Survival Thai for the Classroom

My students hard at work
My students hard at work

I find in my own daily teaching that Thai commands are much more effective than English ones. I can’t count the number of times I ‘shushed’ my class just to have them all mimic me loudly for the next 5 minutes because it means nothing to them. Here are the commands or words I find the most effective (or just the most fun to use):

*sidenote: pair this guide with the Pronunciation Guide for super Thai speaking abilities!

1. ‘Nee-Up!’ (knee-up): “Quiet!” Emphasize the ‘nee’. For maximum results, deliver loudly and harshly.

 2. ‘Liaow Liaow’ (lee-ow lee-ow): Hurry Up! Quickly!” I find this phrase most effective when my students are dragging their feet to do something, like leaving the classroom or getting out their books.

3. ‘Put Maak!’ (poot mawk): “You’re talking too much!” This is usually delivered as a scolding. I bust this baby out when my students won’t stop talking. Very effective.

4. ‘Kao Jai Mai?’ (cow jye my): “Do you understand?” If the students’ English level is low, this is a great way to check for understanding. I love it when my all-male classes answer me with a resounding ‘Kahp!’ (Yes!)

Monks I taught in Chiang Mai for 3 weeks
Monks I taught in Chiang Mai for 3 weeks

 5. ‘Put Tam’ (poot tom): “Repeat”. If you can’t get your students to repeat after you, throw one of these out there.

6. ‘Alai-na?’ (uh-lie-nah): “What was that? Come again?” The respectful way to ask, huh?

 7. ‘T-t-t-t’: Okay, I have no idea how to write out this sound, but it’s a clicking sound made behind your teeth, like when you call a cat or something. If you put your finger in front of you in the ‘quiet’ formation and do this, it means the same thing as “Shh!”. Thai’s don’t use “Shh”, and I often find it has the opposite effect that I’m looking for (aka, the kids find it hilarious).

8. “Bai Lao!” (bye laow): “Let’s go! Here we go!” This phrase has a lot of meanings, but whichever one you’re going for, it’s best used with enthusiasm.

Do you have any Thai phrases you use in class to add to the list? Let me know! Email me at leavesfrmthevine@gmail.com

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