What I Love About Learning the Thai Language


This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.

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What’s to love about the Thai Language?…

(Attention: เนื้อหาไม่เหมาะสมสำหรับเด็ก content not suitable for children)

I love that I can look a taxi driver right in the back of the neck while telling him to turn penis. Or even turn right.

And that I can walk around for three years introducing myself as drunk, or Cat (short for Catherine). Or both. All without collapsing into heaps of laughter.

And how do I do that? By using the same word (to our western ears) for each, with slightly different intonations.

Yes, just by being a tonal language, the Thais make it easy for you to learn anywhere from two to five words to every one. Pretty great, hhmmm?


For instance…

Remember that old classic movie? The one the Thais hate? The Bridge over the River Kwai? Well, there you have it. With a little bit of tongue twisting, you’ve just learned the name for penis in Thai. And if you are clever, 50% of the time you can morph kwai into directions for turning right.

Now how great is that?

Kwăa = Right


Khuay = Penis


Turn right = Láew kwăa


Or if you want to get really fancy…

Líeow láew kwăa…


…which translates into then, turn right.

Which doesn’t quite have the same impact as then, turn penis. Right?

Another for instance…

Most days I’m a kind soul. So, instead of insisting on Thais calling me Catherine, I’ve shortened it to Cat.

Cat in Thai is the sound a cat makes. Meow. Easy, right? Well, that’s what I thought too. Easy. Until yesterday that is. Yesterday I discovered that while going for the lightbulb of understanding, cat can also be drunk.

(but not always, honest!)

Maew = Cat


Mao = Drunk


Dì-chăn maew = I Cat

Dì-chăn mao = I drunk

And to be even more interesting, mĭeow also means cat.


Flaffing off aside, the super-duper proper way to introduce yourself is:

I/me name (insert your name here), (polite particle).

For females:

Dì-chăn chêu (insert your name here), ka.

ดิฉันชื่อ ( ) ค่ะ

For males:

Pŏm chêu (insert your name here), kráp.

ผมชื่อ ( ) ครับ

So for me (with no spaces), it’d be:


But in real life I say:


Now, how fun is that?

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