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BANGKOK 20 October 2018 04:56
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Different Meanings

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With my Thai language class starting last weekend, and with her studying "ung-grit" with some books, my fiancee (or "long haired dictionary" as my instructor Lek jokingly calls our Thai ladies) and I are starting to get into the swing of talking words and meanings in each other's native language.

Anyway, today we were talking about a word that seems to have very different meanings in the interpretation. The English word is "respect" and the corresponding Thai word from Ms. P-Becker's dictionary is "kao/m/ - rop/h/."

I was trying to use it to describe an aspect of our relationship that is a mutual respect, along the lines of mutual trust, caring, love, etc.

Well, trust and "wai/h/ - jai/m/" seem to be pretty much interchangeable. That is the translation between English and Thai is pretty direct.

However, my fiancee told me that respect and "kao/m/ - rop/h/" do not have a direct translation.

In English, respect can be used in many different situations, such "respect someone's skill at something," "respect an elder," "respect a position that someone holds or a held office," and so on.

In Thai, kao/m/ - rop/h/ seems to have a very unique meaning. That is, it is used in context of inherent or implied respect from children to adults, lay people to monks, etc., only. According to my fiancee, it is not used in any other context.

Would everyone agree that this is the case?

Are there other words that may have very broad meanings and usage in English, but the Thai translation has a very narrow meaning and usage, potentially resulting in a misunderstanding or misinterpretation?

TIA for all replies ...

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nap tuu may be the word to use, it is a verb to respect.

Yep, thanks, found it in another section of the dictionary. Something else for tommorrow's conversations.

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Spee, nap tuu may be the word to use, it is a verb to respect. good luck with your lessons. :o

I agree. Nap tuu is what I hear used for that kind of 'respect'..

Also, if someone wants to know what religion you are, the phrase is, " Nap tu Satsanaa Aray (Khrap)?" "What religion do you respect?"

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One feature of Thai is the love for stringing near-synonyms together in a row - sometimes it seems Thais believe that the more synonyms you can come up with, the more beautiful the text becomes - quite the opposite from the minimalist ideals of Europe. One such common stringing of words is to use "khaorop-nabtheu" as one word, usually followed by "phuu yai", perhaps best translated as "elders" or "seniors" - basically it means the ones that rank higher than you in the system, and the most important rank marker in Thai society is age.

I agree that "respect" and "khaorop" are not interchangeable words. You have to be sensitive to the overall context in order to make your translation. In Thai, you could hardly "khaorop" your student's ambitious nature or a musicians ability to play his instrument.

"I respect where he's coming from" is another sense of "respect" that can not be covered with "khaorop". Essentially, I think your teacher is correct in what he/she says.

My experience is that the more Thai you learn, the more you realize how hard it is to translate well between Thai and European languages - there is a gray area of "translationese" Thai influenced mainly by English that educated Thais understand and sometimes emulate, but the core everyday language in Thailand does not easily lend itself to translation into English...

I would contest that the Western notion of "respect" does not really exist in Thai, but the closest you can get to it in most cases is "khaorop"... Basically, the Western 'respect' is not necessarily focused on age, whereas 'khaorop' is.

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