Foreign Thai accent analysis from “The Family Guy”

Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 1:32 pm 29 comments

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:

Syllable Comment A-F
เอ้ย Too much สระอุ B
จะ Too long, not low enough B
ไป Fine A
ไหน Sounds like นาย F
มา Fine A
นี่ Sounds like นี or นี้ B
Pause Unnecessary; breaks the flow D
อี Fine A
ดอก Sounds like ด๊อก B
กู Fine A
จ่าย Sounds like จาย B
เงิน Sounds like กูน F
ไป Fine A
แล้ว Not bad B
ขี้ Sounds like กี้ F
โกง Sounds like กอง F
กู Fine A
ตก Okay B
ลง Sounds like โล้ง C
กับ Fine A
พ่อ Sounds like โป้ (or a bad พวก) C
มึง Sounds like มุง C
ทำ Good A
ไม Good A
ไม่ Sounds like ไม้ F
ยอม Sounds like จม F
ทำ Sounds like ทำ้ B
Overall F

Finally, some closing comments about the performance as a whole, in order of importance:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Entry filed under: Obscene. Tags: , .

New Category: Obscene Family Guy video taken offline

29 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kaki  |  Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    The overall score is an F because in the Thai language, there is only A and F. People say ทำไมพูดไทยเก่งจัง, or else people say �ะไรวะ.

    So true!

  • 2. J  |  Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 7:49 am

    First they say “อะไรนะครับ ไม่เข้าใจ”
    Then as you start to speak better Thai, they say “ทำไมพูดภาษาไทยเก่งจัง”
    Then as you start to better your pronunciation, even though your are white, you’ll be asked “ลูกครึ่งหรือเปล่า / คนไทยหรือเปล่า”
    Finally, when your Thai is pretty much native, they don’t even take notice. It’s like they assume you grew up in Thailand. Only after about 5 minutes of conversation do they mention anything. Anyways, Kudos to Seth of Family Guy. Not bad for a non-learner. I could make out everything except the last sentence.

  • 3. JC  |  Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 7:59 am

    What is going on in this clip? Why is part of it in Thai? Was this meant for Thai audiences?

  • 4. Jason  |  Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 11:43 am

    J, that’s an accurate assessment.. I definitely noticed this progression riding in taxis through the years. Did you hear MacFarlane say พวกมึง or พ่อมึง?

    JC, the car accident opens the trunk, freeing Quagmire’s prisoners. The joke is that he owns Thai sex slaves and that he has owned them long enough to learn their language. There are important conversations to have about what this joke implies and why. I have opinions about Thailand’s social issues and its standing in the world; however, I do not consider my opinions authoritative. So that is why I avoid discussing anything except the language on the blog.

    Thanks to everybody for your feedback.

  • 5. PoomK  |  Sunday, January 13, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    This is the most interesting Family Guy episode ever!

    I think Quagmire said ทำไมไม่ต้องทำ not ทำไมไม่ยอมทำ, although that sentence is wrong but it is normal for non-native speaker.

  • 6. Family Guy video taken offline « Thai Language Tricks  |  Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    […] 15, 2008 YouTube has taken the clip I posted of Quagmire (Seth MacFarlane) speaking Thai (from here) offline: This is to notify you that we have removed or disabled access to the following material […]

  • 7. aanon  |  Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 7:16 am

    Perhaps you’re aware of it already, but Robert De Niro also tries to speak a little Thai in “Meet the Parents” (or it could be “Meet the Fockers”). The idea is that he is an ex-spy (hence the multilingualism) and he makes a phone call in Thai to arrange a hotel room. His Thai is not too hard to understand – once you realise it is supposed to be Thai.

  • 8. rikker  |  Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    aanon, yet again we think scarily alike. I mentioned that scene on Jason’s other post about the video being taken offline. I couldn’t find the clip online anywhere, though.

  • 9. Jason  |  Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Well, since both of you mentioned it, I will check my library and see if I have the film. This post was pretty fun; it was just frustrating to have it taken offline.

    So stay tuned.

  • 10. rikker  |  Saturday, February 9, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    There’s no way your video wasn’t fair use–it was extremely short and used to illustrate and analyze McFarlane’s Thai accent. That’s clearly an academic/teaching use.

    Since you have no moral imperative to keep it offline (instead having a fear of illegal legal repercussion), you should repost it without referencing Family Guy in the title. Call it something generic like “Thai language sample” or better yet “Fair use video for Thai language instruction.” It won’t be of much use to YouTube at large, but it may let you use it on the site while avoiding bogus DMCA claims. If you’re worried about your account getting suspended by reposting it, I’ll post it for you.

    Us little people gotta stick together.

  • 11. Jason  |  Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Rikker, about keeping it online or offline, my viewpoint is that it’s not a moral issue, but a legal one. And by the terms of the DMCA, they have the right to request takedown of material for which they hold the copyright. Then, I have the right to counterclaim that my posting of the video is legal. Then, they have two weeks to file a law suit (or choose not to) against me for infringement. That’s the mechanism of the DMCA and that is the law of the land. See the Chillling Effects site FAQ about DMCA counterclaims for more information.

    It was difficult for me to decide not to file a counterclaim. I am a big supporter of the EFF and other political organizations opposing the DMCA. But since filing is essentially an invitation for a law suit (a sort of legal game of chicken), I decided that I am in no position to risk that. Litigation in the United States is costly (counterclaiming under the DMCA requires consent to the jurisdiction of the local district court).

    Secondly, I was worried about negative impact to my software company, which specializes in writing and working with open source software. Open source software is indeed founded upon the framework of copyright law, so I thought it imprudent to jeopardize nmy company with negative publicity, however unlikely, for the sake of my recreational blog. Sad but true.

    Thirdly (and admittedly this was the least significant factor), I figured maybe someone in Thailand should be noticed for respecting copyright law for a change. Nearly every day you can read about some egregious violation in Thailand of copyright, trade secret, patent, or trademark law (collectively referred to by the misleading term “intellectual property”). The DMCA is a poor law, but it’s still the law.

    So I decided that the prudent action is to continue posting interesting and helpful Thai language tricks for everybody’s benefit.

  • 12. rikker  |  Tuesday, February 12, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Your reasoning is duly noted, although it makes me ashamed of my home country.

    When we give in to abuses of the DMCA, the terrorists win! :P

  • 13. rikker  |  Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 12:00 am

    I think I should clarify that this sort of unfortunate situation and the whole sorry state of IP law is what makes me ashamed of the U.S. Not your reasoning.

  • 14. Jason  |  Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 12:34 am

    Yeah that’s how I took it, although it sounded like you disagreed with my reasoning, not that there’s anything wrong with disagreement. But if that is the case, I’ll just say if you want to post this or a similar video on Youtube, you’re welcome. I’d even embed it in this blog. IANAL, but my guess is once you get the DMCA takedown and you counterclaim, they may not file a suit, due to its cost. But then again, Twentieth Century Fox probably has lawyers going in and out of courthouses every day, so what’s another form to submit? (That was exactly my thought process, BTW.)

    About being ashamed, well, remember Youtube itself was also invented in America, not to mention all the other great American achievements like landing on the moon or Taco Bell. Can you can get Nachos Bell Grande at 3:30 in the morning without even getting out of your car in Thailand? I didn’t think so.

  • 15. rikker  |  Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 6:15 am

    Yes, this is why I left off another line I originally wrote about how America is losing its place as a leader of innovation. Then I remembered that it was America that broke the burrito barrier, adding that crucial seventh layer. A single tear rolled down my cheek. That’s the America I love.

  • 16. Pim  |  Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    There’s also another Thai sentence spoken in the famous Blue Harvest, Star Wars parody episode of Family Guy.

    Luke Skywalker (Chris): Hey Han
    Han Solo (Peter): What
    Luke: Why do they call them TIE/Thai fighters
    Han: No idea
    (cut to a asian looking pilot wearing a headaband with a Thai flag, although similar to the comment above, this person looks more Japanese and pretty much is a male version of Tricia Takanawa. He’s also wearing a more traditional chinese looking shirt)
    Thai Fighter: Gu ja ka puak meaung gub peoun aa wa gad (I will kill you all with the space guns?)

    These Thai phrases are probably in there due to the fact that there’s a Thai writer on the Family Guy’s writers team. She’s credited as Cherry Chevapravatdumrong. They probably threw these in there just for fun. The nature of the show doesn’t concern much with accuracy anyway. The funny things is, the choice of vulgar words are pretty accurate representation of what a real Thai person would say, but the way the sentence is delivered isn’t very natural at all. The accent is better in this one though.
    Bottom line is that the fact that it’s actually in Thai is still better than gibberish. That’s my take on it anyway.

  • 17. Robio  |  Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Interesting to see how you have analyzed the pronouncation of MacFarlane speaking Thai. I too get frustrated when I hear Japanese pronounced bad (or like it was english, ie very bad). Like the guy korean-american guy from “Heroes”… supposed to be Japanese…. horrible.
    But the point of this sequence is not tho show that Quagmire can speak Thai, just that he know some. His bad Thai is a part of the joke. I don’t know Thai so I don’t understand any of it anyway, but I’m sure that MacFarlane didn’t practise much as it was good bad.
    Now, as the above example, “Meet the Parents”, when a character is supposed to know the language and can’t speak it, then I can understand the frustration.

  • 18. Saru  |  Thursday, June 19, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    The clip is here now by the way.

  • 19. Ping  |  Monday, February 9, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    You should watch “The Man With The Golden Gun” 70’s James Bond film. Thai police officers in the film said: ขับรถภาษาอะไรวะ ขับอย่างนี้แย่นี่หว่า เบรกกระชั้นชิดอย่างนี้”.

  • 20. Sonveh  |  Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 1:35 am

    “The woman or women who voice the girls are not Thai speakers either”.

    You are wrong on this one. The woman who voice the girls are Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, a native Thai, Family Guy writer. I guess that says something about your analyzing skills.

  • 21. Ashley  |  Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 2:02 am

    understand why someone of any nationality would get upset when hearing the language prnounced wrong, but you have to keep in mind…McFarlane speaks English, unless someone has lived there or studied religiously the accent won’t come off perfect, therefor maybe distorting the overall message. We all have that problem when visiting other countries for the first time. Also, the show doesn’t exactly set out to do everything perfectly which is part of it’s “charm” and if the scene upsets or offends you, join the club because the show also INTENTIONALY offends MANY people.

  • 22. Patranun  |  Friday, May 22, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    I think Glenn (Seth MacFarlane) didn’t said that. (เอ้ย จะไปไหน มานี่ อีดอก กูจ่ายเงินไปแล้ว ขี้โกง กูตกลงกับพ่อมึง ทำไมไม่ยอมทำ)

    In fact, it should be this one instead (I have to admitted that I have to listen very carefully for about 10 times to get this.):

    “เอ้ย จะไปไหน มานี่ อีดอก กูจ่ายเงินไปแล้ว ขี้โกง กูตกลงกับพวกมึง ทำไมไม่ทำตาม”

    By the way, I wonder who gives the voices to those girls. I don’t think Cherry Cheva do that voice.

  • 23. David  |  Saturday, October 3, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    Obviously he does not care if the pronunciation is correct. It’s part of the joke. It’s the same when he speaks in Spanish or Portuguese.

  • 24. Butch  |  Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    “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.”

    At least they TRY to get it right. Imagine what it is like to watch american movies/tv as a german. 99% of german characters are not voiced by germans and just shout random uncohesive words that make no sense whatsoever. The worst part is, most german actors get told they don’t sound “german enough” when auditioning for a role/voiceover. The directors rather choose an american who can yell angry words like Hitler over an actual german actor, even for movies that are set in the present. It really is a shame.

  • 25. Ashley  |  Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 3:13 am

    You know what I can’t stand? People who “want to puke” because of something they don’t like on TV. American TV isn’t and has never been perfect when it comes to portraying foreigners. If you want perfect accents, than find a Thai channel to subscribe to. Otherwise, if you don’t like it, than don’t watch it. Ironically, they did a Family Guy episode where at the end, Peter says basically that. If you think something is offensive, if you don’t like it, or you don’t want your kids exposed to it, than simply change the channel. Don’t go online and blog about how much it pisses you off, with the intention to make the creators see it, and hope they change it to you liking. Blog about how your pissed, thats fine, but don’t sit there and act like your opinion is right, and the world will change just for you. As I said before, Family Guy is offensive to just about everyone. That’s what they set out to do. If you’re offended, than they did their job and by complaining, your reacting just as they want you to. So your plan has back-fired, good sir, and you’ve fallen into their trap. Congrats!

  • 26. Jason  |  Saturday, August 21, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Ashley, “want to puke” is a Thai expression.

  • 27. JBP  |  Tuesday, October 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I’m pretty sure he pronounced it poorly on purpose. The producer is Thai America. They were probably trying to make it seem like a “typical Asian language”. The joke is for Thai people. Remember that Filipino episodes with Jasper? They slip them in for laughs. If you can’t laugh at it, then don’t watch Family Guy.

    And I’m Thai by the way. And I laughed.

  • 28. Luke  |  Monday, September 26, 2011 at 4:57 am

    I think it’s hilarious. I also am pretty sure he wants to say พวกมึง he just fails to enunciate the silent “k” at the end. Super awesome blog, thanks for this discussion!

  • 29. Ronnie  |  Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 5:41 am

    Hi there or should I say sawadee kap?!? As you can see I can not read Thai which, I’m afraid, hinders my understanding of this article. I have recently returned to the UK following a 9 month tour of SE Asia; 6 months of this were spent in the beautiful meuang Thai!!
    I’m currently trying to brush up, and keep the Thai (& Issan) that I picked up ( I hate it when foreigners, particularly English speakers are too lazy or up themselves to learn a native language particularly one as beautiful as Thai)
    I’m wondering if anybody can tell me a website where I can polish my Thai please and hopefully learn to read Thai!
    I can’t wait to return there is still so much I need to see and learn about Thailand and most of all see my friends again!


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