Language of the Heart

Hands down without doubt the thing I love best about Thailand is the language. Listening to spoken Thai and reading written Thai can even edge out a deliciously so-spicy-will-kill-a-normal-human plate of pad gra pao from my affections.

Thai language is such a beautiful language and really, when you think about it, such a simple language. In Thai you can say the same thing in two words that in proper English would take a dozen or more words sometimes. Example? Thai: Bpai Nai? Meaning: Where are you going? In Proper English: I say old chap where are you popping off to this evening? It’s no wonder Thai kids may sometimes not be thrilled to learn the old pasah Ankrit! 😉
Richard and Steven – My apologies for a little poke in the English ribs there lol

On the other hand Thai is one of the only languages I know where you can say the same word in only a slightly different way 5 times and come up with 5 completely different words like the Thai tongue twister I posted last time maai mai mai mai mai ไม้ใหมไม่ไหม้มยั้ (meaning “New wood doesn’t burn, does it?”).

Be that as it sometimes may when I hear someone speaking Thai my reaction is automatic. I start to physically draw my body into the conversation as if I could absorb the language by osmosis. If I am sitting down like in my Thai class at Wat Thai I start to lean forward more, elbows resting on the table, my head resting in my hands with all the rapt attention of a spellbound child. I listen to the rhythm and cadence of the Thai words that flow out gently like wind or water. Especially when listening to the monks talk about Buddhism in such a peaceful relaxed tone unlike anything, no matter how poetic, that can be said in English or dare I say any other language.

I would swear a look of dopey puppy love crosses over my face. When this happens I wonder if my Thai teacher, Phrapalad Ampol, must think I am his most attentive student or maybe I have a crush on him! 😉

It fascinates me that classic Thai is like a lyrical poem of metaphor, like the epic Ramayana or even the true name of the City of Angels Bangkok. But Thai is also much like modern English in that it can speak its own language within a language in a code of slang and innuendo.

This is a level of true Thai that you will never learn in Thai language books or by listening to Thai audio tapes. It’s only by getting verbally ‘down and dirty’ on the mean streets of Bangkok or ‘sweaty and gritty’ with the hill tribes and farmers outside the city. I can understand this even though I have never been to Thailand before, the only Thailand I know from books, tapes and CD’s stacked up around me here so I know I don’t carry the same Thai ‘street cred’ as most of the veterans here Thai-Blogs. Still this makes sense to me because it is the same way here in America. Different cultures all speaking their own language of solidarity. But I am getting off the point here..

Just as fascinating and a heck of a lot easier to learn is the Thai language of the heart. Metaphors have been a part of written and spoken language since the time of the Egyptians but I’ve never run across a language before that expresses the heart and emotions in so many ways and can be compressed into so few words yet once you learn them can envelope you in such a universal understanding of feeling.

Therefore one of my favorite books on Thai language is Heart Talk: Say What You Feel In Thai by Christopher G. Moore and available at Richards school bookshop. Written by a farang no less, Heart Talk is quite a comprehensive list of the many expressions of ‘Jai’ ใจ, or Thai heart. The book lists from A to Z about 450 heart phrases or words to express over 400 moods and feelings. And you thought learning 44 consonant and 32 complete vowels of the Alphabet was hard? Pish-tosh!

The heart phrases, perhaps ‘phases’ being an equally important label, in this book cover everything from the ‘absentminded heart’ to the ‘zen heart’ including the most common and some of the pretty obscure along the way.

Each chapter usually lists a dozen or more Heart Talk expressions for categories such as Good Times, Hard Times and Condemnations, Heart Talk in Relationships and in Society. As well as expressions for Heart Talk Warfare, Body Talk, Self-Control, Perception, Heart Talk Choice and Romance. Whew! Could anything possibly be left out?

Therefore without further ado is my short list of some of the best, most intriguing (to me) or flat out odd (me again) from the list.

Heart Talk for the Good Times

Pleased Heart

Kruem Jai ครึ้มใจ or Kruem ok Kruem Jai ครึ้มอกครึ้มใจ

When someone gives a special gift or bestows a favor, the one receiving feels a sense of pleasure or ‘please heart’. This is like whenever I get more books or CD’s from Thailand, yeppers I’m always pleased about that!

Comfort Heart

Sabai Jai สบายใจ or Yen Jai เย็นใจ

This is one of the most common heart phrases you could hear in Thailand which means to experience the feeling of no problems or burdens in life. Everything is a OK or mai bpen rai ไม่เป็นไร to the max. You feel comfortable with yourself inside and out, your life and everything in it is content so by example no joke needed for this one na.

Desire Heart

Wake up the Tiger’s Heart or Pluk jai suea paa ปลุกใจเสือป่า

This is an interesting one it describes anything that is sexually provocative like clothing, pictures, words or advertisements. The desire that is evoked through these images, words or actions is said to ‘wake up the hearts of tigers’ in those who watch. So what does watching Disney evoke? Waking up the hearts of meerkats?

Glad Heart

Dee Jai ดีใจ or Dee ok Dee Jai ดีอกดีใจ

Dee Jai probably being one of the most frequantely used expressions is an emotional feeling of gladness you could feel in any number of circumstances from the good when something happens to you like a raise or promotion or bad like the guy stealing your wallet getting hit by a car while running away! But seriously in most cases to have ‘Dee Jai’ is to show that this person is often someone with the best of human qualities and is a strong heart to strive for.

Happiness Heart

Suk Jai สุขใจ

Like Sabai Jai basically meaning ‘comfortable heart’ another well balance state of being that you may often hear repeated a lot in Thailand. In short if your heart is comfortable, whether buried in Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream or making merit to Buddha, then your heart is happy and thus has ‘suk jai.’

Heart Talk for the Hard Times

Small Heart

Jai Noi ใจน้อย

Someone who is extremely sensitive or becomes hurt or sad easily is someone who you could say has a ‘small heart.’ This is someone who may read more into your actions than you actually mean. Kinda like my last relationship which is one reason why it became my last relationship.

Boil the Meat Hot Heart

Dueat nuea rOOn jai เดือดเนึ้อรัอนใจ

This is the ‘small hearts’ bigger cousin the ‘big time worriers’ that worry about everything and the constant prospects of gloom in their life. Not someone usually fun at parties, no.

Poor Heart

Jon Jai จนใจ

This is the heart expression for those that try and try again but can’t succeed or they lose something of great value that results in a sense of personal failure. Kind of like me trying to say ‘งู’ (Nguu-Thai word for snake) correctly more than twice in a row without sounding like a sick cow, it just ain’t happening folks.

Neck Heart

Jai KhOO ใจคอ

If your in a bad mood then you have this heart expression. Whenever someone is in a bad mood everyone can expect to see ‘Jai KhOO’ and it is also an indication of some ones true personality if they have this heart phrases a lot. All I can say is Thank God for coffee!

Doubting Love Heart

Khaa Jai คาใจ

This heart phrase is from a Thai love song and like the name says is about doubting the faithfulness and true feelings of ones lover. As a fan of Thai pop music and country that’s no surprise there!

Sudden Realization Heart

Nuek ae Jai นึกเอะใจ

If you feel doubt or uncertainty about something then you have this heart phrase. Like me in the morning when I’m reading comments and blogs on here from the night before and I suddenly realize I’m gonna be late for work! Again!!

Hot Heart

Jai rOOn ใจร้อน

Anyone who blows their cool certainly has a case of the ‘hot heart.’ This one is definitely a no-no to have in Thailand unless you want to lose face. Unfortunately if the Metro train is late here in DC this is one heart expression you’ll see a lot!

Bored Heart

Ra aa Jai ระอาใจ

Bored? Listless? Fed up with the Job or your faens latest issue with the relationship? Then you have ‘Bored Heart!’ But take heart it’s not as bad as watching C-Span, trust me.

And last but not least for now…….

Very Tired Heart

Nueay jai thEEp khaat เหนื่อยใจแทบขาด

The description for this one fits me perfectly right about now “One has experienced a long, hard Monday and feels bone tired. One knows one needs a few more hours of sleep to function, but at the same time, one has an urgent appointment to keep (or blog to post)……yada, yada, yada.

Right now my appointment book says I have an urgent one with my pillow and dream land 😉 It’s getting close to my bedtime and I get cranky when I don’t get my sleep! I wonder what heart expression that would be? Hmmm

There are so many more excellent examples to share but a problem with Thai-Blogs is making it painfully slow to write this post. Perhaps I can do a part two with more heart phrases tomorrow. I can do my best but I am sure there are so many of the really good ones I will miss and many of your personal favorites too. Still, more to come so stay tuned!

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6 responses to “Language of the Heart

  1. Sawadee Khun Wit,

    I think you’re on the money about your blog suffering from the server being down. It got stuck there in no man’s land.
    I like your insight into the Thai language. It is clear that you are a true student of it. A little sidenote about “getting sweaty and gritty’ with the farmers outside of Bangkok. Dang, didn’t work for me in ol’ Bahn Bong Chang. They speak Pahsah Neua. Can’t understand a lick of it! It might as well be Chinese.

  2. Hi Khun Wit,

    Hmm, could be about the fonts but least it’s visible now, thanx ja. I know there are some cool fonts but I’ve only got a couple on my pc. Some letters are distinguishable and others look like random lines to me (blame the font used).

    I will look forward to your next blog na ka.

    Well, I’m glad the server has returned now (^.^)

  3. Hi Jen,

    Thanks for the comment(s) I was beginning to think my poor little blog got lost in the middle of our ‘disruption’ last weekend. Great way to celebrate Thai-Blogs anniversary by crashing the server lol!

    Anyway I am not sure why it works for me but I re-posted your comment to show the Thai font. I think it may have to do with what Thai font style you use. I have about 25 really cool font styles in Thai but only a small handful will work ok on most webpages. Try using only cordia new or angsana fonts. They are not as fancy but they usually work ok. Look for a blog from me about using Thai fonts soon and next post will be more of ‘heart talk’ expressions in Thai. There are just so many good ones to write about.

    See you soon

    Wit

  4. I like the ways you explain Thai idioms, like “Pleased heart” , I rarely used that words, I think its make me feel so cool, and I can see through how you’re hard-working, Keep trying,Farang Pood Thai

    The man who always follow you.
    1 / 2 / 3

  5. ^ Strange how the Thai writing doesn’t work in comments box, huh? Mai pen rai ka.

  6. โพสยาวๆ มากคุณวิทย์, LOL

    my Thai teacher, Phrapalad Ampol, must think I am his most attentive student or maybe I have a crush on him!

    555+ If I were the teacher I might wonder too.

    There really are so many expressions of ใจ. I actually learnt something new. I didn’t know how many exactly but 450 heart phrases and 400 word for moods and feelings? Wow. I don’t think most Thai people take note of those things. Great blog, again na ka. (^.^)