KC/DC Cycle

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Communication, Translation, Transliteration and Diplomacy

Living in Thailand we are often learning new vocabulary or names. We make notes of the names of foods we like so we can order them again. We're always struggling with writing down words in our best effort to remember something. We also read menus and signs that attempt to represent Thai words and names. We also laugh when we English words spelled differently on different signs. It's not that they're spelled wrong, the issue is that you can't write it accurately in English. We don't have the same sounds in our language. We don't have the letters to accurately represent alternative sounds. Is there a difference between nuang and nueng? What about tun and tan? What we try to do is subject to constant mistakes. The notes we make are only rough equivalents. Even translating English to American we need a dictionary. We were talking to a British friend today and she was describing a baby shower. They decided to give the young mother nappies. "You can always use nappies", she said. I translated for Karen: diapers. That's just English to American. Imagine the challenges of entirely different languages. The Thai language has its' own alphabet, grammar and speaking practice. A letter can have different meaning when pronounced with different tones. It's like a long O versus a short O or a hard G and a soft G. In Thai, every syllable is pronounced in one of five tones: low, mid, high, falling, or rising. The tone must be spoken correctly for the intended meaning of a word to be understood. Since every word has a particular mandatory tone, we say that the Thai language has obligatory lexical tone.

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