In Thailand we have celebration days for almost everything but one that is looming, is well worth celebrating and that is Thai National Language Day (and that’s tomorrow folks!).
Thai language is a beautiful language, riches in tones and depth of meanings. To illustrate my point take that book from Christopher G Moore’s book, Heart Talk which lists all words that begins with Jai – heart in Thai, and there are about 700 words and increasing.
Thai language has its roots in Pali and Sanskrit and is deeply rooted in Buddhist principles. As in Thai culture, Thai language has many layers and at times can be confusing to novices. But when you have mastered the language then you can see how rich and beautiful it is.
It is a language that unites rather than divides people. Furthermore it’s also a language that speaks from the heart and not the mind. Hence all that many jai words!
A good example is the Thai word for understand. In Thai, understand is “kao jai,” the word “kao” can be crudely translated as “reach” or “arrive at” and the word “jai” as you already knew, means heart. Kao jai therefore means something that has been taken to heart or something that has reached the heart level. Now how beautiful is that! Just think the act of understanding means exactly that!
Spoken Thai is even more sophisticated.
The play on words that Thais arrive at is astounding. Language games are played to induce youngsters into learning from an early age. Phrases can be spoken backwards to provide endless laughter and endless fun. Being a phonetic language, this is easier to execute than most languages, making the vocabulary much richer.
Slang words are invented by teens on every street corner to while away their time. Some words started off being exclusively associated with certain street gang, slowly seeped into national consciousness. Take the word “skoi,” this denotes female teens that ride on the back of their man (a ham, boy!) motorbikes. These girls usually wear extremely short skirt so someone coined the word scooter and skirt and came up with skoi! Now that is inventive!
However, modern Thai slangs have concerned many linguists as they fear that young people will learn the misuse of words and forget the proper Thai. Example of this is how computer vocabulary has been translated into Thai. The Daily Express has illustrated this quite well.
I still feel that this shows inventive use of language and can only be created by someone with good grounding of the fundamentals. This type of creativity shows the love of the language and should not be judges so harshly!
More worrying though is the new trend of mixing English words in when speaking. As many a time the person using English, misuse the language and others pick up bad habit as well as poor comprehension! There is no reason to use English mix into Thai. The only reason is to show off that you are so international! But that is so uncool!
In this context a national day to celebrate the Thai language might not be a bad idea. We as a nation should help preserve this beautiful language. So tomorrow should be the day that we, Thais, speak grammatically correct and pronunciation perfect Thai in honor of this beautiful language!