Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thai Proverbs

The beginning of each new semester at my elementary school finds all of the teachers running around making things for our classrooms once they are done lesson planning, making exams, etc.

Last semester was no different. I was walking upstairs when I saw a couple of the Thai homeroom teachers for the English Program making posters for our hall. The posters were meant to show translations of Thai proverbs into English, or at least taking the Thai proverb and trying to find the English one that fit the best.

Now, if there is one thing about learning a different language, or teaching another person your own language, it is figuring out how to explain the meanings of proverbs. It's like...Shakespeare one-liners...That dude drove me absolutely nuts in school! SO, the pictures that follow are not a product of the Thai teachers being dumb or stupid, but of 1. their dependence on non-native speakers for their translations, and 2. "lost in translation" attempts to transfer proverbial ideas between cultures and languages.

Here are a few examples, click the collage to see the actual text. One of our Art teachers did the drawings.They went through about 6 different iterations of each poster as the English that they kept deciding on was not so good. AND they were too scared to come to me or the Malcolm, from Scotland, to ask for advice or for the actual translations. (Not that it would have helped any!) SO, they kept going to all of our non-native speaking teachers here, Philipinas, Danish, Texas-Thai mix who has been in Thailand forever. They all gave the wrong English. We waited for them to get them up on the walls, laminated and all, until we told them that they were WRONG. "Jai Rai" is a term in Thai that means "Mean!" Yes we were a little mean.

One that didn't make it to the wall but that was under construction is shown below. I guess there is a Thai proverb that says something like "If you see an elephant poop, will you poop like an elephant?" I'm pretty sure that this is akin to our "If your friend jumps off of a bridge are you gonna jump off the bridge too?"...or something like that, I remember that one when I got scolded as a kid...and as an adult for that matter!So the teacher types and prints "If you see an elephant shit will you shit like an elephant?" They were gluing the text to pictures and poster paper and I'm sure my eyes got as big as, well, probably as big as a pile of fresh elephant poop when I saw what was going to be gracing the wall outside of our second grade classroom! Yeah, so we didn't let them put that one up!I especially like this one, first the picture doesn't exactly match...chicken instead of swine, which I'm sure is because the Thai proverb probably says something like "Don't feed your chicken diamonds" or something like that! The second funny thing is the fact that they spelled "pearls" wrong by making it "peers" because the Texan that they asked for the translation, who is half American and half Thai, told them to change their original "pearls" to "peers". And "swine" somehow became a verb!We harassed her the next day and she admitted that she thought it was really "peers". I'm often tempted to cast my peers before I swine! In fact, I may just have done just that!

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