Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I've been watching a lot of movies. Movies from every genre, some English, some Thai. I recently watched a Thai horror movie called "Shutter" which I enjoyed and found genuinely scary. I guess they've since remade it in Hollywood to poor reviews, but while usually citing the original as superior. Anyway. I've been thinking a lot about the Thai language and it's seeming lack of depth in communication. I suppose I'm spoiled by the English language which offers dozens of synonyms for every word, each with their own nuances and connotative differences. There is a seemingly endless array of words with which to construct exactly what you mean to say. Not the case in Thailand. Instead of saying things like: annoyed, angry, and irate, you say: a little angry, angry, and very angry. You can create the differences yourself, but it feels like the desired effect is lost. Not that you're misunderstood in any way, but that you aren't able to express your feelings as you truely want. Having grown up with a different language it's hard to settle on saying "very happy" when I know there's words out there that can convey "euphoric", "elated", or "ecstatic". The same way I imagine the Inuit must feel in that cliched fact about their 8 words for snow. Sure we get the job done by saying "wet, heavy snow" but why can't English have an exact word for that? I know I don't speak Thai anywhere close to fluently yet, but I was starting to see a disappointing lack of superfluous vocabulary. Surely there's a difference between a rat and a mouse, right?

I have a point. I'm getting to it. When I recently watched "Shutter", I had the subtitles on but was able to pick up phrases and certain parts of the Thai conversations (It really helps to hear it when you know what they're about to say!). Then I started to notice some simple phrases were translated differently depending on who was speaking to whom or what emotions were being expressed. It got me thinking back to a conversation I had a while ago about the difference between a speaker-oriented language (ex. English) and a listener-oriented language (ex: Thai). In Thai and many other Asian languages, the listener is responsible for comprehending what the speaker has to say. Taking it in for themselves and understanding contextually the nuances of what was said. Maybe that's what I'm missing. There are all these feelings and emotions out there to assign to words; it's just my resposiblilty to do so when someone says them to me. And likewise, for me to trust that what I say will be properly understood. So much so that if, in a movie, I heatedly ask "Understand?" the one listening should interpret that as "You just don't get it, do you?!" Wild stuff.

Much Love,

ps I hear there's some serious snow up there. Any pics? and how would you best describe the snow?

Irate = โกรธแค้น
Annoyed = รำคาญ / หงุดหงิด
Angry= โมโห
ecstatic = ปิติ/ ยินดี
euphoric = สบายใจ
elated = รื่นเริง
I have a lot to learn...

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