Translating a name from English to Thai

February 14, 2020 - Reading time: 4 minutes

This might seem like an obvious point, but this is a fact that many foreigners overlook... In Thailand the primary language is Thai. This means that there are many instances where official government records only include individuals' names in the Thai language. This can create a problem when we are asked to check records for an individual using only (a translation of) their name in the English language.

We often receive comments similar to these:

"I only have their name in English"

“I thought it would be easier for you since the name is in English”

“I have their name in English. I have no way of finding their name in Thai”

Many foreigners struggle with the sanskrit written Thai language. Often is the case that foreigners are able to speak Thai fluently, but cannot read or write the Thai language. 

Can you translate their name for us?

Yes - we can translate names from English to Thai for the purposes of running either a background check or a missing people’s search. However, it’s important to understand that names in Thai can often share many different potential spellings. This makes our job more difficult if our client is only able to provide us with a name in the English language. 

Instances where people’s names are incorrectly translated into English and then printed on their identity documents is something which is commonly seen by us... If the individual's English skills are poor then they are less likely to spot such a mistake and might use the incorrect spelling for many years.

We have also seen cases where a name provided to us is very slightly different to the person’s actual legal name, and this can make it very difficult (or impossible) for us to find them. For example, if our client tells us that their name is “Jom”, when it’s actually “Jon”, this can make it nearly impossible for us to find that individual in the system. We can search for variations of the name “Jom” all day long… If the person’s name is actually “Jon” then we will never find them.

We always prefer to receive an individual’s name in the Thai language for the greatest chances of success. It’s very important that the name (and other details) supplied to us are correct in order for us to trace the individual successfully. Some of our clients have sought extra help translating names in the Thai language by consulting with a qualified translator, friend, or in some cases they have sought help from online forums before asking us to attempt a trace on the name. While we don’t discourage this type of pre-investigation research, it’s important that the individuals being relied on to translate the name are seasoned experts in translating Thai and not amateurs. 

If the individual was born several decades ago then there is the potential a more obscure spelling of their name might have been used. It's also important that the name supplied is the subject's real legal name and not a nickname. (Also read our blog post: Why does everyone in Thailand have a nickname?) We also often see Thai people using false names (or nicknames) on Facebook and social media in place of their true legal name. Suffice it to say that you are responsible for ensuring only correct and accurate information is submitted to us.

Online translation tools

Of course, there are many online translation tools and websites available for translating names from English into Thai and vice versa. If you’re looking to loosely translate a name into the Thai language for a funny post on Facebook or something else trivial, then these tools can be useful. However, if you’re looking for the exact spelling of a person’s legal name in order to run a trace on them through official records, then we would definitely not suggest these tools to translate the name.

Google translate - Has varying levels of accuracy for translating names.

CNX translation - English-Thai name translation tool.

Please note: We recommend these tools “for fun” only, and not for any official use as described in this article.

Bangkok Investigators

Thank you for reading the Bangkok private investigators blog.
Bangkok private investigators
Learn more about Bangkok Investigators on our homepage.