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Thai Alphabet – Middle Class Consonants Part 3

The Thai alphabet has oodles of vowels. We need to cover more of them so you can begin to work out the names of some of the other middle class consonants.

What vowels do we know so far?

อา

ไอ ใอ *Remember, these have the exact same sound.

เอ เอา

Let’s throw 2 more into the mix.

อุ and อู. Think of these vowels as siblings. They are essentially the same sound, but the longer shaped vowel, has um, the longer sound. Remember that the actual vowel symbols are simply ุ and ู while the is just a place holder we use to spell the vowels. Note that they go under the letter they are modifying.

While we’re at it, I should mention the long อา vowel sounds sidekick อะ. So the อ [ออ อ่าง] along with those sperm or comma-like symbols give us the short vowel อะ. This is one of those sounds you are going to need to hear. Kinda like the ‘a’ in about.

Oh and if you want to really learn the Thai script, check out my Learn Thai Inner Circle which teaches you all the core skills needed to get started in Thai.

If you aren’t looking to try my paid program, you can always sign up on the home page to get a bunch of free more in-depth lessons about the script and basic Thai phrases.  I also send out weekly downloadable pdf lessons for reading Thai signs.

How to Learn the Thai Script

Learning the Thai script or alphabet can seem intimidating at first, but it is one of the most important steps in learning to speak Thai. Don’t think of it as reading so much as a map of the Thai sounds for your brain.

If you want to start talking right away, you might use transliteration to grab a few sentences, but the faster you move away from that and really dive into the sounds of the Thai language, the faster you will get comfortable in Thai.

Thai Consonants

The Thai script has 44 consonants which are used to represent 21 different consonant sounds.  This means that certain sounds will be repeated in different consonants.  Luckily there for each of these there is a “core consonant” which is the one you’ll use 80% or more of the time when you are using that sound.

The Thai consonants are then divided into 3 groups or classes: Middle, High and Low. The consonant classes are important as the class of the initial consonant in any particular word is used in identifying the tone of the word.

Let’s take a look at how consonants and vowels are put together.  Click on any of the blue shaded words to hear the audio.  Don’t worry if you can’t figure out the sounds yet.  New sounds don’t always make sense right away and some will require more practice than others.

[กอ ไก่] ไก่ chicken

[ออ อ่อง] ไอ to cough

Next up is [ดอ เด็ก] เด็ก means child.  This letter ด is very close to the letter D in English. Let’s throw an ไ vowel in front of it to give us a word that sounds a lot like ‘die’ in English.

ได ไก่ ได ไอ

Next up is the vowel [speech]อา[/speech] -า.  This is a long vowel.  It is comparable to the sound you make when the doctor tells you to open up and say ‘aah.’  It might also be similar to the vowel sound in “dark” if you got rid of the r and k and replaced it with some more ‘aah.’  The vowel is shaped like a candy cane.  And the sound you might make while trying to shove the whole thing in your mouth at once isn’t very different from the vowel sound.

กา อา ดา

[บอ ใบไม้] ใบไม้ means is 2 syllables and means leaf. The บ sound is a lot like ‘b,’ and that should suffice for now. The vowel ใอ is pronounced exactly the same as ไอ and the first one which is rounded at the top only appears in about 20 words and is important only for spelling.

Lets go over all the vowels we have so far –

กา บา ดา อา

ไก (not found)
+
ใก (not found)
,
ไบ (not found)
+ ใบ, ได + ใด differ only in the spelling of vowel.

We’d better cover another vowel before moving on. The vowel เ [สระ เอ] is a long vowel which sounds like the way we say the letter ‘A’ when spelling a word. Like in ‘day, tray, pay, say, and so forth. It looks like a tiny lowercase b and always appears before the consonant it affects.

เด เบ เก เอ

We need to add in another consonant and a vowel.

[ตอ เต่า] Some people have trouble pronouncing this letter so I’m gonna try to describe it. Its somewhere between d and th in English. Your tongue should be face up like a ‘th,’ but it shouldn’t actually go out past your teeth. It should stay kind of cupping your upper teeth. Keep your tongue loose and relaxed when practicing this sound.

เต่า means turtle. Notice that we have both the เ before and the า after the letter. These 2 vowels when enveloping a letter, actually become a new sound. Yay!

So what vowels do we know now? Not enough, but let’s pretend we do and try reading these mostly nonsense words below:

เอ อา เอา ออ

เก กอ กา

เกา (not found)

บา เบ เบา บอ

เตา (not found)
เต ตา ตอ

ใบ ไต

ไก (not found)
ไอ

*ออ is pronounced like ‘awe.’ Remember that the first อ is a placeholder and the second อ acts as a vowel.