Foreign Thai accent analysis from “The Family Guy”
This post contains obscene language.
Recently I had the dubious pleasure of watching a few episodes of “The Family Guy.” As with most jokes on the show, this one came out of the blue:
Edit, 15 January, 2008: The video has been removed by YouTube at the behest of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.
I believe this is what he says:
เอ้ย จะไปไหน มานี่ อีดอก กูจ่ายเงินไปแล้ว ขี้โกง กูตกลงกับพ่อมึง ทำไมไม่ยอมทำ
Here is a rough translation:
Hey, where are you going? Come back! I paid for you lazy bitches! I struck a deal with your father. Why won’t you follow through?
I will analyze Seth MacFarlane’s pronunciation in detail; but first, some general thoughts and comments:
- The pronunciation is very bad. MacFarlane’s performance is laudable: surely he’s busy writing the show and voicing half the characters. But when a foreigner attempts to speak Thai, there is no extra credit for good effort. I first thought this was some other language because neither my natively Thai-speaking wife nor I recognized anything. Upon several reviews, I discerned ไปไหน, but I was unable to pick up anything else. My wife, however, caught all of it eventually.
- It is possible that he says พวกมึง and not พ่อมึง. พวก makes more sense and it roughly translates, “We had a deal!” But I hear พ่อ so I have to go with that.
- Quagmire drops his briefcase at 00:06 in a very impressive way.
- The girls don’t look Thai. They look like the character Tricia Takanawa, who is presumably from Japanese ancestry.
- The woman or women who voice the girls are not Thai speakers either. They seem to say ไปเร็ว and maybe หนี, but it’s unclear. Many times I think I hear the word เลว, but it makes little sense for fleeing slaves to pass moral judgment on their captors during flight.
- This joke is poorly researched. Non-Thai speakers would get the same entertainment from a made-up language. Thai speakers will firstly be disoriented by the pronunciation, and secondly not get it since the wording is too awkward for real Thai speech.
- Finally, let me just say that listening to this clip over and over has made my stomach turn. I can’t stand poor pronunciation. It kills me. (ทะ-เว็น-ตี้ บาท makes my skin crawl.) The profanity plus the butchering of the language just made me want to puke.
Now, in an effort to learn from MacFarlane’s mistakes, let’s examine the mispronunciations one syllable at a time:
|เอ้ย||Too much สระอุ||B|
|จะ||Too long, not low enough||B|
|ไหน||Sounds like นาย||F|
|นี่||Sounds like นี or นี้||B|
|Pause||Unnecessary; breaks the flow||D|
|ดอก||Sounds like ด๊อก||B|
|จ่าย||Sounds like จาย||B|
|เงิน||Sounds like กูน||F|
|ขี้||Sounds like กี้||F|
|โกง||Sounds like กอง||F|
|ลง||Sounds like โล้ง||C|
|พ่อ||Sounds like โป้ (or a bad พวก)||C|
|มึง||Sounds like มุง||C|
|ไม่||Sounds like ไม้||F|
|ยอม||Sounds like จม||F|
|ทำ||Sounds like ทำ้||B|
Finally, some closing comments about the performance as a whole, in order of importance:
- The overall score is an F because in the Thai language, there is only A and F. People say ทำไมพูดไทยเก่งจัง, or else people say อะไรวะ.
- This is a perfect example of under-confidence ruining Thai pronunciation. When westerners speak without confidence, they change the tone of their voice, which changes the spelling of words. MacFarlane missed these words for that reason: นี่ ดอก โกง ลง พ่อ ไม่ ทำ.
- Because American English has the right sounds, there is no excuse for MacFarlane to miss these words: ขี้ พ่อ (or if พวก then that’s even worse) ยอม.
- It sounds to me like the pause between มานี่ and อีดอก is another confidence problem. It should be มานี่อีดอก but I think MacFarlane balked at the adjacent สระอี vowels, ruining the natural language flow.
- These words are just plain hard for new speakers: เงิน ตก มึง. MacFarlane did okay with ตก and มึง, but I expect a professional voice actor to say เงิน since English has ง งู as a final sound already. It shouldn’t be out of reach for a pro.
Listening to foreigners speak Thai is a great way to discover what to improve in ourselves. Hopefully, MacFarlane’s typical pronunciation failings give us a chance to learn.