As I promised in my 100th post, I want to start digging a little deeper into actual translation of Thai text. Grammar and vocabulary are obviously very important things to learn, study, and review, but putting it all together is really what it’s all about. I can’t just sit and try to memorize vocabulary lists, and studying grammar books is about as much fun as watching my wife paint her toenails (much as I love her).
Since I’m no Thai language expert I thought it would be best to work through the Manee books. Always up for a challenge, I decided to start with the Grade 2, Volume 1 book. (Not really a challenge, per se, but the Grade 1 books have very fragmented sentences and doesn’t work well for translating.)
So, I’m starting with Manee Grade 2 and working very slowly. Time is a bit of a factor, as is my current Thai education level. But let’s work together and see how well we can do, shall we? My hope is that we can work together and discuss each “lesson” so we can get better as a group.
Time to dig in!
First, let’s start with the text in Thai that we’ll be working with. Here is the first paragraph:
Let’s break down each one separately and examine, in detail, what’s going on. The first part is really a phrase:
This is straightforward to start. Remember that in Thai adjectives and adverbs follow the noun or verb, so one way I like to think of how this works is like working from general to specific. “Morning” is a general concept, and “Saturday” gets more specific about a particular morning.
/mɛ̂ɛ chuan maa-nii bpai sʉ́ʉ gàp kâao tîi dtà-làat/
(Mother invite/persuade Manee go “to buy” [with rice] – “food” – at market)
Mother invited Manee to go buy food at the market.
First, obviously be aware that “Manee” is the girl’s name. Just so you don’t spend hours trying to look it up in a dictionary.
กับข้าว when literally translated means “with rice.” At first you might try to translate this word-for-word, but “with rice” is not entirely accurate. The general concept here is that most – if not practically all – Thai food gets served “with rice,” and so the phrase กับข้าว has come to mean “food.” There will be, of course, instances where “with rice” is supposed to mean just that, but as a general rule you should err on the side of thinking of it as “food.”
Another way of translating this sentence would be “Mother invited Manee to go food shopping at the market.” How you translate is also very much dependent on your audience. This version will probably sound better when translating to an American audience. Your mileage may vary.
/maa-nii chûai hîu dtà-grâa hâi mɛ̂ɛ/
(Manee help hold basket for Mother)
Manee held the basket for her Mom.
In this sentence, the word for “help” is important – in the manner of Thai speaking – because it expresses the fact that Manee is helping her mom by holding the basket. When translating, however, the interpretation is up to you based on your audience. We could just as easily have said “Manee helped her Mom by holding the basket for her.” Either interpretation will work, but make sure you understand the overall context, because there may be cases where an explanation of why she is helping has been specifically stated and therefore should absolutely be included in the translation.
The next sentence seems fragmented when you look at the Thai script. We’ll break it down section by section and then put it all together again.
/nai dtà-làat mii kon mâak/
(In market have people many)
There are many people in the market.
Working with คนมาก is the same as when we translated เช้าวันเสาร์. I like to think from general to specific, so “people” is the general concept and “many” is the specific type of people.
Don’t get too caught up in “to have” as the definition for มี, which is a mistake I made a lot early on. I guess you could say “The market has many people” but that sounds weird to me, especially when ใน is included in the sentence.
/lɛ́ mii kɔ̌ɔng kǎai lǎai yàang/
(and have thing sell “many kinds”)
And have many kinds of things to sell.
This sentence really needs the other two phrases, so before I dig into them let’s finish it up:
/kɔ̌ɔng gin gɔ̂ɔ mii/
(“food” also have)
Also have things to eat.
/kɔ̌ɔng chái gɔ̂ɔ mii/
(“utensils” also have)
Also have utensils.
Sorry for the broken English, folks. The basic idea of this sentence is something along the lines of, “And there are many things for sale: they have food, and they also have utensils.” That’s the gist, anyway. The interesting grammatical note here is the use of “also have” for both groups of items. To my knowledge (maybe someone more qualified can chime in here) this is not a hard-and-fast grammatical rule, but rather just one of the ways you can list several items.
And that’s the end of the first paragraph; a small but good start I suppose. Here is the translation all in one place:
Mom invited Manee to go to the market. Manee held the basket for her mom. There are many people at the market, and there are many kinds of things to sell, things to eat, and they also have utensils [for sale].
I admit the last part is a bit ragged, but it’s a kid’s book after all.