A European friend of mine was recently recounting her trip to Thailand, and her tales left me thoroughly amused. She was pleasantly surprised to see so many Gen Z Thai people using a lot more English words in their conversations.
Well, I, being an Asian, wasn’t baffled to know this, unlike her. But I do see her point. For her, such unrestrained use of English to Thai words was impressive, especially when used in between Thai sentences. Her “I had to double-check if I had teleported to an English-speaking country!” cracked me up! But her story made me wonder about the influence of the English language in almost every Southeast Asian language. Want to know what I found out? Read on below!
English Words’ Foray Into Thai
English reigns across the globe and has proliferated in many regions around the world. It has borrowed words from a number of different languages over the course of time, including French, Latin, and German, for example, and it has also contributed words to other languages — Thai is no exception to this phenomenon.
Due to the long history of colonization in many Asian countries, most Southeast Asian languages these days carry a number of loanwords from European ones. Thai has borrowed many words from the English language, particularly in recent years. This trend is particularly noticeable among the younger generation of Thais, who use English words and phrases more often in their daily conversations. It is common to hear phrases like “I’m sorry,” “excuse me,” and “thank you” in everyday Thai conversations.
English Loanwords Used In Thai
Thai is a fascinating language that has been shaped by a variety of cultural and linguistic influences over the centuries. Let’s get to know the exact Thai terminologies that are believed to be loaned from the English language.
Emergence Of Tinglish
Locally, there is an increasing use of Tinglish, meaning a mix of Thai and English words, in conversations. It is a reflection of the influence of English on the Thai language. It is fascinating to hear the unique blend of these two in a sentence. For example, ‘I love you นะ (na) or ‘I love you, na‘ is a phrase commonly used among Thai youth to express affection to their loved ones.
While the use of English in Thai conversations is becoming more common, it is essential to note that there is a difference between English loanwords used in Thai and English words spoken using Thai tones. To a native English speaker, these terms spoken using Thai tones might not be recognizable at all. For example, the word “bus” in Thai sounds like “baht,” and “tea” sounds like “cha.” It can be pretty confusing for a foreigner to hear and pronounce these words spoken in Thai. To them, it might as well be a native Thai word.
Borrowed English Words Vs. English Thai Words
The most basic difference between Tinglish and loanwords is that the latter retain their original English dictionary meaning. For instance, in Tinglish, the word ‘pretty’ (Phrít dtîi – พริตตี้) carries the meaning ‘fashion model’ among locals. So, a sentence using this word will sound like this: Phrít dtîi thîi ngaan maaw dtôoe shoo sǔuai mâak, meaning ‘Models at the auto show are very beautiful.’ So, the word ‘pretty’ in this context is as good as a Thai word!
However, a loanword like chocolate (chxkh ko læt – ช็อคโกแล็ต) or ice cream (xịṣ̄ khrīm – ไอศครีม) will retain its meaning when used in a sentence, for example, C̄hạn xyāk kin xị ṣ̄k rīm chxkh ko læt (I want to eat a chocolate ice cream).
List Of English To Thai Words
#1 Fitness – ฟิตเนส (Fít-nèet)
Thais use this word to say ‘gym.’ For example, C̄hạn mị̀ chxb pị fitnes̄ thuk wạn, meaning ‘I don’t like going to the gym every day.’
#2 Chill – ชิล (Chil)
These days, ‘chill’ carries the same meaning across the world: to chill out, especially after Netflix adopted it in its tagline. It is the same here. Mā chi ll̒ kạn t̄hexa means ‘come, let’s chill together.’
#3 Check-Bill – เช็คบิล (Chĕkh Bil)
Thais use both these terms together – making it a Thai word – to ask for a check in a restaurant. For example, you can say Khuṇ ch̀wy xeā chĕkh bil mā h̄ı̂ c̄hạn dị̂ h̄ịm meaning, ‘can you bring me the check, please?’
#4 Over – โอเวอร์ (Oo-Vôoe)
Here, the term ‘over’ is used to denote excess. For example, Yàa phûut jaa oo-vôoe bpai nàauy looei means ‘don’t over exaggerate.’
#5 Fit – ฟิต (Fít)
The term fit is used to convey ‘too tight’ when used colloquially. For instance, Mạn fit keinpị carries the meaning ‘it is too tight.’
#6 In-Trend – อินเทรนด์ (In-Treen)
There is no such word in the English dictionary as ‘in trend.’ However, locally, this Thai word means trendy or stylish. For example, Thais may say something like Txn nī̂ s̄ī dæng kảlạng xin the rnd̒ ley, meaning ‘red is quite trendy these days.’
#7 Gay – เกย์ (Gee)
In English, ‘gay’ means happy as well as a homosexual man. However, Thais use it to mean homosexuals across genders. An example of this is Xæ n pĕn key̒ (Anne is gay).
#8 In – อิน (In)
In an English dictionary, ‘in’ is a preposition. However, Thais use it to mean ‘being into something.’ For example, you can say Ch̀wng nī̂ c̄hạn xin kạb dntrī thịy means ‘I am into Thai music these days.’
#9 Wave – เวฟ (Wéep)
The Thais shorten the term ‘microwave’ and use it as a verb. The sentence ‘Warm this in the microwave for 1 minute after taking it out from the fridge’ can sound like lǎng jàak nam àawk jàak dtûu yen hâi aao bpai wéep nùeng naa thi.
Want To Learn More?
The increasing use of English words in Thai conversations is a reflection of its influence on the local culture. All in all, this is a fascinating topic and is something worth exploring further. Want to learn more about the Thai language and its intricacies? I have the perfect platform for you! Read on below to find out what that is.
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