Monday, July 23, 2007

Language differences (Llama)

Lately I have, once again, been attempting to learn some Thai. I've found a couple of differences between Thai and English that I find curious. Note: I'm no grammarian and even most of what I've learned from elementary school I have forgotten, so please forgive me when don't employ the proper descriptive terms.

Thais don't have a way to indicate future perfect or, it seems, future progressive. It's impossible to say that I will have done something by a certain time. The best Thai can manage is to say that I will do something at a certain time. In one conversation, this deficiency led to some stressful moments, as I attempted to explain that, though I did not know precisely when I would return from a trip, I knew it would be no later than Friday.

Thais do, however, have a way of expressing something that we can't express in English. They can take a verb such as "to go" (bai), "to love" (raak), "to eat" (gin) and "to scare" (glua) and precede it with "naa" (naa bai, naa raak, naa gin, naa glua). This new construction is an adjective that describes the potential for something. So naa rak, loosely translated, means "cute", but literally it means that something looks like it could be loved. Naa glua crudely translates to "scary", but it also means something that looks like it could be scary, even if we don't know yet if it actually is scary or not. Naa gin means that something looks appetizing. And "naa bai" can best be explained with an example of the negative... if it looks like it is going to rain, I might say "mai naa bai. fon ja dok.", which loosely means "It think it is a bad idea to go. It is going to rain."

I found it interesting, anyway :)


1 comment:

Brien said...

Hm, the future possible. That could come in handy, like "someone that looks like she's legal." Keep So away from that one.