If you can’t read or speak Thai, you’d have no idea how much English has been adapted into the Thai language. English has been adapted throughout the Thai language, but it’s all written using the Thai alphabet and so badly pronounced that the uninitiated wouldn’t notice.
For example, let’s say you are walking down the street and see dozens of store signs all written in Thai. If you can read Thai, you’d notice that literally half of the signs are entirely English, just spelled out using the Thai alphabet! Why is this? Well, in the US its common to give restaurants and desserts a French name because it sounds fancy-smancy. Give your product a French name, and your customers wouldn’t know better. Why do you think Starbucks uses French words throughout the menu?
Well, in Thai, anything with an English name is considered fancy and high quality. I often joke that if you can speak English with a strong Thai accent, you’d technically be speaking Thai and everyone will understand you . . .
a sign for a Tulip ทิวลิป festival . . . Tulip was stolen from English, which was stolen from French, which got it from Latin, which took it from Persian . . . well, you get the idea!
The Thais have a name for this, ทัพศัพท์. The word ศัพท์ means vocabulary, and คำศัพท์ means vocabulary word. So tap1sap2 means a vocabulary word taken from English. In this post I’ll give you a list of ทัพศัพท์ words you’ll see and use on an almost daily basis. And since they are taken from English, they’ll be easy to remember. The hard part is correctly mis-pronouncing it . . .
Now before we get started, I want to point out a few patterns you’ll notice. First, any word that ends in the letter L will, when pronounced in Thai, make an N sound. If it has an S, change it to a T sound. If the English word has ‘ter’ in it, change it to ‘dter’ with a mid tone. This is because the Thai language pronunciation rules of the Thai alphabet force these sound changes. As for spelling, English words will all use the more common Thai letters, with a preference towards the mid tone on each syllable. Lastly, as mentioned in previous posts, notice the heavy use of the อ์ character to silence a letter, a key hint that the word was taken from another language.
Try to pronounce each word as spelled in Thai:
คอมพิวเตอร์ computer kawm pew dter
คอนโดมิเนียม condominium kawn do min nium
แอปเปิ้ล apple aep poen
สตรอเบอร์รี strawberry sa dtraw ber ree
แอร์ air conditioner air
จอห์น John jawn
ซอฟต์แวร์ software sof waer
โปรแกรม program bpro graem
คุกกี้ cookie gug gee
เค็ก cake cehk
There are literally thousands more, and you’ll probably remember a few in my previous blog posts, such as words for mob and fake. Remember?
ทัพศัพท์ tap sap, using English words in Thai
คำศัพท์ vocabulary word