Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dor Deg, Dtor Dtao

My Thai learning is coming along pretty well and I'm more excited about it than ever. I credit this to my new approach. I've started learning the Thai alphabet and been trying to write out the words as I learn them. It's actually very difficult to do but I'm making progress. (I actually just wrote 'Happy Earth Day!' with only one mistake!!) The Thai alphabet has something like 45 letters but far fewer sounds, which means there's a bunch of repeats(I'll check on the exact numbers). This means that when I write something I have to pretty much guess as to which letter is the one making the "S" sound. There are ones that are more common than others but it's still kinda deflating to find out I spelled a word almost perfectly except that I had to use some crazy ornate "y" rather than the "y" used everywhere else. Consonant sounds are actually the easy part. The Thai language is all about the tones and so there are dozens of vowels and they can be behind the consonant, in front of it, above it, below it, maybe two spaces ahead of it, or in front of it but used in conjunction with one behind it. There's short and long vowels, but there's also a distinction in how long you say them. (ex: moon vs mooon). And on top of all of that, the words have tone marks which are supposed to guide you as to how to pronounce them (high tone? falling tone? etc) but when I ask what tone means what, the response is pretty much 'I don't know'. It seems to change from word to word. It's pretty crazy. But our hero laughs at the Herculean task before him and bravely dives in, knife clenched between his teeth.

It's actually pretty helpful. Because of the differences in alphabets, there's no proper way to write a Thai word in English and you can end up with something written any number of ways. I live off Sathorn road. I've also seen it spelled Satorn and Sathon. The 'h' is never pronounced but thrown in there to sorta guide you. You gotta breath a little bit as you say it. As for the "r", well the Thai people are taught to speak the queen's english so when you're reading a sign you gotta say it that way. I'm not sure I explained that well.

Anyway, the reason it's helpful is because if you see something written with the Roman alphabet, you can't be sure that's the way to say it so now I can check and see. An example would be the Metro stop that's "(something) Toei" but the voice on the PA sounds like it's saying "(something) Doei". Well I checked and sure enough it's spelled with a "Dtor Dtao" which is the a Dt sound. (The Thai alphabet has extra sounds that include a Dt and a Bp among others). The word for crab is bpoo, but I've seen it as boo and poo. And going back the other way, I've seen it on menus re-written as crap. Excuse me, but I won't be ordering the fried rice with crap tonight.

Also the letters aren't simple like a, b, c. instead they all have words associated with them. It would be like reciting the alphabet as "a apple, b boy, c cat..." I think this might be because they have so many repeats and it would probably confuse them too. Some of them are so obscure. There's one that is literally "h - collared Scops' owl" Collared Scops' Owl!? That's the most commonly occurring word that uses this letter!? You can see how it gets a little frustrating when I misspell a word because instead of using the ultra common 'h' that's in everything, I should've used the "h - collared Scops' owl". But my will remains as strong as ever. I read every sign that I see and, although a rare occurrence, I am thrilled when I can read and identify a word. It helps a lot to have an idea of what they're saying (a dentist's sign will have the word for tooth on there somewhere, right?) It's great. Also, I took an adventure to Kanchanaburi and the river Kwai yesterday with my dad and cousin Margaret but that's a post for another day!

much love,

1 comment:

yatpay said...

Gumbercules? I love that guy!

Haha, jeez, and I thought Japanese was tricky! At least in Japanese what you hear is what you get.. for the most part.