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Book Review: ๕,๐๐๐ สำนวนไทย (5000 Thai Idioms)

Book Review: 5000 Thai Idioms

Review: 5000 Thai Idioms…

Title: ๕,๐๐๐ สำนวนไทย (นับแต่อดีตจวบจนปัจุบัน)
5000 Thai idioms; from the past right on up to now! [paraphrased]
Author: เอกรัตน์ อุดมพร
ISBN: 978-974521855-0

First off I wanna say that “5000 Thai Idioms” was recommended by David Rubin who is DavidandBui from the Thai Language dot com dictionary/forum website. They have a great website! It has a KILLER online dictionary, a free Thai dictionary iPhone app, good learning Thai resources and a great supportive forum about the Thai language.

I was more than a little hesitant to buy this book; seeing as both the idioms and the meanings are all Thai. Sometimes I’ve found when using Thai/Thai only reference material, the meanings provided don’t make the word’s definition any clearer (at least not to me).

My fears were groundless and I was pleasantly surprised paging thru it. First off the font was easy to read. It wasn’t one of those squirrelly Thai fonts which for some reason are so popular. You know the kind, they’re so stylized and so microscopic that you can’t tell if it’s a ไม้โท or a ไม้หันอากาศ (or at least I can’t, even with my reading glasses on!) Also I immediately noticed that the meanings were not only pretty clear, but written at level of Thai where I could make the leap in logic on what most of them meant without having to break out the dictionary. I have found the less you can use a dictionary and the more you can make out the meanings by context, the faster your Thai comprehension improves. There’s nothing worse than trying to read Thai but every other word you have to break out the dictionary because you’re reading stuff way over your current level of comprehension. I think this book would work for a high-beginner or low-intermediate reader IF they really wanted to read it. If you have a Thai native speaker/reader handy it’d be even easier!

The book is broken down alphabetically ก-ฮ and there is some bleed over, where a particular saying is in more than once place due to different ways it can be phrased. The idioms I’m going to use in this article are just ones I pulled out at random from the ones I highlighted, so they’re in no particular order.

I’ve just spent the last four months reading this book cover to cover, idiom by idiom, highlighting ones which I knew compared to an English idiom, ones which I thought were novel, and ones which would “fit” with the version of Thai I routinely speak. So far I’ve run several hundred of what I picked out as my favorites past the Thaiz I know. Some are hits, as in they know them and start reciting them as soon as I’d start saying it. Then again some were misses, and I mean by MILES! Even when I tried to explain them in Thai to Thaiz, they didn’t know what it meant. Sitting Soi side, half-cocked one night with my เพอืนฝูง’s (flock o’ Thai friendz) I actually had to go home, get the book and come back to show them that I wasn’t making up the saying. Now granted this could be due to the fact I speak pretty darned piss-poor Thai as far as clarity which could have been compounded by being half drunk as well.

During the time I’ve been going thru this book I’ve come to realize idioms are “conditions of humanity”. These are things which humans the world over have experienced, time and again, generation after generation and come up with a saying to relate it to one another in whatever language they speak. Once you take into account geography, culture, religion and background, the idioms between English and Thai are really close to each other in meaning. A couple off-the-wall examples are; in English we have “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”, in Thai they have “you shouldn’t sell the bearskin before you kill the bear” ไม่ควรขายหนังหมีก่อนฆ่าหมีได้. Now that’s a pretty strange idiom because I didn’t even know this place had bears, that Thaiz hunted bears or wore bearskins! Thai does have the actual don’t count your chicken idiom in อย่านับไข่ก่อนที่แม่ไก่จะออกไข่ more like “don’t count the eggs until the hen lays them”. Another one we have in English is; “something is better than nothing”. Strangely Thai has; กำขี้ดีกว่ากำตด “A handful of shit is better than a handful of fart”. Now any way you slice it, that idiom carries the same meaning! They have a “pig in a poke” as well with ยอมแมวขาย “dye a cat and sell it”.

It would appear that most if not all the Thai sayings are primarily agrarian based in origin. This is not surprising, seeing as not very many generations ago most of the people in the country were farmers and a good portion are to this day. It’s no different than the sayings in American English, most which have their roots tied firmly to our pioneer/farming background. In English we have “cotton’s short but the weeds are tall”, In Thai ข้าวยากหมากแพง “rice is difficult to grow, betel nut is expensive”. Both equate to hard times. Funny enough Thai has the “kill two birds with one stone” although they say ยิงปืนนัดเดียวได้นกสองตัว “shoot the gun once get two birds”.

There are oh-so many doz-don’tz, shouldz-shouldn’tz in the book. I mean the section which starts with อย่า is just staggering; in fact it’s 20 pages worth of entries! Some of the don’ts I just plain ไม่เก็ท. Here’re a couple examples; อย่ากินขี้ อย่าสี (ร่วมเพศ) หมา now that translates as “don’t eat shit, don’t have sex with dogs”. The meaning seems to say that some things you shouldn’t do in public, but even in private that’s out there. อย่าควักเอาลูกตาออกแล้วเอาเมล็ดมะกอกยัด “don’t pluck out your eye and stuff your eye socket with an olive pit”. The meaning is if you have something good; don’t think you should replace it even if it’s old with something new. They have อย่าใช้คนบ้า and อย่าใช้พ่อแม่, the first is “don’t use crazy people” and the meaning says don’t employ crazy people; the second is don’t employ your father/mother. Anyway, you get my drift. Some are so out there that I mean who would even contemplate doing that to begin with. Did so many people do this that they had to make up idioms warning people about it?

It is also not surprising that a LOT of the sayings are class/face based (or they sure come across to me like that); given these peoples penchant for putting everyone neatly on some mythical ladder rung of success and their fixation on giving, gaining, not losing and saving face. Also there seems to be a real slant towards telling women how to act in relation to their husbands, by an overwhelming factor. However, I didn’t see a whole heck of a lot of idioms which went the other way and told husbands how to act towards their wife!

There’s also TON of Buddhist related stuff in it too. So, if those kinda philosophical, yet wordy saying float your boat, this book will be right up your alley. It’s not that I don’t like those idioms, I do, and they’re good. It’s been pointed out to me, if you nail one of those idioms with a Thai; you’ve got the upper hand for sure. It’s just a lot of them are way too wordy for me to throw into the conversation.

For me an idiom/saying has to meet several criteria; it has to be relevant to whatever I’m talking about, it has to be short enough to spit out without hemming ‘n hawing AND has to drive home the point I’m trying to make using it without the need for me to say more than that idiom.

Some really funny ones about doing something just for the sake of getting it done without regard to quality are เหมือนหมาเลียน้ำร้อน “like a dog licks hot water” and เหมือนลิงล้างก้น “like a money washing its ass”. They’ve got a TON of stupid/foolish comparatives too like สมองหมาปัญญาควาย “brain of a dog, intelligence of a buffalo”. I got quite a kick out of มาไทยไปฝรั่ง for someone who “shows up to work perpetually late, yet leaves right on time”.

While this is a great book chock full of tidbits o’ wisdom, where it’s really lacking is; there should be some notation letting you know if an idiom is ancient, just old, or fairly contemporary. There’s nothing telling you which ones are diamonds and which ones are coal, it’s almost totally hit and miss. Some of the ones I ran past the Thaiz, they’d say, “wow, I haven’t heard that since my grandfather was alive!” To me that sort of saying is a keeper. Mostly because I’m old, and I don’t want to be spouting ภาษาวัยรุ่น-isms as they aren’t age appropriate. It actually struck me as sad to hear some of the sayings aren’t said any more. The younger guys who sit with me had never ever heard quite a few of them, yet they all agreed they had value. There’re some real good sayings in the book and I’d hate to see them fall by the wayside, in today’s modern age.

What I immediately noticed was that there were a LOT of comparatives in relation to a person’s personality (or status in life) by using animals. They have เข้าฝูงกาต้องเป็นกา “enter a flock of crows become a crow” conversely they have เข้าฝูงหงส์ต้องเป็นหงส์ “enter a flock of swans become a swan”. Of course both of these are close to the “birds of a feather flock together” saying. Now they also have crows shouldn’t mix with swans and if that’s not a not so subliminal classist remark I don’t know what is. At one school I regularly visit the teachers teach that same old hack saying “when in Rome do as the romans” with the Thai phrase เข้าเมืองตาหลิ่วต้องหลิ่วตาตาม “enter a town of squinty eyed people, you must squint your eyes too”. I told one of the teachers they should use the crow idiom; เข้าฝูงกาต้องเป็นกา. She said, “oh Tod, we can’t do that because here we have only swans!” I thought it was a great comeback, especially as much of a pain in the ass I probably am for those teachers.

They also have a lot of the same comparative idioms we have in English too; “black as coal” ดำเหมือนถ่าน, “black as gunpowder” ดำเหมือนดินปืน, “black as a crow” ดำเหมือนอีกา, “white as cotton fluff” ขาวเรากับปุยฝ้าย, “white as the pith from a banana tree” ขาวเรากับหยวก, Most of their “hard as” ones are the same; “hard as nails” แข็งเหมือนตะปู, “hard as diamond” แข็งเหมือนเพชร, “hard as a stone” แข็งเหมือนหิน. They also have “dark as ducks liver” ดำตับเป็ด, “black as a banana you covered and forgot about” ดำเหมือนกล้ยวหมกลืม and “black as the bottom of a rice pot” ดำเหมือนดินหม้อ. There are a lot of beautiful as a … and ugly as a … too.. If you’re rich or a high status girl who marries a poor guy, นางฟ้ากับหมาวัด “angel with a temple dog”, conversely, it would appear if a poor girl marries a rich high status guy, she’s a หนูตกถังข้าวสาร “mouse that fell into a tank of raw rice”. For the idiom we have “you can’t fight city hall” they have กินขี้หมาดีกว่าค้าความกับราชการ, which is pretty close, even though I think it fosters the innate fear of people in authority I see Thaiz exhibit more than ours does.

One I thought was quite funny was “curse someone like a chicken pecks the eye of a rat” ด่าเหมือนไก่เจาะตาหนู, which means you just keep on and on at it. A couple good ones when you’re offered food but it isn’t all that tasty are “better than eating dirt” ดีกว่ากินดิน and “better than being hit in the mouth with a stick” ดีกว่าไม้ดีดปาก. “Strike while the iron is hot” or do what needs to be done when it’s appropriate would be กินแกงเมื่อร้อน “eat curry when it’s hot” or ตีเหล็กเมื่อแดง “forge metal when it’s red”.

Not surprisingly Thai has just as many idioms relating to sex as we do. There’s กุหลาบริมทาง “rose on the edge of the path”, ดอกไม้ใกล้ทาง means the same but uses flower, there’s ไก่หลง a “lost chicken” and for a guy there’s จับไก่หลง “catch a lost chicken” and “beat the rice pot” ตีหม้อ. For something that finishes much sooner than expected they have “the sparrow didn’t even have a chance to drink water” นกกระจอกไม่ทันกินน้ำ. They have “meet a beautiful tree when the axe is chipped” เจอไม้งาม เมื่อยามขวานบิ่น, which is to meet someone beautiful when you are otherwise engaged. For a marriage that failed early on they had ก้นหม้อไม่ทันดำ “the bottom of the rice pot didn’t have a chance to blacken”. For a woman who is err, umm, energetic, they have ไฟแรงสูง “high voltage”!

This is getting to be a long book review but I wanted to give you guys a taste of what the book can yield. Believe me there’re a LOT of valuable material in it. I’ve worked some in when taking taxis, talking to Thaiz I’d never met before and to a person they light up. They ask how I knew that and then we’re off to the races talking about this or that. It is easily the best ice-breaker I’ve ever come across.

Cat suggested I write a follow-up to this of a list of idioms and their meanings. So, if you guys think there’s value in learning “Thai idioms according to Tod”. Lemme know I’ll pound ‘em out for you.

Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com

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Teach Yourself Thai Complete: The Winner… Again

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

The Teach Yourself Thai Complete draw… again…

Well, this is a fun outcome (as well as a fabulous selling point for David Smyth’s new TYT). Last week I wrote a review and announced a draw: Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai.

And I didn’t do it alone, I had help from two fabulous bloggers in the Thai language community, Kaewmala (Thai Women Talks) and Ajarn Pasa (Tweet Yourself Thai). Kaewmala numbered papers, folded them neatly, put them into a bowl, and drew a number. Hamish (Ajarn Pasa) matched the number to a name.

This week I announced the results: Teach Yourself Thai Complete: The Winner

But when I emailed Peggy, the winner of TYT Complete, she replied with:

Purchased copy already (it sounded so good I couldn’t wait!)

Wow! First let me say thank you very much. But please can you draw again for someone else to win? I’ve already purchased a copy as I thought the program sounded good and that I was probably a long shot in winning the drawing.

It’s an excellent program–thanks Cat for highlighting it or I wouldn’t have heard of it. While I can easily read the Thai conversations, the ability to listen to them is what I really need help with–that’s the “hole” in my basic Thai language skills.

I bet the next drawing winner will find it’s a great resource!

Can do Peggy, can do :-)

The NEW winner of Teach Yourself Thai Complete…

So here we have it. Again. The winner. Only this time Hamish numbered the papers, folded them neatly, put them into a bowl, and drew a number.

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

And this time, Kaewmala will announce the winning name in the comments.

So once more, a special THANKS! from me goes to Kaewmala (Twitter: @Thai_Talk), Hamish (Twitter: @AjarnPasa), David Smyth, and everyone who left comments in the post. Ta!

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Teach Yourself Thai Complete: The Winner

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

The Teach Yourself Thai Complete draw…

Running a draw can be loads of work, so I aimed to keep this one simple. I went to two fabulous bloggers in the Thai language community, Kaewmala (Thai Women Talks) and Ajarn Pasa (Tweet Yourself Thai) and asked for help.

Kaewmala threw numbers into a beautifully coloured bowl, stirred them around, selected one, and then sent me the winning number. She also sent me the beautiful photos you see here. Ajarn Pasa (Hamish Chalmers) then posted the name that matched the winning number in the comments.

Teach Yourself Thai Complete: Winner

Being able to give away a fine product such as Teach Yourself Thai Complete has been great fun. An added plus: Visitors to WLT have come out of lurking mode to introduce themselves in the comments, and tips were passed back and forth.

Thai twitterers and tweets…

I wanted to take this opportunity to point you to not just two fabulous Thai bloggers, but their twitters (tweets?) as well.

Twitter: @AjarnPasa
Bio: Short, timely, situation-based lessons in Thai for the intermediate learner. Read the blog at www.tweetyourselfthai.wordpress.com

AjarnPasa tweets interesting Thai vocabulary and phrases, then goes into the Thai in detail on his blog. Often he will pick timely subjects on Thailand to explain (soooo needed). In real life, AjarnPasa is Hamish Chalmers and you can read his interview on WLT here: Successful Thai Language Learner: Hamish Chalmers.

Twitter: @Thai_Talk
Bio: Thai woman writer, egghead-hired gun, incorrigible teaser and provocateur of Thai language, culture & politics.

Kaewmala digs deep into the Thai language to bring us tweets to twist our Thai imaginations. Who she is in real life has not yet been revealed (and perhaps never will) but I’ll be interviewing Kaewmala soon on WLT in the new Thais Learning Thai series (and you can better bet I’ll try to wiggle out as much as I can). Kaewmala is also the author of the enlightening Thai Sex Talk, reviewed on WLT here: Thai Sex Talk for St Valentine’s Day.

The winner of Teach Yourself Thai Complete…

If you’ve kept up with the comments of Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai, you will already know the winner. If you are coming to this post first, then the winner is…. drumroll…. Peggy.

Congrats Peggy! Well done :-) If you send your address via my contact page I will ship your still plastic wrapped box of Teach Yourself Thai Complete asap.

Since this draw went off with ease, there will be many more in the future. I’ve received a number of learning Thai books, courses and such, and my condo will only hold so much. Something like that.

So a special THANKS! from me goes to Kaewmala, AjarnPasa, David Smyth and the team at TYT, and everyone who left comments in the post. Ta!

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Complete Thai: David Smyth Updates Teach Yourself Thai

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai …

Only a handful of Thai courses are highly thought of, and David Smyth’s Teach Yourself Thai is at the very top of that list.

When I asked polyglot Stu Jay Raj which books he’d recommend to students of the Thai language, David’s Teach Yourself Thai was the only course mentioned. And if you remember, Luca Lampariello (another polyglot), explained how he uses the series for his method described on WLT: An Easy Way to Learn Foreign Languages. There are many more kudos aimed at TYT, but I’ll stop here for now.

A heads up: Due to David’s generosity, I ended up with an extra boxed set of Complete Thai: Teach Yourself Thai. If you want to win one of your own, please read on.

Teach Yourself Thai: Contents…

When I sit down to write a review, I first check the contents to see what’s on offer. And skimming down the list below, you can see that Teach Yourself Thai is designed to continuously reinforce each lesson.

  • What you will learn: Overview of the lessons.
  • Dialogues: Thai script and transliteration that follow along with the audio files.
  • Quick vocabulary: Newly introduced words.
  • Insights: Language and culture tips from the author.
  • Key phrases and expressions: Important phrases studied in the lesson.
  • Language notes: Grammar usage pertinent to the lesson.
  • Exercises: Questions to solidify the lessons into your brain.
  • Reading and writing: Practice studying the Thai alphabet, vowels, tones, etc.
  • Reading practice: Practice reading the Thai script previously studied.
  • Key points: Outline of the main elements of each lesson.

To make sure the necessary subjects are covered, I also spend time with the chapter contents.

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself Thai

  • Meet the author: A brief background on David Smyth.
  • Only got a minute, five minutes, ten minutes?: Crash course on Thailand and the Thai language.
  • Introduction: A bit more about the Thai language, as well as how to use the course.
  • Pronunciation: Introduction to a tonal language.
  • Lesson 1: How to say hello and goodbye, polite particles, addressing people, low class consonants, vowels, 1-10.
  • Lesson 2: Your name, your nationality and place of origin, confirmation seeking question: chai mai, what questions, mid class consonants, vowels, 11-20.
  • Lesson 3: Job conversations, where questions, location words, possession, live and dead syllables, 21-101.
  • Lesson 4: Polite expressions, yes and no questions, mai and ler, location expressions, low class consonants, vowels, vowel shortener.
  • Lesson 5: Taxi talk, how much questions, using can: verb + dai, hesitation device: gor, high class consonants, 1000-1,000,000.
  • Lesson 6: Buying food at the market, asking what something is called, asking someone to repeat a word, question word + nai, yes no questions: ler and na, script review.
  • Lesson 7: Shopping transactions, polite requests: kor + verb + noy, how questions, classifiers, colours, continuous actions, tone mark: mai ayk.
  • Lesson 8: Ordering food, polite requests: kor + noun, reu yung, questions, alternative questions: X rue Y, location words: krun and tahng, two different uses of dooay, mai toh, and other tone marks.
  • Lesson 9: Names of dishes, would like to: yak ja + verb hai, getting someone to do something, using can, verb + bpen, if sentences, verb + lairo, low class consonants, vowels.
  • Lesson 10: Talking about your knowledge of Thai, verb + bpen + adverb, why questions, comparisons, mai koy – tao rai, using not very, words beginning with consonant clusters.
  • Lesson 11: Kin terms, asking how many, asking who, nah + verb, less common consonants, vowel shortener.
  • Lesson 12: Talking on the telephone, talking about the future, ja + verb, when questions, polite requests: chooy + verb + noy, verbs for saying and thinking with wah, seeking advice and making suggestions, miscellaneous spelling rules.
  • Lesson 13: Coping strategies for when you don’t understand, to know: sahp, roo, roo jack, use of hai to mean for, names of letters, using a Thai dictionary.
  • Lesson 14: How to talk about living and working in Bangkok, talking about things that happened in the past: keree + verb, ways of intensifying adjectives and adverbs, more uses for gor.
  • Lesson 15: Making travel arrangements, to visit: teeo and yee um, expressing distance between two places, telling the time, questions about time.
  • Lesson 16: Booking a hotel, days of the week, rue bplao, questions.
  • Lesson 17: Looking for accommodation, gum lung ja + verb, negative questions, relative pronouns, months and seasons, dates and ordinal numbers, hai: to give, mai dai + verb.
  • Key to the exercises: Answers to the lessons.
  • Appendices: Consonant classes, Vowels, summary of tone rules, taking it further.
  • Thai-English vocabulary: Roughly 400 words.
  • English-Thai vocabulary: Roughly 400 words.
  • Grammar index: Page numbers to locate the grammar rules discussed in the lessons.

I’m not going to go over each aspect of the course, but I would like to bring up the above mentioned 400 word vocabulary list.

The early stages of learning a tonal language such as Thai can be rough because everything is new. But with learning most any language, we are told that communicating at a basic level is possible with a bare bones vocabulary of 500. Fine. I buy that. Sort of.

But here’s the thing… where do we start with Thai? I’m bringing up this because, unlike with other languages, there is no such list available for the top 500, 1000, 2000, or 3000 words even, that one must know to get by in Thai.

Bottom line: David’s course is designed to teach students how to use 400 of the most commonly used Thai words (yes, I peeked – and yes, there are more than 400).

So there you go. The top 400 must know Thai words = an important selling point of David’s Teach Yourself Thai Complete.

Going for the quotes…

For comparisons, I do have the earlier version of Teach Yourself Thai. But instead of explaining the differences to you, I thought it more beneficial to ask David Smyth for a run-down of his updated work.

The new version of Teach Yourself Thai (called Teach Yourself Complete Thai) is, at 358 pages, rather longer than the previous edition (242 pages).

I like to think that there have been a number of improvements. The first and second editions had 2 long dialogues in each unit, which was the standard format for all Teach Yourself language books. The result was that the dialogues were rather long and sometimes contained too much vocabulary and grammar for the learner to take on comfortably in one section. In the present edition, most units contain 3 or 4 shorter dialogues which, I hope, makes the content easier to absorb.

Another significant difference is that Thai script is now included in the language notes, with example sentences now appearing over 3 lines, in Romanized Thai, followed by Thai script and then English translation. This means that there is now more Thai script in this edition than the previous one. By covering up one or two of the lines, users can use the examples to test themselves on their reading and writing. I was really pleased that the publisher recognized the value of this revision, even though it is not the most efficient use of space on the page.

Other changes include revised ‘insight’ notes, a ‘key points’ section at the end of each unit, more pronunciation exercises, replacing some unwieldy dialogues (e.g getting to the Reno Hotel in a samlor, and buying four 12-baht stamps) and updating with words like ‘internet’ and ‘Suvarnabhumi.

No matter how many times you proof read a book like this, there are always misprints and errors that slip through. If any users notice errors and care to inform me at I will try to ensure that the corrections are incorporated in future reprints.

Btw: David’s interview on WLT can be read here: Successful Thai Language Learner: David Smyth.

Polyglot Geoffrey Barto from Multilingua (and others) recently wrote a review of the Teach Yourself Complete update.

With Teach Yourself Complete, it feels like some real strides have been made. There seems to be more emphasis on content and doing something with it and less emphasis on puzzling things out by means of vocabulary lists.

If you take up the whole package – text plus CDs – and load the CDs on your iPod, you wind up with a fairly handy program for learning [ ] 5-15 minutes at a time. If you’re short of time, you can do one dialog. If you’ve got half an hour to kill, you can make it halfway through a chapter. In either case, you should start by listening, then turn to the book to make sure you’ve understood. In this way, for the first time, you can really use a Teach Yourself course to learn a language by ear while having a text as a fallback, instead of the other way around.

And as Sophie (regular visitor and fellow hermit) is presently learning Thai via TYT, I asked for her opinion as well.

I cannot say enough positive things about Teach Yourself Thai by David Smyth. I have been trying other resources and I have to say this one works the best for me and is my absolute favorite. It is the one I will be using. Why?  Because it is so wonderfully well written, clear, and easy to understand.

David Smyth updates Teach Yourself ThaiI love the way the lessons progress and build upon each other. He puts it all together as far as the study course. Read, write, listen, and repeat, repeat, repeat. The audio is clear and easy to understand and I love the voices of the people he chose to use. If I don’t care for someone’s voice it is extremely hard to listen to them. I like the way he gives you a road map of how to draw the letters. I love how he explains everything so well and it is actually interesting to read and certainly helps one grasp the reason behind it all. I am so new to learning Thai but his book truly makes me feel like I can definitely do this.

How to improve this course…

As I mentioned – or did I? – I believe that Teach Yourself Thai is one of the top courses for beginners of the Thai language. But even so, improvements can be made.

  • Thai script: Even with the increased amount of Thai script, more could be added.
  • Binding: The binding of the book did not last long (either that or I’m awfully hard on books).
  • Audio: In addition to the present audio files, audio without English speakers would increase the usefulness.

If I were to shoot for the moon, I’d also like flashcards with sound, online games, etc, to compliment this course.

Now, this next point I’m making is not about improving the course, but a heads-up. The transliteration targets some British speakers and you might be confused when the audio files are not what you expected. So when you come across fuzzy spots, perhaps write down what you believe you are hearing? Just a thought.

Where to buy Teach Yourself Thai Complete…

When Teach Yourself Thai Complete first arrived in Bangkok, it was the book only (no boxed set with audio files). A few weeks later, the entire package appeared at Kinokuniya. It was total weirdness back then so I’m guessing that the delay was due to the Red Shirts taking over our shopping district.

For online stores, Amazon has the product at their UK branch: Complete Thai: Teach Yourself (Book/CD Pack). And the UK Book Depository has it in stock as well: Teach Yourself Complete Thai (Teach Yourself Complete Courses) (Paperback). But at the time of this post, I have been unable to locate it in US stores.

Now about that contest…

When I decided to review Teach Yourself Thai, I bought a copy at Paragon. And when I contacted David for a quote, I was sent another copy (thanks TY!) And now one of those copies is up for grabs.

To be included in the draw, the rules are simple.

  • You need to leave a comment(s) below.
  • The comment(s) need to be reasonable.

Each comment gets counted, so go ahead and leave as many as you like. But the comments must add to the conversation as well as pertain to this post. So ‘cool’ ‘great’ ‘rad’ on their own do not count as comments. Nor does, ‘this contest is really really fab and I really, really, really, wanna win a copy’.

The draw will run a week and be over on Thursday morning, 8am BKK time. I will number the reasonable comments and email the total to Kaewmala (Thai Women Talks). Kaewmala will throw the numbers into a beautifully coloured bowl, stir them around a bit, select one, and then announce the winning number in the comments below. Ajarn Pasa (Tweet Yourself Thai) will come in with the name that matches the winning number.

And that’s it really. If this draw goes well, I will consider a repeat as I’m sitting here with dual copies of a number of Thai courses and resources.

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James Higbie’s Essential Thai is Back!

James Higbie and Essential Thai

James Higbie and Essential Thai…

From the inception of the Successful Thai Language Learner series, I’ve had my eye on James Higbie. I was patiently tracking Jim down, but he found me first.

During our back and forth Jim mentioned that his highly prized Essential Thai is being tidied up for a reprint. And just this week he sent over the official announcement.

Essential Thai will be available late in 2010 or early in 2011.

Chris Frape, Publisher of Orchid Press, has announced that the Bangkok-based company will reissue Essential Thai, a popular beginning level Thai language book that has been out of print since the demise of the book division of Post Publishing almost ten years ago.

The book will be reissued in its original A4 format and will include standard sized CDs for pronunciation.

I was chuffed to hear his news as I’ve been trying to beg, borrow, or even steal a copy for ages. And I’m not alone in this (google to see what I mean).

And I promise that as soon as the book is ready, I will announce it here. Right after I get my very own copy.

Other books by James Higbie (published by Orchid Press) include: Thai Reference Grammar, Let’s Speak Thai, and Let’s Speak Lao.

Note: In the picture above is James Higbie, author. Standing to his right is Victor Titze, General Manager of Orchid Press. They are in front of the Orchid Bookstore, fourth floor Silom Complex, Bangkok.

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Hugh Launches eBooks in Thailand

eBooks in Thailand

Hugh’s Retired Life in Thailand…

Hugh is an industrious individual. No doubt. Besides gardening (yes, I’m envious, very) he’s always working on new and intriguing projects. Although retired, he authors books for the Thai professional market (impressed? I am). And as you all know, he also writes the instructive Thai Language Thai Culture for WLT. But that’s not all.

I have been writing about retiring in Thailand for the last four years. First, I started writing a monthly column for the Chiang Mai City Life magazine, and later developed a website, Retire 2 Thailand, where I lead prospective retirees to lots and lots of information about Thailand and how to retire here. Later, I started this blog.

Not done yet, from the material Hugh compiled about retiring to Thailand, he put together an ebook Retired Life in Thailand. During the process, Hugh started thinking about friends in the same boat as himself. Friends with something to say. Writer friends with something to say. And, ta da! eBooks in Thailand was born.

I realized that I know lots of people who write about their experiences in Thailand. And I set up eBooks in Thailand as Thailand’s eBook outlet for books about Thailand written by people who live or have lived here and know the country intimatately.

Hugh’s eBooks in Thailand…

For Thai language lovers, Hugh also has a talking ebook: Reading Thai Newspapers.

This book is meant to be used by the individual as a teach-yourself tool to help practice some of the skills one needs to acquire in order to read a Thai newspaper or magazine article. Reading Thai Newspapers has 13 lessons with line-by-line translations, a glossary of “newspaper” vocabulary, and all articles are accompanied by a recording of the article (innovatively embedded into the eBook itself), read by a Thai News Reader. This makes our book a Talking Textbook, something no paper textbook could be.

And at US$6.95 (225 Thai Baht), Reading Thai Newspapers is a great deal.

Be sure to check out the other ebooks on offer:

Guaranteed, more will be added. Many more.

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Thai Language Thai Culture: Rosetta Stone Methodology

Thai Language

Rosetta Stone* Methodology…

*After the stone and not the expensive software

In her interviews of Thai speakers, Catherine likes to ask if we have ever had an “Ah ha” moment in our Thai studies. An “Ah ha” moment is sort of a Zen “satori” experience where we become enlightened, although sometimes only for a short while, about “what’s what”. Well, I recently had one of those.

My latest English textbook had just been published and as I was looking through it I suddenly realized that (Ah ha) these books are really set up in a way that a Thai studying English and a person studying Thai could both benefit from them. I was using the bilingual format where I presented written material in both Thai and English. The object is for the student to understand the section of reading or listening, before attempting to decipher it, by reading the section in their native language first. Later when they begin reading in the target language, the students can focus on fluency instead of translation.

The French scholar Jean-François Champollion did that with the real Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone, discovered by Napoleon’s army during their invasion of Egypt, had the same story written in Greek, which everyone knew, modern Egyptian, which a few people knew, and Egyptian hieroglyphics, which no one knew at the time. By knowing one language he was able to decipher the other and because of this work, today ancient Egyptian writing is understandable to us.

Likewise, we can do a similar thing with Thai and English. Here is a short excerpt from an intro to a lesson on Taking a Complaint from Professional Hotel English for Thailand, Silkworm Books.

Taking A Complaint:
Mr. Larson has just arrived at his room at the Top Thai Hotel. He has a problem with his room.

การต่อว่า:
Mr. Larson เพิ่งเข้าห้องพักที่โรงแรม Top Thai เขามีปัญหาเรื่องห้อง

As you can see, both the English student and the Thai student can go about tackling this lesson in the same manner. Read the section in your language first, understand it, then look at the target language and work from there. I’ll bet that you know that “has just arrived” = “เพิ่งเข้า”. As it turns out, in producing materials to help Thais learn English, I had been creating something that is exactly what I was looking for to help me further my own studies of Thai.

Many of us started our Thai studies with books like J. Marvin Brown’s AUA Books, great for tone recognition and production, and Benjawan Becker’s Thai for Beginners, a very good intro to the study of the Thai language. But at some point you realize the drawbacks of using phonetic transcriptions, you get tired of being illiterate, and you know that it is time to study the Thai alphabet and reading. But sometimes finding materials for our specific language level, especially for reading, can be difficult.

The materials I am suggesting here are for those who have taken the leap, gotten serious about studying Thai, have learned the Thai alphabet and some basic vocabulary, and are now beginning to read this outlandishly difficult language. Although all the materials I am suggesting have been written with the Thai learner of English in mind, both students of English and students of Thai can benefit from them. Since they are written for the Thai student of English there are no phonetic transcriptions, which is probably a good thing since it will force you to read real Thai. I think it is always best when studying a foreign language to have a teacher, or at least someone whom you can use as a pronunciation and language flow example. It would be best if you had a teacher helping you with these reading materials also.

My professional colleagues in the teaching and applied linguistics field love to give things names so let’s call the use of these bilingual materials the “Rosetta Stone Methodology” where knowing one of the languages is the key to learning the other.

Beginning Students of Thai…

OPD DictionaryThe Oxford Picture Dictionary, Oxford University Press, has a monolingual edition and 13 bilingual editions, including one in Thai. It is written for the Thai student of English but is just as good for the student of the Thai language since all the words are written in English, in Thai, and are accompanied by a really clear illustration. It introduces you to 4,000 objects, verbs, phrases, and activities. The words and activities are divided into sections all dealing with individual topics. There are sections like Meeting and Greeting, A Classroom, Weather, A Kitchen, Doing the Laundry, The Body, The Workplace, and lots more.

If you learn all the Thai words in this dictionary you’ll be able to converse on, as well as read about, just about any topic.

Although illustrated, this is not a children’s dictionary. This is a serious reference work. There is a special children’s edition though and if you are helping a young child to become bilingual this would be a great asset.

The Oxford Picture Dictionary also comes with added features such as CDs and an activity book, but these are mostly for the English learner. It sells for about $15 on Amazon and can be purchased in Thailand.

Intermediate Students of Thai…

There is a group of bilingual books to help Thai students to learn English that are inexpensive and are available throughout the country. They are called สองภาษา sǒng paa-sǎa “Two Language” Books or ไทย-อังกฤษ Thai-English Books. They are written for various levels, and range from just beginning reading, alphabet books (กุ๊กไก่ gúk gài), to Aesop’s Fables (อีสป ee sop) to quite advanced fairy tales, and non-fiction. Often, the places you will find them are on the discount book tables in most shopping malls. I just bought a complete series of Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales for 29 baht each. I also bought a series of books, each one about a different group of animals, Fish, reptiles, Amphibians, etc.

You might think that these books are for children, and you might be right, except that in some of the books the vocabulary that you will be learning can be quite advanced. Here are a few examples of vocabulary words new to me in the books that I just bought.

Low intermediate level, animal books:

เต่าคืออะไร /dtào keu à~rai/ – What is a Turtle?
กระดอง /grà~dong/ – the shell of a turtle or a crab, also the bone of a cuttlefish
จำพวก /jam-pûak/ – group, category (family of animals)
แหล่งที่อยู่อาศัย /làeng têe-yòo aa-sǎI/ – habitat

High intermediate level – Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairytales:

ไนติงเกล – The Nightingale
พสกนิกร /pá-sòk-gà-ní-gon/ – inhabitants, subjects of the king
วิจิตร /wí-jìt/ – exquisite, fine
ไพเราะ /pai-rór/ – sweet (sounding)
ยโส /yá-sǒh/ – arrogant

As you can see, these are not exactly children’s words. Whichever level you choose, most of us Thai learners will learn lots of new and useful vocabulary.

Advanced students of Thai…

The I Get English magazine is great for Thais studying English. There are bilingual articles on travel (London), history (Ancient Greece), and biography (Steven Spielberg). There are simple bilingual dialogs of everyday activities (Ordering a hamburger), translated dialogs from the latest movies (The Hurt Locker), and grammar discussions (adverbs). All of these are really helpful for the Thai studying English. And, are a treasure house of good stuff for someone trying to learn to read Thai.

Each issue costs 50 baht and can be found at most good news stands, although they sell out quickly. Do a Google search and you can find sites selling all the back issues (28 at this writing). It would be a good library to have.

How to use these materials…

These steps work with any level of bilingual/Rosetta Stone Methodology type material, from individual words, to sentences, to paragraphs. Here is what I do.

  • I read the English first. Now I already know what’s going on.
  • Then I make an attempt at reading the Thai, scanning.
  • I try to match up the Thai words I don’t know with the English words.
  • If I can’t figure them out I get out the handy dictionary.
  • After learning all the new vocabulary, I reread the section until I understand it all, which should be pretty easy since I have the English reference right there.
  • After I have a good grasp of the reading section I will read it aloud.
  • I continue reading aloud until I feel that the words and sentences flow freely. Even if you don’t have someone listening and correcting you, which is always a good idea, you will get a feeling if you are getting the tones and the cadence right or not. I am not sure why that is so but I think that “magic” has something to do with it.
  • Every so often I come back to a book or a section that I have finished and do it all again. Practice really does make a difference.

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

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Glenn Slayden’s Enormouse Resource: thai-language.com

Thai Language

Thai language resource: thai-language.com…

You all know Glenn Slayden from an earlier interview: Interviewing Successful Thai Language Learners: Glenn Slayden. Today I’m writing a brief overview of his site, thai-language.com.

Mission Statement: The mission of thai-language.com is to offer English speakers the highest-quality non-commercial Thai language resource on the web. Our discussion forums, dictionary, and learning materials support a friendly world-wide community of folks who are interested in Thai language, culture, residency and travel.

Getting around thai-language.com…

Glen put a lot of thought into creating a user-friendly site, adding small details to improve the experience. It helps that he is a programmer to boot.

Site Settings: If this is your first time on thai-language.com, go straight to this section. This is where you adjust the sound files and transliteration styles to suit your personal preferences. There are other options, so be sure to poke around.

Underlining external links is one of the industry standards for web navigation, and Glen offers no different here. All through the site you’ll also find text underlined with dots, but these keep you on the site. Clicking on the dotted text takes you to a Glossary of Thai Language Terms for the word or phrase in question. When you scroll over the dotted text with your mouse, information from the glossary gracefully pops up.

You’ll also notice that when you mouse over Thai script, sections of yellow appear. Click on a section (for instance, ราช) and you will be taken to the dictionary meaning of that word. Additionally, when you mouse over a yellow section, a translation pops up. If you click on the purple arrow at the end of the Thai script, you go to the dictionary meaning for the whole section.

What happens when you click on the sound icon depends on how you’ve adjusted the settings. I chose to stay in the same window but my computer is not playing along.

The essence of thai-language.com…

Reference
This section covers the basics of the Thai language: Thai alphabet; spelling, pronunciation & tones; grammar; writing & typing; geographical reference; bibliography and citations.

Lessons
After you familiarize yourself with the basics of the Thai language, head to the lessons on offer: basic conversation, reading & writing, dialogs, reading exercises, and quizzes.

Message Forums
When you have a question about learning Thai, this is where you place your queries. Members on this forum are quality, so be assured that your questions will be answered in kind.

Dictionary
There are two online Thai dictionaries I frequent. Thai2English.com and this one. For me, the strength of this dictionary is its Reverse Phonemic Transcription. Drop in Thai transliteration and Thai script comes out the other end. Very handy.

Category Root
If you need to search for a word or phrase by subject, then this is the place for you. I didn’t find anything for all things maids, but Glen did have a page for haggling.

Online Store:
When I first started to buy books and courses on learning Thai, this is where I often ended up. Glen is also one of the few people mentioning the excellent resource, The What-You-See-Is-What-You-Say Thai Phrase Handbook. And if you read ‘highly recommended’, ‘a must-have’, ‘essential’, ‘comprehensive’, and ‘de facto standard reference for most serious students’ in reference to any of the materials, believe it.

Microsoft Bing
From an announcement in the forum, I see that Glen has been working on the Thai side of Bing. Bing is a competitor to Google Translate, so a post comparing the two is definitely in my future.

I barely touched on the working of thai-language.com, so please browse around to see for yourself.

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Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke

Thai Days with Myke Hawke

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast…

A little over a week after launching Women Learn Thai, I wrote my first book review: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast.

But I didn’t just review A. G. Hawke’s book, I followed his instructions (up to a point).

Getting help from my Thai teacher and Thai friends, I spent hours collecting top verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, numbers, word phrases, past, present and future tenses.

As you can imagine, it was a lot of work.

With it partly complete, I decided to share my efforts here at Women Learning Thai.

And as I needed permission from the author, I did what I always do: I googled.

Nothing solid came of my search, so I shelved the idea.

Then yesterday, getting a wildhair (as I’m known to do), I googled again and bingo, A. G. Hawke on Wikipidia.

Only, he isn’t really A. G. Hawke; he is Myke Hawke (now corrected in my review).

And he is gorgeous.

Myke Hawke makes women happy on YouTube…

And while Myke is all over YouTube with Paris Hilton and others of note, the video below is a good introduction to a part of what he does. Suggestion: If you are in a hurry, skip the condoms and go straight to the gals.

Myke Hawke: TV personality, professional soldier, linguist and author…

I found it difficult to extract brief notes on a busy man’s life, so Myke, apologies if I’ve missed a few.

TV personality: Featured on two of the final episodes of E’s THE SIMPLE LIFE with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. Appeared in the BBC’s CASTAWAY EXPOSED and the Living Channel’s LIVING WITH KIMBERLEY. In the DISCOVERY CHANNEL’S acclaimed series SCIENCE OF SURVIVAL, I SHOULDN’T BE ALIVE, Hawke taught survival in the Amazon jungle. Hawke also appeared as himself in the movie DIRTY SANCHEZ. Prior media projects included MTV’s ROAD RULES, Fox TV’s FOREVER EDEN, LOVE CRUISE and BOOT CAMP, ABC TV’s THE DATING EXPERIMENT, NBC’s FEAR FACTOR, The History Channel’s Tactical to Practical, and Britain’s Worst Boss. In addition to appearances, hosting and acting roles, he has worked as consultant, expert advisor, writer, and producer.

Professional soldier: Myke Hawke is an experienced survival instructor in jungle, desert, arctic, sea, and urban environments. Hawke has over 20 years of combined military, civilian, and government experience. He has served as a senior enlisted member of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, and as a Commissioned Officer and Team Commander. He has been a U.S. Government Contractor and Country Project Manager abroad. Hawke has training and experience in telecommunications, intelligence operations, remote medical management, combat search and rescue, guerrilla warfare, counter terrorism, security tactics and languages. He has deployed to hotspots throughout Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, South America, South East Asia and Africa.

Author: The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast, Myke Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual and In the Dark of the Sun.

Languages: Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, Serbo-Croation, Turkish, Thai, Arabic, and others.

Yes, there really is a reason for this post…

When I finally made contact with Myke, he said ‘yes’.

‘Yes’ to my request to share the Thai compiled from his book.

Or rather, in true Myke speak: ‘info request granted!’

So stay tuned for the series: Quick & Dirty Thai Language Learning with Myke Hawke.

If you aim to follow the series, be sure to purchase The Quick and Dirty Guide to Learning Languages Fast at amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, or your favourite book store.

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Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary in Bangkok

Mary Haas

Getting serious about learning Thai…

There is a rumour going around about several must have resources for the serious Thai language learner. Not that I have gone into serious mode or anything, but I am curious about design and transliteration styles. I also have a love for books, so I set out to acquire what I could (which isn’t always easy in Thailand).

The last book on my main list was the esteemed Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary. I saw it a year back at Paragon but balked at the price and then it was gone. Yesterday I didn’t leave the next opportunity to chance.

And then there were four…

Three focus on Thai grammar (take your pic) and one is the above mentioned Thai-English dictionary.

A Reference Grammar of Thai (paperback)
Authors: Shoichi Iwasaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom

…provides a clear, detailed and comprehensive guide to Thai grammar, designed for intermediate to advanced learners. Written by two leading experts on Thai, it places a special emphasis on functional accounts of its grammatical phenomena: the use of demonstratives, personal reference terms, the modality system, the aspectual system, pragmatic particles, verb serialisation, relative clauses, question formation, passive and causative constructions, topic marking and many more.

Unlike any other book on Thai grammar, it draws on data from everyday spoken discourses such as informal conversation, group discussions, interviews and narratives, as well as non-technical written texts such as folk tales, short stories and newspaper articles, to discuss grammatical phenomena at both sentence and discourse level. An extensive index is provided and examples are given in both Thai orthography and IPA symbols, making this an invaluable resource for linguists as well as students and teachers of Thai.

Thai, an Essential Grammar
Author: David Smyth

…the ideal guide to the basic structures of the language for both students on taught courses and independent learners. Grammatical forms are explained in clear, jargon-free style and illustrated by examples, given in both Thai script and romanization. As well as grammar, it includes guidance on pronunciation, speech conventions and the beautiful Thai writing system.

Thai Reference Grammar, the Structure of Spoken Thai
Authors: James Higbie and Snea Thinsan

…written to meet the need of students and teachers of the Thai language for information on advanced sentence structure. The book is divided into chapters based on common grammatical-structural categories. There are over 500 separate topics, and the most important feature is the sample sentences for each topic, of which there are over 2,000. These sentences are not stuffy, old-fashioned grammar examples, but samples of typical, idiomatic spoken Thai.

The authors, an American and a Thai both with advanced degrees in linguistics and language teaching, analyzed thousands of Thai sentences to formulate clear and concise explanations for all the important sentence patterns of the Thai language. Examples are given in both Thai script and transliterated Thai, written in the English alphabet with no special phonetic symbols. Tones are marked with a special font that shows the level of the sound of each word, essential to pronunciation in tonal languages like Thai.

Mary Haas Thai-English Student’s Dictionary
Compiled by: Mary R. Haas

Both English-speaking students of Thai and Thai students of all disciplines will be hard put to find a more comprehensive and satisfying answer to their general vocabulary needs. Professional translators, researchers, and even specialists whose only concern is problems of transliteration, will all benefit from this remarkable publication.

Mary died on my birthday in 1996, but as her dictionary is in Bangkok as of yesterday (and doesn’t stick around for long), I thought I’d post this now instead of Sunday.

NOTE: If you want to go for free, you can see some of the Thai-English student’s dictionary on Google Books. Beware the Google viewing limit… (A special thanks goes to Aksara Anwa Akson Thai (no longer online) for bringing it to my attention).

Except for A Reference Grammar of Thai, all books can be found at Kinokuniya, located in the Siam Paragon shopping complex.

Hurry…

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