เพลง : Live and Learn (อยู่ที่เรียนรู้)
ศิลปิน : กมลา สุขโกศล (Kamala Sukosol)
On the day we arrive at a crossroad in life.
We may not have time to prepare our hearts
ความสุขความทุกข์ ไม่มีใครรู้ว่าจะมาเมื่อไหร่ จะยอมรับความจริงที่เจอได้แค่ไหน
Happiness or suffering: nobody knows when we’ll encounter it and to what extent we’ll be willing to accept the truths that we discover.
Coz life is what it is. Just as something can begin, so too can it end.
มีสุขสมมีผิดหวัง หัวเราะหรือหวั่นไหว เกิดขึ้นได้ทุกวัน
To be happy or to be disappointed, to laugh or to worry, these can happen everyday.
อยู่ที่เรียนรู้ อยู่ที่ยอมรับมัน ตามความคิดสติเราให้ทัน
It’s down to consciously learning and accepting things in time.
Live with things as they are, not as you dream they should be, and do all those things the best that you can.
Even when you’re happy, prepare yourself for the suffering that’d probably follow not too far behind.
So you’ll be well prepared when you need to face the suffering.
Translating Thai Song Lyrics: How I Do It, and You Can Too!…
Hi, It’s Ann Norman of CarabaoinEnglish.com. I’ve made it a project to translate as many Carabao คาราบาว and Aed Carabao แอ๊ด คาราบาว songs into English as I can before I die or get bored, whichever comes first.
I’ve finished about 150 songs out 1,000+ existing songs (more are being written each week). I’m having lots of fun and I’ve decided to share my translating secrets with you, so you can have just as much fun translating your favorite Thai songs into English.
Step 1A: Google for lyrics and plug everything into Thai2English.com…
Note: please download the T2E Software (a wonderful resource) if you have Windows.
Goggle for lyrics using the song title and name of the band, which you have copied and pasted from a YouTube + “เนื้อเพลง” (lyrics). The band I follow is famous, and the lyrics are almost always online.
Next plug your lyrics into Thai2English. This word-by-word translation program is WONDERFUL and the only reason I can do any of this. It is also very glitchy.
Read the output and be prepared to mentally override half of what comes out, especially homonyms. For instance, my Thai2English guesses that each instance of ตา (“dtaa”) probably means “grandmother.” (In song lyrics, it almost always means “eye.”) The program is also easily confused by the word ได้ /dai/ when it does not mean “get or receive” but instead plays a grammatical role in the sentence–as it so often does.
So plug in your lyrics and read the Thai2English output with your brain in gear, combining their huge hints with your existing knowledge of the language.
Step 1B: Re-divide the words in the Thai2English box…
When output is nonsensical, help the program by breaking up the words yourself, and try again. Run the words through in different groups.
Words that sound alliterative probably go together. If you have a combined word that sounds like “bliap-blong” (a made-up example) it’s a good bet that the “blong” part just adds flavor to the meaning of “bliap,” and vice versa. The meaning of “bliap-blong” will be probably be similar to the meaning of the two one-syllable words separately. (The word เปรียบเทียบ /bpriap-tiap/ is a real life example. Each part means “compare” and so does the whole word.)
Unfortunately it can also work the other way. Two words you totally understand as separate words can go together to make a new word or meaning that you don’t know. Just recently, I discovered that ก็ /gor/ and ตาม /dtaam/ (“also” and “follow”) go together (ก็ตาม) to mean “no matter.” Thai2English will make wild guesses about which sets of words go together. Redivide the words into different sets and see if that gets you a more sensible answer from Thai2English.
And watch out for tricky divisions like “mai bliap mai blong” used to mean “mai bliapblong” (I am using my made-up word in this example). Below are some examples of this pattern from actual song lyrics:
สักวี่สักวัน /sak wee sak wan/ = สักวี่วัน sak weewan (even one day)
ตามเหตุตามผล /dtam hayt dtaam pon/ = ตามเหตุผล (dtaam hayt-pon) (according to the reasons)
ไม่อดไม่ทน /mai ot mai ton/ = ไม่อดทน (not bear up [under pressure])
Throughout, keep in mind this is POETRY; the songwriter will be playing with words—to make a joke, to be alliterative, to surprise.
Step 2: Google Translate…
Google translate is notoriously horrible at translating Thai sentences. However, it is actually REALLY good at translating individual words and sometimes phrases of up to 3 words. Take your problem words and phrases to google translate, and look at the suggestions there.
Step throughout: Decipher any English loanwords…
A long word that doesn’t sound very Thai probably isn’t. And it might be English. Close your eyes and relax; the answer might come to you. My favorite example: In a song titled “Santana Carabao” (referring to the bands Santana and Carabao): I had the mystery line:
The English loan words “hippie” and “rock and roll” were easy to hear, and I quickly got: “Hoo-satook” told the story of the path of music: Hippie, rock and roll.
But who or what is “hoo-satook”? The answer came to me days later as I watched a tribute to Carlos Santana on a music awards show. I learned that he had achieved stardom playing at the famous music festival … (I’ve written it here backwards): “kcotsdooW”.
Step 3: Use Google images…
This is a really slick TRICK. Take your mystery words and phrases to google images and see hundreds of pictures of what your string of letters might mean. And prepare yourself for anything. Because maybe Thai2English hid the meaning of these words from you for a reason. I have unwittingly requested images of “shot in the head,” “trampled,” and “crotch itch” in the process of translating Carabao songs.
And yes, the word “crotch itch” (สังคัง /sang-kang/) appears in several Carabao songs, probably because it is alliterative with the word “society” (สังคม /sang-kom/). So these words can be paired to good effect in a protest song: “อนาถหนาสังคมสังคัง” “Pitiful diseased society!” (Or something . . . I am open to suggestions!)
Googling images is the only way to go when your song mentions an exotic tree, flower, or food that English speakers have no name for. Even if you can’t explain your findings to the next person, at least you will know that that tree in this song has bright orange flowers, or that the snacks Aed Carabao is singing about his mother making are those Chinese kanom with mung beans in the middle.
Google images is the only way to match proper names to faces or brand names to products.
My favorite google image translation story: I was translating the lyrics of a brand new, song—a gorgeous melody with just voice and piano, called “Yaak Daiyin” ([What Words Would You] Like to Hear?]:
The verse was falling out beautifully:
“We have mountains, rivers, and oceans. We have all kinds of animals sharing the habitat. There are humans, there is you and me. Here is paradise: the one and only world right here. They say that our world is equal to the tip of the mustache of a shelled slug . . . . “
YIKES! It seemed all the poetry had come to a screeching halt with the mention of the mustached slug. But, then I thought, “He says ‘They say . . .” so it’s a saying. There WILL be pictures.” I googled “tip of the mustache of a shelled slug”: ปลายหนวดหอยทาก.
AND TA DA!!!
LOOK AT THOSE little translucent balls on the tip of the antennae of the snail! And, no, they are not really antennae. A mouth is in the middle, so why not call it a mustache? And so, like magic, the rest of the verse falls out:
“They say that our world amounts to the tip of the antennae of a snail, that life is cheaply tossed away like a cigarette butt. We must learn about our hearts and minds; release the spirit to cross the bridge to freedom.”
Step 4: Google the meaning of a word IN THAI and read the answer in Thai..
Note: if necessary, use Thai2English.
Plug your word into google search. My untranslatable word is “แว่บ”. When I plug that into google search, the helpful search suggestions includes “แว่บ แปลว่า” (“’weip’ translates as”). Other suggestions may be “BLANK คืออะไร” (“What is BLANK?”) or “BLANK หมายถึงอะไร” (“What does BLANK mean?”) click on one of those.
In this case the Thai dictionary online says: “ปรากฏให้เห็นชั่วประเดี๋ยวหนึ่งก็หายไป เช่น แสงไฟจากรถดับเพลิงแวบเข้าตามาเดี๋ยวเดียวแว็บไปแล้ว. ว. อาการที่ปรากฏให้เห็นชั่วประเดี๋ยวหนึ่ง เช่น ไปแวบเดียวกลับมาแล้ว เพิ่งมาได้แว็บเดียวจะกลับแล้วหรือ.” Running that through Thai2English (and my brain), we get: “To appear for just a moment and then disappear, for instance the light from a fire engine ‘waep’s’ into the eye for just a moment and then ‘waep’s’ away.”
There! Aren’t you glad we did this like a Thai, and got the full definition? (And if you are really ambitious, search Thai Wikipedia for whole articles relating to your song or its theme.)
Step 5: Beg help from your friends…
Be humble. You are never going to get to the end of this foreign language learning. This is especially the case with proverbs and sayings. There is too much context and history that you are missing out on. There are random-sounding expressions that come to mean a thing for reasons no one can remember. Why does “putting on airs” mean “pretending to be higher class” in English? I don’t know and it’s my language. So go check your translation with the experts, and be prepared for the possibility that your best guess was wrong. And don’t feel bad. It is already very satisfying to just get 85% or 90% of the way to understanding the songwriter’s intentions.
Step 6: Your mystery word might not mean anything, and the odd metaphor is open to interpretation…
A Thai friend recently told me, “In your translating, you might see that many words you can’t find because they are just put in without meaning, but it makes a beautiful sentence!” This is music, this is poetry. There are pretty-sounding words thrown in. There are vocalizations: the ooo’s and ahh’s and la, la, la’s.
Ponder the metaphors but don’t get frustrated with not knowing. Neil Young was searching for a “Heart of Gold.” Aed Carabao famously loves that song. In a recent concert at Khun Aed’s home in Chaing Mai, in the patter between songs, he mentions that although he is a big admirer of Neil Young, he never got to meet him. And if he were to meet him, he’d love to ask him one question: “’Heart of Gold,’ is the meaning like a person is searching for the value of the heart, or something like this?”*
(No, I don’t think it is . . .)
Then he launches into a perfect cover of “Heart of Gold.” When I first watched the concert DVD, I was stunned: Did pondering this question provide Khun Aed inspiration for his even better song “ทะเลใจ” /Telay Jai/ (Ocean Heart), which IS about a person coming to terms with their own heart so they can be happy?!
At that moment I decided never again to apologize for only halfway understanding a song.
In turn, I’m not sure I completely understand Aed Carabao when he sings about the little bird drifting and bobbing, blown by the wind, till it unfortunately falls into the center of the ทะเลใจ.” But I LOVE IT!
Step 7: Stop fussing!…
You are close enough. Don’t overanalyze. Play the song. Listen closely, hum, bounce, and sing along, and let the movie play out inside you.
*The concert is “วันวานไม่มีเขา” /Waan Wan Mai Mi Kow/, the Exclusive Concert at Aed Carabao’s home in Chiang mai. You can listen for yourself at 1:16:4 of this video:
This patriotic song that we hear on the radio and TV every day is said to have been written by General Prayuth. A translation in the subtitles on TV and an official translation can be found on the Internet. The people are used to patriotic songs after a coup, but being written by the coup leader himself, this one is a little different.
The song is written in very simple, everyday Thai. And whatever you think about patriotic songs, I thought it would be a good vocabulary learning tool.
The translations here are a little different from the official one, mainly for vocabulary learning purposes. The gist of it is the same though.
I have used the first person pronoun in the translation as these are the thoughts of the song writer. The translation isn’t perfect but the vocabulary should give a pretty good idea of what is going on.
The important vocabulary words have been underlined with dots and translated.
คืน ความสุข ให้ ประเทศไทย
Return happiness to Thailand
ความสุข – happiness
ประเทศไทย – Thailand
วันที่ ชาติ และ องค์ราชามวลประชา อยู่มาพ้น ภัย
When the nation, the King, and the people are in danger.
ชาติ – nation
องค์ราชา – King
มวลประชา – people
ภัย – danger
ขอ ดูแลคุ้มครอง ด้วยใจ
Let me take care and protect you with all my heart.
Were you wondering why it’s called “The Farang Thai Song (aka The 5552)?” Well, 555 in Thai (ห้า ห้า ห้า) is /hâa hâa hâa/. And 2 in Thai (สอง), is pronounced /sŏng/, making it the “Ha Ha Ha Song”. Clever.
Shimona Kee on the internet…
The sweet Shimona can be found online at the following locations:
Several times a month I jump into a taxi to roam around Thailand with a Thai friend. There is usually a plan, but we always end up goodness knows where. And after I let go of my western penchant for sticking to the plan, “goodness knows where” became fun.
On trips around Thailand I take a special black Moleskin to jot down what interests me. Sometimes it’s the name of a Wat or town. Sometimes a Thai word or phrase. But oftentimes I’m taking down notes for future posts on WLT.
On one trip I asked Khun Phairo and KP (the taxi driver) what their most beautiful Thai words were. They were both dumbfounded at my question and couldn’t come up with a single one.
Going at it from another angle, I then asked which Thai words sounded good tripping off their tongues. Thai words (or word combos even) they enjoyed saying.
Bingo. We were then on a roll with words for lovers, words used with kids, and words for fun.
And excellent for us, all can be found on YouTube. And because the YouTube files take up loads of room, I’m posting this section separate from a coming post: The most beautiful words in the Thai language.
สบายๆ /sabai sabai/…
Everyone who knows Thai knows สบายๆ /sabai sabai/. Sabai Sabai means “happy, comfortable, feeling fine, take it easy”. When someone asks you “sabai dee mai?” then you reply “sabai sabai” or “mai sabai”. And if you are panicking, someone might comfort you by saying “sabai sabai”.
The song of the same name is by ธงไชย แมคอินไตย์ Thongchai “Bird” McIntyre. The original song came out in 1987 with later versions being cut by Bird and Sek Loso.
Btw: In Lao they say สบาย /sabai/ instead of สวัสดี /sà-wàt-dee/ or หวัดดี /wàt-dee/.
เป็นไปไม่ได้ /bpen bpai mâi dâai/…
เป็นไปไม่ได้ /bpen bpai mâi dâai/ means “it’s impossible” in Thai. Perry Como recorded the hit song It’s Impossible back in 1970 but this version is Thailand’s very own. It’s not a translation of the American song, but a love song of the same name. It’s sung by เศรษฐา (Sayt-Taa), who is wishing for the impossible: ten faces, ten hands, etc.
จิ๊บจ๊อย /jíp-jói/ means “it’s a little thing, not a big deal”. จิ๊บจ๊อย is similar to ไม่เป็นไร /mâi bpen rai/ “it’s nothing, never mind”. The Thai song จิ๊บจ๊อย /jíp-jói/ is by flamboyant Country singer ดาว มยุรีย์ (Dao Mayuree). The lyrics start off with: “It’s not a big deal if we break up…”
หน่อมแน้ม /nòm-náem/ is slang for being “childish, innocent, naïve”. The cute Thai song หน่อมแน้มไปหน่อย /nòm-náem bpai nòi/ is sang by บิลลี่ โอแกน /bin-lêe oh-gaen/ (Billy XOXO).
เรื่อยๆ /rêuay rêuay/…
เรื่อยๆ /rêuay rêuay/ means “let it go, chill out”. The gist of the song is, “we’ll keep going like this until we get old”. Love it (I’ve added this song to my Thai songsn to learn list).
จุ๊บๆ /júp júp/…
Thais use จุ๊บๆ /júp júp/ for the sound that a kiss makes. You can say “kiss kiss” to your cat, your mom, your lover, your baby or spouse. But not your boss.
รักนะจุ๊บๆ /rák ná júp júp/ is “I love you, kiss kiss!”
I’m a HUGE fan of กรุณาฟังให้จบ /gà-rú-naa fang hâi jòp/ by แช่ม แช่มรัมย์ /châem châe má-ram/. Did you notice the Kindly Listen in my top nav? That’s a protected practice page with กรุณาฟังให้จบ separated into more manageable (to me anyway) sound bites. Because one day, putting embarrassment to the side, I plan on belting it out on karaoke night. Someday… but not soon (have you heard how fast that song gets? Whooooh).
Knowing my interest in Cham Chamaram, a couple of weeks ago Will Yaryan (Religion, Sex & Politics) introduced me to another of Cham’s songs, America. Love it!
America is full of wonderful wordplay and idioms so I asked Thai friends to help. And to polish off my efforts, I called on Thai Skype Teacher Khun Narisa to answer outstanding questions. Thanks all!
Disclaimer: Any snafus in the final version below are all my doing. During the cobbling together of my notes this morning, I realised I didn’t have every question answered. And this is where you come in. If you notice anything that doesn’t seem quite right, please point it out in the comments and I’ll correct it on the translation. Ta!
YouTube video: อเมริกา – แช่ม แช่มรัมย์…
America: Thai-English translation…
Chorus: อยากขี่เครื่องบิน ไปกินแซนวิช หัดพูดอังกฤษ ฟุดฟิดฟอไฟ
yàak kèe krêuang-bin · bpai gin saen-wít · hàt pôot ang-grìt · fút-fít for fai
(I) want to get on (a) plane, go eat (a) sandwich, practice speaking English. Fot Fit Fo Fai.
ฟุดฟิดฟอไฟ /fút-fít for fai/: It’s how non-English speaking Thais mimic English (sort of like “ching chong” for Chinese or blahblahblahblah)
Sample sentence: พูดอังกฤษไม่เก่ง ได้แต่ฟุดฟิดฟอไฟ
pôot ang-grìt mâi gèng · dâai dtàe fút-fít for fai
(I’m) not good at speaking English. Only (know) Fot Fit Fo Fai.
Chorus: โอ่โอที่รัก พี่อยากไปหา แต่อเมริกาาาาา ไม่รู้หน้าตามันเป็นยังไง
òh oh têe rák · pêe yàak bpai hăa · dtàe a-may-rí-gaaa · mâi róo nâa dtaa man bpen yang ngai
Oh, Oh, darling. I want to come visit (you). But America, I don’t know.
หน้าตามันเป็นยังไง /nâa dtaa man bpen yang-ngai/: how it is
Verse: รักน้องข้างเดียว ยังแห้งยังเหี่ยว ไม่พอ น้องไม่รอ บินหนีพี่ไปซะไกล
rák nóng kâang dieow · yang hâeng yang hìeow · mâi por · nóng mâi ror · bin nĕe pêe bpai sá glai
(My) love for you is not returned. No hope. Not only that (but) you didn’t wait. You flew away from me so far.
ข้างเดียว /kâang-dieow/: one-sided
ยังแห้งยังเหี่ยว /yang hâeng yang hìeow/: lacking of hope
Verse: จะร่ำจะเรียน จะอ่าน จะเขียน ทำไมไม่เรียนเมืองไทย
jà râm jà rian · jà àan · jà kĭan · tam-mai mâi rian meuang-tai
If you want to study. To read. To write. Why not study in Thailand?
จะร่ำจะเรียน /jà râm jà rian/: to study
Verse: เมืองนอกเมืองนา เขาว่าฝรั่งก็เยอะ
meuang-nôk meuang naa · kăo wâa fà-ràng gôr yúh
Abroad, people say there are a lot of foreigners.
Verse cont: ถ้าน้องไปเจอ แล้วน้องไม่กลัวหรือไง
tâa nóng bpai jer · láew nóng mâi glua rĕu ngai
When you go and see, won’t you be scared?
เมืองนอกเมืองนา /meuang nôk meuang naa/: abroad
Verse: พี่อยู่ตั้งไกล ไม่ได้ไปด้วย แล้วใครจะช่วยเป็นเพื่อนใจ
pêe yòo dtâng glai · mâi dâai bpai dûay · láew krai jà chûay bpen pêuan jai
I am far away. I didn’t go with (you). Who will be your close friend? (who will watch out for you)
[ซ้ำ /sám/: repeat chorus]
Verse: เอบีซีถึงพี่จะไม่เข้าใจ จำขึ้นใจแค่คำว่า “I Love You”
ay bee see tĕung pêe jà mâi kâo jai · jam-kêun jai kâe kam wâa “I Love You”
ABC, I don’t even understand. I only memorised the words, “I Love You”.
จำขึ้นใจ /jam-kêun-jai/: learn by heart, memorise
Verse: จะส่งภาษาทำท่าทำทาง ฝาหรั่งก็คงไม่รู้
jà sòng paa-săa tam tâa tam taang · făa ràng gôr kong mâi róo
(When) I speak (or) gesture, foreigners probably won’t understand.
ทำท่าทำทาง /tam tâa tam taang/: action, gesture
ส่งภาษา /sòng paa-săa/: to speak
Verse: เคยเดินดิน เครื่องบินก็ได้แต่เห็น ขึ้นไม่เป็น คงยากคงเย็นน่าดู
koie dern din · krêuang-bin gôr dâai dtàe hĕn · kêun mâi bpen · kong yâak kong yen nâa doo
I only walk on the ground. I only see the plane. I can’t get on, it’s really difficult.
(I’m an ordinary person. It’s really impossible for me to travel overseas).
คนเดินดิน /kon-dern-din/: ordinary people
คงยากคงเย็น /kong yâak kong yen/: might be very difficult
Verse: กะเสือกกะสน ดิ้นรนไปหา มันจนปัญญาน้องก็รู้
gà sèuak gà sŏn · dîn ron bpai hăa · man jon bpan-yaa nóng gôr róo
I try hard. I try hard to go see you. It’s impossible, you know that.
กะเสือกกะสน /gà sèuak gà-sŏn/: to try hard
ดิ้นรน /dîn-ron/: to try hard
Verse: จะเป็นผู้ดีต้องมีสตางค์ ไปเมืองฝาหรั่งคงใช้สตางค์เยอะเลย
jà bpen-pôo-dee dtông mee sà-dtaang · bpai meuang făa ràng kong chái sà-dtaang yúh loie
To be hi-so one must have money. To go to the west (America), (one) must have a lot of money.
After falling for the catchy tune by Cham Cham Ramis, กรุณาฟังให้จบ /gà-rú-naa fang hâi jòp/, I found the Thai-English translation on a new (to me) Thai Lyrics and Translation blog, ดึงดูดใจ /deung-dòot jai/. Excellent! Translation sites for Thai songs are few and far between – many more are needed.
Aiming to feature ดึงดูดใจ on WLT, I shot off an email to Tahmnong, the creator of the site. The about page was a good start for a post but I wanted more (I always want more, yes?)
But, silly me, I assumed Tahmnong was a guy so added a tidbit so’s not to scare him off: The site name is tongue in cheek… not many women learn Thai ;-)
Seems I overlooked ขอบคุณค่ะ on the about page. Ooops. No ครับ – ค่ะ is a female polite particle.
Sending a laughing email back, Tahmnong (Melodie) was thrilled to answer a few questions about herself and the origins of her Thai Lyrics and Translation blog.
Melodie and ดึงดูดใจ…
You know, you are right. I know so many men learning Thai but only a handful of women. We’re a rare breed! ;)
Hmm, what else about me can I share? I am a girl, haha, in my mid 20s. An American-born Puerto Rican/Romanian who spent so much time in Thailand while growing up, I feel more comfortable there than anywhere else in the world.
My dad was in the air force stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He fell in love with the place so we were constantly going on vacations to Thailand whenever possible.
I also went my first year of college to Rangsit University before deciding a degree from an American university would probably do me better in the long run.
When I was younger, my Thai friends gave me the ชื่อเล่น /chêu-lên/ (nickname) Tahmnong (ทำนอง) since it’s the direct translation of my American name, Melodie (Spanish name Melodía), and it’s stuck ever since.
As a kid, I missed Thailand so much whenever I was back in America that I loved listening to music and watching movies and lakorns; they reminded me of the country.
Because of my love for Thailand, my desire to spend more time there in the future, as well as the lack of subtitles/translations for most Thai media, I started comprehensively studying Thai on my own in high school. I learned from books and practiced by subtitling interviews and movies and translating songs for fun.
With Thai music getting more world-wide attention, I decided to create Deungdutjai to share my many translations with the world. And in case anyone was like me, using song lyrics as a learning aid, the translations are line-by-line with romanization as well.
I love anything and everything to do with translation, the study and teaching of languages, and understanding of foreign cultures, especially Thai, so I’m always happy to contribute however I can with any kindred spirits.
Someday I’d like to expand my blog to song and album reviews as well, so more people can comment and share opinions and interactions. But, as my plate is rather full right now, I’m afraid of biting off more than I can chew. To at least keep my song translations updated daily, any sort of expansion will have to wait for the time being.
I’m currently living in California finishing school for one more year before I move to South Korea with my Korean boyfriend for a while. But there will definitely be plenty more vacations back to the Land of Smiles!
If you are serious about learning Thai, you probably search out every available avenue for getting the rhythm of the language into your heart, your head, down to the tapping of your fingers even. To assist, Thai songs are a great way to go, as are lakorn’s.
Dedicated, professional, and driven, Anothai Dara is one of the most popular lakorn fansubbers I know.
Wantagan (Chompoo) returns home to Thailand from America after her father passes away. She knows that her father was swindled, slandered, and murdered. She just needs to prove it. Her twin sister, Tienwan (Chompoo), also suspects the same, but is too afraid to vindicate herself. She is Natin’s (Chai) long time girlfriend and does not believe he or his family would betray them. Wantagan, on the other hand, is determined to uncover the truth at all costs and leaves no one out as a possible suspect…
If soap operas are not your thing, Anothai Dara also has a growing collection of translated songs that include Thai script, transliteration, and English. Here’s the latest one: Bodyslam – Naliga Tai [Dead Watch].
I’ve always been interested about the process of subbing YouTube videos, so I contacted Anothai Dara for an interview…
Interviewing Anothai Dara, a lakorn fansubber…
Could you please tell us a little bit about your background?
I was born and raised in the U.S. and English is actually my primary language. I learned Thai mostly through my grandmother, so I understand it better than I can speak it. That’s also why I’m able to translate from Thai to English just fine, but translating from English to Thai is a bit more difficult for me. I have a BS degree in Mathematics and Chemistry.
What is a lakorn?
A lakorn is a Thai play or drama series, which usually consists of the pra’nangs (hero and heroine) and the nang’raai (female antagonist). There’s usually a birth secret or some sort of inheritance revelation, but usually end happily with our pra’nangs confessing their love for each other on a beach. Of course, those are just lakorn clichés, and there are plenty more, but listing them all would probably require its own article. LOL.
How did you get into translating YouTube videos?
Initially, I’d wanted to translate/sub Thai music because I thought it’d be a great way to share some of my favorite Thai songs with everyone. Then naively, I thought, “How hard could translating lakorns be?” You see, I’d always admired and have been impressed with fansubbers of other countries (i.e. Korea) and especially of Chobling and wishboniko (Thai fansubbers), who I think started the whole lakorn subbing. However, you’ll see how wrong I was about the whole subbing process as I explain it below.
What is the process? How long does it take?
Subbing dramas/movies consists of 5 steps; translating, timing, editing, spot translating and hardsubbing/encoding. (The last step is actually optional, but a must for me since I post my work on YouTube.) Also, before I can even start the subbing process, I have to rip and convert the DVD files into individual episodes.
Translation & Timing: Here’s where the fun begins. I go through what I call a rough draft of translations and timing. It’s basically what it sounds like. I run through a “quick” translation and save unclear spots for later. Timing is where the subtitles are timed to display in sync with the actually spoken dialogue in the video. This takes about 2 to 4 hours for a 1 hour episode.
Editing: Here, I check for any grammatical or translation errors and check that the translations themselves make sense. I also make sure that the timing has been set correctly and that everything runs fluidly. This part can take another 2 to 4 hours.
Spot Translations: Even post editing doesn’t mean that I’m done. Sometimes, there are spots in the video that are either hard to hear, discern or refer to something I am unfamiliar with. Here is where I fill them in to the best of my ability. This part can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. It really depends on how many spots there are to fill and how difficult each one is. This can end up being more painful and strenuous than the initial translations itself.
Hardsubbing/Encoding: Hardsubbing is where the subs are encoded into the video so that they’re permanently embedded into the video.
All in all, subbing a 1 hour episode takes an average of 6 to 8 hours, but has taken longer. Subbing songs isn’t nearly as arduous, but still requires the same care. In Thai (and in many other languages), pronouns are often always unstated and even when they are stated explicitly, they can be rather vague. Take for instance; the third person reference “kao”, which means “he”, “she”, or “they”. This is the reason why I emphasize that my translations aren’t direct translations, but rather, interpretations.
You are teamed up with another fansubber. How is the work shared out?
I’ve been blessed in having a wonderful subbing partner, Chobling. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to work alongside someone whose flawless work I’ve always admired. Since there are only two of us in our joint projects, we don’t feel the need to explicitly credit each other for the individual work we put forth. Having a partner is great and alleviates much of subbing angst that can build up. Also, it allows us both extra personal time, which is the icing on the cake.
How do you choose which video or song to do next?
Ever since I started subbing, I haven’t listened to Thai music the same way. I have a (bad?) habit of translating songs in my head while listening to them. The reasons behind my subbing selection vary tremendously. At times, it could just be a line that strikes a chord, while at other times, the song holds personal meaning. About 25% of the songs I’ve subbed were requests, so they might not have had anything to do with me at all.
How do you handle critics?
I’ve had my share of criticism. I realize that putting my work on the internet poses vulnerability to judgment. Some people dislike my non-literal style of translating while others think I’m too literal. I know, I can’t please everyone. I can only try my best and be content in that. On a different note, I do appreciate constructive criticism; not the ones that attack just to be hurtful. I’m always up for learning and improving because there’s always room for that.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to try their hand at translating Thai songs or movies?
While subbing songs doesn’t require any form of commitment, I’d say translate each one with a bit of passion. Here’s your opportunity to express yourself through your song interpretation. Make it your own, but respect the artist’s intentions.
As for subbing lakorns, make sure you’re ready to eat, sleep, and breathe it for the next few months. Well, at least love it enough to be motivated and inspired to sub it to the very end. There’s a sense of responsibility to bear in mind.
The demands and pressure may get overwhelming at times, but the reward is well worth it.