Ashley / Language Learning

Thai Classes Begin

On the list of the wonderful things my thus-far-wonderful-employer does to help us settle: it pays for 20 group Thai classes for all new teachers to the school. Taking advantage of a free way to learn Thai me and five other teachers met at a new teacher apartment for a beer, a bit of hummus and our first lesson in spoken Thai. We learned greetings, started our long frustrating journey with tones and some bits and bolts of vocabulary. So far so good!

Thai is not actually a terribly hard language and its nice that locals are keen to help you out when you try to speak Thai. One thing that I’ve been having fun with is a little game that a Spanish teacher at school (go figure) let me in on. The Thai language is full of a lot of very entertaining combinations and double entendres to make up bigger words. Once you begin to recognize the smaller words its fun to try to figure out what they are trying to describe when combined.

For example:

  • “drunk car” or “mao rot”  = to be car sick
  • “fall heart” or “tok jai” = to startle
  • “sky fire” or “fai faa” = electricity
  • “speak play” or “puut len” = just kidding
  • “vehicle stick” or “rot dtit” = traffic (something we’re becoming all too familiar with)

There’s a whole list of even longer more complicated concepts here.

It’s fun to learn a bit about the culture while learning a language and I look forward to adding more combinations to my list! Our teacher, Khun Narisa (“khun” is a Thai title for respect like “Ms.” or “Mr.”) gives us little tidbits about the origins of the language or context behind a phrase to help us remember the vocabulary.

One thing I learned is that often a “moo bahn” or neighborhood is named after the first daughter or wife of the first family that lived there. So, our housing complex, Nichada Thani, is named after the owner’s first daughter, who is also a alumni of the school. I also learned that the “tuk tuk,” a three-wheeled method of transportation here in Thailand, is named onomatopoetically after the sound the engine makes.

As much fun as these stories are there there are still obstacles in language to overcome. The other day when I was looking for a specific shop I thought to myself “I need to move to a country where they use the Roman alphabet so I can at least read things!” Not only is Thai frustratingly tonal but it is based on an alphabet of curlicue characters. Characters that I would love to learn more about, but plan on being realistically unknowledgeable of for a bit. As cool as it would be to learn to read and write, I think I’ll just try to be able to order food first!

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