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Student, Bachelor of Asian Studies, with a specialisation in Thai culture and language
When he’s not at university, Naris Suwanmuk serves the Australian Army Reserve and manages a multitude of tasks from interpreting policy to undertaking general soldiering duties. Someday, he hopes to carry forward his knowledge of Thai to the Australian Defence Force as a future Thai linguist, such as possible future exchanges with the Thai military. We caught up with Naris recently to hear about his language-learning journey so far.
"My cultural background is Thai. I was born and bred in Canberra, ACT, but both my parents are originally from North-Eastern Thailand (i.e., I’m a second-generation immigrant). I wanted to formally polish my Thai language skills (as my English is naturally better) so I could properly and correctly communicate with family and friends—I’m Thai so I must be able to speak it!"
1. Tell us a bit about yourself—what you do currently and what you studied.
I’m a second-year undergraduate doing a Bachelor of Asian Studies, majoring in Asia-Pacific Security Studies and minoring in Asia-Pacific Politics. I’m studying Thai as part of my program. Outside of university, I serve as a command support clerk in the Australian Army Reserve.
As a command support clerk, I play a pivotal role in the management and well-being of personnel in my unit–often being among the first point of contact for any administrative issues. Some of the duties I perform involve interpreting policy, legislation and regulations to provide clerical advice, understanding and providing advice on military pay, personal allowances and unit/personal claims, using in-service information systems to support peers and commanders, maintaining records, files and registers, preparing operational documents for signature and release, maintaining operational maps, logbooks, messages and information, operating the Battlefield Management System, and undertaking general soldiering duties, such as manning defensive positions, patrolling, navigation, traffic control, and camouflaging vehicles and field equipment.
As far as hobbies go, I enjoy doing Muay Thai boxing and regular physical exercise, as well as playing chess.
2. What drew you to Thai?
My cultural background is Thai. I was born and bred in Canberra, ACT, but both my parents are originally from North-Eastern Thailand (i.e., I’m a second-generation immigrant). I wanted to formally polish my Thai language skills (as my English is naturally better) so I could properly and correctly communicate with family and friends—I’m Thai so I must be able to speak it! I’m almost fluent in Thai, minus the deep academic vocabulary.
3. What were your top 3 favourite things about your language course?
Firstly, the topics covered are widespread, from Thai current affairs to society and culture. Secondly, we regularly practice translating written Thai excerpts (e.g., news articles) and spoken Thai (e.g., news videos) into English. This enhances one’s ability to understand the language. Thirdly, there are weekly assignments and homework for us to complete, which has helped me keep my language skills regularly up-to-date.
4. Can you name 3 reasons for people to study Thai?
Studying Thai enables one to better understand Thai people and culture, as well as the cultural nuances of Thai people, such as the way Thai people talk to each other, the colloquialisms they use, the way different objects are classified, and the way in which people are addressed. The language also gives you an advantage in seeking employment in Thailand. Thirdly, studying Thai enables one to explore the less touristy areas and discover another side of Thailand.
5. How does it help /has it helped you in your profession or in life?
I feel more confident communicating in Thai to my family and friends now—put it simply, I feel even more Thai than I did before. Studying Thai will allow me to contribute to the language capability of the Australian Defence Force as a future Thai linguist, such as possible future exchanges with the Thai military.
6. Can you share one fascinating/fun fact about Thai/something you find particularly incredible about the language?
The official name of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, has the longest place name in the world (as per Guinness World Records). It is (brace for it)…:
Thai: กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์
Transliteration: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
In English it means city of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra's behest.
The name is so long that it’s even been made into a 1989 song (the lyrics consisting of entirely the name itself) by the Thai band Asanee–Wasan. The full name in Thai has been shortened to ‘Krungthepmahanakhon’ and colloquially shortened further to ‘Krungthep’.
7. What are your future plans with respect to Thai or any other language?
Keep on improving my Thai until I’m fluent!
8. Anything else you’d like to share? An interesting anecdote about your study of the language perhaps?
My name ‘Naris’ in Thai means ‘overlord’, hailing back to the feudal society of medieval Siam (Thailand’s former name).
Are you interested in learning Thai to make inroads into a local community, just like Manuel? Take the first step and enquire now!
For program administration and Academic advice please contact the CHL Education Support team on firstname.lastname@example.org.