I've been here a while now, and I have to say, I'm disappointed by how little Thai I've learned. I had intended to take a class, and when that didn't happen, I promised to devote an hour a day to actively studying the language. Well, I broke and remade that last promise a dozen times. Despite the different books and resources I've purchased I am just *not* disciplined enough for independent study. I guess I'm not so much disappointed in what I've learned as I'm disappointed in myself for not devoting more time & effort to it. But even lacking any kind of formal study, I've managed to pick up a basic survival level of Thai.*
Greet people and exchange a comment about personal well being:
"Hello, how are you?"
- "comfortable / not comfortable / hot / cold / hungry / drunk"
- "I'm sick / I have a cold / I have a stomachache."
- "happy / sad"
Exchange a word or two about the weather:
"It's hot / It's very hot / It's raining" (really all you need to know to discuss Thai weather!)
Get where I need to go:
"Where are you going? / Where do you want to go?"
- "to work / home / to eat rice / to the beach / to Bangkok (other cities / stores etc.)"
"wait here five minutes"
"turn left" (interestingly, I never have to say "turn right." All of the places to the right of my apartment are well known by name. I only ever need to give directions when I want to go home again and I'm using a taxi driver who doesn't know my apartment building.)
"go slow slow!"
"go fast fast!"
"Where is the bathroom?"
"here / there"
"I want to ..."
- "swim / walk / dance / eat / buy / speak"
"When?" (but I only understand the answer if it's a day of the week, yesterday, today or tomorrow, or a matter of minutes. I can't ask or understand the answers to "What time?" because times of the day are counted differently here.)
"Sunday is my day off."
"I want / I need / this one broken"**
"have / don't have"
"How much is that?"
- I know the numbers 1-20, and how to express tens, hundreds and thousands of baht.
"Pink / red / blue / green / black / white / big / small"
"big / small / a lot / a little bit"
"skirt / shoes"
"don't put" (... it in a bag)
Observe the local wildlife:
- "elephant / cockroach / dog / chicken / pig / horse / rabbit / crocodile / tiger / cat / mouse / snake / water buffalo"
"Crocodile, don't eat me!"
Impersonate a kindergartner:
- read the alphabet (A-apple, B-ball) as long as I have a picture chart or flash cards to look at***
- sight-read and write the words "Rayong", "Pharmacy", "Chicken" and "Egg"
Communicate the depths of my ignorance:
"I don't know."
"I don't understand."
"I don't speak Thai."
"What would you like?"
- "Fried rice with pork / seafood / grilled chicken / sticky rice / plain rice (directly translated as "beautiful rice") / thick noodles / thin noodles / papaya salad with one chili and no crab / curry, not spicy / fried egg / omelet"
- "iced tea / hot tea / water with ice / Pepsi" (say what you will about globalization but it's nice that I don't have to learn the words for Pepsi, Coke, beer, or whiskey)
- "one plate / one glass / one bottle / one person / Yes damn you, I am eating alone. Do you have a problem with that, mutherf*#$er?" (ok, I can't actually say that last part in Thai, which is probably a good thing.)
"I'm an American person. / You are a Thai person."
"Obama is very smart."
"I don't like Bush."
"good / not good"
"it doesn't matter"
Have brief but meaningful conversations about the nature of romantic attachments:
"Do you have a girlfriend / boyfriend / friend with benefits?"
"Tell the truth!"
"Man has two women, not good"
"Want a good man, handsome, good heart"
"A fun game"
Pose existential questions about the universe:
Yeah, it looks respectable when I type it all out like this. But I'm sitting at a cafe, and have been listening to the folks at the next table chat for a good hour and the only words I've been able to understand are city names, numbers, and the word 'person'. If I decide to travel abroad again I'll make it a point to take at least one formal class in the language before I get there... or maybe only travel to countries that use the Roman alphabet!
TAG: Code Watermelon
* survival level for someone who spends a good bit of each day surrounded by English teachers, English students, or the English speaking Thai staff at my school.
**You may notice the paucity of nouns on this list (with the exception of food items), it's surprising how seldom you really need to use them. When I buy something, I either take it off the shelf, point to it, or bring the broken one with me to the store.
***consonants only (there are 44!) I don't know the vowels by name (there are dozens) but know the sounds of two or three when I see them in a word I know.