Feeling a bit intimidated by the thought of learning the Thai language? It’s no surprise if you are, as mastering this beautiful and complex language can undoubtedly be a challenge for total beginners. But here’s a fun twist: Did you know Thai also boasts a slew of untranslatable words? These linguistic gems add yet another layer of intrigue and complexity to your language-learning journey. So if you’re ready to dive deeper into the fascinating world of untranslatable Thai words, read below!
For many beginners, the Thai language can be a challenging tongue to learn. One of the main reasons is due to its unique tonal system. Unlike most languages that rely on intonation or stress, Thai has five distinct tones that change the meaning of a word. This can be difficult for English speakers, as we’re not used to making such precise tonal distinctions. Add to that the fact that this Asian language has an intricate writing system that may easily confuse anyone.
But hey! Learning this language is still fun and doable! One quick way to immerse yourself in this language is by starting with terminologies you can have fun with. And since you landed in this post, there’s a huge chance that you want to learn some unique vocab. In that case, we rounded up below the six most interesting yet untranslatable Thai words for you to begin with.
6 Untranslatable Thai Words
Are you ready to discover the hidden gems of the Thai language and culture? Look no further than the world of untranslatable Thai words! These linguistic treasures are fascinating and offer a unique insight into the values and customs of Thai society. Let’s begin!
1. งอน (Ngaawn)
Translating this word into the Roman alphabet gives you ngaawn. It’s an adverb that describes sullen emotions from somebody’s actions. Feeling this isn’t as intense as getting angry or upset, but it connotes a negative energy. In the Thai culture, you may often feel this way toward people close to you, like friends and family.
Additionally, this also applies to a lover’s fight. Do you know those situations wherein you let them know you’re not happy with what they did by giving them the cold shoulder? That’s how we can clearly explain what this word means.
2. เกรงใจ (Kreng-Jai)
Kreng-Jai is one of Thailand’s many untranslatable Thai words, referring to an individual’s characteristics. It’s made of two words: kreng translates to “have a fear of (something),” while jai means “heart.” Putting these two translations together may make you “have a fear of heart,” which might sound odd.
Generally speaking, Kreng-Jai refers to a quality of a good person. It means thinking of someone’s needs or putting them into consideration. It shows a polite character of an individual. A good example can be a friend helping you find a job or get a cab. These simple gestures already give you an idea of what this Thai word means.
3. น้อยใจ (Noi-Jai)
By the sounds of these two words, you may guess that it’s closely related to the previous one, in which you’re correct. Unlike kreng-jai, noi-jai refers to a feeling. A person may feel this emotion if you reject their offers. It’s similar to getting offended. So, if someone shows you a kind gesture, accept it as long as it’s not causing them any trouble!
4. บน (Bon)
You may have already known that Thai people are pretty religious. Despite having different religions, they all believe that there’s a God. You might be familiar with prayers in which people ask the Almighty to do them a favor, and in return, they would promise to do something. Well, that’s what bon means. It may not translate to something in English, but it obviously has something to do with faith.
5. ไม่เป็นไร (Mâi Bpen Rai)
This Thai phrase may describe several situations. It’s typically spoken when there’s nothing more you can do for that person. For instance, if someone tells you “thank you,” you can respond mâi bpen rai instead of you’re welcome. You may also use this phrase when saying you’re okay or not mad. These translations may not have the same word, but Thai people use this phrase to respond to the given situations.
6. หมั่นไส้ (Man Sai)
These two words don’t have a literal meaning. You may feel man sai if somebody is a total show-off or arrogant. It’s not always a negative feeling because you may use this untranslatable word when you feel happy about someone’s achievement in life. Still, it doesn’t really equate to jealousy, annoyance, or anger.
However, plenty of people say that it’s rude to say it since it almost has the same meaning as “disgusting.” But again, it doesn’t have a direct translation in English. So, its meaning may be determined by the situation or the tone used by the speaker.
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Which of the words we covered above is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!
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