Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Excuse me...can I borrow that word please?

As a kid, as a cheap source of amusement, I remember blocking off my ears intermittently so I'd only catch the second, third or fourth word of a conversations. Depending on what was being said/heard, this could create the most bizarre and entertaining dialogues. I don't know, is there a name for that?On some days, my Thai listening skills are much like this...which is kind of nice, because on others, I may as well stick my fingers in my ears and just leave them there.

Great! I've just told my teacher I bathe under the bum gun, instead of the shower head.

Learning to read Thai is similar. So, I'm ecstatic when I can not only read a menu/sign/book, but can actually understand what I've read.

I have indigestion. I find a pharmacy and tell the lady my problem, but she doesn't *get it*. Luckily I've written it ENGLISH TRANSLITERATION...doh! She can't read it, but I can say it correctly...this time. I buy Ga-wee-skon. I'm happy!

All languages borrow words, but I had no idea I have been surrounded with so many English words, written in Thai, until now. ฟรี F - R - EE ...Free! Oh, free, like in no charge! I tend to use signs and packaging as a handy, readily available learning tool.

Stop being so paranoid, she's talking about potatoes, not you.

I return to the apartment to discover I've just bought material from 'Joe's Fabric'...OK, yes, it was written in English too, but I really, truly didn't see that until later.

While out walking I stop to view a newly errected sign. I'm already being stared at because I'm the only person twit not taking refuge from the relentless heat AT 7.00 PM!!!!! Silently sounding out the letters and words, it dawns on me I'm standing in front of 'Jim Electrics'. Just to draw some extra attention to myself, I pull out my camera and take a photo to add to my collection of loan words.

She says the price in English...but we don't quite catch it. I ask 'how much?' in Thai and she replies accordingly, in Thai. I pay, thank her and she laughs, because we don't understand English :)

Photos I'll probably never post, because my blastard memory card has decided it doesn't want to talk to my computer.

บ๊าย บาย (bye bye) for now.


Further reading: English loanwords in the Thai Language
Rikker's posts on loanwords
Women Learn Thai

See what else we're up to at Cooee!


  1. just be lucky that the lady didn't give you sign language, like they do here in Taiwan. instead of just speaking and telling me the price, i get these weird hand signals, and when i don't understand them, yup, that reinforces the belief that i can't understand Chinese. go figure.

  2. @MJ Klein that sounds like it could be fun...confusing, but fun :)

  3. Snap, I didn't block my ears intermittently, I'd just go into a quiet world all my own. And I still do. Too much chatter/noise all around drives me underground.

    Sign language? And I thought students of Thai had it bad :-D

  4. @Catherine I think most Thai (any new) language students have played charades or used sign language, at some time or other...but the universal type, like for plane, chicken or cow ;)

    I'd love to find our more about what MJ is talking about.

  5. hi Snap. there is an unwritten local belief that Chinese is un-learnable for anyone not born here. so when (some people, not everyone) they encounter a "foreigner" (read a white or black person), their belief leads them to try to communicate in any way except just talking.

    at the breakfast place the other day, the boss lady was wearing a mask while cooking. she didn't bother to pull down the mask to speak to me (like she does with the locals) so i couldn't hear her properly. she made some half-hearted hand signals for how much and when i didn't get it, that just reinforced her belief that i cannot comprehend English.

    now contrast that to the boss lady at the opposite end of the same street, who engages me in full-on Chinese and expects me to understand every word.

  6. @MJ Klein MJ it sounds a little too much like an evil plot or conspiracy, if you ask me. I think I'm glad I'm not learning Chinese ;) I have noticed (and I could be wrong) that Thai people don't seem to use their hands much to express themselves. Unlike myself who tends to wave, point and gesture...especially when I'm on the phone.

  7. Snap, that woman is the only one who does that to me. btw, the Thai workers that come to Taiwan can learn basic Chinese in about 3 months. i've met many Thai workers who can speak Chinese very fluently after only being in Taiwan for a year.

  8. @MJ Klein I wonder why Thais are proficient in learning Chinese quickly. Perhaps because it's also a tonal language, or because they are exposed to it in Thailand? Or they're just way more smarter than I am :(


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