This article was originally posted on WomenLearnThai.com.
Review: Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English Dictionary…
Title: Domnern Sathienpong Thai English Dictionary 4th Edition
Authors: G. Domnern, W. Sathienpong
Price: 395baht (hardbound CD and larger font) 255 baht (paperback)
Availability: Just about anywhere which sells Thai books, Se-Ed, B2S, Asia Books, Kinokunia, Chula Books, etc.
I normally write reviews about Thai language schools and articles about my trials and tribulations in learning Thai. This is my first book review, so please bear with me.
I have several English-Thai dictionaries scattered around the house. Before I could really read Thai to any degree of proficiency I relied on them heavily. Problem is, looking up English words to find the Thai equivalent is often a hit or miss endeavor. True, you’ll get whatever the author of the dictionary thinks the appropriate Thai word or words for the English word, but what you won’t get is usage, example sentences, and compound words the word is tied to. And you often won’t get critical information about the word as far as if it is colloquial, formal, official, or used primarily in written Thai. And this is information a non-native speaker of Thai needs to use new vocabulary. These shortcomings had me giving away my English Thai dictionaries to Thai friends.
While browsing the dictionary section at B2S (the bookstore chain of Central Group) I happened across the bright blue cover of the Domnern Sathienpong Thai-English Dictionary. Now, at that time I could read Thai fairly well, meaning I could read something and mostly comprehend what it was saying. After I looked through the paperback edition I immediately bought it. Once I got it home I started reading it. I know, reading a dictionary doesn’t seem like an edge of your seat thing to do, but the way this dictionary presents information makes it quite an interesting read.
After a couple of days reading the paperback edition I realized that saving the 140 baht between the cost of the paperback and the hardback edition was short-sighted. The print in the paperback is noticeably smaller and often I couldn’t tell which vowel was which. A trip back to B2S to purchase the hardback edition solved and I was good to go.
The hardback version comes with a CD. I immediately installed it on my PC with disastrous results! It totally changed the entire desktop to the Windows default of giant icons, oversized printing, etc. An uninstall and system restore took care of the problem and I now use the CD as a coffee table coaster.
Some things I’ve found of interest in this dictionary are: the Thai word กระ, which can mean freckle, liver spot, or tortoise shell as a stand-alone word, is also the prefix for about 10 pages worth of words! Similarly the prefix ประ, which can mean to strike, touch, add, attack or pat on has nearly 9 pages worth of words.
What I like most about this dictionary is the use of example sentences in many of the definitions. I also like that the authors delineate slang from formal words, and seem to have no reticence in providing example sentences for some pretty coarse slang words. Now, granted, the slang is quite dated and not that much contemporary (ภาษาวัยรุ่น is included). Still, at 54 years old, it’s more age appropriate slang for me.
Another thing I really like is the incorporation of compound words related to a base word. I can’t begin to tell you the times I’ve looked up a word and then found myself reading the dictionary for 5 or 10 minutes. And all because there were so many compounds that can be made from the single word I was looking up. The dictionary has 71 listings for word compounds which start with ใจ and 36 for words which in which ใจ is used as a suffix.
In the back of the dictionary are appendices devoted to: birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, plants, aquatic life, geographical names, Thai dishes and ingredients, military and police ranks, Thai governmental, state, financial institutions, public universities and abbreviations. These are also very interesting to read thru, especially the section about police/military rank and the abbreviations. You can’t begin to read a Thai newspaper without a sizeable vocabulary in Thai abbreviations so this indeed is a helpful section.
Another asset, this dictionary is captioned with icons to denote polite, formal, slang, royal, etc.
Some of the downsides to the dictionary…
There is no Thai pronunciation for words, so you’re left to your own devices on whether a particular word has a double functioning consonant (used as a final and then again as a stand-alone sound too). Even if they’d included the pronunciation Thais are used to reading, it would have been an improvement, especially for a non-native reader/speaker.
I’ll relate a pronunciation fox-paw (faux-pas) I had 6 or so months ago in Thai language class. Now I’d learned the word อวยพร by looking it up in the dictionary when I was reading a teen romance novel, but I’d never spoken it aloud. In the lesson at school during the read aloud part, I unfortunately got stuck with a passage that had the word อวยพร in it. I pronounced it as อะ-วะ-ยะ-พน. The teacher who was in the process of taking a drink from a bottle of water almost blew it out her nose at my horrific mangling of the word. Honestly, if there had been a Thai pronunciation in the dictionary when I first looked up the word, I’da never made a fool out of myself like that. Still, hardly anyone else in class knew I mispronounced it so badly, until the teacher (after composing herself) pointed it out to everyone. We had a good laugh and I took it in stride. But really, sometimes you just don’t know how to pronounce an unfamiliar Thai word and a pronunciation guide would be a valuable addition.
They also have the irritating penchant for listing a word, but instead of providing the definition saying “see such and such other word”. I mean come on, how hard would it have been to put the definition in two places?
As I said earlier, that CD is a disaster waiting to happen so DON’T load it into your PC. I did Google around for a fix but came up empty. Also, it won’t display Thai font correctly on Windows 7, so using it as a coaster to set drinks on is probably the best you’ll get out of it.
Those are minor shortcomings and certainly shouldn’t stop anyone who can even read Thai marginally from getting this dictionary. I’ve found I’m about as fast (sometimes faster) looking up words with it than some technophiles are using the Thai-English dictionary app on their smart phones. It certainly gets you dialed in to the order of the Thai alphabet (which I still can’t recite BTW), and the progression of Thai vowels in a dictionary format. While I can’t recite the Thai consonant alphabet in order, I can look at the dictionary and guess pretty accurately what letter is what by the thickness of the sections.
Who will get use out of the dictionary…
I’ve recommended this dictionary to foreigners learning Thai almost any time I run into one. Truth be told, I’ve even bought copies to give them out to people studying Thai. Recently I ran into one foreigner I’d given a copy to months before. He promptly took 400 baht out of his pocket and gave it to me, saying it was the best thing he’d come across to help build his Thai vocabulary. I mean, how cool is that?
Cat wanted me to include some of my favorite words and example sentences in this review. However, my version of spoken Thai is coarse, blunt, direct, littered with profanity and far from suitable for a website like this. I think readers should invest in the dictionary and find their own pearls of wisdom rather than me providing examples (which might not be viewer appropriate).
I hope this review was of interest. If I continue to review books I’m certain to get better…
Tod Daniels | toddaniels at gmail dot com