A Few Odds and Ends

2012 05 02 bangkok grocery nyc

Here are some items from the last several days that I wanted to point out, at least belatedly:

  • On Aung San Suu Kyi and reforms in Myanmar:

    The AP provides the context on Aung San Suu Kyi’s parliamentary swearing in today:

    Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in to Myanmar’s military-backed parliament Wednesday, taking public office for the first time since launching her struggle against authoritarian rule nearly a quarter century ago.

    The opposition leader’s entry into the legislature heralds a new political era in Myanmar, cementing a risky detente between her party and the reformist government of President Thein Sein, which inherited power from the army last year.

    Meanwhile, representatives of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have an op-ed in today’s WSJ headlined “Burma’s Reform Is Still on Parole.”

  • On Chiranuch “Jiew” Premchaiporn:

    The AP says:

    A Thai judge postponed a verdict that had been expected Monday for a webmaster accused of failing to act quickly enough to remove Internet posts deemed insulting to Thailand’s royalty.

    Judge Nittaya Yaemsri said more time was need to process documents in the case, which has drawn global criticism because many see it as an assault on freedom of speech. A new court date was set for May 30.

    Here’s more from the Bangkok Post

  • On David Thomson and Bangkok’s Nahm restaurant:

    Australian Chef David Thompson’s restaurant here in Bangkok, Nahm, has come in at number 50 on the newest list of the “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.”

    (Previously at Newley.com: Here’s an earlier post on Thompson and the issue of foreigners cooking Thai cuisine. And here’s an audio slide show I made about Thompson in 2009.)

  • And finally, speaking of Thai food:

    Thanks to my good friend Dan S. for Tweeting the photo, above, of Bangkok Center Grocery in New York City.

    If you’re interested in the Thai language, you might like to know that the image prompted a a back-and-forth on Twitter, embedded below and on Storify here, about the establishment’s name and its spelling in Thai:

(Image: @NewYorkFitness.)

Luke Cassady-Dorion on “Farang Pok Pok”

I’d been meaning to point this out for a while: Luke Cassady-Dorion began hosting a Thai-language TV show back in January. It’s called “Farang Pok Pok.” Luke is a Bangkok-based American yoga teacher, ex-software engineer, and skilled linguist.

In each episode, Luke heads out into the countryside to meet local people and embark on various adventures. In the first episode, for example, he visited clam farmers in Samut Sonkram.

As a student of the Thai language, it’s inspiring to see Luke put his skills to use. The Women Learn Thai site has a rundown of the first episode (embedded below), along with various vocabulary and phrases Luke uses.

For more info, see Luke’s site or the “Farang Pok Pok” Facebook page. For details on Luke’s approach to learning Thai, I suggest checking out this interview on the Women Learn Thai site.

Thai translations of Oscar-winning movie titles

Thai 101 has an amusing collection of (mostly) literal Thai translations of 2008 Oscar-winning films:

Thai titles for western films are sometimes corny, sometimes spoilery, and always entertaining. Especially when you translate them back into English. They have a style of their own. Most typically, a subtitle is added to give local viewers a better idea of the content.

Here are a few that I like:

The Reader
เดอะ รีดเดอร์ ในอ้อมกอดรักไม่ลืมเลือน
“The Reader: in the embrace of unforgotten love”

The Dark Knight
แบทแมน อัศวินรัตติกาล
“Batman: knight of the night time”

Wall-E
หุ่นน้อยหัวใจรักษ์โลก
“Little robot whose heart saves the world”

How to Learn Thai

Many months ago, Newley.com reader Paul D., who lives in California, asked me for advice on learning Thai. While I’m not an expert and certainly not an advanced speaker, here’s a slightly expanded version of what I told him based on my experience as an enthusiastic — but far from talented — student. I invite those of you out there who know more about this than I do to weigh in with a comment below.

1. Get some good books. For non-academic texts, I like the straightforward Teach Yourself Thai. Another book that I’ve found useful is Thai Without Tears, mostly because it lays out an intuitive phonetic system. Another option, if you’re looking for a slim volume, is the Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook, though this is clearly written with the tourist in mind.

2. Take advantage of audio materials. I’ve really enjoyed listening to Pimsleur’s Thai language CDs. My feeling is that some of the phrasing used in the dialogues is a bit proper (and I prefer a more colloquial approach), but I like the emphasis on repetition, and the lessons are structured nicely, with basic elements repeated over and over again. You might even be able to find some Thai podcasts.

3. Naturally, you should arrange for a Thai tutor or enroll in a Thai class. I take one-on-one lessons and, though I should certainly study more, I’ve found this to be invaluable over the long term. Be sure to choose a teacher who’s had experience with foreign students.

4. Try to study at a little bit each day. An hour — or even 15 minutes — every day is more effective, I’ve found, than many hours once a week.

5. Learn the Thai alphabet. It’s not as hard as you’d think. Get some flash cards and some workbooks made for children.

6. Feel free to design your own curriculum. I found it helpful to make a list of the 50 or 100 words that were most important for me to learn for daily use. This would include frequent events like talking to taxi drivers, asking for directions on the street, ordering food in a restaurant, etc. But I’ve also focused on specific words based on my interests. For example, I play soccer and found it interesting to learn some of the vocabulary specific to the game.

7. It’s important to be patient and have a sense of humor. Situations where you’re uncomfortable — where you really need to say something the right way to be understood — are just as important in the learning process as time in the classroom. Talk to taxi drivers about their favorite foods. Ask your neighbors how to pronounce words you’re having trouble with. Ask your friendly local fruit vendor to tell you how to pronounce the name of that strange fruit he or she is selling.

Here’re some resources for further reading:

LearningThai.com has some online lessons and other information.
EnjoyThaiFood.com has a wealth of great food-centric info.
— The Thai language Wikipedia page makes for a good general overview.
— The Learn to Read Thai Web site offers info on the Thai alphabet.
How and Why to Learn Thai contains an overview of Thai syntax, vocabulary, and other elements.
— I’ve heard great things about Stuart Jay Raj’s Cracking Thai Fundamentals course. He takes an interesting approach to demystifying the language for non-Thai speakers.