Thailand the New Siam

For many decades, in the west, Siam had conjured up many thoughts of an exotic Asian country, with a wealthy king and beautiful women.
Today that country is now known as Thailand but it still conjures up in many of us, thoughts of a tropical paradise and as or its king; he is still there and is the world’s longest reigning monarch.

The king is loved by Thai people who are proud to have a monarchy that helped to make them the only country in Southeast Asia, not to have been colonized by any European Empire.
The girls are o course just as beautiful as Thais as they were as Siamese but they came to world’s attention when, in the 1960s, Thailand relaxed its laws on prostitution to cater for the needs of the American soldiers spending their R & R (Rest and Recuperation) there whilst fighting in Vietnam.

This attention caused Thailand’s capital Bangkok, to get a reputation for being the sex capital of the world and soon the American soldiers were being replaced by sex tourists from all around the world.

Although Bangkok is today, still a popular destination for tourists, the vast majority of them are now visiting as regular tourists and photograph Bangkok’s many beautiful Buddhist Temples and Buddha Statues, especially the huge ones or the ones made of old.

Although perhaps most tourists will visit the Temples in Bangkok, as 95% of Thailand’s population of 67 million are Buddhist, there are many temples throughout the country and some of the more adventurous tourist also visit them.

The vast majority of tourists to Thailand will usually stick to destinations that feature beautiful beaches like Pattaya or Phuket as well as Bangkok but they would be welcomed anywhere by the friendly Thai people. In fact there are only 2 small regions of the country where tourists would probably not be welcomed, the first is in the north where Thailand borders with Myanmar and Laos.

This is area which has become notoriously known as the Golden Triangle and is the center of the Southeast Asia drug trade. The second small region is in the south bordering Malaysia where a relatively small percentage (3%) of Thais are Muslim.

If you do venture away from the main tourist areas, there will be less and less Thais that speak anything other than their own language and so you may want to learn some Thai before leaving. Like Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese, Thai is a tonal language which means that one word can have several meanings, depending on how it is written or what tone is used to say it.

If you think this can be confusing don’t worry you are not alone as even today, scholars are perplexed in how to accurately translate Thai’s written language into English. Although you may more readily pick up the 5 different tones in the spoken words, the 4 different tonal notifications in the written word are a little more confusing and difficult to transcribe into another language.

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Why You Want to Thai

If you are considering learning to speak Thai, make sure your reasons are valid, for it can be a rigorous, but quite rewarding feat. Your desire needs to be based on more than your wish to order Tom Yum Goong, Bangkok’s favorite Thai dish, in the native language. The language is gender specific at times, tonal, and has a very complex orthography. The learning process will have many curves and bumps, but ultimately will be quite rewarding if you enter the process for the right reasons and with the right attitude.

Gender Specific
It is estimated that over 20 million people speak some dialect of Thai. Many of these words have an ending participle that is gender specific. Using these participles is considered good form and a sign of good manners. They are called khrups and kaas. A kaas is used with your girls and a khrup is implemented with boys. To make things even more confusing about kaas and khrups, these implementations can also be used to indicate a question, displeasure, or agreement to a comment.

When speaking Thai, also known as Siamese or Central Thai, you will need to emphasize five basic tonal groups. In order to do this, you will have to go beyond simply reading the language and immerse yourself into hearing and being surrounded by the language.

The five tones are tagged and described as:
• Low-a flat tone that may require you to go deeper in pitch at times
• Falling- this will begin higher than your mid-ranger tone, but have a pitch drop at the end
• Mid-the natural tone of your voice without pitch increases or decreases
• Rising-similar to high tone, but it originates lower and has a bit of dramatic flair to it
• High-not all of your pitch is high at this level, but instead your end syllables increase in pitch

As you can see, these inflection rules are complex. However, for your complete mastery, you will need to hear them used repeatedly and you will need to memorize them.

In academic settings, the royal, religious, and rhetorical Thai styles are taught to students. There are also more informal and street types styles. Each of these different forms has what is known as a complex orthography. The orthography of any language are the rules for writing it. These rules cover spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, usages, mechanics, structure, word breaks, and punctuation.

There will be many rules, and steps during your language acquisition. You will want to know what you are getting yourself into, take a language course, make some Thai connections, keep a language notebook, read in order to speak it, watch TV shows, movies, and music videos, travel to Thailand if possible, and immerse yourself into online and social media outlets to accomplish your goals.

As you can see from this short Thai language summary, the process of learning the language can be difficult. However, if you wish to know the language for work, school, travel, or just fun, you will be quite rewarded with the end results.

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Vacationing in Thailand

If you are one of the millions of people that are considering visiting Thailand for your vacation this year, here are some interesting facts that you may wish to know:
• Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia, never to have been colonized by a European country. Don’t worry about the language though as due to the popularity of tourism to the country, many Thais in the popular tourist destinations will know yours.

• Thailand has a constitutional monarchy similar to that of the UKs. The current monarch, King Rama 1X is the world’s longest ruling monarch as he has reigned continuously reigned since 1946. The king is well loved and respected by all Thais and it is illegal to disrespect him by stepping on his image. As his image appears on all Thai bank notes and coins, it is therefore illegal to step on any of those.

• Although Thailand greatly relaxed its laws on prostitution during the Vietnam War when many US soldiers would go there on R & R, paving the way for Bangkok, the nation’s capital, to become known as the sex tourism capital of the world, prostitution is still illegal in Thailand even if the police may rarely intervene in such activities.

• The population of Thailand is over 67 million, 95% of which are Buddhists. Although the other 5% are of varying religions, there is a significant amount of Muslims near the border with Malaysia.

• Bangkok has been recognized by the World Meteorological Organization as being the world’s hottest city with an average annual temperature of 28 degrees centigrade. Although the temperatures are slightly cooler between November and February, everybody seems to know that and so the city tends to be very busy during those months.

• The energy drink Red Bull was created in Thailand. First created by Chaleo Yoovidhya, with assistance from an Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz, Red Bull became an international favorite. It is still possible to find the original Red Bull alongside its popular carbonated version in some of Thailand’s stores.

• Although Thailand’s capital is known to the rest of the world as Bangkok, to Thais it is known as Krung Thep Maha Nakho but its official, ceremonial name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. In English this means: City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest.

Although few foreign tourists bother to learn any of the Thai language before they visit, those that take time to learn just a little, will reap advantages missed by the majority.
It can also be a lot more straightforward that you might imagine to understand how to learn thai in a fairly short space of time.

The Thais are almost as proud of their language as they are their monarchy and so being seen to having tried to learn at least a little of their language we make you any Thais instant friend. It may also afford you some financial gains as well as, many of the stalls and stores in Thailand have special discounted prices for “Thai speakers”.

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Discovering Thailand

Although Thailand is only one of several countries in Southeast Asia, it is unique by being the only country in the region, not to have ever been colonized by any of the western nations and neither by Japan during WW11.

Its shape and location is also somewhat unique in allowing it to have land borders with four other countries and yet still have two coastlines. The countries it borders with are Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos and Myanmar. One of its coastlines is where it meets the Andaman Sea and the other is where it helps to form the Gulf of Thailand, both of which have some magnificent beaches.

Thailand also owns several islands which have Malaysia. In the more central region lies Bangkok, the capital with its magnificent Buddhist Temples and the two coastlines with their seemingly endless sandy beaches. As is perhaps understandable, most of Thailand’s foreign tourists either visit Bangkok, one of the many beaches or perhaps both with far fewer venturing to the far north or far south.

Although the country is united by religion with 95% being Buddhist, it is perhaps divided by its language or at least its many different dialects of the same language. The official dialect of the country of Thailand, once known as Siam, is the one from the central region and the one that has now been termed the standard Thai.

However, even though this is the official language and the dialect which is used on formal occasions, only 20 million of the population of 67 million, use it on a daily basis, the other 47 million use other dialects. The most popular of these other dialects is used in the north of the country and is called Isan. Isan is also used by some 20 million people and it is in fact, probably more similar to the old Siamese language than the official language is.

All the dialects of the Thai language though are tonal in nature. A tonal language is a language that uses different tones for different meanings of the same word.

For instance the word glai, when spoken in what is termed a mid-tone, means far away but the word glâi when spoken in what is known as a falling tone, means near. Notice the tonal notification in the text; this is just one of four different tonal notifications as there are five different tones used in the language.

It is these tonal notifications which have made Thai text difficult to translate into English text. Thailand is not unique in having a tonal language as several other countries also have them, like Vietnam and China.

The spoken Thai language is said to be almost identical to the language used in Laos but, they both have different texts for their written language. Like most other languages around the world, Thai words often originate from older languages and it is believed that almost half of the Thai words come from Old Khmer, Pali or Sanskrit.

Languages are always evolving though as in this case where the old Siamese language only had 3 tones, the modern Thai now has 5.

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