learn thai online Archives - Page 2 of 2 - LTfaWG

How to Eat Vegan in Thailand

People often wonder how I could possibly ever survive here in Thailand as a vegan. Considering I’ve been here well over 10 years and I still haven’t died, I think I’m doing fairly well. There is veggie food all around you, and I’m not just talking the salad shops that have sprung up in the last 2 years or. There are tons of veggie spots in town. On Suthep road alone, there are 3 lined up in a row each doing their own thing and there are 3 more down back roads within 5 minute walking distance from the first 3.

There are 2 main types of veggie eats in Thailand and while they both avoid meat entirely, there are a some important differences.

Jeh versus Mung

มังสวิรัติ [mung sa wi rut] comes from the Sanskrit mamsa, which means “meat” and virat which means “without.” So this is essentially an acceptable translation of “vegetarian.” As with in English, some people may or may not eat eggs and/or dairy.
เจ [jeh] comes from the Chinese word 齋 (jai1/jaai1) which is also the source for the equivalent words in Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

If you happen to be reading this in October, then you are in luck, my friend. This is when the Vegetarian Festival (เทศกาลกินเจ) happens. During that time almost everybody gets on the jeh train for a bit. Some people eat jeh for the entire month, the entire 10 day festival, and most franchise restaurants (Black Canyon, MK, etc) offer at least one jeh option, but some actually have a full jeh menu during the festival. The only downside is that a lot of regular jeh restaurants don’t really do anything special during this time except get a lot more crowded than usual and in some cases raise their prices. Yay for jeh.
As far as the food goes, the main difference between Jeh and Mung is that real Jeh forbids eating food with really strong flavours and/or smells as it is believed that each one does harm to different parts of the body. This includes stuff like chives, garlic, parsley, and onions.

So what does all this mean for you? Real Jeh food will always be vegan. But, you need to be careful as some jeh places will have 1 or 2 Mung options which may contain egg. And even though jeh avoids really strong flavours, it can still taste pretty awesome. They often make all kinds of fake vegan meats to help ease the suffering of all those poor meat eaters who torture themselves by abstaining from me for a meal, a day or the entire vegetarian festival.

What are my choices?

  • Jeh – Technically vegan, but watch out for those handful of places that will have one or 2 dishes with egg. Jeh spots will almost always have one or more yellow flags posted both inside and out. The flag will either say เจ, the Chinese character the word is based on or both. They often use a Chinese-y font so sometimes the word เจ looks a bit like the number “17”.
  • Mung(sawirat) – Vegetarian w/eggs. As far as things eaten with rice, dairy is pretty rare, but pastries and other sweets sold at Mung places may contain butter, cream and/or milk.

What do I do if I can’t find a jeh place?

Some regular restaurants may attempt to accommodate you or at least make you think they are doing so.

Avoiding Animal Products:

More than anything else, you’ll want to watch out for oyster sauce.  Vegetable dishes at regular restaurants will almost always be cooked with oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is dark, oily and gummy. And it comes from oysters! If you don’t want it in there, you gotta say so. You’ll know if it’s not in there, because they will probably only have used soy sauce and vegetable oil. So it may be bland, but vegan.
Solution: ไม่ ใส่ น้ำ-มัน-หอย (mai sai nam-man-hoi) – Don’t put in oyster sauce.

Fish sauce is another standard ingredient in a lot of (almost all!) Thai dishes.
Solution: ไม่ ใส่ น้ำ-ปลา (mai sai nam-plaa)
Soup broth – At non-jeh places, even if they say there isn’t any meat in it, it will still have meat stock so skip the soup.

Thai Dishes that usually Contain Egg:

  • ข้าวผัด – fried rice (khaao pad)
  • ผัดไทย – pad thai
  • ผัดซีอิ๊ว – pad see-yu

Notice the word ผัด (pad) appears in all 3 of the words above. ผัด = stir-fried/sauteed

How to say “Don’t put egg in”
ไม่ ใส่ ไข่ (mai sai kai) = don’t put in egg

Even if you ask for something jeh, they don’t always really know what that means so you are better off making it as clear as possible.

Full Sentence: เอา ข้าวผัด เจ ไม่ใส่ไข่ (ow kaaw pad jeh mai sai kai) – I’d like fried rice (jeh) without egg.

First thing you want to do is find out if they are willing to try to make you something jeh/mung. And just because they tell you they can, doesn’t mean they aren’t going to forget and give you something wish oyster sauce or fish sauce. Aside from being a tonal language, Thai also contains a whole lot more vowel sounds than English and when you say the vowels wrong, people probably won’t understand you. Be patient with them as you are the one who needs something from them and may not be able to
speak their language.

I remember this one time, a buddy of mine ordered a bottle of water and got a coconut, so watch out friends, watch out.

Look for the yellow flag!

How to Determine the Tone of a Thai Word

How to determine tone of a Thai word?

Each syllable gets its own tone and there are a few steps we need to take to find out the tone of a word in Thai.  If you aren’t yet familiar with what tones there are in Thai or how a tonal language works, start here.

First, we need to determine the CLASS of the syllable or word.  We do this by having memorized the Middle and High Class letters so we can identify them instantly.  If it’s not Middle Class or High Class, it must be Low Class.  If you haven’t already done so, start with the MIDDLE CLASS STORY which will help you tie together the 7 most important middle class consonants.

  • Step #1: The class of the first letter determines the the class of the word.  This rule applies even if the first letter of the word is silent.
  • Step #2: Check the word for any “modifiers.”  There are 2 types of modifiers: TONE MARKS and HARD ENDINGS.
  • Step #3: Apply rules for consonant CLASS + STATE.

There are 3 possible “states” for a Thai word or syllable.  Each “class” or group has a formula to follow once you know the state of the word.  Remember, CLASS = the group of letters of which there are 3 in Thai.  STATE refers to whether or not the word/syllable has any modifiers.  There are 2 types of modifiers: TONE MARKS and HARD ENDINGS.  If a word has no modifiers, it will always take the DEFAULT tone for its consonant CLASS.  If it has a modifier, you will need to apply the rule for that consonant CLASS + the corresponding rule.  Read this paragraph a couple of times.  It’s not as hard as it sounds, but you probably won’t get it on your first read through.

  1. Default
  2. Has Tone Mark
  3. Has Hard Ending

The tricky part is that each class has its own default starter tone and its own set of rules.  Middle and High class are very similar which is why we want to master them first.  Low class turns everything upside down and is considerably more difficult so it’s a good idea not to even get into it until you have completely mastered the middle and high class rules. If you want to do it the easy way, than at least have a look at my course which holds your hand and guides you though all of this.

Default tones for each class: =

  • Middle Class = Mid Tone
  • High Class = Rising Tone
  • Low Class = Mid Tone

Did you ever study trigonomotry?  I didn’t until I was at university here in Thailand and I was very surprised to see that Thai works in a similar way.  When you look at a word, you have to determine which of the 3 classes(groups of letters) that the word is a part of.  This is based on the first letter of the word (even if it is a silent letter).  Then, you go follow the formula for that CLASS.  So if we take a couple middle class words as  examples:

บ้าน = house

  1. What class is บ ? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = Yes (middle class + 2nd tone mark = Falling Tone)

ไก่ = chicken

  1. What class is ? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = Yes (middle class + 1st tone mark = Low Tone)

ตาย = to die

  1. What class is ต? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = No
  3. Does it have a hard ending? = No
  4. Default tone = Mid Tone (We checked for 2 modifiers.  There were none so we apply the default tone for Middle Class)

จาก = from

  1. What class is จ? = Middle Class
  2. Does it have a tone mark? = No
  3. Does it have a hard ending? = Yes (Middle Class + Hard Ending = Low Tone)

Now practice it until your eyes bleed!  Mastering the process =  Mastering the tone rules

Want to read more about Thai tones?  Check out this post for more examples:

Thai Tones

  • จาน
    จาน
    mid tone
  • แจก
    แจก
    low tone
  • จ้าง
    จ้าง
    falling tone
  • จอด
    จอด
    low tone
  • จ่าย
    จ่าย
    low tone
  • จน
    จน
    mid tone
  • All Done!

 

Learn To Read Thai

Learning to read again in a new language can seem rather daunting, even painful at times.  Even after you’ve gotten comfortable with the Thai script and can learn how the Thai tone rules work,  moving on to longer sentences and eventually short texts can be intimidating.

I spent a couple of years crazily trying to read whatever Japanese books I could get my hands on. Manga, language learning theories, fiction, old literature, etc. What I’ve discovered is that it was a mistake to read manga  or whatever solely because it was manga (or because I heard lots of Japanese learning websites recommend doing so) and it was in Japanese. I just wasn’t couldn’t get into it.   If you are going to invest a lot of time in something, it’s better to spend lots of time trying to read things that you might enjoy.  Be picky.  Because of the enormous amount of time and exposure required, we want to spend as little time as possible being bored and/or frustrated

What I ended up doing is trying to re-read many of the books I read when I was younger.  And when I was a kid, I read lots of Stephen King. So, I went to amazon.jp and ja.wikipedia.org and started to read about Stephen King books that I’ve read in the past and know pretty well. Reviews, summaries, character descriptions, etc. And its been great. Even though every single page has plenty of words that I don’t know, I know enough that can skip as many of those words as I want. I mine everything for sentences of things that I want to see again in my SRS. But the two most important things going on here are that I’m enjoying reading, and I am READING. I only read as long as it stays interesting. If I start spacing out or getting bored or frustrated…I do something else, or go look for something else to read. I can always come back to the current one if I feel like it or just try again tomorrow.

So anyways, I’ve devoured a lot of Stephen King stuff in the past few days and tonight I’m poking around summaries of Star Wars and Robocop. I also really wanna get my hands on some of the Jp translations of SK’s books. (I eventually did)

Anyways, how does this help you? Well, I’d say Thai is more limited than Japanese as far as I know in regards to translations from English when it comes to books. However, there are loads of movies and tv series to work with. So as I’m writing this, Lost is on tv so I figured that was good enough to start with. If you watch that, or Prison Break, Heroes some other show (the early version of this post was written in 2012!), we might have some material to work with.  If there isn’t a Thai wiki for whatever show/movie you’d like to read about, just Google it.  There’s always some Thai people talking about any popular drama out there somewhere.  If you don’t care about tv and movies, then read wiki pages and blogs about whatever interests you.  Find translations of books you read a long time ago and try and read them again in Thai.  You’ll probably remember some of the story which makes it a lot easier to access.  There will likely be loads of words that you don’t know and that’s ok.  Just work out what you can and don’t look up every word.  The important stuff will keep appearing.

So again, how do we go about reading this stuff when we still suck?  Let’s look at a few sentences and how we can break them down into smaller chunks that we might want to put in our notes (and/or flashcards if you use them).

First sentence from the Prison Break Wiki
Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์แอ็กชัน ดราม่า ทางโทรทัศน์ ออกอากาศครั้งแรกทางช่องฟ็อกซ์
This one is full of SRS goodness. What have we got?

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์ – PB is a series

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์แอ็กชัน PB is an action series

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์ดราม่า PB is a drama series

Prison Break เป็นซีรีส์ ทางโทรทัศน์ PB is a tv series

PB เป็นซีรีส์ออกอากาศครั้งแรกทางช่องฟ็อกซ์ – PB is a tv series that was first broadcast on/by Fox.

Get the idea yet? Let’s look at the the first line from the Lost Wiki. A bit longer you may notice.

Lost เป็นดราม่าซีรีส์ที่อเมริกา ที่มีเนื้อหากล่าวถึงผู้รอดชีวิตจากอุบัติเหตุเครื่องบินตก บนเกาะลึกลับ

See anything from the Prison Break sentence in this one?

Lost เป็นดราม่าซีรีส์ – Lost is a drama series

Lost เป็นดราม่าซีรีส์ที่อเมริกา – Lost is a drama series in America

Lost เป็นซีรีส์ ที่มีผู้รอดชีวิตจากอุบัติเหตุเครื่องบินตก = Lost is a series about survivors of a plane crash

Lost เป็นซีรีส์ ที่มีผู้รอด เครื่องบินตก บนเกาะ – Lost is a series of plane crash survivors on an island

บนเกาะลึกลับ – on a mysterious island

Tear apart the sentence until its only got 1 thing it in you don’t know. And if you are still trying to practice reading at a basic level then keep the phrases really short, but don’t waste time with single words. Words out of context are forgotten too easily. There isn’t anything wrong with having a few of the same sentence with only one word changed.

Now, go try and skim through a few of those. Set goals.  Do a few sentences like this each day.  You don’t need to make flashcards for everything.  But, it’s often worth noting down stuff that you see a lot of and want to remember or anything that jumps out at you. Its always ok to delete flashcards and toss your notes.   And when you get up into the thousands it’s a good idea.