Sunday, February 11, 2007

A note about Thai spelling and transliteration

My puzzlement about the Thai language, especially its transliteration into western script grows. "There are 44 consonants classified into 3 categories depending on the kinds of vowels they are associated with. Vowels are indicated by symbols, or combinations of symbols, that may appear before, after, or even around the consonant. The Thai government has instituted the Royal Thai General Transcription System (or RTGS) as a standard method of writing Thai using a Roman 26-letter alphabet." ('Lonely Planet Phrasebooks: Thai', 2004)

Nevertheless, the level of standardization seems to be far from universal. You routinely see the same word spelled different ways in transliteration. Also, my Thai friends tell me that even in Thai, the same word is spelled differently by different people in different situations.

You may also look at this web site for more information.

As you might imagine, this impedes libraries from easily sharing cataloging data and other information in some cases.

Lots to learn here.

Sunday, Feb. 11, Siam Society

This is my day off, so I've been doing laundry, writing cards and thank you notes, and generally relaxing. At 11 a.m. I went down the block to a nice beauty salon for my first Thai massage. It's very different from a Swedish massage (with oils), more like a firm Chiropractic manipulation and no oils. I wore Thai pajamas, and though some of the positions and stretching were slightly painful, it was a good kind of pain, and I feel the stressed muscles of the past few weeks are loosened. For two hours (!) the price was about $20. A bargain by U.S. standards.

After that I walked down the street to see the Siam Society. The Society is a well-known East-West educational non-profit organization that sponsors lectures, seminars, trips, etc. The museum was closed on Sunday, but I could see the grounds, quite pretty and quiet, in contrast to Asoke St just outside.

I had lunch in their coffee shop in the garden. I chose western foods as a break from the excellent Thai food I've been eating every day. The coffee, tuna sandwich with fries, and pumpkin soup were quite good, as was the Thai dessert of water chestnuts in cocoanut milk. I hope to come back here when the museum is open, so I can visit the traditional Thai houses. As you can see, if you look only from the garden view, you can get a sense of what they were like originally, but if you look up, you see the glass and steel high rises surrounding this garden.

The little shrine was right outside my window table, quite charming.

On my walk home, I found SWU students paint-spattering pants and a group practicing a song with clapping routine. This is typical here, especially about 3:30 every afternoon when classes end for many of them. The chanting and music are pleasant and joyful for participants and listeners.

Tomorrow, I leave my room at 5 a.m. for Pitsanuloke province and Pibulsongkram Rajabhat University. I will return to Bangkok Fri. evening. I don't know what my Internet connections will be like, so stay tuned if you don't hear from me for a few days.