KhaoMunGai and using Thai (sometimes language just gets in the way)


The other day I walked into a KhaoMunGai Shop. (KhaoMunGai is one of the best chicken dishes imaginable!) I was quite hungry, so I walked in and ordered (in Thai) 1 plate of KhaoMunGai Special. Now my Thai is at least understandable, and after over 20 years in “The Kingdom” some say I sound just like a Thai. So what? The lady, a middle aged woman, not difficult to look at but well past her prime, asked me in English, “Do you want skin.” An explosion of thoughts occurred in the split second after and rather than answering I stood there saying, “uhhh…” The lady, thinking I hadn’t understood what she said, repeated herself, and asked if I wanted skin again. (If you’d like to know how many slang words are associated with the word “Skin” click here!) The first thought that hit me was, Is she speaking English? I’m sure it’s got something to do with my looks – Somehow I just don’t look Thai enough. So it really doesn’t matter what I say to anyone here, or what language I use, we’re going to be doing this in English.The second thought had something to do with what exactly does she mean by ‘skin’? I’m thinking by this point of money, and almost simultaneously, thinking that this women is a bit too old to be propositioning me like this. If you’re not familiar with the sidewalks of Siam, let it suffice to say that the stigma Thailand has of being an easy place for guys to meet girls (or something like that) isn’t exactly by accident. These two thoughts by themselves almost had me laughing out loud and I hadn’t even gotten myself to work out what she might have meant once I got the words translated. And here is my problem. The last development stage in my language growth has been that of translation. I can think easily in English, and easily in Thai – but it’s difficult for me to cross between the two. The meanings just aren’t there. I mean, imagine any context of eating out in a Western restaurant, where the first thing a person said to you was, “Do you want skin?” Not only that, but honestly, people can come up with some amazing things and the only way to decipher the meaning is to start in their language and work out. Those of you who know me, know that I’m a pretty big proponent of Crosstalk. But then I began to think of asking her to show me what she meant. Now I really did smile and not just to myself. Even while writing this, I’m starting to laugh so will end here.  In the end, fluency is NOT the end all when it comes to communication!