The Strange Language of Tinglish In Thailand

“I want eat!” – Tinglish

Question:“You want eat?”

Answer: “want eat.”

Recognise this language? No? OK, how about this, “How old you?”. “I’m ha sip sam years old.” Ah, the language of Tinglish. Part English, a few words omitted and a bit of Thai thrown in. All expats, at some point, have resorted to this form of speak.

But why do we resort to that? If you speak English to nearly all Thais in the way you would back home, often you can see the lights are on but nobody’s home. So often we resort to fusing the salient words, omitting others and sometimes adding a Thai word or two to communicate better. And voila! Tinglish. As a good friend pointed out, upon hearing my form of tinglish, I even seem to raise my voice an octave as well.

The question is should we? Well if you can make yourself understood I guess that’s OK. But in other circumstances perhaps we shouldn’t. Try as I might to speak “normal” after 5 years of marriage, I still end up speaking Tinglish with my wife. So not much of a surprise when she asks, “You not want eat mai?” or “Have you eat already?”

Yet with my two young sons, I talk to them as I would back “home” and would you believe it, they’re starting to talk the same as me. Which is how I would like them to speak English. The Queens English! Well not exactly. Respect Ma`am but does anyone else speak like the Queen of England these days?

I think it takes time and patience to avoid Tinglish, trying instead to speak English as you would in your home country. With someone you’re going to be with for a long time I think the effort is worth it. I can’t turn the clock back now in how I speak with my wife now, if only I’d taken the time.

Still, she’d never speak proper like what I does. “I want eat!”

Classic result of Tinglish gone wrong 

Best age to learn to speak Thai or like The Queen of England

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