A Very Short Message

28 April 2014, TV = 744.4 hours

While it was only a few words long, this morning I composed something in Thai for the first time – a short note to be included with a package I was sending someone.

Just as in speaking, one of the challenges was to be fairly modest in my aims: to find what I needed to say in a way that wouldn’t go beyond the limited amount of Thai that I know. But because I don’t know how to spell anything in Thai, I would have to keep things even simpler and shorter than if I were speaking, since I would need to copy the words from elsewhere.

So I came up with a very short sentence that didn’t involve much beyond the names of the other person and myself.

I have a Thai transliteration of my name that a friend once wrote out for me, so I copied that. The addressee’s name and title I had on their contact information. And then there was a word I needed that I didn’t know how to spell, so I looked it up using google translate in reverse: I entered what I thought would be the english translation and then – success! – found the Thai word I had wanted on the resulting list.

The actual writing out of the words wasn’t difficult – even though I’ve never studied reading and writing, I’ve been looking at Thai writing for so long now that I’m pretty familiar with just about all the “letters” and diacritical marks, with the exception of maybe a few that seem to be used only rarely. Also I’ve occasionally gotten a little practice writing things down in Thai, such as names of TV shows that caught my interest while channel surfing.

A modest achievement, but not bad for an illiterate!

And then at the post office, when I informed the clerk that there was some glass inside the package, I got to learn the expression used for marking fragile or breakable items. Bonus score!



5 thoughts on “A Very Short Message

  1. Nick

    I found that once you learn the Thai alphabet, your brain gets to the point where it automatically reads everything on signs, menus etc. It can actually improve pronunciation and shed a new light on words which are a little unclear. Good to hear that you’re progressing nicely!

  2. adamf2011 Post author

    Well I’ve never learned the Thai alphabet in any kind of thorough or systematic way, I’ve just kind of figured some things out on my own. It’s not so much that I know how to read as that I know enough of what the “letters” and other marks stand for to take a guess — often a good guess — as to what word I’m looking at. But I need to already know the word from the spoken language to do so — I wouldn’t be able to “read” a word that I don’t know, though I might be able to guess at a very rough pronunciation.

    I’m sure that with enough time it would get automatic, because that’s what English is like for me — when I see English words they register immediately, like there’s no way I can avoid recognizing what a written English word is.

    I definitely want to be literate in Thai…at some point. But meanwhile I’m still absorbing the spoken language.

    Anyway, thanks for the encouragement, Nick!

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