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Culture update: The slow death of the Phuket dialect

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Culture update: The slow death of the Phuket dialect | The Thaiger

PHUKET: Developed over generations in isolation from the mainland, Phuket’s unique version of the southern Thai dialect is dying out, diluted by the huge influx of migrant workers, the tourism boom, mass media and a slew of other factors.

The Phuket dialect is unique. Compared with other versions of southern Thai, it tends to be slower and more flowing than the rapid-fire varieties found in other parts of the region. It might be considered “cute” or even somewhat effeminate by other southerners.

“I was teased a lot by my other southern friends when I said words with “Y” and “W” sounds and for dropping “G” sounds. My friends tried to mimic the unique sound of the Phuket accent, but couldn’t,” one Phuket native told the Gazette.

At 93 years of age, Cherng Talay native Chote Jumpada has witnessed enormous changes in his lifetime.

“It is difficult to watch Phuket’s unique language and customs disappear, but nothing can stay the same forever,” he said with a sigh.

Thinking the Phuket dialect will perhaps have completely disappeared in a few decades’ time, Mr Chote uses it exclusively with his children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren as a way of passing it on and preserving it as long as possible.

But it’s an uphill battle. “When I want them to put ice in the glass I say ao sueng sai jog, but they say ao namkhang sai gaew,” he explained.

Sueng and jog (ice and glass) are among the many words unique to Phuket Thai that have been supplanted by central Thai equivalents, in this case namkhang and gaew.

Many of the disappearing words were imported from Hokkien Chinese, a legacy of the tin mining era.

One such word that has enjoyed a comeback of sorts in recent years is banzaan (wet market). A market of the same name opened in Patong in 2005.

Dilok Vuttipanich, born in Phuket 84 years ago, said the soft tone of the Phuket dialect comes across as polite to people from other parts of the south, even though final “politeness particles” like krab or ka are often dropped.

Dr Prasit Koeysiripong, who heads the Old Phuket Foundation, explained that many young people in Phuket now grow up speaking central Thai.

“Even if they can speak with a Phuket accent, many of them no longer use the Phuket vocabulary,” he said.

“For example, the Thai word for ‘wait’ is khoy in central Thai, but in Phuket it is tah, the same of the word for ‘station’ – because when you go to a station you go there to wait. But not many people here use tah anymore, they say khoy. So even if they use the Phuket dialect, they are now using more central Thai [or ‘Bangkok Thai’] words.”

Such a mixing of regional accents and vocabulary is called thong daeng – literally “copper alloy”.

“So it’s dying in two ways – vocabulary and accent – but we are trying in schools and privately to save it,” Dr Prasit said.

Professor Sommai Pinphutasin, president of the Phuket Historical Interest Group, held Phuket’s modern role as the cause for the demise of the island’s dialect.

“Phuket is growing very fast, creating a lot of job opportunities that attract people here. The island is a melting pot of people from other regions of Thailand, Asians and Europeans. This of course has a big impact on local language and culture,” said Prof Sommai, who is also curator of the Tin Mining Museum in Kathu.

“Natives tend to use the language most easily understood by outsiders, so the local dialect is being used less and less in daily conversation. New generations, whose parents are not Phuket natives, blend the Phuket dialect with their parents’ native tongue.

“The local dialect is not included in [most] school curriculum; students are actually prohibited from using it when talking with teachers. It is now trendy for new parents to speak Bangkok Thai with their children at home, and younger Thais now blend the Bangkok and Phuket dialects. The result is a new hybrid Phuket dialect being created, while the old one fades away,” he said.

Professor Sommai supports the effort by Phuket City Municipality schools to include the local dialect into curricula.

So does local historian Pranee Sakulpipatana. The effort is the complete reverse of what she experienced as a Phuket schoolgirl when Thailand was under the rule of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram, she explained.

“During my time, General P wanted to completely unify the country. He didn’t want us to be like a salad, with green peppers and red peppers, but like khao tom – everything needed to be mixed and boiled together to make one [homogeneous] nation,” she said.

“Later, people in the south came to think that speaking central Thai properly was a sign of high status. That’s why the students didn’t speak southern Thai…But now we are encouraging schools to promote the southern dialect. Most of the tessaban (Phuket City) schools have done this. They have one course that focuses on local Phuket culture, including language,” said Ajarn Pranee.

Yet the dialect still suffers at university level, she said.

“Many Phuket students study in Bangkok or some other provinces, and there is a big influx of students from other provinces in the south,” she explained.

Southern Thai has many regional variations. There is one main variety along the Gulf coast and another along the Andaman Coast. But Phuket was isolated for so long it developed its own very particular dialect, she added.

“For example, if I want to ask ‘How are you?’, in Phuket we we say bpen pheuy, but in Ranong they say bpen phreu or even bpen pheu-reu [three syllables with a trill on the final one]. In Phuket Thai we often drop the final sound compared to, say Surat Thani, where they say it very clearly,” the associate professor explained.

She concurred with Dr Prasit’s explanation that many younger Thais in Phuket are blending Bangkok Thai with the Phuket dialect.

“Some of the new generation still use southern pronunciation, but with central Thai words. So some words have been forgotten.”

However, she added, “If you ask me whether I think the Phuket dialect is dying, I would say, ‘No.’ But it is just that it is not the real, proper Phuket language.”

Phuket Town is where people are most likely to hear old-school Phuket Thai being spoken, Ajarn Pranee said.

“A lot of people in Phuket Town still speak the local dialect and I try to keep the language going myself. If I am in public I always speak using Phuket dialect first.

“If I am in town with foreigners, I ask if it is okay to switch over to English… and they are shocked. They feel like ‘Hey! That lady speaks proper Phuket Southern Thai and she speaks good English too. The point I want to get across is that it is isn’t cheuy [outdated] to use Southern Thai,” she said with a laugh.

— Sim Scudder & Stephen Fein

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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People

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people

Nattha Thepbamrung

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‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | The Thaiger

On October 18, the ‘Always Smile Journey’ group and its partners will host an exhibition with plenty of fun activities at the Yak Yai Market, near Chalong Circle, in Phuket. This event was designed to raise funds to provide free English classes for underprivileged people on the island of Phuket on Saturdays and Sundays. The group does not accept donations but aims to raise money through the sales of the products available at the event.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

From 2 pm to 8 pm, there will be a number of artists, musicians and performers who will keep the attendees entertained along the way. There will be a short film about His Majesty King Rama 9 as well as fun activities and games for kids and families, which are all free of charge.

The big bike crew is also a part of this event. They will ride a parade from Rawai Beach heading to the market and showcase their gorgeous two-wheel buddies.

One of the highlights of the Always Smile Journey exhibition is the ‘Happening’ artists group, who will draw and paint a picture of the His Majesty King Rama 9 under the name ‘Street Art King Bhumibol’ on a 4×10 meter sign live at the event so the guests will experience this large-scale art in action. The Happening will also offer portrait sketching for the participants.

‘Always Smile Journey’ raises fund to provide free English classes for underprivileged people | News by The Thaiger

One of the works created by the Happening team; a painting of HM the King Rama 9 on a huge wall (Photo credit: Chawat Chumpasan)

There will also be some western menus available at the event which will be donated to underprivileged children.

This free English class project has over seven years of experience through its cooperation working with individuals and other charity organizations. Throughout the years, the group visited several areas such as Ban Laem Hoy School, Ban Bopud School and Ban Angthong School in Samui, Surat Thani province, Ban Bueng Ao Oun School and Ban Kakoh Rayong, in Surin province, Jalae Village of Lahu (Muser) in Chiang Rai province, as well as community education centers in Siem Reap, Cambodia and in Luang Prabang, in Laos.

This event is a cooperation between several groups, including Happening, Yak Yai Market and Arrow Media, Tattoo artist group, Thonburi Art School Alumni, International School of Tourism, Suratthani Rajabhat University, big bike group from Phuket, artists/performers/musicians from many provinces as well as several businesses across Phuket.

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Bangkok

The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations

The Thaiger

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The world’s fastest growing tourist destinations | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Hello Phuket – destined for huge tourist growth in the next six years – fodors.com

In 2018, international tourist arrival traffic grew by 6% to reach a total of 1.4 billion world tourists, according to research by UNWTO World Tourism Barometer. And there’s a lot more to come with international travel predicted to increase by a massive 35% over the next six years to 2025.

But where is all that extra traffic going to go? Which destinations are quiet now that might be swarming with tourists in the years to come? Two destinations in Thailand are set for a prosperous future, according to the data. Whilst almost all the growth is excepted to be to Asian destinations, an under-visited resource for world tourism so far.

Euromonitor data has been used to simulate tourist growth models and reveal the fastest growing projected visitor arrivals in major cities and destinations around the world for 2025, compared to arrival figures in 2018.

In Thailand, Phuket’s tourist traffic is poised to increase up to 85% in the next six years, from nearly 12 million arrivals in 2018 to over 22 million in 2025. Bangkok is predicted to see the 8th most prolific rise in tourist traffic, with arrivals in Bangkok set to swell an additional 68% during the same period. Doha, the capital of Qatar, is set to explode with 104% increase in traffic over the next six years.

The data also predicts that both Bangkok and Phuket will rebound big time in 2020, Phuket in particular with a growth of around 20% for the next year, accord to the data from TravelSupermarket.com.

By 2025 the data predicts that Bangkok will be the world’s #1 tourist destination, a position it’s held before in recent years. The Thai capital will be followed by Singapore, Dubai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur, making South East Asia the world’s emerging tourism hotspot.

Some of the world’s favourites – New York, Paris, London – will continue to grow their tourist numbers but not at the rate of most Asian destinations.

You can read the full list HERE.

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

The world's fastest growing tourist destinations | News by The Thaiger

Stats compiled by travelsupermarket.com

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Phuket

Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works

The Thaiger

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Rawai beachfront water shut-off tomorrow for mains works | The Thaiger

The Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority says Rawai’s mains water supply will be shut off tomorrow (Tuesday, October 15) as new water pipes are fitted in front of The Title Beach Front condo resort complex on the town’s beachfront.

The mains water supply will be shut off from 9am until 4:30pm along the beachfront strip.

The PWA says the areas affected will be along Wiset Road along the Rawai beachfront road, as well as Soi Yanui and Soi Ruafaed.

Residents and businesses are being urged to collect water for use during the day today, before tomorrow morning’s shut-off.

As usual, the PWA say…“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Contact the Phuket Provincial Waterworks Authority on 076 319173 or 082 7901634 for more details.

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