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7 Best Practices for English to Thai Translation Services

Posted by Anne Quach on November 11, 2021.

Although English is a required subject in most Thai schools, the number of fluent speakers remains very low, particularly outside of Bangkok. In fact, Thailand is classified as a low English proficiency country (ranked 89 out of 100 countries on a survey by EF EPI 2020).

This fact means one simple thing. To succeed in the Thai market, your content must be available in the Thai language. Plus, you need professional and accurate English to Thai translation services because the Thai language and culture is rich and should be carefully handled.

For a successful English to Thai translation project, you should take the following 7 key practices into consideration.

1. Use Thai Pronouns Smartly

If you are only familiar with the use of pronouns in English, which is based on three factors – person (first, second, or third), number (singular or plural), and genders, you will be perplexed by Thai pronouns. To choose a suitable pronoun in Thai, some additional factors such as formality, respect, politeness, familiarity, and so on must be considered.

In Thai, there are several pronouns. Some words have become obsolete and are now considered impolite. The following are some common Thai pronouns:

Thai Pronouns - English to Thai translation tips

Tips

Because the use of incorrect pronouns can confuse or offend addresses, you should be cautious when selecting pronouns to communicate with your customers in your English to Thai translation projects. Our advice is to always research your target audiences, learn about the culture of the target Thai locales, and seek advice from native Thai localizers. The native localizers will assist you in selecting the most powerful pronouns for a successful project based on the customer insights you gain from research.

 

2. Acknowledge that There is No Space Between Thai Words

Unlike English, space is not used in Thai to separate words and phrases in a sentence. Instead, it employs a set of rules to assist readers to recognize words. You won’t even notice the lack of spaces between Thai words once you’ve been accustomed to these standards.

The following are some of the rules:

    • A syllable begins with the preposed vowels (เ แ โ ใ ไ).
    • ะ ends a syllable unless it is followed by a consonant with อ์ as in the word เคราะห์. However, these are uncommon exceptions.
    • With the exception of European borrowing words (such as กอล์ฟ), gaaran ends a syllable.
    • An open syllable starts with ใ or ไ.
    • อั and อ็ do not appear over a syllable-final consonant.
    • อำ ends a syllable.

The lack of space between Thai words presents a significant barrier for the Desktop Publishing (DTP) step in Thai translation projects. If your DTP-ers aren’t native Thai speakers or fluent in the language, there’s a high risk they will break lines incorrectly, resulting in unreadable information.

“Line break is always a problem noticed during the final process of the localization,” Panakarn Laphasupthaweekul, our native Thai translator, explained. “Words that are broken incorrectly are unreadable. Computers are incapable of correctly detecting words, hence human rechecking is strongly advised.”

Tips

Only let skilled and native Thai linguists and DTP-ers manage your English to Thai translation content to ensure that no mistakes are made. After the DTP step, it’s a good idea for your team to spend some time and money hiring a native Thai editor to go over the entire document again to make sure your translated Thai content is error-free.

 

3. Understanding the Complicated Spacing Rules

Although spaces are not used to separate words within a sentence in Thai, they are essential in other situations. (And these rules are completely different from English so you should use them carefully.) In fact, the Thai language’s space requirements are so complicated that even native Thai speakers make mistakes.

We came across an interesting post by Suphawut (Bryan) Wathabunditkul regarding Thai language spacing, which includes a full tutorial on how to utilize spaces correctly in Thai. We’d like to share some important spacing guidelines with you below. Please see Bryan’s article for the complete guideline.

Spacing Rules Examples
Add one space when you conclude a phrase, clause, or sentence and want to start a new thought. พลอยออกไปเดินเล่น เสร็จแล้วก็กลับมากินข้าวเย็น.
A space is added between a group of words or sentences. ช้าง ม้า วัว กระบือ
Use one space before and after a parenthesis or a pair of parentheses. พื้นฐานของศาสนาพุทธโดยย่อ
1) ทำความดี
2) ละเว้นความชั่ว
3) ทำจิตใจให้บริสุทธิ์
Add one space after a question mark. คุณเป็นอย่างไร? ผมคิดถึงคุณ
Add a space between a set of single and double quote marks. “การแปลภาษาอังกฤษเป็นภาษาไทยไม่ใช่เรื่องง่าย” เธอพูด.
A space should be added before and after a person’s rank and name. รองศาสตราจารย์ นายสัตวแพทย์ พิเชฏฐ์ เหลืองทองคำ
Add a space before and after any English words, phrases, or sentences that are inserted into the Thai, and vice versa. สื่อมวลชนทับศัพท์ al-Qaeda กันไม่รู้กี่แบบ.
Add a space between a person’s military or social rank and their name. พันโท มังกร พรหมโยธี
Insert a space before and after the names of mass media, book titles, magazine titles, and newspaper titles. สรุปข่าวบันเทิง จาก ไทยรัฐ ฉบับวันที่ 12 มิ.ย. 2545.

Tips

When preparing for your English to Thai translation projects, you should include these rules in your translation style guide so that your Thai linguists can easily follow your requirements and guarantee the consistent use of spaces throughout the translated Thai documents from English.

 

4. Choose the Right Calendar

Thai people use two calendar systems called the Thai solar calendar and the Thai lunar calendar.

    • The Thai solar calendar is based on the Gregorian calendar, which is used in the majority of countries worldwide. This calendar is used in the legal and commercial fields.
    • The Thai lunar calendar (also known as the Tai calendar) is a Buddhist lunisolar calendar. Thais use the Tai calendar to keep track of traditional events and Buddhist religious practices. Years are now measured in the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years longer than the Christian Era. In the Thai lunar calendar, for example, the year 2021 is 2564.

Thai Calendar

Tips

Make sure you mention which system of calendar you would like to use for your English to Thai translations to your Thai translators. You should include this information in the translation style guide.

 

5. Don’t Misuse the Number Systems

There are two distinct numeral systems used by Thai people: Arabic numerals and Thai numbers (ตัวเลขไทย).

Thai Numbers

Tips

The Arabic numerals are widely used in writing by Thais in most situations. Thai numbers, on the other hand, are only used in very formal contexts such as legal documents for the government or the court, and occasionally on the house address label.

When it comes to English to Thai translation, you should carefully consider which number system to use for your types of content in order to provide the best reading or experience for Thai audiences.

 

6. Be Aware of Text Expansion 

Due to the differences in expression styles between English and Thai, you should expect to experience text expansion and prepare for it when handling English to Thai translation projects. In fact, translated texts in Thai are typically 15% longer than their originals in English.

Tips

When translating content from English into Thai, you should intentionally leave more space for text or ask translators to use shorter sentences and words. In terms of layouts, some parts may need to be slightly or moderately redesigned.

 

7. Work with Professional English to Thai Translation Providers

The list of practices for English and Thai translation projects does not end with the six we mentioned earlier. When working on this language pair, you will encounter a huge number of other common and unexpected pitfalls. As a result, we strongly advise you to only work with professional English to Thai translators who are familiar with the Thai language and culture, as well as the difficulties associated with English to Thai translations.

Let GTE Localize be your companion in the Thai market. As a professional translation agency with a focus on Asian markets, GTE Localize is confident to bring you high-quality English to Thai translation services at the most reasonable price by experienced native Thai linguists.

    • We have offices in many countries in Southeast Asia, thus, we have a thorough understanding of the Thai language, culture, and market.
    • Our native Thai translators have a combined experience of more than 5 years translating a wide range of content from English to Thai.
    • For all projects, we follow a strict quality assurance procedure. XBench, for example, is used in all projects.
    • We guarantee to deliver your projects on time or ahead of schedule.
    • We work with a variety of translation and localization management platforms, CAT Tools, DTP Tools, and other technologies to improve translation quality and shorten the turnaround time.
    • We have a lot of experience in English to Thai translation. See our previous English to Thai translation projects.

English to Thai translation services

Contact our team for more information on English to Thai translation services or receive a free consultancy from our Indonesian localization experts.