Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can?

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Cing Jai
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Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can?

Post by Cing Jai » Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:51 am

OK, so this post might lose me any goodwill I've garnered since joining the forum but here goes...

As mentioned by another forum member in private recently, I have noticed that in the Thailand expat community people who don't speak much or any Thai often shun expats who have learned some. I'm not sure if this is always a conscious action but I've seen it enough now to know it's a real thing, not a one off.

To add to this, in my experience so far in HH, it seems that the few expats I've met, talked to and observed here, have no interest in learning Thai more so than anywhere else I've lived in the country! In other words, and I could be wrong, it seems there are more expats here who don't care about learning Thai than in many other places expats gather in Thailand. Anyone else agree?

I see people spend time complaining on the forum about perceived injustices done to them but I know from experience that if they could have communicated their side these things would likely have turned out very differently. Spend that time learning the language instead is my advice.

You don't need to speak a ton either. Thais *really* appreciate it when they see you've made even a small effort to learn their language and will then usually bend over backwards to help you. Back home, just because an expat or immigrant spoke a few crappy sentences of the local language do you think they would get that kind of service and appreciation? Hell to the muthafrakin no!

So, stop disrespecting your fellow expats who have chosen to learn some Thai and start being ashamed you haven't! In truth, folks probably feel more embarrassed that anything else when someone at the table is conversing with the restaurant staff or with their wife / girl in Thai and they have no idea what is being said. The expat speaking Thai is very likely not doing it to upset you, they probably want to practice their Thai and maybe show off a bit in front of the Thais for all the hard work they've put in learning. There's nothing wrong with being proud of accomplishing something hard if you're not being arrogant but there's something big time wrong with resenting someone for said accomplishment!

I mean this to be constructive, I hope it's taken that way and doesn't start a flame war.

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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by GLCQuantum » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:04 pm

I've said it before and I'll say it again...

I really don't know how much I would enjoy this place if I wasn't semi-fluent in Thai. I would have thought it to be an absolute nightmare.

Saying this I have not noticed a great deal of 'resentment' as you say, (apart from with my father - he always liked to be the better of the Thai speakers... that time has long gone :D ) maybe I just don't notice it.

:cheers:

Edit: I do think it is important though that, being a guest in someone elses country, you at least have the decency to try and learn the lingo. It should be exactly the same roles reversed.

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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by dtaai-maai » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:26 pm

Generally agree with the principle of learning Thai, but the thread is a bit 'preachy'.


Oh, and I've certainly never witnessed any resentment. I find the idea bizarre.
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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by Nereus » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:54 pm

dtaai-maai wrote:Generally agree with the principle of learning Thai, but the thread is a bit 'preachy'.


Oh, and I've certainly never witnessed any resentment. I find the idea bizarre.
Some people have a knack for languages, others are good at fixing cars.
Yes, exactly. Just as some people can sing, and some only think they can! :cheers:
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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by Lung Per » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:48 pm

This discusssion is IMO, off the dot. Suggest you use your time on something more productive.
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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by Frank Hovis » Wed Jul 11, 2012 1:56 pm

Agree with Lung Per here. No-one is going to pipe up and say 'Yeah, I can't stand those foreign winkers that speak Thai; why don't they just shout English/German/French/Swedish/Russian at them and force the Thais to understand MY language".

Of course, I've been wrong before...

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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by Dannie Boy » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:01 pm

Lung Per wrote:This discusssion is IMO, off the dot. Suggest you use your time on something more productive.
:blabla: :troll:
I wouldn't agree that CJ is way out of order, just maybe laboured some of the points a bit too strongly. I can only speak for myself and have never felt resentful of any farang who can speak fluent or semi-fluent Thai..........a bit envious maybe, but never resentful.

I am having lessons so that I can at least try to communicate and will hopefully get better as time goes on, but already it is very clear, that the ability to speak the language to any degree, gets a big plus mark from the locals

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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by STEVE G » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:08 pm

The OP should've posted that in Thai to see if there was any resentment!

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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by VincentD » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:08 pm

Got drawn in by the allure of the title...
dtaai-maai wrote:..... but the thread is a bit 'preachy'.
Mmmm. And filled with quite a few assumptions.
Cing Jai wrote:Hell to the muthafrakin no!
You're American, aren't you?
Cing Jai wrote:I mean this to be constructive, I hope it's taken that way and doesn't start a flame war.
จริงใจ - cing jai = sincere :)

My two cents.
It's mostly the return tourists who feel the need to practice. A local girlfriend will also make the need felt.
The longer-term residents fall into two categories - those who prefer to live within their expat community, and for whom learning the local language in depth is not felt to be really necessary; communication in a town like Hua Hin is not particularly difficult as most locals would probably understand more English than you would Thai.
The other category would be those for whom communication in the local language is more of a necessity.

There are many people who would love to learn the language, but for many it is beyond their reach. And it is not from a lack of trying. I am one of the more fortunate ones who has been able to.

I've not really seen 'resentment' in the way you've portrayed it; resentment is usually a reaction to a 'situation', perhaps one of being looked down upon for poorer language skills than the speaker? Human nature is universal.

As for the Thais bending over backwards if you speak Thai, I don't think so. Though it can ease communication to where a two-way conversation can take place and a common level of understanding can be reached. Unless, of course, you're dealing with service staff - hotel bellhops, waitresses and the like - who *will* bend over backwards if they think there's a decent tip to be had.

Do note that some Thais don't like it if you 'speak too mutt', though it's usually the ones with an agenda. That's when the catcalls change from 'Hello, hansum man, where you go?' to 'Him falang him bad man, know too mutt'. :thumb:
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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by charlesh » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:28 pm

I tried and because of my poor tonal control people just looked at me with silly grins. The average Thai will make little to no effort in even trying to guess what you are on about even with some words pronounced almost correctly. Even sign language seems to fail!

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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by PeteC » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:29 pm

VincentD wrote:
Cing Jai wrote:Hell to the muthafrakin no!
You're American, aren't you?
Actually, that's Singlish la? :laugh: Pete :cheers:
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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by sandman67 » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:33 pm

Utter cobblers

I admire people who have the skill and ability to learn Thai, as well as the dedication.

I say dedication for several very good and proven reasons:

Thai is, like most SE Asian languages, inflectional whereas Western languages with Indo Latin roots are non inflectional. Inflectional languages, for a person whose root language is non inflectional, are much harder to learn and speak properly. In my case, combine that with a strong broad Northern English accent and accentual tendency to speak in a fairly inexpressive low monotone, and Thai becomes a nightmare to learn and speak.

Thai also uses a completely unique alphabet and written grammatical structure. Western languages do not - they all use a common structural protocol. See the gaps separating these words and thus making them individual and indicating where one word stops and another starts? See the symbol indicating this is a question? Show me those in Thai sparky! We learn languages by a combination of visual and aural linking....that is why Europeans find Greek and languages that use a Cyrillic alphabet more difficult to learn...like Russian. So combine a written language with alien symbols and no breaks in between words with an inflectional and contextual aural interpretation of the symbols and bingo.... me no understandee. Its the same as trying to learn and speak one of the Chinese dialects or Japanese. I have a mate who has lived and worked in Japan for 8 years, and has all Japanese friends and a lass. He still is only able to read the very basic "newspaper" form of written Japanese and can only speak what would be called "common" Japanese. He goes to a classical performance and cant understand half of what is being said and sung because its in "high" Japanese, and he cant read the classical written language because the alphabet is different. Yet Damien can speak 4 different European languages (En, Fr, Sp, G) pretty fluently. See?

Note that westerners find it easier to learn Vietnamese...why? Cos they use a written western alphabet and word structure. Ditto all the other SE Asian languages that use western alphabets and written structure like Malay.

(Note also that I have read commentary by Thai academics (in the Bangkok Post), when trying to speak out in support of Thais learning western languages and particularly business English, citing the unique nature of the Thai alphabet and grammar as a major block to westerners learning the Thai language.)

Side note. I have noted that a lot of my Thai friends, and Mrs S is included there, tend to seem to have a difficulty reading their own language as well. Thats mates in bars and even staff in banks so no it isn't a bar girl thing. I can look at a sign and read it instantly, Thais apparently spend longer sorting all the squiggles out. Mrs S can read English very well, even if she doesn't understand what the long word means she can easily break its syllables down and say it. Score one for the west.

Finally, the older you get the harder it becomes to learn new skills, particularly language skills. Language is assimilated by human brains much more easily in the early stages of development because that's when it is important to learn such skills. In older years the brain is much better at assimilating motor skill tasks, cos that's when those become more important. Given that most ex-pats here are older people its no wonder that language learning is at a low level.

Me....Im resigned to the fact I will never have a complex discussion in Thai with a local. That's my loss. I learn enough to get by and be polite. I speak fluent Boltonian Gobshyte, English and Tinglish, and can say hello, swear and order beer in a number of other languages. Thats my lot!

:cheers:
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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by GLCQuantum » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:40 pm

A good point was made above by Vincent I think.

In Hua Hin you can get away without using Thai most of the time (should still try to learn Thai though - 'try' being the key word)Where I live it would be an ongoing battle if you couldn't speak Thai.

I have been a little fortunate in the fact that the first time I came to Thailand and heard Thai was when I was 12 (16 years ago). After that I had my Thai family live in England for a spell with numerous holidays out here during my teens. At 21 I made the move out here so I have had a lot of contact with the language. (I should actually be a little better than I am!)

As has been said, some will find it extremely difficult to pick up a new language but I think all expats should at least give it a go. :cheers:

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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by sargeant » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:45 pm

It doesnt help having a voice about 100 octaves lower than a buffalo farting when comes to the rising even and lower tones it makes it very difficult
35 years with an assortment of Thai wives and living in virtually sole Thai communities i get by just
BUT like today tearing a strip of the Tesco guy due to no nil vintage chedder cheese for a week i rely on my good lady :lach: :lach:

and as with others i admire those that can speeak it (even if they seem smug showing their prowess of sometimes :neener: )

mind you i do earn a beer or 2 singing Thai songs in the Karaoke bars
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Re: Why do expats who can't speak Thai resent those that can

Post by GLCQuantum » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:58 pm

mind you i do earn a beer or 2 singing Thai songs in the Karaoke bars
:mrgreen:

Well you are certainly one up on me then... :wink:

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