My student showed me a photo from his trip to Chiang Rai. Once I saw it, it made me laugh out loud. I would like to share it with you so we can also learn Thai from this photo.
This is a warning sign from a tea plantation in Chiang Rai province in Northern Thailand. Chiang Rai is known for their abundant tea plantations.
The sign in Thai says “ห้ามเด็ดยอดชา” , but what makes me laugh is the English translation “prohibit pluck the top feels numb”. I think you would laugh your bottom off like me if you understand the meaning of the Thai words used in the sign, so let’s break it down.
ห้าม /hâam/ means to forbid, to prohibit. It is used to give a command to someone not to do something i.e. ห้ามสูบบุหรี่ / hâam sub bù-rìi/ Do not smoke.
เด็ด /dèd/ means to pick, to nip off, to pinch off. This word is used for ‘picking flowers’
ยอด /yâwd/ means the tip of something
ชา /chaa/ means ‘tea’ or ‘feel numb’
Now you understand how the mistake happened, right? ‘Do not pick the tips of the tea leave’ could be translated to ‘prohibit pluck the top feels numb’ : )
I think a person who translated the Thai text to English just searched each word from a dictionary and chose the first meaning he/she saw. When I was a student I also did the same thing, not knowing that a Thai word that has several meaning could be different words in English like the word ‘ชา /chaa/ here that means both ‘tea’ and ‘feel numb’ .
Another similar cute mistake, I found the photo from the internet.
The sign in Thai says “ห้ามเกาะกระจก /hâam gò grà-jòk/”
We learned the word ห้าม /hâam/ from the sign above already 🙂
เกาะ /gò/ has two meanings:
 to hold , to hold something firmly (with my hands/arms)
กระจก /grà-jòk/ means pane of glass or mirror
Now we understand what the troubles are; the word เกาะ /gò/ and a misunderstanding how to use to use the word ‘forbidden’. ‘Do not lean against the glass’ could be translated to Forbidden Island Glass. Well…it is better than Forbidden Island Mirror, huh?
Oh wait!, did I translate it correctly myself? 555
The sign in Thai says:
เขตชุมชน /kèet chum chon/ community area
ลดความเร็ว /lót kwaam reo/ reduce the speed
ลด /lót/ = to lower, to reduce
ความเร็ว /kwaam reo/ = speed
I think many Thai people often mix up the word ‘reduce‘ and ‘produce‘ since both words end with -duce. 😀
The sigh in Thai says “ระวังคนตาบอด /rá-wang kon dtaa-dàwd/” :
ระวัง /rá-wang/ Be careful, beware, be cautious
คนตาบอด /kon dtaa-dàwd/ Blind people
The right translation should be ‘Caution: Blind People’. 🙂
First look at this sign, it made me laugh. But thinking about reality it is NOT amusing because it could cause someone’s life.
The sign in English is obvious, except the fact that it communicates totally the opposite message.
Have a look at the Thai text: “อันตราย ห้ามลงเล่นน้ำบริเวณนี้” It means “Danger! don’t swim in this area”
อันตราย /an-dt1a-raai/ = danger, caution
ห้าม /hâam/ = prohibit. We use this word in the pattern : ห้าม/ hâam/ + do something = Don’t do something!
ลง /long/ = go down
เล่น /lên/ = to play
น้ำ /náam/ = water
บริเวณ /baw-rí-wane/ = area
นี้ /níi/ = this
Perhaps, it is time for you to start learning to read Thai language. For your own safety.
The Thai text says ฟักทองเชื่อม /fák-tawng chûeam/. ฟักทอง/fák-tawng/ means ‘pumpkin’, and what makes this translation tricky is the word เชื่อม /chûeam/ as it has two meanings, it can means ‘to boil in syrup’ and ‘to connect’ , ‘to join’. Now you understand why this delicious Thai dessert sounds funny in English. 🙂
If you see these names in the menu, would you order just to see what the dish is like exactly? 😛
The dish number 7 is “กุ้งผัดผงกะหรี่ gûng pàt pŏng gà-rìi”. Let’s take a look at each word, shall we?
กุ้ง gûng means ‘shrimp’ or ‘prawn’
ผัด pàt means ‘stir fry’ or ‘stir-fried’
ผง pŏng means ‘powder’
กะหรี่ gà-rìi is a type of curry. This word is also a slang used to call a prostitute.
ผงกะหรี่ pŏng gà-rìi is curry powder made of fenugreek seed, fennel seed, coriander seed, turmeric powder.
So the dish กุ้งผัดผงกะหรี่ gûng pàt pŏng gà-rìi is actually ‘Stir-Fried Prawns in Curry Powder’ as you see in the picture below. It is a delicious Thai dish! Have you ever tried before? 🙂
Anyone can make mistakes and the best lesson is the lesson we learn from the mistakes 🙂