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Is Thai too vague?

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I've thought about this a lot during my experience of learning Thai and it seems to me that Thai is an overly vague language. By that I mean, English is a very precise language. We have specific words for every variation or even change of state. Thai often lacks more descriptive words to express a more detailed idea.

For instance, the lack of plurals in Thai. One is never sure if one or more than one thing is being discussed because there are no plural nouns or adjectives.

Lack of future and past tense. Although other words can be added to clarify the context, by itself, there is no past or present. All verbs are in the present tense.

And if that wasn't hard enough, the language seems to make use of general terms or classifiers instead of precise words. For instance, many Thais will refer to any booze that is not beer as whiskey even though English speakers commonly refer to a specific type like rum, bourbon, Scotch, Irish, etc.

I was wondering about this because one thing I've noticed when Thais speak English is that they tend to make a point and then keep expanding on that point rather than using the correct English descriptive statement.

For example.

I go shopping with my friend Oh

Oh drive

Oh drive us in her car

Oh's boyfriend go with us.

In English it would have been said:

My friend Oh and her boyfriend drove us to go shopping.

In Thai it seems like adding additional detail provides the context.

Are other people confused by that too or is it just me? It might be easier for people learning if they explained this as a feature of the language. I think a lot of us who learn Thai tend to try to construct complex sentences like we're used to in English when maybe what we should learn is to simplify and then continue to add more and more detail.

Or am I crazy?

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I've thought about this a lot during my experience of learning Thai and it seems to me that Thai is an overly vague language. By that I mean, English is a very precise language. We have specific words for every variation or even change of state. Thai often lacks more descriptive words to express a more detailed idea.

For instance, the lack of plurals in Thai. One is never sure if one or more than one thing is being discussed because there are no plural nouns or adjectives.

Lack of future and past tense. Although other words can be added to clarify the context, by itself, there is no past or present. All verbs are in the present tense.

And if that wasn't hard enough, the language seems to make use of general terms or classifiers instead of precise words. For instance, many Thais will refer to any booze that is not beer as whiskey even though English speakers commonly refer to a specific type like rum, bourbon, Scotch, Irish, etc.

I was wondering about this because one thing I've noticed when Thais speak English is that they tend to make a point and then keep expanding on that point rather than using the correct English descriptive statement.

For example.

I go shopping with my friend Oh
Oh drive
Oh drive us in her car
Oh's boyfriend go with us.

In English it would have been said:

My friend Oh and her boyfriend drove us to go shopping.

In Thai it seems like adding additional detail provides the context.

Are other people confused by that too or is it just me? It might be easier for people learning if they explained this as a feature of the language. I think a lot of us who learn Thai tend to try to construct complex sentences like we're used to in English when maybe what we should learn is to simplify and then continue to add more and more detail.

Or am I crazy?


Besides the fact that you are crazy, you are right!

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I've thought about this a lot during my experience of learning Thai and it seems to me that Thai is an overly vague language. By that I mean, English is a very precise language. We have specific words for every variation or even change of state. Thai often lacks more descriptive words to express a more detailed idea.

For instance, the lack of plurals in Thai. One is never sure if one or more than one thing is being discussed because there are no plural nouns or adjectives.

Lack of future and past tense. Although other words can be added to clarify the context, by itself, there is no past or present. All verbs are in the present tense.

And if that wasn't hard enough, the language seems to make use of general terms or classifiers instead of precise words. For instance, many Thais will refer to any booze that is not beer as whiskey even though English speakers commonly refer to a specific type like rum, bourbon, Scotch, Irish, etc.

I was wondering about this because one thing I've noticed when Thais speak English is that they tend to make a point and then keep expanding on that point rather than using the correct English descriptive statement.

For example.

I go shopping with my friend Oh
Oh drive
Oh drive us in her car
Oh's boyfriend go with us.

In English it would have been said:

My friend Oh and her boyfriend drove us to go shopping.

In Thai it seems like adding additional detail provides the context.

Are other people confused by that too or is it just me? It might be easier for people learning if they explained this as a feature of the language. I think a lot of us who learn Thai tend to try to construct complex sentences like we're used to in English when maybe what we should learn is to simplify and then continue to add more and more detail.

Or am I crazy?


Actually, your English is a bit vague, as you don't actually make it clear as to who is doing the driving. Oh or her boyfriend. :-)

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And you didn't mention what they were driving. Were they motivating you to go shopping as in giving you the drive to shop? Were they driving a tractor to the mall? That would be very strange. Please clarify.

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I don't speak Thai, but noticed on Thai Airways that whenever the air crew made an announcement that it took a few minutes to say in Thai what it took a few seconds to say in English. Big difference in getting the message across.

The middle eastern airlines are worse. They say in English "please turn off electronic devices" and in Arabic they are talking pretty much until the plane has landed.

Or when they are mentioning about your connecting gate, you almost miss it cos they are waffling on for ages. Either that or you forget which gate by the time they finish talking.

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The middle eastern airlines are worse. They say in English "please turn off electronic devices" and in Arabic they are talking pretty much until the plane has landed.

Or when they are mentioning about your connecting gate, you almost miss it cos they are waffling on for ages. Either that or you forget which gate by the time they finish talking.

u r talking so much bollocks u actually remind me of somebody !!! hahahahahaha !!!

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What do you expect from us??

Why do you raise up this issue? To change our way to speak our own language?

I don't know if you have ever studied Thai language. My friend who studied Thai language for a year know we have Present, Past, and future tense. We wrote a book about English Tense together. (and it sells online)

For Thai past tense, we add "Laew" such as Kin khow laew = I ate, or I had meal already.

For Future tense, we add "Ja" I will go out = Chun ja oak pai khang nok

For Present Perfect "Kuey ruu yung" "Kuey Laew"

I can go for more detail if you wanna know.

We have singular and plural, call it "Laksana name" for example "Mee rot 1 khun" = There's a car "Mee rot 5 khun" = There are 5 cars, "Mee rot Lai khun" = There are many cars

We have different ways of grammar usage... We also have street language, and the proper language which people who study about journalism and literature use.

I studied Japanese and German languages plus English language I found they have some different grammar usage but I never feel any language lack of anything we are unique...

Majority of Thai people can't speak English well, always make mistake with grammars and pronounciation such as The Mall, many Thai people say The Mon, cuz letter "L" = ล "Lor Ling" pronounce as Nor Nuu "N" in Thai.

So you think it makes us Vague?

You should open your mind more, p'Bill

Edited by Chatty

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I don't think Thai too vague ka..We have past tense..future tense and present perfect tense same Chatty mention above.. we also have lots of new different sentence using now and will have more in the future ..All it's depend on who 's speaking..Some one they speak short sentence and some one use full sentence but we are all understand what we are talking about ka P'Bill..Don't think too much ..some one call you crazy now..haha..But i still love ya..:lol:

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Okay, I've tried to respond to this twice and gotten several hundred words into a response and had my browser mess up and make me start all over. So excuse the abbreviated version.

1. Vague doesn't mean bad. It means that compared to English, Thai does not seem to allow people to communicate with the same amount of precision. The largest Thai/English dictionary I can find has 60,000 words. The English dictionary has about 200,000 words.

2. The Laksanas make the language even more vague.

khun is the English equivalent of vehicle. Which of the following sentences do you gain the most amount of information from?

In Thai

Gee khun? = How many vehicles?

5 khun = 5 vehicles

In English with various specific classifiers

How many vehicles?

5 cars = all 5 vehicles are cars

How many vehicles?

5 automobiles = probably 5 cars but could be a mixture of cars, SUV's, and trucks

How many vehicles?

5 vehicles = 5 of any type of automobile plus motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, etc.

3. Thai does not have plurals. You simply state the number. Singular means 1. Plural means more than 1. Even with classifiers/Laksanas, khun does not become khuns nor does rot become rots. The word by itself does not communicate singular or plural. It requires additional information (more words) to communicate the same idea.

4. I didn't say Thais should change their language. What I said was:

It might be easier for people learning if they explained this as a feature of the language. I think a lot of us who learn Thai tend to try to construct complex sentences like we're used to in English when maybe what we should learn is to simplify and then continue to add more and more detail.

I am clearly indicating that it is on us to change how we learn Thai rather than for Thai to change. Where you got that idea, I haven't a clue.

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Okay, I've tried to respond to this twice and gotten several hundred words into a response and had my browser mess up and make me start all over. So excuse the abbreviated version.

1. Vague doesn't mean bad. It means that compared to English, Thai does not seem to allow people to communicate with the same amount of precision. The largest Thai/English dictionary I can find has 60,000 words. The English dictionary has about 200,000 words.

2. The Laksanas make the language even more vague.

khun is the English equivalent of vehicle. Which of the following sentences do you gain the most amount of information from?

In Thai

Gee khun? = How many vehicles?
5 khun = 5 vehicles

In English with various specific classifiers

How many vehicles?
5 cars = all 5 vehicles are cars

How many vehicles?
5 automobiles = probably 5 cars but could be a mixture of cars, SUV's, and trucks

How many vehicles?
5 vehicles = 5 of any type of automobile plus motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, etc.

3. Thai does not have plurals. You simply state the number. Singular means 1. Plural means more than 1. Even with classifiers/Laksanas, khun does not become khuns nor does rot become rots. The word by itself does not communicate singular or plural. It requires additional information (more words) to communicate the same idea.

4. I didn't say Thais should change their language. What I said was:



I am clearly indicating that it is on us to change how we learn Thai rather than for Thai to change. Where you got that idea, I haven't a clue.



I have to concur with you, even without the examples given by you.

My wife tells me something, and as I know how telling in Thai is, I ask for details. No or only few are given.

But when it comes to things I should do, if I did not do them, she complains about "but I've told you". No, she didn't - at least for farang perception.

THIS is the problem we farang in Thailand are facing. I don't think that it is about the language per se but about the way it is used. 60,000 against 200,000 words (as you said) is not a proof. Unfortunately, English Wikipedia is not specified on this, they say that "the knowledge of the 2000 most frequent English words provides a comprehension of 80% of English words" - something I do not believe, although I am not an English Native speaker.

Oh, great! I know from my time at college that English has at leat 250,000 words. I also know that normally, you can be understood with much less but there still is the litteral language - one thing I highly appreciate by myself!

Fact is:

- English has been chosen to be an internationally used language because of its supposed simplicity
- Even if you make mistakes in several aspects of language, you still can be understood in English
- The REAL English is a definitely difficult language, not as difficult as German or French (god help me, I suffered four years whith that!) once you want to apply it in a completely correct way.
- Due to point 2), lots of conflicts have been coming up in each and every continent of this world.

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My wife tells me something, and as I know how telling in Thai is, I ask for details. No or only few are given.

But when it comes to things I should do, if I did not do them, she complains about "but I've told you". No, she didn't - at least for farang perception.

Oh man...Jeab and I have the same problem. The morning will start off with her saying that we are low on milk. She'll go and start a load of laundry, I get my coffee and sit down at the computer. An hour later she comes in showered and fully dressed saying, "What? You're not ready?? We have to go to the supermarket...I told you!"

uhhh...ok.

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Oh man...Jeab and I have the same problem. The morning will start off with her saying that we are low on milk. She'll go and start a load of laundry, I get my coffee and sit down at the computer. An hour later she comes in showered and fully dressed saying, "What? You're not ready?? We have to go to the supermarket...I told you!"

uhhh...ok.

Man, that's called miscommunication or something like that.

You guys should learn how to communicate with women, ok?

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Oh man...Jeab and I have the same problem. The morning will start off with her saying that we are low on milk. She'll go and start a load of laundry, I get my coffee and sit down at the computer. An hour later she comes in showered and fully dressed saying, "What? You're not ready?? We have to go to the supermarket...I told you!"

uhhh...ok.

Seems you an nitz need fix up and fly right, or at least ask "so what are you going to do about it?"

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I have an idea, why don't we write "A Guide to Women's language"?

what about a "A Guide to what Women actually mean NOT what they say !!!!"

only problem is it would be the world's longest ******* book !!!! hahahahaha !!!

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Man, that's called miscommunication or something like that.

You guys should learn how to communicate with women, ok?

I once went to the library and asked for a book on how to understand women...

The librarian sent me to the fiction section.

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what about a "A Guide to what Women actually mean NOT what they say !!!!"

only problem is it would be the world's longest ******* book !!!! hahahahaha !!!

but I have summery... "Just AGREE WITH ME"

I once went to the library and asked for a book on how to understand women...

The librarian sent me to the fiction section.

Naah, it should be in psychology section...

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