One word you may keep hearing throughout the Songkran (Thai New Year) festival is “เล่นน้ำ” [lên náam]. “เล่น” [lên] means “to play” and น้ำ [náam] means “water.” The literal meaning “เล่นน้ำ” [lên náam] is “to play with water,” and what that means is “to have fun splashing or throwing water as a way to celebrate the Thai New Year festival.”

The most common question you’re likely to hear during this festival is “จะไปเล่นน้ำที่ไหน” [jà pai lên náam tîi nǎi] which means “Where will you celebrate the festival [by throwing and splashing water]?” In fact, no one can celebrate the festival by only throwing water at other people, so “เล่นน้ำ” [lên náam] actually also includes being splashed or thrown water at. That’s also a part of having fun!

“เล่นน้ำ” [lên náam] can also be used outside of the context of Songkran. In general,  “เล่นน้ำ” [lên náam] refers to “having fun with water or in the water.” When you go to the beach to just spend time chilling in the water or play with your children or friends in the ocean rather than really exercise and do laps of swimming, what you do is “เล่นน้ำ” [lên náam], not really “ว่ายน้ำ” [wâai náam]. Usually, small children don’t “ว่ายน้ำ” [wâai náam] or swim, but rather “เล่นน้ำ” [lên náam] whether they’re enjoying themselves at the beach, in the swimming pool or in the splash area.

Click here to learn more words and phrases for the Songkran festival

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