Friday, August 31, 2012

Spelling Thai Words In English Is Harder Than It Sounds

The convenience store downstairs at my condo us staffed by very nice, hard working people.  One of the manager types is a young woman who recently had twins.  I was happy to see her when she got back from a brief maternity leave.  Upon her return, she had a question for me.

She asked me to write down the names of her children in the A,B,C's, "kien tee passa awngrit," ("write in English").  She told me what the names were, the two first names and the last name too, and I wrote them out for her.  I'm pretty sure that what I wrote will be the official English spelling for her children's names for all time.  I was careful to make a gesture at the rules for sounding out Thai while making them readable for what they were in English.  All of the names went very well, no real tricks in any of the names, but sometimes it's not easy.  

I give her top marks for asking me to help out though.  Lots of times Thais create spellings that are pure mischief. 

For instance, there's a restaurant chain here that I like called "Yum Saap."  To us, that looks like it should be "yum sahp," long "a" sound in the second word.  But when you say it, or when you see it spelled in Thai, it's really "yahm saep."  See what I mean?  They should have asked me how to spell it.  I'd have gone with "Yam Saep" to keep it simple. 

For the record, I will cheerfully do simple jobs like these, a few words at a time, free of charge.  Just, you know, to help avoid that mischief thing.

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