเขา /nók kăo/ cock, penis (dove)

ช่วงนี้ไม่รู้เป็นไร นกเขาไม่ขันเลย
hûang née mâi róo bpen rai · nók kăo mâi kăn loie
I don’t know what’s wrong with my penis. It isn’t alert at all.

GT: This is not known. Dove no fun


นกต่อ /nók dtòr/ informant (bird decoy)

หมอนั่นมันเป็นนกต่อของตำรวจ
mŏr nân man bpen nók dtòr kŏng dtam-rùat
That guy is a stool pigeon for the police.

GT: That doctor is a police bird.


นั่งนก /nâng nók/ sleep while sitting (sitting bird)

เขานั่งนกอยู่ที่โต๊ะทำงาน
kăo nâng nók yòo têe dtó tam ngaan
He fell asleep sitting straight up at the table at work.

GT: He sat at the desk.


น้ำเน่า /nám nâo/ dull and monotonous, soapy, soap operas (drains are not filled with good water)

สมัยนี้มีแต่ละครน้ำเน่า
sà-măi née mee dtàe-lá kon nám nâo
These days there are only monotonous soaps.

GT: This is a soap opera.


นิ้ง /níng/ superb (Onomatopoeic word?)

วันนี้คุณสวยนิ้งจริงๆ ใครๆก็มอง
wan née kun sŭay níng jing jing krai krai gôr mong
Today you are gorgeous indeed, everyone is looking at you.

GT: Today you’re really pretty looking at anyone.


เนี้ยบ /níap/ perfect, smart

อาจารย์คนนี้แต่งตัวเนี้ยบมาก
aa-jaan kon née dtàeng dtua níap mâak
This professor is a smart dresser.


GT: This teacher is very dressed up.


บอกผ่าน /bòk pàan/ inflate the price of something 

นี่ราคาปกติ ไม่ได้บอกผ่าน
nêe raa-kaa bpòk-gà-dtì · mâi dâai bòk pàan
This is the normal price. I didn’t put it up.

GT: This price is not usually told through.


บ๊อง บ๊องๆ /bóng · bóng bóng/ crazy (Onomatopoeic word?)

ชายคนนี้ยิ่งแก่ ยิ่งทำตัวบ๊องๆ
chaai kon née yîng gàe · yîng tam dtua bóng bóng
This man, the older he gets, the crazier he acts.

GT: This man is older. The act


บ้าๆบอๆ /bâa bâa bor bor/ crazy (Onomatopoeic word?)

เขาชอบพูดเรื่องบ้าๆ บอๆ
kăo chôp pôot rêuang bâa bâa bor bor
He likes to talk about crazy things.


GT: He likes to talk crazy


ปล่อยไก่ /bplòi gài/ embarrassed, make a silly or careless mistake (to release chickens)

ล่ามคนนั้นปล่อยไก่ แปลผิดโดยไม่รู้ตัว
lâam kon nán bplòi gài · bplae pìt doi mâi róo dtua
That guy unknowingly made a mistake. He translated it incorrectly.

GT: That translator is bloated. Misunderstandings


ปอดแหก /bpòt hàek/ chicken-hearted (broken lungs)

เขาปอดแหกไม่กล้าเดินคนเดียวตอนกลางคืน
kăo bpòt hàek mâi glâa dern kon dieow dtor nók laang keun
He’s a coward. He not brave enough to walk by himself at night.

GT: He did not dare to walk alone at night.


ปั้นเรื่อง /bpân rêuang/ make up a story (to mold a story)

เด็กคนนี้ชอบปั้นเรื่อง
dèk kon née chôp bpân rêuang
This kid likes to make up stories.

GT: This kid likes molding stuff.


ปากหอยปากปู /bpàak hŏi bpàak bpoo/ someone who gossips and causes damage to others (shell mouth, crab mouth)

อย่าไปฟังพวกปากหอยปากปู
yàa bpai fang pûak bpàak hŏi bpàak bpoo
Don’t listen to big mouths.


GT: Do not listen to the phalanx.


ปิ๊ง /bpíng/ click – between lovers (Onomatopoeic word?)

ผมเห็นเธอก็ปิ๊งเลย
pŏm hĕn ter gôr bpíng loie
I loved her at first sight.

GT: I see you are screaming.


แป๊บ /bpáep/ one little moment (Onomatopoeic word?)

เขาไปแป๊บเดียวแล้วก็กลับมา
kăo bpai bpáep dieow láew gôr glàp maa
She went away for just a minute and then came back.

GT: He went one by one and came back.


ผีเสื้อสมุทร /pĕe sêua sà-mùt/ big ugly woman (character from Thai literature)

เขาดูเหมือนผีเสื้อสมุทแต่เขาใจดี
kăo doo mĕuan pĕe sêua sà-mùt dtàe kăo jai dee
She has the look of a big ugly woman but she’s kindhearted.

GT: He looks like a butterfly, but he is kind.


เผา /păo/ gossip about, talk behind one’s back (to burn someone)

เธอชอบเอาเรื่องของเพื่อนไปเผา
ter chôp ao rêuang kŏng pêuan bpai păo
She likes to make trouble for her friend by gossiping.

GT: She likes to make friends with her.


ฝรั่งจ๋า /fà-ràng jăa/ those who idolise Western ways (food, dress, movies, lifestyle)

ความคิดเขาฝรั่งจ๋าเกินไป
kwaam kít kăo fà-ràng jăa gern bpai
Her mindset is too Western.

GT: He thinks too guilty


ฝอย /fŏi/ chat, brag

หยุดฝอยได้แล้ว
yùt fŏi dâai láew
Stop bragging already!

GT: Stop the fuzzy


เพื่อนซี้ /pêuan sée/ very close friend 

เราเป็นเพื่อนซี้กัน
rao bpen pêuan sée gan
We are very close friends.

GT: We are friends


แพะรับบาป /páe ráp bàap/ scapegoat (goat sin)

เขาไม่ผิดแต่เขาต้องมาเป็น แพะรับบาป
kăo mâi pìt dtàe kăo dtông maa bpen · páe ráp bàap
He is not in the wrong, but he had to be the whipping boy.

GT: He is not guilty, but he must be a scapegoat.


ภาษาดอกไม้ /paa-săa dòk máai/ language of love (flower language)

หล่อนพูดเป็นภาษาดอกไม้
lòn pôot bpen paa-săa dòk máai
She speaks the language of love.

GT: She speaks a flower language


ม้ามืด /máa mêut/ dark horse (unexpected winner)

เขาเป็นม้ามืด ไม่มีใครรู้ว่าเขาจะชนะ
kăo bpen máa mêut · mâi mee krai róo wâa kăo jà chá-ná
He was a dark horse; an unexpected winner.


GT: He is a dark horse No one knows that he will win.


มีกะตังค์ /mee gà dtang/ rich (to have coins – gà dtang comes from satang สตางค์ which means coins/money)

เขาใช้ของเหมือนคนมีกะตังค์
kăo chái kŏng mĕuan kon mee gà dtang
He lives as if he’s rich.

GT: He used to be like a man with money.


มือขึ้น /meu kêun/ having good luck (hand up)

คืนนี้เขาเล่นไพ่มือขึ้นจริงๆ
keun née kăo lên pâi meu kêun jing jing
Tonight he had really good luck at playing cards.

GT: Tonight he really played poker.


มือตก /meu dtòk/ having bad luck (hand down)

เมื่อวันก่อนเขายังมือตกอยู่เลย
mêua wan gòn kăo yang meu dtók yòo loie
The previous day he was unlucky.

GT: The day before he still hands down.


เมาท์ /mao/ speak with friends for fun, chat (shortened from ‘mouth’)

พอครูออกนอกห้อง ทุกคนก็เมาท์กันอย่างสนุกสนาน
por kroo òk nôk hông · túk kon gôr mao gan yàang sà-nùk-sà-năan
As soon as the teacher leaves the room everyone starts gabbing.

GT: When the teacher leaves the room. Everyone was happy.


แมงดา /maeng-daa/ pimp (insect, giant waterbug)

แมงดานั่นคุมซ่องนี้อยู่
maeng-daa nân kum sông née yòo
He’s the pimp who oversees the brothel.

GT: The pimps that control this broth.


ไม่เป็นสับปะรด /mâi bpen sàp-bpà-rót/ bad tasting or of low quality (not a pineapple)

เขาทำงานไม่เป็นสับปะรดเลย
kăo tam ngaan mâi bpen sàp-bpà-rót loie
His work is of low quality.

GT: He is not a pineapple.


ยาบ้า /yaa bâa/ methamphetamine, meth, amphetamine, speed (crazy medicine)

ผู้ชายคนนั้นติดยาบ้า
pôo chaai kon nán dtìt yaa bâa
That guy is a drug addict.

GT: The man is addicted to amphetamines.


ร้อนตับแตก /rón dtàp dtàek/ darn hot (row of dried nipa palm leaves used as a roof – doesn’t break but feels like it)

ออกไปข้างนอกดีกว่า ในนี้ร้อนตับแตก
òk bpai kâang nôk dee gwàa · nai née rón dtàp dtàek
It’s better to go outside. Inside it’s dang hot!

GT: Go out better In this hot, cracked liver.


รู้อย่างเป็ด /róo yàang bpèt/ familiar with many things but a master of none (to know like a duck)

พอเขาพูดออกมา เรารู้เลยว่าเขารู้อย่างเป็ด
por kăo pôot òk maa · rao róo loie wâa kăo róo yàang bpèt
As soon as he spoke, I understood right away that he doesn’t know very much.

GT: As he speaks out We know that he is dull.


เรื่องขี้ผง /rêuang kêe pŏng/ easy matter or trivial (story dust)

ไม่ต้องห่วงผม เรื่องนี้เรื่องขี้ผง
mâi dtông hùang pŏm · rêuang née rêuang kêe pŏng
Don’t worry about me, it isn’t anything much.

GT: Do not worry about me This story is trivial.


ลองของ /long kŏng/ try something usually bad 

คุณไม่ต้องมาลองของผม ผมรู้ทันคุณ
kun mâi dtông maa long kŏng pŏm · pŏm róo tan kun
You don’t have to try one on. I know when you are up to something.

GT: You do not have to try my hand, I know you


ลักไก่ /lák gài/ cheat in a game, to test someone (to steal a chicken)

ผมรู้ว่าคุณลักไก่
pŏm róo wâa kun lák gài
I know you’re a cheater!

GT: I know you


ลูกมือ /lôok meu/ helper or assistant (small hand)

ฉันชอบเป็นลูกมือทำอาหารให้เขา
chăn chôp bpen lôok meu tam aa-hăan hâi kăo
I’d like to be his cooking assistant.

GT: I like to cook for him.


วาบหวาม /wâap wăam/ provoking sensation or sexually explicit (Onomatopoeic word?)

คุณแต่งตัววาบหวามจังเลย
kun dtàeng dtua wâap wăam jang loie
You dress so sexy!

GT: You dress up


เว่อร์ /wer/ too much (shortened from ‘over’). 

อย่าแต่งตัวเว่อร์เดี๋ยวคนคิดว่าคุณบ้า
yàa dtàeng dtua wêr dĭeow kon kít wâa kun bâa
Don’t overdress, people will think you’re crazy.

GT: Do not dress up now, people think you crazy.


สวิงเด้ง /sà-wĭng dâyng/ scream with excitement 

เธอดีใจแบบสวิงเด้ง
ter dee jai bàep sà-wĭng dâyng
She’s immensely happy!

GT: She is happy swing.


สะเออะ /sà-ùh/ meddle

อย่ามาสะเออะเรื่องของฉัน ฉันไม่ชอบ
yàa maa sà-ùh rêuang kŏng chăn · chăn mâi chôp
Don’t poke your nose into my business. I don’t like it!


GT: Do not worry about me I do not like


สันดาน /săn daan/ trait

เด็กคนนี้สันดานเหมือนพ่อ
dèk kon née săn daan mĕuan pôr
(They’re) childish, just like their father.

GT: This child is like a father.


ไส้แห้ง /sâi hâeng/ destitute (dry intestines – to be starving)

เขาไม่มีงานทำ เลยไส้แห้ง
kăo mâi mee ngaan tam · loie sâi hâeng
He doesn’t have work. (He’s) penniless.

GT: He has no job to do


หน้าโหล /nâa lŏh/ common looking face (a dozen faces – everything the same)

เขาหล่อแบบหน้าโหลๆ
kăo lòr bàep nâa lŏh
He’s plain looking.

GT: He is a beautiful face


หมดตูด /mòt dtòot/ dead broke (finished pooping)

เดือนนี้ผมหมดตูด เลยไม่มีเงินไปเที่ยว
deuan née pŏm mòt dtòot · loie mâi mee ngern bpai tîeow
This month I have nothing left. There isn’t money to go out.

GT: This month I am out of order. No money to go


หมวย /mŭay/ young Chinese woman (Chinese origin?)

คุณสวยเหมือนหมวย
kun sŭay mĕuan mŭay
You’re beautiful, like a young Chinese woman.

GT: You are like boxing


หมาวัด /măa wát/ poor man (temple dog)

ผมเป็นหมาวัดที่หมายปองดอกฟ้า
pŏm bpen măa wát têe măai bpong dòk fáa
I’m a lowlife but I have high hopes.



GT: I am a temple dog.

หมาหมู่ /măa mòo/ group of dangerous men (a group of dogs)

เขาโดนพวกหมาหมู่รุม แต่มีตำรวจผ่านมาพอดี
kăo dohn pûak măa mòo rum · dtàe mee dtam-rùat pàan maa por dee
He was badly threatened by scum but the police came just in time.

GT: He was hit by the crowd But the police came through.


หมู /mŏo/ easy (pig)

งานนี้หมูมากสำหรับฉัน
ngaan née mŏo mâak săm-ràp chăn
This work is a piece of cake for me.

GT: This work is very pig for me.


หยวน /yŭan/ give in reluctantly

หยวนๆ ให้แล้วกันงานนี้
yŭan yŭan · hâi láew gan ngaan née
No loss no gain. Let’s make it this time around.


GT: Yuan to this job.

หลุดโลก /lùt lôhk/ eccentric or quirky (out of this world)

เขาเป็นคนหลุดโลก
kăo bpen kon lùt lôhk
He’s an eccentric guy.

GT: He is out of the world


หวย /hŭay/ illegal lottery, lotto 

ฉันซื้อหวยทุกงวด
chăn séu hŭay túk ngûat
I grab lottery tickets under the table whenever they’re around.

GT: I buy lottery every period.


ห่วย /hùay/ bad, no good

งานของคุณห่วยจริงๆ
ngaan kŏng kun hùay jing jing
Your work is truly good-for-nothing.

GT: Your work really sucks.


ห่วยแตก /hùay dtàek/ crap! (bad broken)

เขาทำงานแบบห่วยแตก
kăo tam ngaan bàep hùay dtàek
Their work is crap!


GT: He works a shabby way.


ห้องกง /hông gong/ jail (cell room – hông gong rhymes with Hong Kong)

ตอนนี้เขาอยู่ที่ห้องกง
dton-née kăo yòo têe hông gong
He’s in a jail cell now.


GT: Now he is in the Gong room.


หายต๋อม /hăai-dtŏm/ disappear for a long time (disappear + the sound of throwing something into the water)

นานแล้วเราไม่เจอกันเลย คุณหายต๋อมไปไหนมา
naan láew rao mâi jer gan loie · kun hăai-dtŏm bpai năi maa
We haven’t seen each other in yaks ages. Where did you disappear to?


GT: Long time ago we did not see each other. How did you get lost?


แห้ว /hâew/ lose one’s opportunity, to blow it (chestnut)

แห้วแล้วเรา ผู้หญิงคนนั้นมีแฟนแล้ว
hâew láew rao · pôo yĭng kon nán mee faen láew
We blew it. That woman already has a boyfriend.

GT: Frustration, we girls have a girlfriend.


เฮง /hayng/ fortunate, lucky (Chinese origin?)

ในที่สุดก็เฮง ถูกล็อตเตอรี่รางวัลที่สอง
nai têe sùt gôr hayng · tòok lót-dter-rêe raang-wan têe sŏng
I finally got lucky! I won a second lottery prize.


GT: Finally Heng Was the second prize lottery.

เฮี้ยน /hían/ manifesting the power of an evil spirit

ถนนนี้เกิดอุบัติเหตุบ่อยๆ เจ้าที่เจ้าทางเฮี้ยนมาก
tà-nŏn née gèrt u-bàt-dtì-hàyt bòi bòi jâo têe jâo taang hían mâak
This road is accident prone. The road god is vindictive.


GT: This road accident often. You are very goddamn.


ไฮโซ /hai soh/ high-class (shortened from ‘high society’)

พวกไฮโซนั่น ชอบใช้ของแบรนด์เนม
pûak hai soh nân · chôp chái kŏng bae ron-naym
The beautiful peeps always go for the brand names.

GT: The noble ones like to use the brand name.


Speak Like a Thai 1&2…

Many of the words (with phrases) in this list can be found in Benjawan’s Speak Like a Thai series.

Speak Like a Thai Volume 1
Speak Like a Thai Volume 2

Smartphone Apps: Talking Thai <> English Dictionary+Phrasebook…

Most of the slang vocabulary used in this post will be in the Talking Thai-Eng-Thai Dictionary by Paiboon Publishing and Word in the Hand.

iOS app: Talking Thai <> English Dictionary+Phrasebook
Android: Talking Thai <> English Dictionary+Phrasebook

Thai slang phrases download files…

PDF Download: Thai Slang Put into Phrases – 398kb
Audio Download: Thai Slang Put into Phrases – 4.8mg

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

Before I go I’d like to think Benjawan for letting me use her slang list. Benjawan also suggested changes to the first run of the phrases – again, thanks! And I’d like to thank KP (my long-suffering Thai friend), who records for WLT and answers a gazillion questions about the Thai language and the Thai people, and my terrible Thai. Thanks to all!

Share Button

Successful Thai Language Learner: Ann Norman

Successful Thai Language Learner

Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners…

Name: Ann Norman
Nationality: American
Age range: 50-60
Sex: Female
Location: Pittsburgh
Profession: Editor
Website: CarabaoinEnglish.com

What is your Thai level?

Advanced Intermediate.

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

I learned to speak standard Thai while living in the Issan region, so I speak standard Thai but am not thrown by the word “bor” “บ่”.

What were your reasons for learning Thai?

Successful Thai Language LearnerRight after college, 30 years ago, I joined the organization Food for the Hungry and they sent me to work in BanVinai Refugee Camp with Hmong refugees in Loei Province. Of course I needed to speak Thai (and also Hmong) to be effective and, importantly, to have friends, so I did it.

While in Thailand I became a fan of the band Carabao (I was an instant fan the moment I heard the first song) and was a huge fan at that time. After returning home, about 20 years later, once the Internet was invented, I realized I could look for Carabao on YouTube. I was astounded to find the band was still together and had been making music nonstop the entire time I had been gone. I had to get caught up on 20+ years of music! I set out to relearn the language.

After my kids left home and went to college, I also hosted two Thai foreign exchange students, which was another motivation to relearn the language.

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

I lived in Thailand for a little over two years around 1985 and 1986. I never went back.

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

1985-86, 2010 to present.

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

I jumped into learning to the best of my ability. Unfortunately, my organization did not send me to formal training, but they did pay for books and cassette tapes and anything I set up informally, such as paying a friend to come sit with me and help me learn. At that time there were some American Embassy language learning tapes and books, which I used, and the other method I used was to have a friend come over and make tapes of the exact phrases I felt I needed. I would state a sentence in English and they would repeat it in Thai into a tape recorder. I would use the tape to memorize the sentences.

The other Americans I was working with seemed fluent in Thai, so it was a good example for me. Much of our social circle was Thai, so I needed to speak Thai in order to have friends. After a year they went home and new people arrived, and I was the expert. I regret that at that time I did not learn to read Thai. It would have been really useful.

Fast forward to the later period: I thought my Thai might just come back to me if I exposed myself to the language again. I had never entirely forgotten it because of the music I brought home. At first I just randomly watched YouTubes of Thai music that had English subtitles. This is how I discovered Palmy, Bodyslam, Be Peerapat, and Scrubb.

I made Thai friends on facebook who had similar musical tastes and listened to anything they posted. Sometimes we skyped. These things were fun, but of course not very efficient for language learning.

My first foreign exchange student brought me a Thai alphabet book, so I had already learned the Thai alphabet when I finally decided to get serious and take a class online.

It was a Thai facebook friend who gave me the link to Learn2SpeakThai.net. Khru Mia assessed me and said, “This will be easy. From this point, you will be able to read in 11 one hour lessons.” She was right! It was amazing. The classes were very systematic, each building on the previous lesson in a logical way. Of course, I had to study 2 or 3 hours for each lesson. She even told me that further lessons would not be strictly necessary because I could just go out there and start reading, using Thai2English to help me along, and I would learn grammar from reading.

I also bought Thai for Intermediate Readers and Thai for Advanced Readers books and several Speak Like a Thai series CDs from Benjawan Poomsan Becker, and those were extremely valuable.

With a whole lot of help from the two foreign exchange students and Thai2English, I was already beginning to translate Carabao songs into English. The second student was especially helpful, helping me with many songs. On the last night he was here, he helped me with an “emergency” translation of a Sek Loso song that I needed to impress Sek Loso who (I really believe this happened) had just said hello on one of the facebook pages. On this night, I said, “Oh no. What will I do without you?” And he said, “You are about 85% correct without me. You will be 85% correct.” And with that attitude, I soldiered on, translating songs and begging friends to check them until today when I am about 95% correct without help. You can see the results at CarabaoinEnglish.com.

Did you stick to a regular study schedule? What Thai language learning methods did you try?

No, sadly . . . but the obsessiveness with the music perhaps makes up for it. At least there is no problem with motivation. I am constantly involved with the language and learning new things. I forgot to mention that the music also leads me to listen to interviews and TV shows related to the music where I can also hear a lot of spoken Thai. Also, I read the posts in Thai of my Thai facebook friends and learn that way.

Did one method stand out over all others?

The formal classes from Learn2SpeakThai.net were probably most valuable. Khru Nok was my actual teacher (Khru Mia runs the program). Next would be Benjawan Poomsan’s books.

How soon did you tackle reading and writing Thai?

Very late in the game! (See above)

Did you find learning to read and write Thai difficult?

No.

What was your first ‘ah hah!’ moment?

My ‘ah hah’ moment was when I realized I could read Thai with my mouth shut. It seemed like magic that I could stop sounding out words and still “hear” them in my head. I had a flashback to when I was 5, lol!

How do you learn languages?

I repeat things out loud and memorize. I feel I need to be able to say it in order to internalize the meaning of the words.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

I have a hard time distinguishing the different vowels. I have been told I’m pretty good with the tones. I used to be better at speaking than listening, but after so long with no one to speak with, that has probably changed.

What is the biggest misconception for students learning Thai?

There are two common misconceptions:

  • 1) That it is impossible to learn Thai because of the tones (the tones are conquerable within 6 months).
  • And 2) that the language is easy to master because there is no grammar. (There is in fact a rich grammar that I can’t hope to ever fully understand.)

Can you make your way around any other languages?

No. Just English and Thai.

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

Yes, Hmong, and long ago I spoke Hmong and Thai equally well. I could also read Hmong, which uses an English alphabet. However, now I’ve forgotten Hmong.

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

Check out the band Carabao! Aed Carabao is a poet and a living legend. He is probably the greatest singer/songwriter in the world. Go to CarabaoinEnglish.com to listen to Carabao YouTubes while reading translations and transliterations of the lyrics. Learn Thai by singing amazing music! ☺

Ann Norman,
CarabaoinEnglish.com

The Series: 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.

Share Button

You Want to Speak Like a Thai?

Say it Like a Thai Would

Say it like a Thai would…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, don’t mis-read or mis-remember what I’m saying. I’m saying that there’s no doubt in every native Thai speakers mind that those people are foreign speakers of Thai. What I’m NOT saying about those foreign speakers is their Thai isn’t clear, isn’t concise, isn’t understood 100% outta the gate or isn’t responded to by the Thais. I’m just saying that ANY native Thai speaker knows those people aren’t… <-native speakers. I've said time and again you should take ANY compliment thrown you way about your Thai with a grain of salt. There is a Thai idiom for something so insignificant, so trivial that it means less than nothing and that idiom is เท่าขี้ตามด or "equal to the sleep in the eye of an ant”. In all my world travels (and I’ve been to a fair few countries) I've never ran into a demographic of people who were more over complimentary to foreigners speaking their language than the Thais. If a foreigner can manage to spit out "Sweaty Crap" <-(you read that right) for สวัสดีครับ, these people are piling on the accolades. In fact, I’ve found the exact opposite is true where foreigners speaking Thai is concerned. When a Thai doesn't say anything, as in not one word about the fact that you're a foreigner speaking Thai to them, that's when you know your Thai language chops are getting there. Now don’t get confused and start thinking you’re sounding like a native Thai speaker, because you don’t. What you are doing is "saying it like a Thai would”. That is the key to success in speaking this language so that Thais understand what you’re saying to them. I'm not telling you that you shouldn’t learn how to pronounce Thai words to the best of your ability, because you need to pretty much nail the words. I mean if it's a short vowel you can't draw it out, if it's a long vowel you can't shorten it and the same goes with the tones. You can’t add emotion into your spoken Thai by varying the intonation like we do when speaking English. That’s what the myriad of Thai particles are for. You also need to hit the tones pretty darned close (for the most part). What I am telling you, is to invest the time learning how to "say it like a Thai". Don't take an English sentence and translate it into Thai, re-sequence the words, and think these people are gonna understand you, because they won’t (most won’t anyway). Instead, LISTEN to how Thais say things in regards to sentence structure, cadence and rhythm when they speak. Pay close attention to where they pause <- (very important!) when they are speaking, what words they routinely leave out or drop because they’re understood in the context of a conversation and start speaking your version of Thai that way. Benjawan Poomsan Becker has a series of c/d’s and booklets out called Speak Like a Thai. They are plain and simple worth twice their weight in gold. Well, most of them are, some are just fluff, but still, they’re good. The vocab is fairly contemporary, the example sentences are good, and you can get the feel of how a native speaker says things She also has one out called Improve Your Thai Pronunciation and it’s good too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Luck,
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

Share Button

Thai Language Thai Culture: Detours in Becoming Fluent in Spoken Thai

Thai Language

Detours in Becoming Fluent in Spoken Thai…

In my experience, the best language learners are people who love to talk and listen. They are quite often story tellers, raconteurs, writers, journalists, anyone who loves to give their opinions, ask questions, listen to how other people think, people who just can’t survive unless they can talk with just about anyone about just about anything; those who are highly motivated just to simply communicate. These people seem to pick up foreign languages better than those who are more reluctant to express themselves to others or those who don’t particularly care what other people are thinking.

Often, when someone comes to Thailand, even with lots of initial motivation to learn to speak the language, within a short period of time you may hear the expression “I’m giving up learning Thai. It’s just too difficult.” You rarely get that attitude with someone who is addicted to talk. They’ll put in the hard work as long as it pays off with their being able to communicate.

Besides the difficulty in learning a language there are other roadblocks to one becoming fluent. There are a number of detours that learners of Thai tend to take that can take them off the road to spoken fluency. These detours can get us stuck spending time and energy away from everyday communication. Often, taking detours can be well worthwhile and can take us places we would never have gotten to. But we should always get back on the road to our destination of language fluency as quickly as we can.

We all have a finite amount of language learning energy. It seems that the older we get the less energy we have available. Too much time spent on these “detours” will take away from our energy to just speak Thai.

I know many people will disagree with some of my thoughts expressed here. I invite your comments.

Detours on the way to language fluency…

Idioms and Slang: (สำนวน /săm-nuan/ and ภาษาตลาด /paa-săa dtà-làat/ – “market language”, aka Street Thai)

I know some people who spend hours a day learning Thai idioms and slang. They are the life of many parties although they may have not mastered everyday Thai yet. Idioms and slang are fun to play with. And Thais, being skilled word players, love it when a foreigner can produce even one.

For instance, the term ยิงกระต่าย /ying grà-dtàai/, “to shoot the rabbit” is an idiomatic way of saying “to urinate”. If you use it in certain situations your Thai friends will think you are a magician, “pulling a rabbit out of a hat”. But, as with most idioms, we have to know when to use it and when to use the everyday vocabulary for this same action.

When we are in a car driving down a country road with friends and we want the driver to pull over so we can relieve ourselves on the side of the road we can say we need to ยิงกระต่าย. “Pull over, I need to shoot a rabbit.” It works really well in this instance since we might even look like we are rabbit hunting while we are standing there with our backs to the road.

The idiom doesn’t work so well say in a doctor’s office and the nurse asks you to urinate in a cup. If you didn’t know the formal Thai term ปัสสาวะ /bpàt-săa-wá/, which the polite nurse would invariably use, you’d probably have to look at the cup and guess what exactly she wanted you to produce. Since that cup could mean that the nurse needed to collect any number of things (from a man especially), hopefully you’ll guess correctly and hand her back something she really asked for.

By the way, learners of Thai are not the only ones who spend lots of energy on these detours. Thai students of English will spend a considerable amount of time learning English slang. I just read an English teaching Internet posting on the meaning and use of the English term “That’s freakin’ tight”. When was the last time you used that term in a conversation?

Boss: Somchai, we are considering hiring you for the open position.
Somchai: That’s freakin’ tight.
Boss: On second thought …

If you have a limited amount of time and energy then I would spend it on stuff that matters and maybe would produce a better outcome.

So, spend some time learning idioms and slang, they’re great fun, but don’t forget to spend enough time on learning the common words for what they are referring to and learning which situation to use which.

Proverbs (สุภาษิต /sù-​paa-​sìt/)…

I know a man who has been here for more than 30 years. For years he has spent at least one hour a week studying Thai with a teacher. And most of their time is spent learning Thai proverbs.

This man has a huge vocabulary and has notebooks full of Thai, and when he is in various social situations he always has a Thai proverb that he can pull out of his hat to get his point across. He must know hundreds of Thai proverbs. When not speaking in proverbs though, his spoken Thai is pretty basic.

For instance, this friend was talking about someone who was not comfortable in a certain situation. I might have said something like ในสถานการณ์นั่น เขารู้สึกอึดอัด /nai sà-tăan gaan nân kăo róo sèuk èut àt/.

ใน: in
สถานการณ์: situation
นั่น: that
เขา: he
รู้สึก: feel
อึดอัด: uncomfortable

But instead he used the beautifully accurate Thai proverb ปลาตายน้ำตื้น /bplaa dtaai nám dtêun/ – literally “the fish will die in shallow waters”. He was saying that this man felt like a “fish out of water”.

ปลา: fish
ตาย: die
น้ำ: water
ตื้น: shallow

He was right on with using the correct proverb for the correct situation and his Thai listener was amazed. But he would be hard pressed to use the word สถานการณ์ – “situation” or อึดอัด – “uncomfortable” in a complete and correct Thai sentence.

When I hear him speak Thai it reminds me of a Peace Corps English teacher I once knew here who was stationed upcountry. He got so bored with his duties he thought he would put some spice into his teaching. So instead of teaching Standard English he started teaching his students Shakespearean English. “Where are you going?” became “Whence goest thou?” The students were producing completely understandable and correct English but once Peace Corps Bangkok found out about this he was on the next flight home.

Learn as many Thai proverbs as you can. They are such fun and lots of them rhyme and use word play. But don’t forget to practice standard Thai, because unless you are like my friend and know at least one proverb for every situation you encounter, you might just be up sh*t’s creek without a paddle.

Word play (เล่นคำ /lên-​kam/)…

In every group of Thais, especially Thai men, there will be one or two who are really brilliant in word play, punning, and especially the กลับคำ /glàp kam/ Thai word play. This is where you take the first sound of one word and exchange it for the first sound of another word, and then flip the positions, ending with something usually amusing and most often off color.

For example: I was asked to join a seniors’ golf club tournament. I asked what the name of the organizing club was and was told that it was the กล้วยไม้ /glûay-​máai/ – “Orchid” Club. I knew something was funny when the whole group began to laugh hysterically at this name. I didn’t see the joke, yet. What is so funny about orchids?

What was happening was that they were playing with the words and using กลับคำ word play. Here is how you do it: take the two words that make up “orchid” กล้วย /glûay/ and ไม้ /​máai/ and switch the first sound of each and then reverse the order of the words.

กล้วยไม้ /glûay-​máai/ -ใกล้ม้วย (/glâi/ + ม้วย /múay/). ใกล้ = “close” and ม้วย is one of the Thai words for “death”. So the กล้วยไม้ or “Orchid” seniors club, when flipped was the quite appropriate, ใกล้ม้วย, the “Close to Death” club of us senior citizens. And a big laugh was had by all (including me once it was explained).

Here is another one: If someone talks about you and uses the Thai nonsense syllables เกลี่ยมัว /glìa mua/ then I wouldn’t take that as a compliment. Flipped, the nonsense syllables come out to กลัวเมีย /glua mia/ – literally “afraid of the wife” but having more of the idiomatic meaning of p’ whipped.

You can spend time learning this kind of word play, and many foreigners do, but I find it much too linguistically mind boggling to figure these things out and it would take too much time away from learning to just say things the way they are.

Once again I have been rather “G” rated here but be aware that กลับคำ word play almost always turns a nice innocent Thai word into a very off-color term.

Reading…

Reading Thai is a great way to spend your energy. But a lot of people fool themselves into thinking that reading alone will lead to speaking fluency. Developing skills in one doesn’t always translate into becoming skilful in the other.

I have run into two very different types of Thai learners here. One who speaks as much as he can; learning vocabulary as it is needed in everyday communication, making as many verbal mistakes as possible, learning from those mistakes, listening to how words are pronounced and repeating them verbatim.

A second type is one who reads Thai constantly. They learn all the tone rules, build a great vocabulary, and know Thai grammar in and out.

The first ones have a good chance of becoming fluent in spoken Thai. They may or may not become literate though unless they start hitting the books.

The second ones will be quite literate but unless they get their heads out of the books and start to speak to others, all the vocabulary, grammar, and tone rules may not help their speaking ability.

In order to learn how to speak one must speak.

Of course the best is to do both, basing the time spent on each on what your goals are for learning Thai. Some people may even use reading as a way to avoid speaking. If your goal is reading fluency then that is no problem. If your goal is speaking fluency then the time spent not speaking would be considered one of those detours to fluency.

To avoid that I would learn to speak first and only after developing a bit of language efficiency would I start spending time learning to read – just as any native speaker of any language would. Then, fluency may not be far behind.

Thais are master wordsmiths and the Thai language is full of slang and idioms and sayings and proverbs and rhyming. Have fun with the language but remember not to spend too much time off road at first. Put enough time into learning to speak standard Thai and later, if you can combine the two, you’ll reach your destination.

For those who would enjoy a short detour these 2 CDs, with accompanying books, and these websites, are lots of fun. Also, I have written some advanced reading textbooks and a vocabulary builder that you can have as free downloads if you ever decide you want to read Thai newspapers.

Hugh Leong
Retire 2 Thailand
Retire 2 Thailand: Blog
eBooks in Thailand

Share Button