August 31, 2017

Let’s learn Thai!

Filed under: thailand — Tags: — cohn17 @ 6:25 pm

I’ve taken a few days of Thai lessons now, and I’m already using it to get around town. When I was studying Greek, I complained about how difficult the grammar was, particularly the declensions and conjugations: that the word for “dog,” for example, was either “σκύλος”, “σκύλο”, or “σκύλου” depending on whether I meant “the dog” as a subject, “the dog” as an object, or “the dog” as a possessive noun; and “work” was “δουλεύω,” “δουλεύεις,” “δουλεύει” and so on, depending on whether I work, you work, or he works. Thai has none of those problems: regardless of who is working, the verb is งาน, which is pronounced “tham”, with an aspirated “t”. (The script is complicated, but I’m not learning it yet.) I “tham,” you “tham,” we all “tham.” Also, “I” and “me” are the same word, written in Thai as ผม and pronounced “phŏm.” “Dog” is always หมา regardless of where it is in the sentence.

Where Greek has an advantage, however, is that all the first-person forms of the verbs end is “-ω”, with or without an accent, so it is easy to know which words were verbs: “μπορώ,” “κάνω,” “δουλέυω,” “καταλαβαίνω,” and so on: they all end in an “o” sound. Those same words in phonetic Thai? “Dâay,” “mii,” “thamŋaan,” and “khâwcay.” (“ŋ” is an “ng” sound, and the c is closer to a j.) Worse, the language utilizes tones and elongated vowels, so that “kháw,” “khâaw,” and “khăaw” mean different things – he, she or it; rice; and white. Moreover, “khâaw khăaw” means “white rice,” “klɔ̂ŋ” means “camera,” but “khâawklɔ̂ŋ” means “brown rice” and not “rice camera.”

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