Overview for Self-Study of Translation of Thai to English:
How to Use Translation Tools & Access and Manage Texts for Translation

This self-study Thai translation course is the outcome of development and use in an actual intermediate Thai classes for  two semesters: Fall 2005 and Spring 2006.  Four students were enrolled in the class on campus which was co-taught by Prof. John Hartmann and a Thai TA. In addition, an off-campus student, Prof. Theodora Bofman, a professor of linguistics and translation at Northeastern Illinois University, participated via e-mail and one on-campus class visit.  What follows is the course overview addressed to those students --- and now to the self-learner or instructor.  Links to How to Use the Course Resources, Syllabus, and Translation Tools are listed in the Course outline in the left column. The Materials To Translate are organized into two courses of about 20 lessons.  The 1st Course consists entirely of the spoken hortatory discourse (homilies) of a popular Thai monk, Pra Payom, known for his down-to earth, conversational style.  Each of his homilies is a self-contained lesson that can be listened to alongside a Thai transliteration of. his spoken words (MP3 files) and their translation into English.  The 2nd Course is a selection of articles taken from published sources that deal with the contemporary culture at the beginning of 21st century Thailand.     

This course is highly flexible in nature.  It does not approach the task of learning to translate in the traditional way of sitting down with dictionaries and reference works and "slugging it out," word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence  (usually working from a source text that is considered "good writing" or one with literary pretensions).  That is what might be termed "the bottom-up approach," from the level of the word at the bottom, up to the level of discourse at the top.  Here we will take more of a "top-down" approach, first looking (in the 1st Course) at authentic spoken texts as a unified "macro-structures," their organization into sub-units, and the elements that contribute to their cohesion.  That is not to say we will  not be dealing with words.  We will, but we will look beyond isolated words to discover what they collocate with, i.e., what other words they "go with," in pairs or in entire expressions that cannot be broken down into single words and still make sense.  That is where the on-line concordances come into play.  More of that later.  For now, relax, knowing that you don't have to translate everything you encounter in these materials.  Translate what you can on a first try and leave the difficult parts for on-line discussion, if you can find someone to chat with .  Translations are never complete; they are an attempt to convey meanings, intentions and emotional connections between speaker and listener.  To reduce your anxiety level, we have included English translations alongside the original script of two of the spoken texts. Why?  We want you to listen, to read, and to comprehend as you proceed at your own pace.  The English translations are there so that you can confirm your own intuitions about meaning, rather than getting frustrated and giving up because you cannot see where you might be right or wrong.  The third sermon is available in spoken form only as a test of how much you have learned to deal with hortatory discourse in general, i.e., what to look for in terms of structures; and to test your own improvement in comprehending the sermons of a famous Thai monk..     

Two sermons or homilies delivered by a popular Thai monk have been selected as "texts" to be translated.  The reasons for this choice of materials are numerous:  the language is spoken, quite extemporaneous, contemporary, and has many of the features of conversational Thai. In keeping with a "lexical approach" to language, these sermons are perfect illustrations of the fact that spoken language is much more deitic and phrase-based than is written language; and that in language, whether spoken or written, meaning is not totally predictable from form.  Moreover, lexical items, which range from single words to compounds, semantic doublets, and elaborate expressions in the case of Thai, are part and parcel of the formulaic repertoire of native speakers that are, at the same time, "socially sanctioned independent units." In our selections of authentic spoken Thai, the speaker, Phra Payom, is noted for his humor, sense of irony, and the ability to draw an audience in and hold it.  One does not easily tire of listening to the sermons of a charismatic preacher like him.  Another reason for choosing these texts is that they were the subject of the close discourse analysis of an M.A. student, whose unpublished thesis will be used as both a theoretical framework and study guide, which we will try to integrate into the course syllabus as the semester proceeds.

 The best way to get started, then, is to listen to the recording of the sermon, either as a continuous (2-part) reading, or section by section, over and over.  Continue to listen to the sermon often throughout the course to the point of near memorization of portions. Let the sounds and cadences of spoken Thai flow over you before you lose yourself looking up words in a dictionary.  Listen intently and gist or guess about meanings, forming an hypothesis about the homily and its inserted vignettes. Take notes on what your hear and comprehend so that you can experiment with the language and have fun trying to possess it and thereby empower yourself  linguistically and enrich your intellectual life. Take control of the text, bit-by-bit, day-by-day.  And share your thoughts and progress with others on the On-Line Discussion Board. You need not feel shy about reading the English translation at any point.  Do it to confirm your hunches, if nothing else.

Overall Goal:  Ideally, by mastering the form and content of one or both of these homilies, one should be able to listen to other homilies of Phra Payom or other preachers, and be able to comprehend and, if a transcript is available, translate with considerable facility.  In fact, a good "final" project or exam might be to pick up a cassette or CD of other homilies or go to a temple to listen to a preacher and produce a summary of what was heard. We have included the recording of a third homily of Phra Phayom for this purpose.  Another possibility would be to listen to one of the recorded sermons of Phra Phutha That (also spelled Buddhadasa Bhikkhu: go to http://www.suanmokkh.org) and compare his preaching style to Phra Payom's.  Phra Payom started out his preaching career trying to emulate or imitate the deliberate, pondering style of his mentor, Phra Putha That only to abandon it in order to speak with his own voice and more lively personality.      

Week 1

    Go to the Thai Translation home page and click on "Materials to Translate" (or click here: Materials to Translate) and then "Phra Payom's Homilies." Click on the link to "Thesis."
    Go to the last part of the thesis and read Biographical Notes on Pra Phayom, because, as the author of the thesis says, "A complete understanding of the sermons demands some degree of knowledge about his life - the context of many of his presentations."
    Next read the transcript of the Interview with Pra Phayom that Kirk conducted with Phra Payom for futher understanding of the latter's thinking and style. 
    Discuss, via the discussion board, your general impressions of Phra Payom and list what you expect to find in his sermons in terms of  form, content, and style before you read them. Another way of talking about "form" is to think in terms of discourse structure.  How do you think he will begin and end his sermons?  How will the content be framed or progress?  What stylistic devices do you think he will employ to draw his audience in and not fall asleep.  How will he refer to himself and the audience?  From what you know of Buddhism* - or of universal religious values - what issues do you expect him to raise and what solutions do you expect he will offer?

Pre-Test:  In order to determine the extent of your control of the vocabulary needed to translate the first sermon, "Greed,"  go to the numerical frequency word list at Word Frequency, and skim through it from top to bottom.  You should command 95% of the words on the list in order to make the task of translation go smoothly and swiftly, if you want to get into translating the text immediately.  That shouldn't be the case, however. Wait awhile longer and play with parts of the texts first, using the concordance to make discoveries that will make the task of translating easier and more satisfying in the end.  Check off the words that you absolutely do not know for later word study.  Use the same list to check off the items that you think will be important themes.  Learning and becoming familiar with new words and their collocations will be a major goal of this course.  You will achieve that end by listening to the sermon over and over, each time narrowing down the areas and words that are causing you difficulty, and using the concordance to understand how the same word can change its meaning or function depending on context, i.e., how they collocate. As the course proceeds, we will break some of the vocabulary items into categories, such as Pali terms, command words, abstract nouns, gerunds, verbs/adjectives, pronouns, and other syntactic/semantic categories, i.e., a lexical approach to language learning and translation.  (Go to Articles and Books on Translation for more information on the lexical approach.)
Post-Tests:  By the end of this course, you should be able to go through the same word frequency lists from the first two homilies to assess how much your vocabulary has increased.  A further test of your overall competency would be to listen to the third homily, which intentionally has no transcript or English translation, and see how much of it you control:  its overall discourse structure, sub-structures, pragmatic and lexical details. 

[*Click here for background on Thai Buddhism. See also Phra Prayudh Payutto and G.A. Olson (translator). 1995. Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life. Albany: State University of New York Press.]

Recommended Reference Works:
Iwasaki Shochi Iwasaki and Preeya Ingkaphirom. 2005.  A Reference Grammar of Thai. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Haas, Mary.  1964. Thai-English Students Dictionary. Stanford:  Stanford University Press.
McFarland, G.B. Thai-English Dictionary. 1944. Stanford: Stanford University Press. 

Week 2

FLST 381  www.seasite.niu.edu/trans/thai For Monday 9/29:  Listen to this segment of the second sermon, “Wealth” several times (apologies for the poor sound).  Try your hand at translating your own version to see how it matches up with the one given.  You can figure out the meaning of some of the Thai words from the English translation.  Does the humor/irony come through in the translation? Please post your translation for others to consider as an alternative. You can increase font size for greater ease in reading by going to "View" on the tool bar and selecting a larger size.

Write out your own script of your daily activities in Thai for paragraphs 42 on and post them on the discussion board. Indicate which items are causing you problems.  Note that this section is procedural discourse and that there are Pali terms that pertain to the monks.  The original is in poetic form, which means some words were chosen to rhyme.   

[To type in Thai, go to: http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Thai/thaikeyboard.htm or pull up a desktop keyboard by going to the Start button in the lower left corner of your monitor, then  select Programs, Accessories, Accessibility, On-Screen Keyboard.  To change the font from English to Thai, go to the EN button on the bottom toolbar and toggle to TH.]

Translation Assignment #1:  From "Wealth" - par. 41, 42. 
A line-by-line and word-by-word translation is provided below, along with a free translation in blue letters as a means of showing where to break the speech into meaningful units for ease of comprehension and translation. Lines 43-47 contain rhymes shown with colors.


41. I want to send this to the Interior Minister--Sometimes when I go to preach in front of government provincial offices I have many problems. The provincial governors don't come to meet or welcome me. I have to beg for everything--! want to tell this to the Interior Minister. I can't get a public address system. Whatever it is, they don't want to give it. But do I not preach? I still preach because I honor the teaching of the Lord Buddha that says I must go preach. [75] Because of belief I go out to these places rather than just sitting in my own temple. Otherwise someone would say that I am the type of monk who

41. ขนาด เรื่อง นี้
size matter this - This very matter

ส่ง ถึง รัฐมนตรี มหาดไทย ว่า
send to  Minister Interior - is to be sent to the Minister of Interior, saying that,

จะไป บรรยายห น้า ศาลากลาง ผู้ว่า ๆ
will go lecture in front of office provincial governor - when I go to the provincial governor's office,

บาง คน อู้ฮู้ย ไม่ ต้อนรับ
some people "u-hui" not welcome - some - oh ho! - don't welcome us.

ไม่ อะไร ลย
not anyting at all. - Not at all. 

 แทบจะ ต้อง ไป กราบเท้า
almost must go bow at feet.  We almost need to bow at their feet.

ขอ เทศน์ ขอ ที่ ก็ ไม่ได้ เครื่อง ขยาย
ask for preach, ask for place; not get machine expand - We ask to preach, ask for a place to do it; we don't  get an amplifier;

ก็ ไม่ ได้ อะไร
then not get anything. we don't get anything;

ก็ ไม่ อยาก จะ ให้ โอ๊ย
then not want to give "Oy!" They don't want to give us anything.  "Oy!"

แต่ เรา ก็ ไม่ พ่ายแพ้
but we then not give up. But we don't give up,

เพราะ นึกถึง คำ สั่งสอน ของ พระพุทธเจ้า

because recall word instruction of Lord Buddha. - because we recall the instructions of the Lord Buddha.

ที่ เรา จะต้อง นำ ไป เผยแพร่ โดย ความศรัทธา นั้น
that we will need take forth spread by means of faith Focus Marker. - that we need to take and spread his word by faith.

จึง ทำให้ เราไม่ ไป นอน แผ่แพ้ อยู่ ที่ วัด
therefore makes us not go lie down spread out defeat at temple - So it makes us not lie down spread out like losers at the temple,

จน คน เขา มา ด่า ว่า เรา เนี่ย เป็น พระ ประเภท ที่
until people then come curse that we EMPH  be monks kind that - until people come along and curse us, say that WE are the kind of monks that...

MP3 Audio

42. -sits in the early morning

42. เช้า เอน
morning lean - in the morning just stand around leaning against something,

MP3 Audio

43. -sleeps in the late morning

43. เพล นอน
noon lie down - lie down at noon,

MP3 Audio

44. -rests at midday

44. กลางวัน พักผ่อน
 daytime rest-rest -  rest during the day,

MP3 Audio

45. -sleeps [royal word] in the evening

45. กลางคืน จำวัด
night time sleep temple - sleep in the temple at night,

MP3 Audio

46. -watches television at night

46. ค่ำ ดู โทรทัศน์
evening watch television - watch t.v. in the evening,

MP3 Audio

47. -makes noodles at midnight

47. ดึก ซัด มาม่า อะไรที่เขาว่า เนี่ย (ฮา)
late night pig out on "Ma-Ma instant noodles" what that they say FM (ha ha) - and pig out on Ma-Ma instant noodles at midnight...this is what they say, you know! (ha ha: sound of listeners' laughter in background)

MP3 Audio

   We will use this week to become familiar with the Translation Tools.  You can use text from the sermons or go on the Internet and find text of your own.  But remember that you will need to separate words, if you choose text of your own. Choose another section, from "Greed" or "Wealth", similar to the one above for class discussion and work.   

Week 3 

Read the English translation of the homily on "Greed" as a means of familiarizing yourself with both the form and content of this Thai hortatory discourse. 

1. Make note of the insertions of Thai expressives like "Aw; aw la!; huu; ho; mae, nia."  What do you suppose their function is and what distinguishes them?  At what level do they have meaning or function?
2.  Make a list of all of the special Buddhist terminolgy as best as you can and what the terms mean in English.  How do you suppose they will be defined in Thai?  What verbs will be used to define/translate Pali terms? Then go to the concordance and find the verbs that are used by Phra Payom to define them.
Scroll through the word frequency (WF) list and see if you can identify the Pali terms. Alternatively, what letters or symbols do you expect to find in the spelling of Pali-Sanskrit words. Use the "single-word" (or single letter/symbols) search to find Pali terms. 
3. Make note of references to events and people used to illustrate his homily.  Try to find out more about them through Google.  For example, there is a reference to a fatal plane crash in Suphanburi Province, Dachang District (in 1991 Lauda Air Flight 004).  Can you find it on a map of Thailand? (http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Suphanburi-province) Another news story that Phra Payom talks about as a means of illustrating Greed was the huge explosion of a truck carrying propane trucks. (Click here for the news story: such as a fire.)
4. Prepare a potential list of other words for the on-line discussion board.  You can get some ideas of classes of words from reading the thesis.  Eventually, we will want to concentrate a lot on verbs.

Listen to the opening and closing paragraphs of both homilies to see what they have in common. What is the common Thai verb?  How is this verb used in other contexts?  Would a homily in another religion have the same form and content? 

From Greed: (opening and closing paragraphs):  MP3 Audio; MP3 Audio

From "Wealth" (paragraph reference 1; 157; 158; 159): MP3 Audio;MP3 Audio;MP3 Audio;MP3 Audio

These คำอวยผล or "Blessings" are part of a larger collection of formulaic expressions that are widely used in Thai social settings.  They are especially prominent in sermons or homilies because of the formal temple setting and audience.

Click on the link to open the concordance. On the toolbar at the top of the screen, use "Edit/ Find" to locate ขอ in the concordance by cutting and pasting the word ขอ into the "Find" window/box.  Then notice its different collocations and the % position in the text: 0% beginning; 90+% the end.)  In what other contexts would ขอ be used and for what pragmatic ends? 

Dictionary Practice:  Look up ขอ in both an English-Thai and Thai-Thai dictionary and write out the list of ขอ collocations you find.  Contrast  ขอ with ถาม.

Example:  ขอให้โชคดี     Good Luck!

Discussion board assignment:  Using the MS on-screen keyboard send your classmates (or friends) a "Blessing" or "Wish"  and ask them to translate it back into English.  How would you wish someone a Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, or Happy Marriage for example?
Later we will look at more examples under the rubric of คำอวยผล which have an important function on the Thai social stage, especially among the highly educated who know their "linguistic etiquette."

FLST 381 #2 Translation Assignment:  Translate paragraphs 53-54 on your own.  Post them on the discussion board along with comments and questions.  In addition, post the following, using copy and paste:

1.  pronouns; 2. classifiers; 3. semantic doublets; 4. Pali-Sanskrit words.  5. Verb + neg. + Verb construction. 6.  “Heart” words.  7.  Time expressions  8.  Topic + comment – at least one example.  9.  One-word “emotives” 10. Topic/focus markers



Go to the Condordance program.  Copy and paste the entire text to “Wealth” into the white window.  Then do (copy and paste) a single-word search of the following nominalizing prefixes:





Copy and paste an example of each combination that results. 
Can you translate/understand them all?

#2 Translation Assignment

53. In the time before I [Rev.] was ordained I liked this one woman. She sold grocery items. Oh!--back then I worked construction--really hard work. The work was as a carpenter. At night I lay down but could not sleep--I wanted to see her face. I couldn't go to her house--her elder sibling was rather fierce. I had to go buy matches from her--one box at a time. [95] So I could see her face. I would buy four boxes a night, you know. Oh--my heart was being forced.

53. อาตมา ตอน ก่อน บวช นี่ ไป ชอบ ผู้หญิง คนหนึ่ง มัน ขาย ของชำ อยู่  เมื่อก่อน เรา ก็ ทำงาน เสร็จ เหนื่อย แทบ ตาย ทำงาน ก่อสร้าง ช่างไม้ แทนที่ จะ หลับ จะ นอน มัน ก็ นอน ไม่ หลับ อยาก เห็น หน้า มัน ไป ที่ บ้าน มัน ก็  ไม่ได้ พี่ มัน ดุ ต้อง ไป ซื้อ ไม้ขีด ทีละ กล่อง เพื่อ จะ ได้ เห็น หน้า คืนหนึ่ง ซื้อ ๔ กล่อง นะ อู้ย มัน บีบคั้น หัวใจ

MP3 Audio

54. When I had been ordained I sat and meditated. I came and sat in the assembly hall. I sat and looked into the candle flame. My heart brought forth calmness. At first I said that I would be ordained for three months; we had agreed on a wedding date already. She waited for seven years. But after that her heart started to cool off.

54. พอ มา บวช แล้ว นั่ง ทำ กรรมฐาน มา ฝึก นั่ง อยู่ ใน โบสถ์ นั่ง เพ่ง เทียนจิต จิตใจ มัน เกิด สงบ ดี ทีแรก ว่า จะ บวช ๓ เดือน นัดหมาย กัน ไว้ เรียบร้อย มัน ก็ คอย ตั้ง ๗ ปี แต่ ตอนหลัง มา เนี่ย จิตใจ มัน เริ่ม เห็น ว่า เออ อยู่ อย่างนี้ มัน สบาย กว่า

MP3 Audio


FLST 381 Assignment #3.b (line by line translation)

a. Go through par. 117-118 and, using the enter key, divide the text into a series of clauses or sentences, as shown below.  You can then type in a word-by-word and free translation below each line.


 เดี๋ยวนี้ ต้อง เทศน์ ยุส่ง เลย

บุหรี่ นี่ ถ้า ใคร เลิก สูบ ไม่ได้ ต้อง สูบ ให้ มาก

สูบน้อยๆ ไม่ได้ ผล

b. What is the discourse or pragmatic function of อ้าว, นี่ and นะ

c. There are several implied and explicit “if” clauses in these paragraphs.  What are they?  What lexical items mark the beginning of a new mega-section in the discourse, and then, the new topic?   




117. AW!--Nowadays I have to preach and incite quarrels about cigarettes. These cigarettes--the only people who really can't stop are those who already smoke five packs a day. Actually, though, this would help their family and their general stake in life. If they smoke five packs a day, a thief wouldn't break into their house and, secondly, dogs would certainly not bite them. Third, their hair won't grow. [190] If they smoke 5 packs a day, thieves would hear them coughing all night and think that they were still awake. So the smoker would not need a guard dog, since he himself is always barking.


117. อ้าว


 เดี๋ยวนี้ ต้อง เทศน์ ยุส่ง เลย



บุหรี่ นี่ ถ้า ใคร เลิก สูบ ไม่ได้ ต้อง สูบ ให้ มาก



สูบ น้อยๆ ไม่ได้ ผล




ต้อง สูบ ให้ ได้ วัน ละ ห้า ซอง



จะ ได้ ช่วยบ้าน ช่วยช่อง ได้



ถ้า สูบ ห้า ซอง แล้ว รับรอง ขโมย ไม่ เข้า บ้าน


สอง หมา ไม่  กัด



สาม ผม ไม่ หงอก



ถ้า สูบ ได้ ห้า ซอง ขโมย ไม่ เข้า บ้าน



มัน จะ ไอ ทั้ง คืน



ขโมย จะ เข้า มา



มัน เห่า แทน หมา เลย ก็ ว่า งั้น


MP3 Audio

118. This group of students--if someone starts smoking during their first year, things will get worse the second year, you know. In reality, they don't have their own incomes yet; their mothers give them everything to come study. And mothers never tell their children, "Hey! Take 30 baht and go buy some cigarettes to play with your lungs, you know." This never happens.


พวก นักศึกษา นี่ ก็ เหมือนกัน


ถ้า เรียน ยัง ไม่ จบ ครู แล้ว ริ สูบบุหรี่


 ปี่หนึ่ง ปี่สอง นี่ ชั่ว ที่สุด เหมือนกัน จริง ๆ นะ


เงินเดือน ก็ ยัง ไม่ได้


แม่ ให้ เงิน มา เรียน


ไม่เคย บอก ลูก ว่า


เฮ้ย เอา ตังค์ ๓๐ บาท นี่ ไป ซื้อ บุหรี่


เผา ปอด เล่น นะ ลูก นะ


ไม่ เคย

MP3 Audio


FLTH 381 #4 Assignment to be discussed Week 4. 


As with assignment #3, divide the text into clauses or sentence by moving the cursor to where you think a division should be made and hit the enter key a couple of times to provide room for an interlinear word-by-word and free translation. Consolidate your free translation into a single paragraph and either post it on the discussion board or send it (use “reply all”) to the group by e-mail over the weekend.  


Note:  The final particle ซะ is a reduced form of เสีย ,  which is a post verb indicating finality of action, doing something just once and finishing with it at once.
ข้าวเปลือก is unhusked rice, rice still in the husks.  Why doesn’t he just say ข้าว rice?  What do you suppose เปลือกข้าว is?
กิเลส (greed) occurs 25 times in this sermon and ราคะ (sensory desires) 3 times.  Both are Pali-Sankrit words.  What does the frequency count tell you about themes in the sermon?


What is the classifier for monks?


What elaborate expression is used? 



147. If they are able to do it, I [Rev.] would sell the temple and buy one. [245] Then I would be the first monk to get into it and be sucked. Once the sucking is finished the unwholesome thoughts that I used to have, the passion that I used to have toward the opposite sex, well--I would be like a dog seeing ripe rice in a field.5 It would give a feeling of peace, not having anything to make us hot hearted, you know.

147. ถ้า มัน ทำ ได้ อาตมา จะ ขาย วัด ซื้อ มา สัก เครื่อง หนึ่ง แล้ว จะ เข้า ดูด เป็น องค์ แรก ถ้า ดูด เสร็จ แล้ว กิเลส ที่ เคย มี ราคะ ที่ เคย มี เห็น เพศ ตรงข้าม ก็ เหมือน หมา เห็น ข้าวเปลือก ซะ สบายใจ ไม่ ต้อง ตะกาย แกรก  แกรก ให้ มัน ร้อนอกร้อนใจ

MP3 Audio

Week 4  From this week on, all assignments, were selected by students in the class and some were posted at the Assignments link in the left column.  Note that each translation segment is followed by a Word Frequency list that you can use as one of your "tools" in managing your vocabulary acquisition.