I always pride myself for being 12.5% Thai – both my greatgrandparents were half Thai, half Chinese, so that made my grandpa half Thai. And since grandma is Chinese, my dad is thus 25% Thai – leaving me, my siblings, and my cousins 12.5% of those awesome Thai genes.
So that would be what I proudly declare when people comment that my eyes are a tad bigger than usual for a Chinese, and sometimes I do get mistaken for a Thai especially when I travelled to Bangkok.
Sadly, though, apart from growing up with Thai-influenced cooking, watching Thai TV channels, hearing my elders and dad speak a smattering of Thai, and praying at the Siamese temple near my late my greatgrandparents’ home (before I became a Christian at the age of 16)at the small town in the northern Malaysian state, Kedah, which is half an hour’s drive from the Thai border, there’s nothing much left of my Thai roots.
So I’ve always wanted to learn Thai and this year I finally made good my resolution.
Some basic Thai I have learnt so far, from a native Thai teacher residing in Malaysia:
1. Sawadeekha – the Thai greeting (equivalent to good day, good morning, good evening etc.) which most people would know
2. Korb khun kha – thank you
3. Sabai dee mai? – a formal way of saying ‘how are you?’
4. Bpen yang ngai bang? – an informal way of saying ‘how are you?’, especially with people we are close to
5. Khun che a rai kha? – What is your name? The ‘kha’ is added to sound more polite
6. Di chan che Alexis – My name is Alexis
7. Di chan bpen khon Malaysia – I am a Malaysian
8. Khun phood Thai dai mai? – Can you speak Thai?
9. Chan phood Thai dai nit noy – I can speak a little Thai
10. Chan ma jak prated Malaysia – I come from Malaysia. ‘Prated’ means country, so in Thai one way to say ‘Thailand’ is ‘prated Thai’
Anyone familiar with the basics of the Thai language would know that the first person pronoun is different depending on the gender of the speaker i.e. ‘I’ for a female would be ‘di chan’, or ‘chan’; whereas for a male is would be ‘phom’.
And where ladies would say ‘kha’, men are supposed to say ‘krup’ – as in Sawadeekha vs. Sawadeekrup.
The Thai language is also a highly melodious one, which makes it so beautiful and pleasant to the ears. Compared to Chinese which has only four intonations, Thai has five!
So I have completed my basic Thai lessons and am looking forward to progressing to Level 1. To this day I am still intrigued by the language and the culture of this vibrant and colourful nation – so where my lessons are concerned, I will continue till I get to the stage of being able to carry a decent, substantial conversation in Thai. Sawadeekha!