I’m Not Fine, Thank You…From my years of teaching English I have learned that there is a two-line dialog that is ingrained in every student of English, probably in the world. It goes like this:
Hello, how are you?Fine thank you, and you?
As native speakers of English, we know that there are lots of other ways to answer the question in the first line of the dialog. But “Fine, thank you” is about as far as the lesson usually goes. What if you aren’t fine?
Well, we have almost the exact same problem when we study Thai. I am going to bet that you have heard this dialog before.
สวัสดีค่ะ สบายดีหรือsà~wàt-dee kâ sà~baai-dee rěuHello, how are you?
Now usually we don’t really want to discuss our major medical problems with everyone we meet. That is why a “How are you?” is rarely answered with a list of our physical complaints. “Fine thank you.” is much easier. The same goes for สบายดีหรือ /sà~baai-dee rěu/. You may occasionally hear a ฉันไม่สบายค่ะ /chăn mâi sà~baai kâ/ (I’m not well). But more likely they will tell you they are just fine, thank you.
But what if your doctor is the person you are talking to? And let’s say you do want to discuss your medical situation with him/her. First of all, your doctor would probably not ask สบายดีหรือ /sà~baai-dee rěu/. The question would more probably be เป็นยังไง /bpen yang-ngai/, literally “How are you?” but here it is more the equivalent of “What’s up?” or “What brings you here today?”
In English we usually answer this question with “I feel…” (I feel sick), “I have…” (I have a bad cold.), “I am…” (I’m depressed.), or using a body part (my feet are killing me). Likewise, when we talk about our health in Thai we can also break our complaints into various compartments. Remember that talking about our health is a pretty popular past time and there are lots of variations. These are just some of the basics. Let’s look at a few below.
The Thai word for “feel” is รู้สึก /róo-sèuk/. It is used with certain symptoms just as the word “feel” is in English. As with many forms, the word รู้สึก /róo-sèuk/ can often be dropped without changing the meaning.
English uses “be” and “have” with lots of symptoms and diseases. Thai also uses a “be’ word with some of these but note that the Thai word for “have” มี /mee/ is not used with symptoms and diseases (except pregnancy).
Then there is the difference between เจ็บ /jèp/ and ปวด /bpùat/. These two are not used in the same way just as the English words “hurt” and “ache” are used differently. They are usually used with body parts.
เจ็บ /jèp/- hurt (pain: short-term, acute)ปวด /bpùat/ – ache (suffer a continuous dull pain)
___________________Hopefully you’ll be fine. In that case, when everything is great and you have no problems to report you can use this great English loan word that is quite popular in Thailand.
ฟิต /fít/ – to be fit, in good shape
When your doctor asks:
คุณเป็นยังไงkun bpen yang-ngaiHow are you doing?
You can answer:
ฉันไม่เป็นอะไร ฉันฟิตมากchăn mâi bpen à~rai chăn fít mâakNo problem. I’m fit as a fiddle.
ARWEE - Manigluck