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Lesson Transcript

Michael: What are some Thai-English false friends?
Nantanee: And what are some words that are often used incorrectly?
Michael: At ThaiPod101.com, we hear these questions often. To help address these questions, let’s imagine the following situation: Nipaporn Niyom is talking about her lunch with Ben Lee. She says,
"I ate a whole bowl of rice."
Nipaporn Niyom: ฉันกินข้าวทั้งจาน (chăn gin khâao tháng jaan)
Nipaporn Niyom: ฉันกินข้าวทั้งจาน (chăn gin khâao tháng jaan)
Ben Lee: วัวหรอ (wuua rǎaw)
Michael: Once more with the English translation.
Nipaporn Niyom: ฉันกินข้าวทั้งจาน (chăn gin khâao tháng jaan)
Michael: "I ate a whole bowl of rice."
Ben Lee: วัวหรอ (wuua rǎaw)
Michael: "You ate a cow?"

Lesson focus

Michael: In this lesson, we’re going to talk about False Friends. I’m not talking about people who pretend to be your friends but are really not. The term False Friends, or
Nantanee: เพื่อนเท็จ (phûuean-thét),
Michael: is a term in linguistics, which refers to two words in two different languages that may look and sound the same but do not share the same meaning at all. In fact, they may even have opposite meanings. They are called “false friends” because they are often mistaken to be the same word. False friends occur for a number of reasons, but, before we talk about that, let’s first go back to the dialogue earlier.
[Recall 1]
Michael: Let’s take a closer look at the dialogue.
Do you remember how Nipaporn Niyom says "I ate a whole bowl of rice?"
(pause 4 seconds)
Nantanee as Nipaporn Niyom: ฉันกินข้าวทั้งจาน (chăn gin khâao tháng jaan)
Michael: Nipaporn was telling Ben Lee that she ate a whole bowl of rice, or
Nantanee: ข้าว (khâao) [SLOW] ข้าว (khâao).
Michael: Ben Lee was confused and wondered how it was possible for his friend to eat a whole cow. Well, that’s because “rice” in Thai sounds like the word “cow” in English, which in Thai, by the way, is
Nantanee: วัว (wuua) [SLOW] วัว (wuua).
Michael: In this lesson, you’ve learned how False Friends work—that a Thai word may look or sound the same as an English word, but it does not necessarily share the same origin and meaning with that word. We’ve already had the word “cow” as an example. Let’s take a look at some more. Here’s one:
Nantanee: หมู (mǔu) [SLOW] หมู (mǔu)
Michael: This is the Thai word for “pig” or “pork,” but then it sounds like “moo.” When a Thai friend tells you they want to eat “moo,” you’ll know that they’re not talking about “cow” or “beef.” The next word is
Nantanee: ไก่ (gài) [SLOW] ไก่ (gài).
Michael: This time—we’re talking about the word “chicken” in Thai, although the word may sound like the English word for “guy.” Don’t be confused the next time someone tells you in Thai they want to eat “guy.” Now—enough with animals and food. The third example we have is
Nantanee: บ้าน (bâan) [SLOW] บ้าน (bâan)
Michael: This is the Thai word for “house.” It may sound like the English word “barn,” but it’s far from being a building where you put your livestock. Come to think of it—we’re still not done talking about animals! But, anyway, here’s another example:
Nantanee: ไฟแช็ก (fai-cháek) [SLOW] ไฟแช็ก (fai-cháek)
Michael: This time, we’re talking about a cigarette lighter. Interestingly, it sounds like “fire check” in English. And, speaking of fire, this is one word that sounds and means the same in Thai and English.
Nantanee: ไฟ (fai) [SLOW] ไฟ (fai)
Michael: Yes, that’s the word “fire” in Thai, which sounds the same as its English equivalent.
Michael: False Friends aren’t the only thing you need to deal with in the Thai language. Like most non-English languages, Thai borrows words from English too. For instance, let’s take the word
Nantanee: กีตาร์ (gii-dtâa) [SLOW] กีตาร์ (gii-dtâa)
Michael: It sounds exactly like “guitar” because that’s just what it means.
Nantanee: ฟิสิกส์ (fí-sìk) [SLOW] ฟิสิกส์ (fí-sìk)
Michael: And, here, we have the word “physics,” and, aside from loanwords, there are Thai words adopted from English but with the meanings altered. The word
Nantanee: แฟน (faaen) [SLOW] แฟน (faaen),
Michael: for example, is derived from the English word “fan,” which could mean supporter. In Thai, however, the word has come to mean boyfriend or girlfriend, or anyone who “supports” you emotionally in the context of a romantic relationship.
Cultural Insight/Expansion
Michael: Another important thing to remember is that there are similar sounding words in every language, which can cause confusion if you’re not familiar with them or if you memorize them the wrong way. Even locals would sometimes use a word incorrectly. If you hear a word that’s new to you and you realize that it doesn’t seem to match the context, don’t be shy about grabbing your dictionary. In Thai, tones could be tricky. That’s because there are some words in Thai that are similar in sound but have completely different meanings.
Nantanee: อยาก (yàak)
Michael: means “want,” and it sounds the same as the word
Nantanee: ยาก (yâak),
Michael: which means “difficult.” And then there’s the word
Nantanee: ยา (yaa),
Michael: which means “medicine,” and sounds like the word
Nantanee: อย่า (yàa)
Michael: or “do not.”


Michael: Do you have any more questions? We’re here to answer them!
Nantanee: แล้วพบกันใหม่เร็วๆนี้ค่ะ (láaeo-phóp-gan-mài reo-reo-níi khà)
Michael: See you soon!

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