musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Adventures in English

For those who native language is not English, learning the language can be a challenging, frustrating, and sometimes baffling process. And for anyone born in Asian countries, learning English can be even more of a challenge. In addition to trying to pronounce words correctly, most Asians face the added challenge of learning an entirely new alphabet. In Thailand for example, we don’t have ABCs, but instead write with characters such as:  ก   ข   ค


Despite such linguistic hurdles, you would expect the media, government agencies, and big businesses in Asia to be able to use English correctly, especially when they are trying to communicate with English-speaking residents or tourists. Alas, that’s rarely the case here in Thailand. Walk around Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport and have fun picking out the mistakes and/or puzzling wording on posted signs. Look at the website of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, or even those of daily newspapers such as the Bangkok Post or The Nation for more odd English usage. Mistakes run rampant.


There was a short article in Thursday’s edition of the Bangkok Post about a “Children Festival” that a local chain of bookshops, Asia Books, is holding this month. Thailand-based author Pongpol Adireksarn (a former politician who writes under the name of Paul Adirex) will, according to the article, “recount interesting stories from his experience of travelling the world, seeing and living with wild animals.” Living with wild animals? And here we thought the Red Shirts were difficult neighbors to have! Ole Paul needs to write more about his experiences “living with wild animals.” Or perhaps they were just Liverpool fans.


Asia Books, who specialize in selling English language books, is calling their promotion “Uncle Paul with Adventure Story.” Huh? Wouldn’t it have been better to call their event “Adventure Stories with Uncle Paul” or “Uncle Paul Reads Adventure Stories”? But no, some sixth grade graduate working for Asia Books, who still can’t grasp the concept of plurals, has decided to call it “Uncle Paul with Adventure Story.” Pathetic.


The article goes on to note that “as part of the festival children can enjoy wild animal coloring activities with equipment provided by Stabilo in every Asia Books branch from noon to 5pm daily until the end of the month.” I have no idea who or what Stabilo is, or what sort of “equipment” they are providing, but that sentence conjures up vivid images of kids running around with paint guns, delightfully spraying colorful stripes on tigers and monkeys as they leap around the room. The potential for total chaos is ripe. I think it might be wise to stay away from those Asia Books branches until this potentially insane promotion has run its course.


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