Thailand Intimacy & Healthy Sexuality Research Report
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Thai Language & Do's & Don'ts
Getting Along in Thailand
The Thai Language, or Phasa Thai, basically consists of monosyllable words, whose meanings are complete by themselves. Its alphabet was created by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great in 1283 by modeling it on the ancient Indian alphabets of Sanskrit and Pali through the medium of the old Khmer characters. After a history of over 700 years, the Thai alphabet today comprises 44 letters (including 2 obsolete ones ), representing 20 consonant phonemes, and 15 vowel signs, denoting 22 vowels, diphthongs and triphthongs.
As Thai is a tonal language with five different tones, if often confuses foreigners who are unused to this kind of language. For example, they have difficulty in distinguishing these 3 words from each other -
* Suea (with rising tone) which means tiger in english
* Suea (with low tone) which means mat in English
* Suea (with falling tone) which means clothes in English
Like most languages of the world, the Thai language is a complicated mixture of several sources. Many Thai words used today were derived from Pali, Sanskrit, Khmer, Malay, English and Chinese.
Dr. Joker gives more examples on soc.culture.thai newsgroup:
One of the most frequent causes of misunderstanding is the Thai speach habit
of never pronounce two consonats without a vowel sound between. Sometimes, a consonant gets lost. This can couse confusion!
"I can't go" and "I can go" mean differnt things, but 90 per cent of Thais will pronounce both as "I can go".
If you are wondering why your thai friend tells you all the time "I am Thai" the chances are high that he is trying to let you know that he is tired....
Further, "twenty" becomes "tawenty", "stamp" becomes "satamp" and since v and w are constatly confused in Thai and the t is rather differnt to the english, "twenty" often sounds much like "seventy". Keep that in mind when bargaining!
thai english: sandwit
thai english: bang
Also, often heard:
thai english: lip to your aparment
english: lift to your apartment
Part of the problem involves the standard english language learning in
Thailand, which is not high.
I know it will always be a difficult task to understand thai people when
they speak english, but I hope I helped you a little bit
Dr. Joker (the real one)
Foreign Languages for Travelers with over 70 languages represented including hearing basic words in real audio
Main page: (select Thai)
Thai Language Courses
English-Thai Translation software comments from soc.culture.thai newsgroup:
There are several systems that claim to be able to translate English to/from Thai but none of them are very good.
> Would a word for word translation of English to Thai at least be >
> understood in Thai though not being correct?
Direct, word to word translation is never a good way to communicate.
Bennett (Bigben) Site Coordinator Rivendell Language Resources
i bought a software package from the U.S. called the Universal translator which promised to translate thai to english but found out after a couple of months sending letters to thailand, that i was getting no replys so i travelled out to bangkok to investigate.I found out the letters i had been sending were totally unreadable to a thai national so i had to repeat the whole process again. I contacted the people responsable for the software but they told me they had never had any complaints before so basically they were ripping people off as i have spoken to hundreds of engish speaking Thai nationals ( and visa-versa ) and everyone has the same reply.. TONNI
In less legal language, here are a few tips on what to do and what not to do on visiting a religious place:
Dress neatly. Don't go shirtless, or in shorts, pants, or other unsuitable attire. If you look at the Thais around you, you'll see the way they would prefer you to b dressed -- which, in fact, is probably not different from the way you'd dress in a similar place back home.
It's all right to wear shoes while walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept. Don't worry about dirt when you have to take them off; the floors of such places are usually clean.
In Muslim mosque, men should wear hats and women be well-covered with slacks or a long skirt, a long-sleeved blouse a buttoned to the neck, a scarf over the hair. All should remove their shoes before entering the mosque and should not be present if there is a religious gathering.
Buddhist priests are forbidden to touch or to be touched by a women or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk or novice, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. Or in case of a woman who wants to present it with her hand, the monk or novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe or handkerchief in front of him, and the woman will down the material on the robe which is being held at one end by the monk or novice.
All Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred objects. Hence, don't climb up on one to take a photograph or, generally speaking, do anything that might show a lack of respect.
The don'ts of Thai social behavior are less clearly defined than those concerning the monarchy or religion-especially in city like Bangkok where Western customs are better know and more widely accepted. However, what is acceptable in Bangkok may not be in the countryside where the old ways are still strong. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Thais DO NOT normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms together. in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally, a younger person wais an older, who returns it. Watch how the Thais do it, and you will soon learn.
It is considered rude to point you foot at person, so try to avoid doing so when sitting opposite anyone, and following the conception that the foot is a low limb; DO NOT point you foot to show anything to anyone, but use you finger instead.
As Paul pointed out to me in October 2000: "Not only is one not to point a foot at anyone (as you point out), one also may not cross one's legs so that the sole of the foot faces another person (disrespectful). Neither is it acceptable to ever touch money with your foot (should a baht bill drop to the floor, for example) because all currency has the king's likeness on it."
Thais regard the head as the highest part of body both literally and figuratively. As a result they DO NOT approve of touching anyone on that part of body; even in a friendly gesture. Similarly, if you watch Thais a social gathering, you will notice that young people go to considerable lengths to keep their hands lower than those of the older ones, to avoid giving the impression of "looking down" of them. This is not always possible, of course, but it is the effort that counts.
Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. You may see some very Westernized young Thai couples holding hands, but that is the extent of the displaying of affection in this polite society.
Losing your temper, especially in public, will more than likely get you nowhere. The Thais thinks such displays denote poor manners, and you are more apt to get what you want by keeping a cool head concealing your emotions.
DO NOT be surprised if you are addressed by you first name; for instance, Mr. Bob or Miss Mary instead of by your surname. This is because Thias refer to one another in this manner, usually with the title "Khun" (MR.., Mrs.., Miss) in front. Follow the customs of any country as far as possible, and you will make more friends during your stay. The more friends you make, the more you will want to return to Thailand.
Saving Face Even if Lie A
From: Rex Alexander <rex@pattaya4U.com>
Hi Dave, all,
In Western societies, certain values--such as "truth" or "honesty"--are presumed to be Universal. As "obvious" as this may seem if you are from the West, that viewpoint is not necessarily shared by other cultures, particularly most Asian cultures. That is not say that Asians are more "dishonest" in the sense of morality than other peoples, but in the hierarchy of values, "saving face", preserving group harmony, and loyalty to authority will always take precedence over other values. In the hierarchy of values, "truth" occupies a slot down at the bottom of the list somewhere near dinosaur shit.
In a very minor way, it is not so different than telling your friend that you like her horrible new hair style. In the conflict of values, the value of not hurting your friend's feelings wins out over the value of being "honest".
This is a difficult concept to communicate about because when I talk about "saving face" the significance and emotional intensity you are likely to ascribe to it is maybe only 10% of what it means to Asians. I have lived and worked in 5 Asian countries for 10 years, and I still only have a vague grasp of the concept. But I know that it is a potent one, permeating and directing just about everything that goes on between people.
What that means is that criticism in most forms is out ...or is handled in the most convoluted and indirect ways imaginable ...This applies particularly and especially to public criticism, which of course makes unflattering news stories a big "no-no". It is only in this context that Ms. Hongsakul's behavior makes any sense at all. And even still, it is a concept very difficult to wrap you head around if you are farang.
I particularly enjoy Cooper's books "Culture Shock: Thailand" and especially "Thais Mean Business". TMB is not really a "business book" It is terrific, funny and invaluable even if you are just a tourist. Also, I found "Culture Shock: Singapore" (I forget the author) to be extremely helpful in learning to accept and "un-code" what at first (to Western minds) seems to be hypocrisy, dishonesty, and double messages in Asian communication styles.
WARNING! SHAMELESS, SELF-SERVING COMMERCIAL MESSAGE ===> These books, and many more, are all available via Amazon books thru the Pattaya4U web site http://www.Pattaya4U.com click on "Bookshop" or go directly via http://www.pattaya4u.com/Books/index.html
Also, we are working on a deal with the publisher to be able to offer you "Making Out in Thai" so that you can learn to say all the naughty things in Thai that you have always wanted to. More later.
Don't Litter In Bangkok
There are reports of police enforcing the no littering laws and being fined 200-2000 baht.
There is also a report in the Pattaya Mail 2 April 99 of a Thai man falsely posing as a police officer scaming tourists to pay him a 2500 baht littering fine.
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