Business Thai Digest: Jan 30, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm Leave a comment

The business Thai page has been up since Sunday, and has its first three entries, mostly chosen at random:

English Thai
Able สามารถ
Experience ประสบการณ์
Project โครงการ

Edit 1 February, 2008: Added the list of words here since that is the point of a digest.

I’d like to discuss สามารถ (“capable,” or “able”). Informal Thai might use ทำได้ or ทำไม่ได้ (you can substitute ทำ for any other verb). In a more formal setting, you will hear ไม่สามารถทำได้. (Note, the words สามารถ and ได้ almost always come in pairs.)

There are already some things to notice:

  • Business Thai, like business English, tends to be loquacious and elegant-sounding without actually contributing additional meaning. Sorry. I mean people talk more, but they say less. That seems like a problem, but it’s an advantage. Since the density of useful information is lower in business Thai, a foreigner can pick up the meaning even if he misses a word here or there.
  • Business Thai, like business English, also uses a larger vocabulary than informal Thai—another advantage. More vocabulary means more precision, and so you can say what you mean with less ambiguity and misunderstanding. If I say ผมทำไม่ได้ then I can’t do it—maybe I lack the talent, or maybe it’s illegal—who knows? But if I say ผมไม่สามารถทำได้ then I am incapable of doing it. The latter statement is more precise and clear.

These two points seem contradictory, but they are not. Often in a professional setting, people make rambling statements with plenty of specificity to sugar-coat bad news or to conceal their ignorance. But specificity itself is not bad, just the dishonest rambling.

Another great use for สามารถ is that you can use it to say “competent” and “incompetent,” two crucial words when discussing staff, partners, managers, employees, distributors, or whomever. เขามีความสามารถมาก translates to, “he is very competent.” เขาไร้ความสามารถมาก translates to “he is very incompetent.”

Entry filed under: Business Thai. Tags: .

New section: Business Thai Spine / สัน

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