Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage?

Image
Image Thai language section, ask your language questions here.
User avatar
Vital Spark
Ace
Ace
Posts: 1826
Joined: Wed Feb 14, 2007 10:34 pm
Location: Nakhon Pathom

Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage?

Post by Vital Spark » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:49 pm

The only reason I have started this topic is that a lot of westerners, who profess to speak Thai much better than I do, seem to get themselves into into confrontations with Thais.

Example: A native speaker I know was at a supermarket the other day and had parked his bike correctly at the front of the shop. As he was about to leave, a Thai woman parked at an awkward angle behind his bike, meaning he couldn't reverse out. He explained (in his good Thai) that she shouldn't have parked her bike like that, and she should observe the lines on the tarmac, what did she think she was doing, etc. etc. He then got a tirade of abuse from said woman, and it turned into an argument.

Now, if I had been in the same situation (not having the vocabulary to explain lines, correct parking procedures, etc.) I would have just waid and said 'Kor tort, ka' with a smile, so that I could reverse my bike. I don't think that it would have turned into a full-blown confrontation.

The Thai language is so complex with regard to politeness and hierachy, that it's extremely easy to get it wrong and offend. Even when offence is not intended.

What do you think?

VS
"Properly trained, man can be a dog's best friend"

User avatar
MrPlum
Banned
Banned
Posts: 4587
Joined: Mon Jun 11, 2007 6:57 pm

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by MrPlum » Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:51 pm

Thought it was a no-no to make a Thai lose face? Sounds like he forgot that lesson.

User avatar
sandemb
Specialist
Specialist
Posts: 220
Joined: Tue Nov 20, 2012 9:25 pm
Location: Indecisive!

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by sandemb » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:01 pm

Agree 100%, Asians do not like to lose face. I speak Indonesian at conversation level and there are certain words I only use when someone crosses me really bad. Same in TH. Save the worst 'til last when they really deserve it!
." The only bad beer is the one you haven't drunk yet ." --- the Bible according to Eric!

User avatar
GLCQuantum
Rock Star
Rock Star
Posts: 3585
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:00 pm

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by GLCQuantum » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:20 pm

Vital Spark wrote:The only reason I have started this topic is that a lot of westerners, who profess to speak Thai much better than I do, seem to get themselves into into confrontations with Thais.

Example: A native speaker I know was at a supermarket the other day and had parked his bike correctly at the front of the shop. As he was about to leave, a Thai woman parked at an awkward angle behind his bike, meaning he couldn't reverse out. He explained (in his good Thai) that she shouldn't have parked her bike like that, and she should observe the lines on the tarmac, what did she think she was doing, etc. etc. He then got a tirade of abuse from said woman, and it turned into an argument.

Now, if I had been in the same situation (not having the vocabulary to explain lines, correct parking procedures, etc.) I would have just waid and said 'Kor tort, ka' with a smile, so that I could reverse my bike. I don't think that it would have turned into a full-blown confrontation.

The Thai language is so complex with regard to politeness and hierachy, that it's extremely easy to get it wrong and offend. Even when offence is not intended.

What do you think?

VS
Never had a problem conversing with Thai people in their own language...

Now talking with Westerners in English - That's another story. :wink:

User avatar
blue05
Guru
Guru
Posts: 935
Joined: Mon Jun 04, 2012 7:14 pm

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by blue05 » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:49 pm

too many people think they know too much Thai and the facts are they do not, they get tones wrong and then get pissed when misunderstood- and say please and thank you and leave the rest to others

User avatar
STEVE G
Hero
Hero
Posts: 11844
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:50 am
Location: HUA HIN/EUROPE

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by STEVE G » Thu Dec 06, 2012 9:49 pm

I wonder if the problem was more that he was criticising the Thai's parking rather than the fact that he was doing it in Thai?
To be honest I would have just asked to get out as you're going to be rather busy if you take it upon yourself to start pointing out every time that someone parks incorrectly on a Thai road.

Pleng
Legend
Legend
Posts: 2661
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:04 am
Location: Hua Hin

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by Pleng » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:00 am

I agree with Steve. The guy sounded like he was heading for trouble regardless of what language he was speaking in.

User avatar
BaaBaa.
Addict
Addict
Posts: 8954
Joined: Wed Aug 23, 2006 5:41 pm
Location: leuk lap

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by BaaBaa. » Fri Dec 07, 2012 3:32 am

Yep, I'll go with the above.

It's all to your advantage as long as you aren't gobby.

You either converse with good people or hear people slagging you off thinking you're clueless.

User avatar
STEVE G
Hero
Hero
Posts: 11844
Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:50 am
Location: HUA HIN/EUROPE

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by STEVE G » Fri Dec 07, 2012 4:57 am

I'm not the best at car parking myself and a couple of times a year I hire a car from the airport in the UK to go and visit the eldery parents back home near Nottingham and if I was just popping to Sainsburys to pick up something for them, I can imagine that I might get a bit uppity myself if some Thai popped out of the woodwork and started telling me that I'd done a bad job.

User avatar
Roel
Guru
Guru
Posts: 987
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:21 am
Location: Phuket

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by Roel » Fri Dec 07, 2012 11:12 am

Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage?
Well Vital Spark you answered your own question.
Yes, proficient language skills CAN be a disadvantage if you use them to get into an argument.

With regard to the loss of face. Like the Thai language this also is a complex phenomenon. In this situation not the Thai woman parking her bike awkwardly lost face but the man (maybe raising his voice) trying to teach her a lesson about lines on the tarmac did. She was in the wrong but he lost his cool which is worse.

Anyway this concept of losing face is used frequently by farangs to explain all kinds of situations and I think too lightly. Of course the concept exists and is of high importance to the Thais but it does not always explain everything.

If you understand a bit of the Thai language you will notice that at street-level-Thai being polite is NOT the norm. In every day situations communication amongst lower and even middle class Thais is not formally polite at all. And they do not seem so sensitive about losing face as many of us think. In the awkwardly parking situation an average Thai would also probably have reacted with the Thai version of "hey missy, what do you think you are doing?"

Back home when we communicate in our native dialect or slang with other native speakers we all know exactly with what we can get away and what would be over the top. Same for Thais of course. I think it is impossible for a non-native Thai speaker to know where these borders are. Do not try to find them: stay on the safe side.
We are all living in 'the good old days' of the future.

User avatar
buksida
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 15922
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2002 12:25 pm
Location: south of sanity
Contact:

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by buksida » Fri Dec 07, 2012 11:23 am

Smiling and being a bit more laid back goes a long way with your language and communication, getting the hump rapidly will cause that kind of reaction in any country and any language - more so if a foreigner does it.
Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? - Hunter S Thompson
Get out there: On The Road Asia

User avatar
dtaai-maai
Addict
Addict
Posts: 9305
Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2007 10:00 pm
Location: Hua Hin

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by dtaai-maai » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:42 pm

Roel wrote: Anyway this concept of losing face is used frequently by farangs to explain all kinds of situations and I think too lightly. Of course the concept exists and is of high importance to the Thais but it does not always explain everything.
Spot on post all round, Roel, but I couldn't agree more with the above quote. :cheers:
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and St George!’

User avatar
Big Boy
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 30621
Joined: Fri Nov 04, 2005 7:36 pm
Location: Bon Kai

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by Big Boy » Fri Dec 07, 2012 12:51 pm

I don't know if you guys have experienced it, but many times when living in the UK, some Farangs would seem to have a very good grasp of the language, to the extent that many Thais were rolling in stitches. However, when we've got home and I've discussed it with my wife, she has often said he speak no good - his wife teach him too many bad word.

Could it be that that person, who to the uninitiated was speaking in Thai, was actually speaking very badly to the lady? It could be that he actually thought he was talking right, but his teacher was bad?
League 1 - Plymouth Argyle....2 Gillingham....1 :dance: :dance: :dance: :dance:
Points 20; Position 22

VincentD
Guru
Guru
Posts: 983
Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2004 4:04 pm
Location: Bangkok

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by VincentD » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:13 pm

.... Jumps in....

There have been many scenarios proffered, but I am more likely to go with a reaction to the 'behaviour' as opposed to a good understanding of Thai. The body language probably said it all.

I've had someone park behind me with the handbrake on and he didn't show up for ten minutes. When he showed up, I was sitting on the tailgate (obvious to him I had been waiting a while) I just smiled and he became immediately apologetic.
In BB's example above, even though bad language had been used, I'm sure the body language did not reflect that.

So, to answer, from my point of view, whether the ability to speak a lot of Thai is a disadvantage or not, I will say it is not a disadvantage. Just don't use it (or any other language, for that matter) to demean someone deemed to be in the wrong and there'll be a lot less ill-will around.

As the Thais say, 'Sabai-sabai'.
วินเชนท์

User avatar
Dannie Boy
Rock Star
Rock Star
Posts: 4619
Joined: Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:12 pm
Location: Closer to Cha Am than Hua Hin

Re: Can the ability to speak a lot of Thai be a disadvantage

Post by Dannie Boy » Fri Dec 07, 2012 1:19 pm

VincentD wrote:.... Jumps in....

There have been many scenarios proffered, but I am more likely to go with a reaction to the 'behaviour' as opposed to a good understanding of Thai. The body language probably said it all.

I've had someone park behind me with the handbrake on and he didn't show up for ten minutes. When he showed up, I was sitting on the tailgate (obvious to him I had been waiting a while) I just smiled and he became immediately apologetic.
In BB's example above, even though bad language had been used, I'm sure the body language did not reflect that.

So, to answer, from my point of view, whether the ability to speak a lot of Thai is a disadvantage or not, I will say it is not a disadvantage. Just don't use it (or any other language, for that matter) to demean someone deemed to be in the wrong and there'll be a lot less ill-will around.

As the Thais say, 'Sabai-sabai'.
:agree: a good command of the language should help you get out of trouble, but use it wrongly and it will do the opposite

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests