Category Archives: Thai Language

Learn 300 Words of Thai in 5 Minutes!!

You will see many English words written in Thai characters when you visit Thailand. This says “ice cream”

After mentioning ‘Tap Sap’ (Imported vocabulary) in my last blog I couldn’t help but sit back and write up a whole stack of notes on the issue and this is the end result. See below for the entire list I have put together

I’ve clearly noticed that a whole load of our foreigner readers out there are interested in learning Thai. Since living here, I can’t remember how many times now someone has asked me to the likes of “How do I go about getting started with learning the Thai lingo?” well, sure-a less, I’ve pointed them in the direction of ‘Tap Sap’, cause its darned easy Thai lingo to learn as of course it is in fact English in origin.

Since the Thais started playing around with the Thai language they have effectively made up a whole string of English sounding phrases that most foreigners wouldn’t have a clue to the meaning of and one of the ‘classics’ has to be ‘American Share’. This Thai-Eng lingo does in fact mean to ‘share the bill’. In Thai tradition it’s usually the elder that foots the bill (ie the one who is oldest or wealthiest). This phrase did in fact arise from the days of the American Gis. ‘American Share’ has certainly become popular over the years due to cultural development.

If you thought that Thai-Eng lingo was pretty absurd, nothing beats this one: ‘Working Woman’: I don’t know about your home country but in my hometown ‘Working Woman’ does not sound good at all!! And sounds instead like a stray woman walking the streets at night!! Here in Thailand, it means a woman who is pursuing her career ie, working for a company etc.. This phrase became so popular that a few years back there was even a TV chat show named ‘The Working Woman’. So lads, the next time you meet some Thai girl on ICQ that tells you she is a ‘Working Woman’ for goodness sake don’t misunderstand what she’s trying to say!

One of my fave Thai-Eng phrases has to be ‘Lip-sing’. Perplexed to the meaning? Well, don’t be as it in fact means ‘to mime’. Therefore, the next time when you are out with your Thai friends and they are egging you on to sing the awful likes of ‘Take me home country road’ or ‘Hotel California’ (for the ninety-fifth time!) just inform them that you prefer to ‘Lip-sing’ and so evading this gruesome chore. Next, we have the cute ‘awk date’ which actually translates as ‘go out on a date’, pretty popular phrase with the younger trendy Thais. As for Pattaya’s ‘Banana Boats’, the Thais just love them!!

Now, since the introduction of ‘Tap Sap’, a darned load of English words within the Thai lingo have in fact been corrupted in meaning and now mean something completely different to the English. The worst of all may in fact be ‘Coffee Shop’. Here in Thailand a ‘Coffee Shop’; means nothing of the sort and certainly not the kind of place to take yer girlfriend or old mum when she comes for a visit!! As for coffee, such establishments do serve such a thing but they’ll prefer you instead to be knocking back bottles of beer and buying drinks for a few stray ladies who will soon be appearing uninvitedly at yer table!!

As for a ‘Pub’, I’m not sure about you Americans but in England a pub is usually a dull, squalid place where for some mysterious reason half the customers stand at the bar being served by a couple of grannies. As for a ‘Pub’ in Thailand! You’ll soon be bopping away at your table and being entertained by some scad-looking girlie singers wearing as little as possible in some rather raunchy out-fit. Then for the female customers there are a set of fine handsome male singers wearing the latest Japanese hair-do to admire. Certainly beats having to stand at the bar in a pub back home having to listen to the likes of ‘Darned government cut me social welfare benefit again’. Then, we have the word ‘bar’, it may sound perfectly OK in English to say ‘I’m going out to the bars tonight’ but if you translate this to Thai it does not sound good. And instead means you’ll be looking for more than just a game of pool and a chat with yer buddies!! You have been warned.

Next, we have the word ‘Scotch’. If it’s a bottle of whiskey your after from your local shop to celebrate your new house-warming party, the shop-owner will be instead handing you adhesive tape! Of course ‘Scotch’ in Thai is actually an abbreviation of ‘Scotchtape’! Now a ‘Tour bus’, these in Thailand are any old inter-provincial air-con bus and nothing like the double-decker tour buses that rove around the streets of Paris.

Many words to do with the car are “tap sap” like this one, turbo, and also break, clutch and air.

The Thais certainly love ‘Tap Sap’ that has hailed from The States and ‘Camp’ is one of them. Originally coming here as a teacher I was bewildered when arriving at ‘Camp’ as it was in fact a modern funky place with dormitories to sleep in. To us Brits it is nothing of the kind, but instead a smelly camping ground where you sleep in a tent! Here, in Thailand, its camp this and camp that, I mean any darned location where the company staff or students go for a day or two and play nothing but silly games and ‘sing karaoke’.

Now we all know the Thai people have a plentitude of virtues and one of them has to be ‘nicely-cunning’, I mean they are pretty smart in regards to ‘Tap Sap’. Not only do they import a word from English but they then abbreviate it. Look at the English language, now what’s the point in saying the long-winded likes of ‘Basketball’ when you may as well just say ‘Bas’? Or ‘Badminton’ when you may as well shorten it to ‘Bat’. The Thais have certainly taught us a lesson in laziness of speech! ‘Air’ can mean either ‘Air-conditioning’ or ‘Air-hostess’. ‘Batt’ for ‘Battery. Then if you’ve just arrived at your office job after being sent out here by your company, don’t be perplexed if you here the likes of the workers mentioning “Soup, soup” all day. There aren’t talking about their favourite broth of course, but instead gossiping about their ‘Supervisor’.

Should you hear any Thais asking you “What is your ‘spec’ in a guy?” they are in fact asking you “What specifications do you look for in a guy?” ie. What kinda guy do you like? Then, there is ‘Mike’ as in ‘Microphone. ‘Down’ as in ‘Down-payment’ and ‘Film’ as in ‘Camera Film. Then, one that certainly gets on a lotta peoples’ nerves, and that is ‘Charge’. Not only does ‘Charge’ mean as in the sense to ‘charge a battery’ but it also means ‘Overcharge’.

Then we have the classic ‘Ver’ (Wer)!! ‘Ver’ is an abbreviation of ‘Over’ and can be used when seeing someone obviously making a fool of themselves. Yes, ‘Wer” means ‘Over the top’.

Once upon a time ‘Tap Sap’ used to compromise of only nouns as in ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Taxi’ etc… but a fair share of common verbs and adjectives are engraining themselves in the Thai lingo. Last time I told you about ‘Work’, ‘Get’ and ‘Take care’ but howabout the word ‘Show’. Geez, this word in Thai now has as many or even more meanings as the English equivalent. If someone likes to ‘Put on a bit of a performance in front of the room’ it means that person ‘Likes to ‘Show’. Then in regards to girls who enjoy wearing something a little revealing, she too also likes to ‘Show’. ‘Show’ can also have a negative meaning, as in ‘Show off’. Then if you feel a little injustice being dealt your way just say ‘Mai fair’ as in ‘It’s not fair’. Or if your not sure about something just mention ‘Mai sure’ as in ‘I’m not sure’. And…should you hear any Thai ask you to the likes of “What football do you cheer?” they of course means ‘Cheer’ in the sense of ‘Support’

And finally, howabout ‘Hit’. It certainly doesn’t translate to a ‘Hit in the head’ but it does translate to ‘Hit’ as in ‘Plaeng hit’ (Hit Song). Or just about anything that is in fashion. Then we got the latest of all the ‘Tap Sap’ – ‘Hot’. Not hot as in the weather but ‘Hey he’s a hot guy’ ie… he’s a bit of a stud!

As promised, please find below my whole list of ‘Tap Sap’. I decided to split the list up into three. The first list is of ‘Tap Sap’ that is now perfectly common in the Thai language and on some occasions, if there is a Thai word equivalent, it has now become defunct in spoken conversation. The second list comprises of ‘Tap Sap’ where even though there is a perfectly usable proper Thai word, the ‘Tap Sap’ is used just as often, or in some cases more. The third includes ‘Tap Sap’ that is used with up-to-date Thais and especially those who are students or have a decent job. Most of these ‘Tap Sap’ however wouldn’t be understand by your average farmer. For a more comprehensive list of these just listen to the next speech by our beloved PM. A speech of his in Thai goes alone the lines of “Blaaa blaaa infrastructure blaaa capitalism” etc…. of course half the upcountry population haven’t the faintest but who cares! He sounds ‘Brainy’.

I have not included ‘Technical’ ‘Tap Sap’ like ‘Bacteria’, ‘Amoeba’, ‘Alluminium’ or say ‘Malaria’ etc..

To be understood you’ll need to say the following ‘Tap Sap’ with the Thai pronunciation. Try them out!!

1) Visa, Hello (telephone), Free (as in getting something), Pump (as in pump/petrol station), Sexy, Townhouse, Cake, Battery, Notebook (as in PC), Jeans, Lipstick, Chalk, Check-in (hotel), Theque (discotheque), Sheet (paper), Chemi (Chemistry), Board (Whiteboard etc), Bow (hair), Plan, Microwave, Skateboard, Cheerleader, Cook (occupation), Cookie, Guide (occupation), Tour (go on), Stamp (letter), Motorcyke (motorbike), Shirt, Game, Honeymoon, Print, Poster, Check (bank), Ball (football), Giraffe, Gorilla, Chimpanzee (lots more animals), Volleyball, Ping Pong (Table Tennis) (lots more sports), Commission, Marker (pen), Suit, Coupon, Corruption, Tank (as in oil), Sofa, ICU, Lock, Lift (elevator), Seminar, Game Show, Cutter, Invoice, Liquid (Liquid Paper), Gel (hair), Stunt, Cartoon, Furniture, Tip (in a restaurant), Gym, Logo, Barber, DJ, Cream, Chat (Internet), Copy (fake), Guitar, Piano, Neon, Bonus (job), Spa, Jacuzzi, Rock (music), Yaught, Cashier, Skate (roller), Fuse, Cap (hat), Scooter, High-Lo (card game), Card (as in X’mas card), Part (as in part 2), Kilometre, Centimetre, Atnomat (automatic), Bingo, Buffet, Calorie, Clip, Franchise, Graph, Tissue, Khaki, Nawee (Navy), Lens, Champ (champion), Opera, Sauce, Chong Fridge (freezer), Starter, Clutch, Brake, Gear (Lots more vehicle words) , Helicopter, Com (computer), Condo, Flat (accommodation), Fax, Stereo, Remote (remote control), Cream, Pear, Plum, Peach, Cherry, Strawberry, Blueberry, Jam, Salad, Sundae, Vanilla, Ice-cream, Beer, Spaghetti, BBQ, Fast-Food, Macaroni, Steak, Mustard, Pasta, Custard, Punch (fruit punch), Wine, Toffee, Nugget (chicken), Chocolate, Donut, French-fries, Hamburger, Hot-dog, Ham, Cheese, Bacon, Mayonnaise and of course Pizza. Then my fave kind of ‘Tap Sap’ for cuteness, Choc-Chip (chocolate chip).

2) Happy Birthday, Bye-bye, Merry X’mas, Smart (as in smart-looking), Dic (dictionary), Charge (battery), Mini-Mart, Xerox (make a copy), Bakery, Bank, Passport, Chauffer, Program, Print, Motorshow, Casino, Office, Walkman, Footpath (sidewalk/pavement), Cologne, Promote, Promotion, Sales (occupation), Joke, Pick-up (vehicle), Bill, Star (as in famous), Queue, Technical, Ticket, Brochure, Bomb, Party, View, Inter (international), Club, Four-wheel, Select, Hero, Lotion, Hurricane, Romantic, Import, Export, Agent, Alien, U-turn, Classic, Curfew, Diet, Disc, Double, Popular, Serve (occupation), Lottery, Engine, Conversation, Menu, Modern, Plaster (sticky), Shock (surprise), Gap, Certificate, Lab (Labratory), Gift, Gift Shop, TV, Walkman, Tape, Projector and Switch.

3) Happy, Sorry, Good-night, Get (understand), Work (as in a plan), Support, Quality, Department, Store, Hotel, Mobile, Surprise, Edit, Police, Dinner, Perfect, Uncivilised, Refugee, Summer (as in camp), Sick, Dancer, Super, Stop, Check (inspect), Magazine, Shampoo, Drop (as in drop a course), Service, Inspiration, Delivery, Drink (both verb and noun/alcohol), Clear (verb and adjective), Holiday (as in day off), Effect, Action, Fit (corrupt usage of Tap Sap, means ‘tight’, as in a blouse), Mini (esp. mini-skirt), Boss, Basic, Advance, Quote, Centre, Save (money), Notice (as in notice board), Note (verb and noun), Size, Revision and finally Form (as in both ‘good form’ and the thing you fill-out)

And I know there are lots lots lots more!!

I do hope that you have found some of the ‘Tap-Sap’ in this blog helpful. I have decided to put together the most comprehensive up-to-date list of ‘Tap-Sap’ available. So, dear readers if you can think of any more ‘Tap-Sap’ pls do write a comment and tell me.

Visit Steve’s main page at Steve’s Weblog

“Farang Speak Thai?!”

Want to go to the toilet? Learn to read Thai first!

Well, I shall certainly have to admit to a slight delay there in the writing up of this new blog, had a darned bad head cold for a few days. Probably due to the freaky weather lately that has been changing as often as me daughter does her diapers.

Anyway, after writing to the likes of our nation’s notorious leaders and the bewilderment of Bangkok, I thought, just for today to pick out of the bag a subject that surely even torments even the hardest-hearted of Farang from time to time and that is ….learning the Thai Lingo!

For sure, there are plenty-a funny sites to be seen here in the Land of the Guava and Green Tea. But as for the Thais they find nothing funnier than the site of the Farang trying to speak Thai.

Every Farang in Thailand has probably had to endure the daunting task of attempting to have himself understood, in Thai, in the middle of Nakhorn Nowhere – only to have a whole group of passer-bys stand around looking on in bemusement.

Then we have that other type of Thai, the ones working in shops and restaurants that run-away at the sight of a Farang coming in thinking the frivilous alien doesn’t speak a word of Thai. This escapade happens every day in the land’s shoeshops. Half the salesgirls on seeing a Farang (of course they dont think for a minute he might speak some Thai) enter the shop decide that they need an urgent pee and flee to the toilet thus escaping the embarrassing situation of trying to speak English. If that isnt enough for the pitiful Farang when trying to learn Thai, they are innumerable Thais who on working in the tourist areas deliberately try NOT to understand the Farang speaking Thai. Fair enough, these sorts of folk dont like the prospect of Farangs speaking Thai (ie. Roo mak) as of course they find it difficult to swindle money out of them.

Overall however, most decent Thais appreciate any Farang who makes a go at learning their frustratingly difficult sing-a-song sounding lingo. Even the most basic of three word sentences on being heard by a Thai will be complimented with ‘Farang phoot Thai Keng’ (Hey, this Farang speaks excellent Thai!).

Probably the two most difficult areas of the Thai lingo for the Farang are 1. The pronunciation of the vowel sounds. 2. The tones. And the biggest tonal classic cock-up for the Farang is ‘Suay’ roughly translating as nice-looking/beautiful. Just how many Farang have insulted both their loved ones (and themselves), who on saying ‘Fairn phom suay mak mak’ with the wrong tone have stated (instead of the meant my girlfriend is beautiful) ‘That girlfriend of mine has been darned unlucky to have met the likes of me!’ Then, one of the worst imaginable cock-ups is when the Farang who on needing the directions to a travel agency say ‘Ran Khai Tua’ with the wrong tone. ‘Tua’ as in ticket is in that tricky ‘mai jat-wa’ tone and most Farang end up saying “Excuse me how do I get to the shop sell body?” (instead of shop sell ticket) only for a tuk-tuk driver on hearing this to come rushing over flashing out his brochures of some down-right kinky massage parlour!

Then, for my first couple of years here in Thailand I spent a couple of them down in the south where most of the local Thais can’t even speak Thai themselves but instead a defunct dialect completely incomprehendable to the rest of the country Then, I had this Mr Lek guy have me stay at his house for a couple of months to teach him English for free food and bed. What a headache that was! As his shop-house was the biggest egg-selling one in town I only had to tell the motorbike-taxi drivers ‘Take me to the shop that sells chicken eggs’ translated to Thai that is ‘Ran khai khai kai’. Get yer tongue ‘round that one!

Anyway, after a couple of years in the south I was pretty fluent, what with having studied it before too that I returned to Bangkok with me head in the air and confident to the brim about my ability of Thai. How wrong I could have been! I had instead, became fluent with this hoarse southern accent with some of the south’s mind-boggling lingo mixed in. Probably the worst habit I had picked up down south was saying ‘teen’ for feet instead of ‘thao’. Well, don’t blame me as that’s all they said down south (‘teen’ is an impolite word in ‘proper’ Thai) and Thais are pretty sensitive about such a part of the body. Thinking back, I can imagine the look the Bangkoks shoeshop salesgirl would have had when I said ‘I need a pair of ‘rong teen!” would be just like a vagabound foreigner in our own country rudely telling the asst along the lines of ‘I need a pair of shoes for me ‘friggin feet!’.

Now, after a six month stretch lazing away on the beaches of Krabi (dead quiet in those days) I had learnt loads-a local lingo that if used anywhere else in the country who be understood as much as Double-Dutch. One word I picked up was ‘bia’ as in money. On arriving in Bangkok I used this word there a few times only to have the listener look at me dumb-founded and reply to the likes of “What the heck are you trying to say?’ Our friends down south can’t even be bothered saying the months as if they were too difficult and do instead just say ‘deu-an 1’, ‘deu-an 2’ (month 1, month 2 etc).Then foreigners will be glad that they don’t have to try and pronounce ‘Krungthep’ cause some of the dialects still use ‘Bangkok’ (very old Thai) but pronounced slightly differently ‘Bang-gok’.

During me time here in Thailand I’ve had the chance to travel and work all over the place and having spent a long while in Laos too, has meant that I’ve become pretty proficient in Laotian as well as Thai. I have however refrained myself from speaking this certain lingo/dialect outside of the north-eastern region these days. Wondering as you may, why. Just say for example ‘Bor pen i-yang’ (Mai Pen Rai) in Bangkok and all you’ll hear in return is the likes of ‘Farang mee mia Lao!’ (Farang must have a Lao/Isarn wife). To Farang of course, this is not funny, but to most Thais this is pretty hysterical!

Picking up a phrasebook and learning Thai just that way is fine for starters but not if you wanna be any ‘good’ in the language as many-a phrase/word etc.. just don’t translate properly Thai>English and vice-versa. Now: boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband what a darned headache those words just are in Thai! On first learning Thai the Farang believes Fairn = Boyfriend/Girlfriend and Mia = Wife. Of course that’s not always the case and is instead often Fairn = Wife/Husband and Mia = Girlfriend (in the case of the two living together in sin without being married, just like in the west).
Getting back to Fairn = Wife, well that’s a polite way of saying ‘the wife’. As often enough ‘Mia’ is rather impolite (to a lot of folks). Then ‘Phanraya’ (the formal word) sounds far too poshy polite! Not knowing therefore what to actually call ‘her’ resort to ‘Fairn kong phom’ (me girlfriend) as it sounds cute and like they are still in love. Sure, half the country believes that the lovey-dovey stuff stops when you get married, just like the rest of the world I suppose.

Confused? Well, if you aren’t you ought to be!

“I want to go to Cen-tron”

Well, as Thailand has developed an excess amount of English has dissolved into the Thai language which is known as ‘Tap sap’ (words from the tap/faucet). So many of these words are now in daily usage, especially in Bangkok, that you could almost hold a conversation in Thai in English ie. ‘Chan ja charge battery nai hotel’ translated to English means ‘I’m going to charge the battery (phone) in the hotel’. Drink, support, notebook, coupon, cap, basic etc… are just a tiny sample of the English words now being used in spoken Thai. Then, over the past few years two of the new trendy ‘tap sap’ words amongst the brainy Bangkokians have been ‘work’ and ‘get’. If you don’t get what someone is going on about just say ‘Mai get!’ ( I don’t get it) and then polish that off with ‘Mai work’ ( It’s not working ie. in the terms of a plan or relationship etc..)

Currently top of the dastardly corrupt usage of ‘Tap sap’ has got to be ‘take care’ here it’s used for anything similar to this word in sense. Forget even the bothersome ‘of’ just say ‘I take care you’, ‘He take care me’, ‘We take care customer’, ‘The girl take care fish’. Then, as for savage ‘Tap sap’, the stevesuphan award of the week goes to the word ‘dic’ (as in dictionary). Me myself had got well used to using this word with my students, that was until I met my new grade six class this year. Somehow or another the whole darned class had found out before that this word does sound extremely similar, if not the same, as a naughty word from the English language.

You should have seen the complete class roll-up in laughter when I ordered them to ‘Ok, get out your dics’. As for the rest of the other classes, they still haven’t the faintest.

Besides just ‘Tap sap’ there are also plenty of ways to communicate in Thai and that certainly includes non-verbal communication. Most Farang on trying to get their tongue around ‘Gep ngoern duay krap’ (Could I have the bill please?) fail to realise that just a small swirling circley action of the index finger is more than enough to get the message across. As for the smoker-farangs they just needn’t bother having to tongue-twist ‘Thee Khia Buree’ to ask for an ashtray when just a tapping resemblance to ‘flashin the ash’ will be thoroughly understood.

I’ve seen some major misunderstanding though between Thais and Farang and I remember one classic example many years back down there on Koh Samui. While sat at a bar chatting to the cashier in walked this Farang who looked as if he, just five minutes ago arrived in the country. Obviously thinking the cashier didn’t speak a word of English asked (Do you have….? And thinking she wouldn’t understand the word ‘cigarettes’ puts two fingers to his lips making a smoking action. Certainly outraged by this, the cashier walked over to the guy and said right to his face ‘If you want buy ganja you come the wrong place!’

One particular annoyance that I still encounter even to this day is when some Thais just love correcting a tricky word that you have just slightly mispronounced and have a right laugh at your expense. It wouldn’t be too bad if the critic could put together the most basic of sentences in English himself. The worst offending examples of this have to be ‘Central’, ‘Robinson’ or ‘Mc Donalds’ etc.. Of course half the population seemingly don’t realise that these are in fact English words and not Thai at all. Just say one of these words to a Thai and you’ll be getting a telling off along the lines of ‘No, you say not correct, you must say Cen-tarn!’

And finally, being cheesed-off at times with this corrupt usage of English within the Thai language have on occasions given the Thais a bit of their own medicine. I remember on the skytrain when taking me young daughter Candy with me once, I had her stand at the window while I was teaching her the likes of ‘This is Victory Monument’ etc.. with all the onlookers looking on probably thinking ‘Oooh how cute! ’That was until on arriving at Saphan Kwai where I shouted out rather loud ‘And this is Buffalo Bridge’. Of course all the schoolgirls started giggling away to themselves while the elder straight-faced folks pierced their eyebrows giving off one of those ‘What kind of language is that to teach a child!’ looks. Sod them, Saphan Kwai translates as Buffalo Bridge does it not?

On the second occasion however my joke back-fired and all Candy could say in her badly pronounced Thai-English was ‘Hey dad, Buffalo Brit, Buffalo Brit.’ Out of the skytrain I soon gave her a well deserved ‘clip ‘round the ear’ to remind her of some of her origins.