I had been in Thailand for approximately 6 months. At this point, I was feeling pretty good about my ability to order food and barter at the local market, all in Thai. While that’s about the extent of my language abilities, I picked up a few other random bits of conversation right up until I left.
However, one day I realized something. I didn’t know how to say “sorry.” For 6 months, I had literally been apologizing left, right and centre for bumping people or not knowing what they were saying to me… in ENGLISH.
Now it wouldn’t be that big a deal, but when the rest of your conversation is, for the most part, a combination of basic Thai, smiles and giggles and then you throw in random words that they may or may not know means an apology it’s just plain inconsistent.
So, without letting on to my friends, I had a little panic attack.
I ran to my English – Thai dictionary and looked it up. Of course, when I had been “learning” how to speak on my own and I’d write down phrases, sorry may or may not have been one of them. But those stupid books have so many unnecessary words and phrases that most Thai’s are too lazy to even speak.
Once I had learned to omit those certain phrases (unless speaking to certain people of authority, however) figuring out the book made a lot more sense.
A simple “kor tod ka” became a regular phrase in my vocabulary. But I didn’t just learn that! Something that I would have substituted sorry for anyway was “excuse me.”
So, “kor tod na ka,” a simple extended, politer version of sorry was also added to my vocabulary. Used mostly in crowded shops, when trying to get someone’s attention or to push past a crowd of unobservant teens on a crowded BTS train in Bangkok, people thought I was Thai until they looked at me.
Panic averted. I was able to keep my Canadian-ness while speaking Thai.