Learning Thai Day 0: Introduction

สวัส ดี – Hello/goodbye
จัด ไป – Let’s go, let’s do it!
     จัด – Prepare, get ready
     ไป – Go
In this series, I’ll document the process through which I learn the Thai language, and the ways in which my acquisition of Thai reflects my daily experiences.
At least for the beginning of this series, I’ll do without a formal textbook or any other structured means of learning the language. I’ll only include the words that naturally find me as I negotiate a world (Hankha, Chainat, Thailand) in which Thai is largely the only means of communication. Because of that, this series will be half language course and half diary.
Each day, I’ll post three things:
   – New words of the day
   – My own best Thai of the day
   – A little description of my day and how I met each of the words on the list
I have decided to forgo transliteration and transcription entirely, for three reasons:
1) Thai is erratically transliterated. There are several systems in use here, and none is followed particularly attentively. It is common to see the names of streets, buildings, and even cities written differently on government signs placed within spitting distance of each other.
2) The transliteration systems generally do not include all the information needed to correctly pronounce Thai. Tones, vowel length, and nasalization are often left unrepresented.
3) Time spent learning a transliteration system is time not spent learning the Thai alphabet, which is difficult but not impossible.
I will, however, add spaces and punctuation to Thai script for ease of reading. Thai traditionally uses neither, which can make it confusing to read even for Thai people. I’ll spare you the exhausting task of figuring out where one word ends and the next begins, but remember that the Thai you encounter in the wild won’t be so kind.
So, if they’re written in a script you’re unfamiliar with, how will you master the pronunciation of the Thai words I present? Well, to go along with each post, I’ll add a video on YouTube to demonstrate how I pronounce the words and sentences mentioned in the post. Here’s today’s, with only two Thai words:
[[YouTube issues – Video up soon]]
(Also, modern phones and computers can pronounce Thai for you. Highlight this – สวัสดี,”Hello” – on an iPhone and click speak, or paste it into Google Translate and press the speaker button.)
สวัส ดี is the formal Thai phrase for greeting and parting, and will be covered tomorrow. จัด ไป is a slangy way to enthusiastically agree to do something. It’ll almost always raise a smile when used by a foreigner. My first Thai friends taught it to me and laugh riotously whenever I say it.
Feel free to follow along for just the language, or for just the stories, or for whatever other reason (eg, for the handsome host). And ask questions in the comments, if you’d like.
Alright, จัด ไป! Let’s do it!

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