Thai and English Tinglish Conversation – Time Difference

Tinglish can best be described as an annihilation of the English language. Tinglish language is the ability or inadequacy, it depends on how you view it, to converse in English without the use of proper sentence construction. Its roots are the sole rights of Thai and western joint conversation.

Imagine you were in a rural Thai restaurant and you needed to visit the toilet. Let’s assume your Thai language skills are practically zero and the Thai waitress you’re about to ask the toilet’s whereabouts can only speak a few words of English. If you asked ‘Excuse me young lady could you kindly direct me to the washroom’, the waitress would probably freeze rigid and drop everything she might be carrying. That could be embarrassing and very messy. The answer to the predicament could very well be Tinglish. A 180-degree swing of your outstretched hands coupled with the words ‘ Where toilet stay restaurant?’ would probably bring success. That’s Tinglish.

Tinglish Language

Sticky Wiki(pedia) explains the mechanics of the Tinglish language.

Tinglish Characteristics and Examples

  • Omission of pronouns and of the verb be.
  • Use of present tense + “already” instead of past tense.
  • Non-use or incorrect use of articles, declension and conjugation.
  • Addition of Thai final particles, e.g. I don’t know na.
  • Frequent confusion between any and every.
  • General misunderstanding of conditional constructions.
  • Pronunciation of silent letters in a word.
  • Inability[citation needed] to speak consecutive consonants. E.g. “Sprite” pronounced “Sa-pa-rite” or “Universal” pronunced “U-ni-ver-Sal”.
  • Use of double negatives.
  • Lallation of the H and S pronunciation (and especially the pronunciation of r as l).

Examples of Tinglish Language

Sticky Wiki lists lots of examples of Tinglish language conversation and I’ve grabbed some from under her skirt and listed them below.

  • Him boxing you (He will punch you).
  • I’m sad when my mother angry me (means is angry with me).
  • Are you boring? ­(Do you feel bored?).
  • I’m interesting in football (means “I am interested in watching/playing football”).

I’d like to add a further idiosyncrasy of Tinglish which is the use of commonly known Thai words mixed in with English. It’s an extension of Sticky Wiki’s, ‘addition of Thai final particles’, and is a Tinglish quirk Wonderful Wi and I use quite often as you’ll see in the recent Tinglish telephone conversation I had with the rural Isaan lass.

 Tinglish Conversation – Time Difference Explained

It was about a quarter past one in the afternoon in the UK and I decided to make a quick telephone call to Wilai at our village home in Udon Thani where the time was seven hours forward. After five minutes of Tinglish chit chat the conversation disintegrated into absolute farce.

Me: Okay Dek (her nickname) I’ll be going now because Thai movie (TV soap) you like start soon.
Wilai: Not start soon…. now eight oh cock…. movie come half hour more.
Me: It’s not eight o’clock….. it’s eight twenty.
Wilai: I sit outside in kitchen…. have clock… clock speak eight oh cock.
Me: The clock’s wrong…. It’s one twenty here in England so it’s eight twenty in Thailand. Kao jai (understand)?
Wilai: Naaaah…. time not same Angkrit (England) and Thailand.
Me: What’s the time in the living room?

After a short while she returns to the phone.

Wilai: Mai kao jai (I don’t understand). Is eight oh cock kitchen….. eight ten living loom.
Me: Check the time in the bedloom….. bedroom.

20 seconds  later.

Wilai: Wiiiiiiiiiiiiii (Thai exclaimation of surprise)…… Ting tong (silly/stupid) Thailand….. eight five bedloom….. eight oh cock kitchen….. eight oh cock and ten minute living loom…. everywhere house not same.
Me: Wilai…. It’s eight twenty two in the bloody kitchen, living loom and bedloom….. kao bloody jai?….. What time is it on your watch I bought you for Christmas last year?

Moments later.

Wilai: Okay I check…. eight twenty three…. I go soon…. speak you tomollow…. movie start two minute.

Have you had any interesting Tinglish conversation lately?

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

10 Responses

  1. DanPloy says:

    ‘Inability[citation needed] to speak consecutive consonants. E.g. “Sprite” pronounced “Sa-pa-rite”…’

    I believe the reason for this is when transliterated from English to Thai, the Thai language prohibits consecutive consonants, that is why the addition of the extra vowel(s).

    The double negatives occur because of the construction of the Thai question, (making a statement and adding the question ‘No’ at the end).

    I don’t believe Thai has silent sounds in their language so they will not know to not pronounce the sound, (in fact just the opposite as they have ‘hidden’ inherent vowels).

    If you think Thailand is bad you should go to Singapore. There, knowing full well through their education how to properly pronounce English, they proceed to mangle it through the addition of various bits of Hokkein or other dialects of Chinese and Malay.

    Personally I find Thaiglish rather endearing.

  2. Martyn says:

    Dan – I find Tinglish, Thinglish or as you put it Thaiglish to be very charming as well. My only problem is I speak to Wi in Tinglish way too much and whilst her English has improved one hell of a lot, my use of Tinglish holds it back. I’d say now she speaks 70% English and 30% Tinglish. Not too bad. I must get out of my Tinglish habit when talking to her and save it for lesser souls.

  3. Keith says:

    Very funny but I thought you were going to talk about trying to explain that the clocks changed in Europe recently. I have tried this twice a year for 4 years now and have not been successful.

    Same Same in Thailand equals Same in English. I have to watch that I don’t say Same Same to someone that speaks English after a bit of time in Thailand.

    True is honestly I am glad they speak any English since I don’t really know any Thai.

  4. Martyn says:

    Keith – Thanks for the thumbs up on the post. I’ve been known to speak a touch of Tinglish on my return to the UK but that was in the days when I took longer trips to Thailand.

    Russian is now the new ‘in’ lingo in Thailand.

  5. Catherine says:

    Hilarious post Martyn. No, I haven’t spoken Tinglish in awhile but it sounds like fun 🙂

  6. Martyn says:

    Catherine – Are you currently experiencing the Laos version of Tinglish as I can’t imagine they’ve got to grips with English any better than the Thais. Linglish or Laoglish perhaps?

  7. Catherine says:

    Martyn, same as in Cambodia and Burma, Laotians speak proper English. The ones I ran into did anyway.

    Thailand might have more money, but it is clearly behind its neighbours in that regard (I googled to find I am not alone in my opinion).

  8. Martyn says:

    Catherine – That surprises me and interests me as to why. Thailand’s education system towards teaching English is clearly not working on the whole, but I’m a little bit puzzled as to why Burma and Cambodia’s are.

  9. Catherine says:

    Thailand’s education full stop is not working… I won’t link the two below because this comment will go into spam (easy enough to google).

    “Thailand’s education system is ranked 37th out of 40 countries assessed in latest global index ranking published by British education and publishing group Pearson Plc.”

    The focus here is on getting certificates and not on learning. Students are allowed to cheat, to graduate without the needed knowledge, saving face for everyone (teachers, families, students, schools). But it’s setting them up to fail in the real world.

    Thailand hires their locally untrained, uneducated teachers, to teach the next generations. What a disaster.

    “Most Thai teachers fail exams on own subjects – High school test results in Thailand have revealed a failure rate of more than 80 percent in mathematics, biology and computer studies — among the teachers.

    The failure rates for teachers who took exams in their own subjects were about 88 percent for computer studies, 84 percent for mathematics, 86 percent in biology and 71 percent in physics, the education ministry said.”

    For language, add Thai being tonal. Cambodia and Burmese isn’t as tonal so they have an easier time of it. Laos is tonal so there goes that excuse. I was impressed by the English of the clerks in the Mini marts in Laos. Clerking is not exactly a high paying job.

    Now, Malaysian, Singapore and Brunei all use a Singlish type communication. But, it’s not a hit and miss approach like in Thailand. It’s fairly consistent.

    From what I know those countries put real emphasis on learning English in schools. Unlike in Thailand, where it’s given lip service and that’s about it.

    Note: I know a lot of highly educated Thais but they are the cream of Thailand, not your average Joe on the street. And not all hi-so rich either. Their parents made sure to make education a priority, didn’t leave it up to chance. Most studied outside of Thailand for at least a part of their education – which is where I met them.

    Thais are very smart so it’s clearly the system / culture that’s failing so many.

  10. Martyn says:

    Catherine – That’s quite a comment, and one full of interesting facts.

    The failure rate of Thai teachers (80%+) in their own subject exams is appalling. Surely if it happened in the UK or US there’d be hell to play. But of course in Thailand things tick along same same as before.

    I like the term Singlish, it sounds a very musical language. Thai/English is more Slinglish as in slingshot.

    Thanks for popping a ‘post’ into the comment box.

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