Saturday, March 29, 2014

A Lesson in Tinglish

I gotta admit, I've always been amused by the way non-English speakers speak English. I grew up hearing Chinglish from family members and Spanglish all around me in New York City, and now I hear Tinglish every day. I just love how people blend their native languages with English.

One of the idiosyncrasies of Tinglish that I've come to expect and gotten used to hearing is the use of tones when none is required. As you may know, Thai is a tonal language, like Chinese. So when the Thai people speak English, they tend to put in tones like they do in Thai. The way they do this is by elongating a word and emphasizing the last syllable. Even a one-syllable word becomes two syllables with an emphasis at the end. "No" becomes "noo-OOO!" "Coming" becomes "com-EENG!" After about two months of being here, my son began talking like this. He loves accents and picks them up pretty quickly, so he would say all his words with this accent -- "I don't like ii-EET!" "I am go-EENG ho-OME!" He doesn't do it as much with us anymore, but I hear him talk like this when he's with his Thai friends at school. Sometimes even my husband and I unconsciously slip into this pattern of speech!

The Thai people also have trouble with the "l" sound and tend to say it as the "r" sound. My son's name has an "l" in it and that always comes out as the "r" sound when his Thai teachers and some of his Thai friends say it. He used to get upset about it, thinking they were doing it on purpose or teasing him about his name!

The Thai people also can't say the "l" sound at the end of English words; instead, it comes out as the "n" sound. So "noodle" becomes "nooden" and "basketball" becomes "basketban." But they still spell words ending with the "n" sound with an "l"! It can get pretty confusing when it's a Thai word. For example, there's a boy at school whose nickname is Pol. I would pronounce it as it's spelled, like "pole," and he would never respond to me. Finally, my son told me that it's actually pronounced as "Pon"! What? Then, the other day, a parent who's pretty fluent in English was telling me that her son doesn't like apples and said "appen" instead. Took me a second to figure out she was talking about apples.

I've also noticed they tend to leave off the "-s" ending sounds with plurals and other words. My son's name also has an "s" at the end, which tends to be left off. So you can imagine how mangled his name sounds with the "l" changed to "r" and the ending "s" sound left off.

Speaking of change, something the Thai people also have a lot of trouble with is the difference between the "ch" and "sh" sounds. They tend to mix up the two. This seems to be very common; I hear it from almost everyone, even students who speak English fluently. Instead of "shower," they say "chower," and they pronounce words like "change" as "shange." My son's teacher started teaching her students the difference between these two sounds last semester and still continues to this day!

Also, I assume that, like Chinese, Thai doesn't have tenses or conjugation of verbs, so they don't tend to use tenses or conjugate the verbs when speaking English. I'm totally used to this as I, too, grew up hearing English this way from my family, though it does lead to some confusion as to when something actually happened.

Like all variations of -nglish, Tinglish is fun and funny with all its quirks. 555! That means "hahaha" here. The Thai word for "five" is "ha," so 555 = hahaha! I love ii-EET!

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